ANDREW Stoner has established a new “taskforce to drive government decentralisation”. This is a belated effort to mollify the increasing numbers of country people who are questioning the abilities and understanding of the current National party organisation.
However, the people appointed to undertake an essential task demonstrate clearly that Stoner’s judgement has to be questioned. These nominees – Torbay (Ind), Northern Tablelands; George (Nat), Lismore; Toole (Nat), Bathurst; Aplin (Lib), Albury; and Baumann (Lib), Port Stephens – have no clear experience or understanding of rural and remote regional NSW conditions.
We have to question why Stoner thinks these people, mostly urban small businessmen – no women to explain the living realities for rural women – can achieve anything substantial for rural and remote NSW.
There are far better qualified Nationals in the NSW parliament. If we leave out the ministers we can only wonder why Stoner ignored the claims of competency and local understandings of Kevin Humphreys, Barwon, John Williams, Murray-Darling and Ric Colless, MLC. A possible female voice could have come from Jenny Gardiner, MLC – at least she grew up on a farm.
Humphreys and Williams together represent over 60 per cent of NSW land. Colless has long been intimately involved in rural and remote activities in areas which demand many improvements. These three are far more qualified than Torbay, George and Toole. Jenny Gardiner would be better value than Baumann.
We are left with the central question: What was Stoner’s rationale for the composition of the taskforce?
I suspect that the whole affair is a lamentable smoke and mirrors attempt by The Nationals organisation to create a political vehicle to promote a higher profile for Torbay, to help his forthcoming federal campaign as a National to unseat Tony Windsor in New England. The rest of the committee are simply there to make up the numbers.
Nothing is expected to happen. It is just an activity that attempts to distract rural and remote criticisms of the ineffectual National representation of country people in NSW.
Nationals represent most of the land area in NSW. I, for one, wish that they would start to make this representation creative, effective and productive for the people.