IT’S been more than a century since a Labor politician held the seat of New England, but David Ewings says his commitment to this election is part of the party’s long-term investment in the region.
The former coal miner and Country Labor candidate said his party represented a broad view of the people living in the region.
“Labor is the party of working people and that’s what I fully intend to represent,” Mr Ewings said.
“Country Labor is putting itself out there to represent the people that [New England MP] Barnaby Joyce doesn’t represent. That is why we are here, because they want a voice.
“We’ve got to make sure we put the time in and get the right people, so there are those alternatives in the future. We can’t win if we’re not here to try.”
Mr Ewings’ campaign revolves around the pillars of Labor’s platform – more funding for schools and health, growing the renewable energy industry, opposing university deregulation and supporting tax cuts for small businesses but not big businesses.
He’s also advocating for changes to negative gearing tax deductions, which the party says would make houses more affordable for those trying to get into the market.
And, most importantly, Mr Ewings said he offered an alternative to the electorate’s National/independent politician cycle.
“It doesn’t stop after the election, whether we win or lose,” Mr Ewings said.
“Politics today seems to be about winning and winning at all costs – and clearly we want to win – but that said, it’s a long-term view.
“It’s not about potentially winning or losing, then going missing in action for the next three years – and people will see what I mean about this in the next year or so.
“I hope people respect the fact they have a real alternative and vote accordingly.”
“IF YOU want to call yourself a first-world country, you need to have a heavy focus on education.”
David Ewings said New England had some of the “most underprivileged” schools in NSW, which is why the Labor-backed Gonski funding was “critically important” to the region.
The Gonski report recommended additional needs-based funding for schools until 2019, but the Coalition has only agreed to support the reforms until 2017.
Mr Ewings said New England schools would miss out on $28 million, without the last two years of funding.
“The problem is we’ve got Barnaby Joyce and his Coalition partners putting out the idea we can’t afford to educate kids in regional areas like New England, and we don’t agree with that,” he said.
“This election really is about priorities, and we are prioritising education.
“What person in their right mind with school-aged kids, especially those going to a public school, would vote for a Coalition that cuts $214 million out of education? It beggars belief.”
Coal and renewable energy
DESPITE being an ex-coal miner, David Ewings said the nation needed to transition away from coal into renewable energy – an industry he believed New England could be a “big player” in.
“New England has such an abundance of natural resources, I don’t think there’s a ceiling on what we can do – we’ve got space, land and sunshine,” he said.
“I’d love to see more investment in New England green energy.
“The more of those sorts of things we can get for New England, the more jobs we can create. The more efficient we are, the more we can transition the economy.”
While Mr Ewings can see the economic advantages of mining, he said the nation had to be aware of changes in the market “which will force us to do other things”.
“We need to put processes in place to transition jobs from the coal mining industry to cleaner sources of energy in a methodical manner,” he said.
“The thing people want is jobs, they want job security. I’m good friends with many coal miners and I don’t think they would have a problem taking a job in green energy if it meant they had a full-time job.
“It’s less about being pro- or anti-mining, it’s about finding a way to integrate these ideas into our workforce and making sure people can see a future in that area.”
Mr Ewings said he was against any mine that could impact prime agricultural land.
Jobs and infrastructure
BIG infrastructure projects – such as the NBN – need to be carried out once they’ve been committed to, David Ewings said.
He said the same goes for the Brisbane to Melbourne Inland Rail, which would likely go through the New England electorate.
“The Inland Rail has been talked about for a long time – the problem is, if you leave it up to someone like Malcolm Turnbull, you might end up with a similar situation to what we’ve got with the NBN,” he said.
“A Malcolm Turnbull Inland Rail might be like a donkey towing a steam train.”
The Inland Rail has been estimated to cost billions, but Mr Ewings said he would rather talk about the project’s return on investment.
“Any infrastructure program has to have a payoff,” he said.
“Cattle exports, grain and coal, it can all be transported on rail – it’s very important for an electorate like ours. Rail opens up our efficiency in transporting goods and that’s what it’s all about.
“It would bring jobs and opportunities to people, [but] it’s got to be done properly.
“Once these big infrastructure projects are decided upon, they need to be committed to and carried out properly.”