RURAL and regional Australia has been ignored for far too long, CountryMinded candidate David Mailler says.
The party was established last year on the basis the bush wasn’t getting a good deal from the two-party political system.
“Rural and regional Australia are being hamstrung by political point scoring,” Mr Mailler said.
“We feel the representation, particularly from the Nationals, is less than adequate. CountryMinded aims to restore a level of commitment back to the electorate.
The party is riding a “ground swell of support” from people “anxious” regional Australia is being taken for granted.
“We punch above our weight in terms of the jobs and wealth we create for this country,” Mr Mailler said.
“We get dismissed for being 2 per cent of the population, but we provided $155 billion to the economy through agriculture and 1.6 million jobs.”
For the last 40 years, Mr Mailler has seen his community decline, and wants to nudge the major candidates to stand up for their electorate.
“The government always seems to want to present a silver bullet, then go away from the electorate for three years and not actually delivery any of the promises they made,” he said.
Mr Mailler said anyone concerned about the legacy being left for future generations should put a one next to CountryMinded come ballot day.
“If you don’t want to be taken for granted, we are an option.”
Jobs and infrastructure
BUSINESSES in rural and regional Australia are hamstrung by poor data communications.
David Mailler says the only solution is to move away from the copper wire National Broadband Network (NBN) and upgrade to fibre optic.
“We can’t be working on coconuts and a string – which is what copper is compared to fibre,” he said.
“In all our towns, there are a string of small businesses, and every time data communication goes down, they’re behind the eight ball – they can’t do businesses, they can’t do eftpos, they can’t trade.
“If we want a viable rural and regional sector we’ve got to have good data communication to underpin those businesses that all small communities rely on.
“We’ve got to have modern technology. Globally, we are ranked outside the top 40 in terms of internet speed.”
The major parties are “political point scoring” off “inter-generational projects” like the NBN and the Inland Rail.
“The sooner we do these projects, the less they’ll cost us,” Mr Mailler said.
“The inland rail will allow regional Australia to build businesses around that infrastructure. It lets you get product to port in a timely manner, it gets more trucks off the road and we can maintain a road network that’s not being punished to death by heavy freight loads.”
DAVID Mailler said the education of rural and regional students was tied back to the NBN.
“It’s the critical infrastructure for our kids. It’s not just about putting up school buildings, we’ve got to provide them with the technology that gives them the skill sets to compete,” he said.
Mr Mailler supports the Gonski report, which indicated rural and regional Australian students were lagging behind their metro counterparts.
“While that’s true, a rural education comes with a unique range of skills, such as self reliance, that’s not measured in education,” he said.
“We’ve got to measure more than reading, writing and arithmetic, because our children are so much more than that.”
Regional universities – such as the University of New England – will be “very badly affected” by the government’s policy towards university privatisation.
“This uncapping of university places and university fees is another layer of impediment to rural and regional communities, which are already underpinned with this low socio-economical barrier,” he said.
“What I see in the government policies at the moment is; we don’t have Gonski, we don’t have NBN and we don’t have the capacity to allow people in rural and regional Australia to access tertiary education and skills training.”
Coal mines, renewable energy
“MINES are still vital to Australia –but if it poses a risk to land, water or air, we’ve got take a pull on the reins.”
David Mailler said the Shenhua Watermark and BHP Coroona coal mines on the Liverpool Plains were “untenable”.
“What you’re doing in that space is stealing from your children and grandchildren,” he said.
“It’s not as if we don’t have other coal resources – we’ve got them from the Cape all the way to Victoria – why do we actually need to dig up coal in the most productive land in the country?
“We’ve got a finite amount of resources and we can’t continue to do what we’re doing.”
He also sees climate change as a “major threat” to New England.
“If we lift our night temperatures by two or three degrees, we cut out a significant number of the crops we can grow,” he said.
“An early plant of wheat requires a certain number of frost days to initiate the head. If we shift our night temperatures, do we get enough frost days to grow early wheat? The same goes for apples, pears, plumbs and peaches – they’re all products we grow in this region.”
Mr Mailler said the only solution was to transition to renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and biofuels.
“We all take insurance on perceived threats to our house and car, why don’t we take insurance against climate change?”