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Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Page: 81


Senator NASH (8:16 PM) —I would like to report to parliament on my three-day visit last week to the North Coast of New South Wales, one of the most beautiful regions of Australia. I was there in my capacity as duty senator for the North Coast, giving locals an alternative voice in the parliament to their ineffective Labor members for Richmond and Page. I started by dropping in on Don and Nancy Morgan. Don Morgan is a famed local seniors champion and Nancy brews the best cup of tea you will get in the Tweed. Don has just received long overdue recognition for his advocacy with an award from the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of New South Wales. He has campaigned for increased pensions and also for the retention of the coalition’s Medicare dental scheme, which is helping so many Australian seniors that it is hard to fathom why Labor wants to abolish it.

I then held a meeting at Murwillumbah Hospital with Tweed mayor Joan van Lieshout, local state MP Thomas George and Save the Hospital committee chairman Ian Ross. Murwillumbah Hospital, especially the maternity ward, is under constant attack from the New South Wales Labor government. It was important to have representatives of all three levels of government get together and send a message to Labor that we demand it keeps its expensively advertised promise that ‘Kevin Rudd will fix our hospitals’.

I had lunch with new Tweed mayor Joan van Lieshout. The Tweed has just regained local democracy, three years after New South Wales Labor replaced the previous elected council with Sydney administrators. No charges were ever laid against any of the sacked councillors. Joan is a hardworking conservative councillor and I am confident the Tweed will progress well under her leadership.

The rest of the day was spent in Lismore. I particularly want to thank Lismore MP Thomas George, Lismore Nat Kim McKinnes and their friends for their very warm welcome.

The next day I went to Ballina, where renowned local doctor Sue Page introduced me to community leaders from the local Indigenous community. They are a great group of people. They are trying to help themselves but are seriously disadvantaged in a number of areas including a lack of public transport, no community hall and no culturally appropriate aged care facilities. I will do what I can to help.

Tireless Clarence Nationals MP Steve Cansdell hosted a lunch for me with the local business community in Grafton. We discussed the world financial crisis and the Rudd government’s inadequate response to it. People there are not exactly filled with trust in the current Labor Treasurer, and more than one told me they were glad the government was stealing Malcolm Turnbull’s ideas. I would like to offer special thanks to Steve’s staff, Debbie Newton, Janet Gould and Kath Palmer, for their efforts.

Maclean laid on a barbecue that evening at the Top Pub. New owner Andrew Baker put on a fantastic spread. I met other great local champions like Spa supermarket owners Bob and Judy Little, who have led the fight against New South Wales Labor’s attempts to sell Maclean Hospital land to developers. I also caught up with ecotourism operator Mark Mitchell, who set up the award-winning Angourie Rainforest Resort.

On Saturday I was back in Ballina to catch up with Mayor Phil Silver, who is one of the smartest community leaders I have come across. He is justifiably proud of Ballina Shire Council’s economic success, and his leadership bodes well for the future of the region.

Then it was up to Chinderah for meetings with local Nationals supporters and a lunch put on by former Tweed Citizen of the Year, Idwall Richards OAM. Idwall is a great corporate philanthropist, sponsoring numerous good causes from Riding for the Disabled to free entry to the Murwillumbah Show. We heard a worrying report by Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest on New South Wales Labor’s neglect of the area. Geoff is a great local member, known to all and sundry in the New South Wales parliament as ‘Mr 100 per cent for the Tweed’.

It is always a pleasure to be on the North Coast. There are real challenges there, which the Rudd government is simply ignoring. The Nationals are very much committed to the region and I look forward to returning there next week with Nationals Leader Warren Truss.