Q&A with Andrew Woodward, President, Bellinger River Branch and Labor Spokesperson in Cowper
1. A bit about your background
I am someone who worked at senior levels of business and government in Australia and overseas for much of the last 30 years. My career has been in sport, tourism, financial services and sustainability, specialising in marketing, communication, corporate relations, sponsorship and executive management. I have lived in Sydney, Canberra, Gold Coast, Taree, Albury Wodonga, Newcastle and San Francisco.
These days, I am finishing off a Master of Environmental Management at UNSW and working in sustainability advocacy and sports marketing. I also have a Master of Business and Technology (from UNSW as well). I made a decision 15 years ago to ensure I had the skills to address the big issues of the future – business, technology and environment.
In more recent years, I have taken an active interest in climate change and sustainable business, studying not only with UNSW but also training with former US Vice President Al Gore to become one of his Climate Reality Leaders. I am also active in LEAN – the Labor Environment Action Network – which aims to strengthen the party’s environment policy credentials.
I moved to Bellingen last year to be closer to family and to live in a community with sustainability, conservation and healthy living at its core. I like my sport, news and current affairs and geeking out (code: time wasting) on consumer technology.
2. What are the important issues for the region
In my travels around the country, there’s a great consistency in what I am hearing from people about what’s on their mind. There’s little to argue against. The starting point of the conversation is jobs – Australian jobs, sustainable jobs, apprenticeships and training, and assistance for communities impacted by change, like the transition away from fossil fuels.
Following on from that, people want to see us transition quickly to clean renewable energy and deal with climate change. This message is coming loud and clear from many, including farmers, the greatest environmental barometers in the country.
There is anger everywhere about the state of broadband and mobile services, prices, reliability and customer services. People get that the current NBN rollout is a dud and want fibre to the home. I am also hearing a lot of concern about reduced government services – schools, TAFE, affordable degrees, hospitals, safe roads and public housing.
Finally, people don’t think we’re getting the basics right. We’re not pursuing sustainable economic growth; we’re not addressing housing affordability; the banks and telcos are getting away with ‘murder’; big business is getting an even bigger tax cut; Medicare is being white-anted; Turnbull wants to spent $180 million on a marriage equality plebiscite; penalty rates are under attack and, government is not there to provide a helping hand when you need it. Things aren’t good.
One more thing. I am hearing much about the quality of local representation in the Federal Parliament. I ran for Labor at the 2016 election against Tony Abbott in Warringah (indeed media reports suggest I was going to beat him until Malcolm Turnbull joined the campaign two weeks out and saved him). Anyway, it sounds like we have a carbon copy of Tony here in Cowper. Luke Hartsuyker hasn’t achieved much locally; bobs up around election time; is more interested in PR and photos than policy and results; uses the electorate as a parking spot; doesn’t get today’s issues and, has passed his ‘use by’ date. My view is that if you have a position of power, use it and repay those who backed you, in this case, the people of Cowper. It is time for Luke Hartsuyker to go.
3. Country Labor does not gather many votes, how do you suppose to increase the party’s presence locally
I can understand why we haven’t been attracting as many votes as we once did. It has been a testing time to be a Labor voter! I get it! Politics on both sides have had circuit breakers in recent years, with Kevin and Julia and Tony and Malcom. In NSW, the Liberals have gone through as many premiers as Labor did in the same time period. It’s been a terrible period in Australian politics.
The Liberals and Nationals aren’t out of the woods in Canberra yet. I doubt Malcom will be leading the Liberals come the 2018 or 2019 election. Julie Bishop or Peter Dutton will be in the ejector seat. The good news from my side is that we’ve come out of this period of political darkness. Federally, we’ve had great stability with Bill Shorten. Luke Foley has provided the same in New South Wales. So stability, cohesiveness, good policy, a solid team and a united front are good starting points to rebuilding the party, supporters and voters.
I also think we’re on the right side many of the key issues right now. We have better policies when it comes to climate change, jobs, broadband, taxation, Medicare, schools funding, housing affordability and social causes such as the Republic and marriage equality. These are the things I will be talking about. It is back to basics for Labor. We hear you and we get it. The polls are responding accordingly.
4. How can people contact you or join
We’re active online at:
I like to say that ‘Labor has something for everyone’. Yes, we have monthly branch meetings where we sit down and discuss issues and work out what we want to put forward to the party for consideration. But these aren’t for everyone. We also have a local online forum (facebook group) to discuss issues.
Labor also has lots of action or interest groups. I am a member of LEAN – the Labor Environment Action Network. There are other groups… Labor for Refugees, Labor for Innovation, Labor Lawyers and many more, like Italian Friends of Labor.
I am also very interested in re-establishing a Young Labor presence in the area and start up something like a mentioning program for young people to learn about party policy, history, operations and opportunities to further their interest in or start a career in the Labor movement. We have a great history and, I think, a great future which will be better served with strong voices from regional and rural Australia.