Your age and experience in politics?
I’m 50. I first joined the Federal Senate in 2005 before running for the seat of New England in 2013. I have served as the Agriculture and Water Minister as well as the Deputy Prime Minister.
What is your heritage and citizenship status?
I was born in Tamworth Base Hospital and grew up in Danglemah near Woolbrook. My mother was born in Australia, my father was born in New Zealand and migrated to Australia in 1947. My grandfather fought in Gallipoli, my father fought in World War II and I have also served in the military. I solely hold Australian citizenship.
Why are you running?
I have worked hard to put plans in motion that will help grow our region, whether it be moving jobs from Canberra to Armidale, creating secure water supplies or improving our regions roads. I want to ensure that these important projects aren’t put at risk by the other parties.
What are the top three issues the electorate is facing?
Creating more jobs, the cost of electricity and improving the regions roads.
Why should people vote for you?
I have a proven track record in standing up for people in the New England. Within government I hold a seat at the table where decisions are made. I’m close to the bloke in government with the cheque book which means I have the greatest chance of achieving more for our region.
Our survey has found renewable energy to be a big concern in the region, what are policies around renewable energy?
I believe in any form of energy that is affordable and reliable.
How do you propose to bring more jobs to the electorate?
I have successfully pushed to have the APVMA moved to Armidale which equals 100 new jobs. Decentralisation out of Canberra is major policy of the Nationals. We also need to ensure that our region has a secure water supply which will allow towns to grow. When we grow our towns, we grow business which means more jobs.
What is your view of the NBN?\
The first 3 (Service Area Module) SAM* of the Tamworth FTTN construction took less than half the time as the first three Armidale FTTP SAMs and cost half as much. Take-up in Tamworth (22%) is already double what it was in Armidale (10%) after the same period (3 months).
When completed in a few months’ time, the Tamworth FTTN build will have taken just over a year (13 months) compared with more than 40 months for the Armidale FTTP build. Building Tamworth with FTTN will save around $40m in construction costs and bring forward revenue that would otherwise have been lost while people waited for FTTP.
The vast majority of people in Tamworth seem satisfied with speeds of around 25 mbps, with more than 90% of choosing 25 mbps or less. In Armidale, 47% of people are on the very lowest speed tier (12/1) meaning there is little demand for the very high speeds FTTP can deliver. So, an extra $26m was spent in Armidale building FTTP, and yet 47% of people are selecting the very lowest speed tier, which is easily achievable on FTTN. This shows that it makes sense to build a network quickly that meets the needs for today and the foreseeable future, and then upgrade if and when demand emerges.
Where do you stand on the balance between the region’s mining and agriculture industries?
There is one operational mine located at Werris Creek in the New England electorate. The balance is very much tipped towards agriculture which I have no issues with at all.