Labor’s Andrew Woodward responds to Luke Hartsuyker’s retirement announcement

Andrew Woodward from Bellingen
Andrew Woodward from Bellingen

The announcement by Luke Hartsuyker that he won’t be contesting Cowper for the National Party at the next election creates an opportunity for the people of Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and the Mid North Coast to make a clean break toward a positive new future under Labor.

I acknowledge Mr Hartsuyker for his service to the parliament and community since 2001.

I applaud him for last year supporting in Parliament the vote on marriage equality which went against his own personal stated position.

I wish him and his family well in his retirement.      

However, a parliamentarian is only as good as the party they represent and the ideology they subscribe to.

In this case, the people of Coffs Harbour, the Mid-North Coast and, since 2016,  Port Macquarie, have been let down by Mr Hartsuyker and the National Party since 2001. 

Let us never forget, Mr Hartsuyker:

  • Opposed the Royal Commission into banks. 
  • Refused to support moves to reverse the removal of weekend penalty rates for potentially one in four workers in Cowper. 
  • Supported the recent tax cuts which deliver far less to people in Cowper with the bulk of the benefits to richer electorates in Sydney and Melbourne. 
  • Supports $80 billion in big business tax cuts including $17 billion for the banks. 
  • Supported all actions to unwind Labor’s climate change action plans since 2013.
  • Opposed Labor’s housing affordability initiatives in an area where the mean house price is near or over $500K. 
  • Supported cuts to Medicare, local schools, pensioners, child care, veterans, NBN, apprenticeships and the ABC.

Mr Hartsuyker’s legacy is one of under-achievement and lost opportunity.

While other parts of regional Australia have achieved much since the start of the century, Cowper has either been stagnant or left behind. He wasn’t up to it. The Nationals aren’t up to it. We need to stop the rot.

At Labor's Cowper election campaign launch in Bellingen, last month

At Labor's Cowper election campaign launch in Bellingen, last month

The next federal election is an opportunity for people in Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and the Mid North Coast to make a clean break from the past and have a positive, prosperous and sustainable future under myself and a Bill Shorten Labor Government.

All the signs point to Labor winning the next federal election and we will be better off with a Labor voice in a Labor government.

Should I win the seat of Cowper at the next election, myself and Labor will have a huge backlog of things to fix that have been bungled, ignored or forgotten by Luke Hartsuyker and the National Party:

  • Addressing a general unemployment rate in Coffs Harbour double that of Sydney. 
  • Addressing a youth unemployment rate locally now affecting one in five in Coffs Harbour. 
  • Turning around job losses in primary industry (agriculture, fisheries and forestry) at the Coffs Harbour end of the electorate forecast to fall from 4,400 in 2017 to 4,200 in 2022. 
  • Restoring weekend penalty rates to potentially 13,000 impacted workers in Cowper. 
  • Rebuilding jobs growth at the Coffs Harbour end of the electorate up to the same rate as the Port Macquarie end. Currently, the number of jobs at the Coffs end is forecast to grow by 5.4 per cent by 2022 while the Port Macquarie end will grow by 11 per cent. 
  • Boosting the rate of economic development - Port Macquarie is listed as being “Slow and steady” while Coffs Harbour is listed as “Slipping”. Both are behind other regional centres listed as “Expanding” or “Gaining”. 
  • Restoring $22 million cut from public schools in Cowper in 2018 and 2019. 
  • Addressing a domestic violence rate of two per week, reported to Police. 
  • Reducing the public housing waiting list from 2,000 applicants in Cowper, who must wait from five to ten or more years for social housing. 
  • Helping 2,750 pensioners in Cowper impacted by changing the pension assets test. 2000 local pensioners saw a cut to their pension of on average $132 a fortnight and a further 750 local residents lost their pension entirely. 
  • Helping one in five families on the NSW North Coast who from July 1 receive less subsidised child care. 
  • Reducing the public hospital waiting list of 3,200 at Port Macquarie, Kempsey and Coffs Harbour hospitals.
  • Fixing the rural doctors shortage where waiting times are can be several weeks outside of Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour. 
  • Getting more affordable housing as rents increased by more than a third in two years. 
  • Helping young families into property ownership in a region where many mean house prices are now close to or over $500k (Port Macquarie $575k, Valla $550k, Bellingen $508k and Coffs Harbour $480k). 
  • Addressing Cowper having the highest percentage of people below the poverty line of any electorate in Australia. 
  • Addressing Cowper having the fifth highest level of disadvantage of any electorate in Australia. 
  • Delivering fixes to parts of the electorate relegated to sub-standard NBN - fibre-to-the-node and fixed-wireless.
  • Speeding up the rollout of the NBN, which in parts is running up to a year late.
  • Delivering climate change action and mitigation against rising sea levels which will inundate the coasts of Cowper over the rest of the century threatening homes, business districts, roads and airports. 
  • Arresting a 50 per cent decline in the koala population on the North Coast.
  • Restoring reduced protection for the Commonwealth Marine Park off Coffs Harbour. 
  • Restarting the stalled program to put more precious wilderness areas on the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage List.
  • Dealing with the Coffs Harbour Bypass not starting until 2020 and not being finished until mid next decade. 
  • Addressing the lack of funding for the Coffs Harbour Bypassbeyond 2021/22 and filling the $736 million funding gap. 

The list is long and the issues are complex. Mr Hartsuyker’s failures across the board prove that the National Party simply isn’t up to delivering for regional and rural Australia. In time, they will pick a replacement candidate for Mr Hartsuyker who will only be capable of more of the same. 

The failings of the National Party can’t be fixed overnight. Addressing the long list of failures and many other issues will require a concerted effort in partnership with the community from myself and Labor over many years. I am up for it. Labor is up for it. Bring on the election. 

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