Pat Conaghan's ideas for the Nambucca Shire

PAT CONAGHAN: He will leave his legal practice so he can focus on his new job
PAT CONAGHAN: He will leave his legal practice so he can focus on his new job

After the gruelling schedule of the campaign, it is no surprise the newly-elected Member for Cowper, Pat Conaghan, has a dose of the flu. He is however still in good spirits when we met on the riverbank in Macksville yesterday.

Following his win on Saturday, Pat is now coming to terms with the reality of his new job and deciding how he will prioritise the needs of the people he now represents.

As a police officer, detective, prosecutor and more recently a defence lawyer working in a practice between Sydney and Port Macquarie, the 48-year-old feels the life skills he's gathered over the last 30 years have set him up for what lies ahead in Canberra.

I don't feel apprehensive or afraid ... at my age I am working with peers, so my approach is well here we go, let's make rational, reasonable decisions

Pat Conaghan

As we focus in on the specifics of what he sees as the most pressing issues for the shire, aged care and youth unemployment are unsurprisingly top of the list.

"Aged care is certainly an issue here. I'd like care to be more available and easily accessible - I have found there are some who are not aware of what is there to help them and others who are beaten by the red tape," Pat said.

"Perhaps an advertising package for rural areas to let people know what they are entitled to would be one way to help. Similarly with the NDIS - its impacts are very mixed and that needs to be addressed."

When it comes to unemployment, he plans to hold summits throughout the electorate, bringing together employers, training institutions and job seekers to try and find out why the levels are so high and what can be done.

"We need a number of summits because the reasons are different in the different areas but clearly the 23 per cent of youth unemployment is way too high. By sitting down together we can start working out what jobs are going to be out there in the next five to 10 years and work out the training pathways for that."

He says drugs, homelessness and the low level of the Newstart payment all need to be part of that discussion.

"All drugs are evil but the destructiveness of 'ice' is extreme and is my greatest concern. It affects everyone from the user through to the community.

Targeting users doesn't work, it never has - we need to adopt a different approach and I think that is education

Pat Conaghan

"It is simply supply and demand - if there is no demand, there is no supply."

On homelessness, as someone Kempsey born and bred, Pat said he had a soft spot for small towns and was aware of this often unseen problem.

"We clearly need more short term emergency accommodation and we need to have a social structure that also supports the many volunteers who help the homeless."

When it comes to climate change, Pat advocates a responsible approach.

"I fully support renewables and agree they should be subsidised but I don't think we should rush towards anything. I also believe there is a lot people can do by taking personal responsibility in their own homes."

As he prepared to leave for yet another meeting, Pat said his father had instilled in him the need to look after those who are less fortunate.

"We live in the lucky country and we need to do the right thing for everybody."

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