Premier Barry O’Farrell will bring his 21 ministers to Tamworth for a community cabinet meeting in two weeks – but the government is also offering some electors the chance to sit down individually and talk topics with ministers.
The government will hold a community cabinet meeting at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre on November 5 with a 90-minute public forum.
The visit has been confirmed with a series of advertisements appearing from today in northern newspapers.
News of the community Tamworth talkfest has not been widely circulated, with some northern figures, and even Tamworth Regional Council, receiving letters only last week detailing the visit and offering opportunities to sit down for 10-minute ministerial meetings to discuss local issues.
The Tamworth forum is the sixth in a series of community cabinet visits outside Sydney for the O’Farrell government this year. Last year, it held eight.
Nationals MP for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson, last night said the visit was part of the government’s regional tours schedule – and denied it was an opportunistic visit in the wake of public concern over increasing crime, spiralling juvenile crime statistics, law and order issues, and some metropolitan media headlines.
“No, there’s no coincidence,” Mr Anderson said, in reply to questions that the visit had been arranged to hose down community anger over the Premier’s failure, and the failure of any minister apart from Attorney-General Greg Smith, to attend a public meeting on law and order issues on August 30.
That August meeting was the second public rally of residents and followed the original one called by Tamworth Regional Council last December. The first meeting attracted over 1000 people and led to a nine-point petition, signed by 18,000 people, calling for mostly government action to counter crime rates and concern about crime. It had also asked the premier and ministers to come to Tamworth to discuss what needed to be done to allay community fears and anger about a perception of lawlessness.
Mr Anderson said the cabinet forum was open to everyone, and he encouraged anyone with any issues to register to speak.
Mr Anderson also dismissed suggestions the registration process involved in the cabinet forum was selective and pitched at any party faithful numbers.
Mr Anderson said he was delighted the cabinet meeting was being held in Tamworth.
“Every MP wants to host a community cabinet meeting. I will welcome them and certainly I will be rolling out the red carpet,” he said.
Mr Anderson said the registration process was purely to establish what residents wanted to meet with ministers, so that their offices and departmental heads could do some background research before the meetings.
A select number of people have apparently had letters, asking if they want meetings wth ministers. Mr Anderson said this list had been drawn up in consultation with his office, and also with industry sectors such as the business chamber, council, education, health and police groups.
He said the suggestions included heads of organisations, businesses, board members and interested community leaders.
“It was certainly random and non-selective. It is an opportunity for the ministers to learn first hand how we operate and so they can get a handle on us as a community,” Mr Anderson said.