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What will they privatise next?

INCUMBENT MEMBER FOR Monaro and state National Party Leader, John Barilaro, has been dropping large bundles of cash around the electorate in a pork-barrel strategy leading up to the March 23 election. But it’s worth remembering where the dollars come from — the sale of NSW assets during the rule of the Baird/Berejiklian government.

One is reminded of the sale/long-term lease of the electricity generators and gold-plated poles and wires; the Land Titles Office; the port of Newcastle; and toll roads — and related multi-million dollar consultant fees. NSW taxpayers will miss out on the long-term state income generated from these services and have seen their electricity costs rise with privatisation, while jobs were also lost.

Now Service NSW (fees, licenses, registrations) may be in the government’s sell-off sights if the Liberal National Party Coalition is re-elected, according to Freedom of Information documents obtained by the state Opposition.

In Monaro this or that community may be enjoying the fruits of these sell-offs (with a swimming pool or sports field upgrade or other infrastructure splash) but no money has been promised; or possibly budgeted for ongoing maintenance costs — so we are told. Cost shifting to local councils continues as before.

The reported unhappiness of some Monaro councils amalgamated under the present government, with no opposition from the Member for Monaro despite promises, is another story.

Meanwhile, more asset-sale money is being splashed in Sydney for stadium tear-downs and unnecessary rebuilds.

Terrible natural environment policies

In addition to the NSW Coalition’s record of beggaring the public’s assets, are the National Party’s terrible policies (there is no polite way to put it) that affect regional communities and the wider public interest.

Under the Primary Industries portfolios, overseen by National Party leader Barilaro and his deputy Niall Blair, the Nationals have mismanaged the Barwon–Darling River system, claiming to benefit farmers (maybe a couple of export crop irrigators). Their decisions on water allocation since 2012; and on draining the Menindee lakes in 2017 (apparently with a view of normalising a permanently water-poor lower Darling); have destroyed native fish stocks, wetlands and community water supplies.

•  FACT: Nationals drained Menindee, sent water to flooded SA

Their federal counterparts, under Barnaby Joyce also claiming to work for farmers, helped effect this destruction. As in NSW they put water under the agriculture portfolio, favouring some big operations in Joyce’s electorate and nearby.

Coalition ‘reforms’: private tree removal may well be cause of
red dust storms that have blanketed the capital region recently.

The NSW Nationals have pretended to help graziers facing drought with rule changes and an open invitation to blame and persecute wildlife/kangaroos, not unlike the colonial bounty days. History and science shows this will not make it rain; bring back vegetation growth; or improve sustainable stocking rates.

Corn Trail loggingUnder their ministries, they have expanded controversial logging schedules including along the historic Corn Trail next to Monga National Park and in coastal forests.

With the Liberals they have pushed through native vegetation ‘reforms’ allowing ‘self-assessed’ private property tree clearing, as long as it’s called an agricultural property.

Tree removal may well be a cause of the red dust storms of western topsoil that have blanketed Canberra and region this summer.

Some Nationals have lobbied for national park closures, including marine parks, while together with their Liberal partners they have voted to decimate park staffing.

They also send out straight-faced press releases in the face of catastrophic fish kills and regional community outrage saying they are the ones standing up tall for farmers’ rights (that includes loggers and fishers). The Nationals will save the farming community from any legal challenges or criticism from “environmental activists, ‘tree change’ new neighbours and ad-hoc rule changes by local councils.”

Most recently they have also been caught running a fake news website attacking political opponents with false claims. The list goes on.

Time for a change

We say unapologetically it is time for a change of policies and governance and many in rural communities seem to agree.

— Maria Taylor, Editor   IMAGERY: District Bulletin archives

In this section, we introduce some already-declared candidates for Monaro, challenging the incumbent Nationals candidate. We’ll hear some of what the challengers consider top areas for new policies and that includes basic services of hospitals and school improvements in regional areas. They describe what they are hearing needs to change, plus some alternative directions.

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