I attended the NSW Labor Conference at the weekend with comrades from Coffs Harbour, Nambucca River, Macleay Valley and Port Macquarie branches and local representatives from the mighty trade union movement.
It was an great weekend, highlighted by excellent speeches by federal leader, Bill Shorten, and state leader, Luke Foley. I have been to many, many Labor conferences over the last quarter of a century and the leaders’ addresses remain the highlight. But this year there was something different. Both we’re ‘on song’, more so than ever before, when it came to talking about the needs and issues of the state and country.
While there was much reference to the usual ‘dollars and cents’ issues (as there should be) – the themes were all grounded in fairness, ending inequity and getting the basics right for people, like Medicare, schools, hospitals, communications, penalty rates, dignity in retirement and other government services, including pensions for older Australians.
We discussed many specific issues… most notably boosting economic and social equality, addressing disadvantage for country people and protecting workers from wages theft and exploitation. I also heard many insightful speeches on policy, saw people recognised for the life’s work for the community and caught up with some influential people who will help the local Labor branch fight for a better deal for the people of Bellingen Shire.
On my ‘pet issues’…. Action on climate change remains a first order issue for Labor although there wasn’t much policy deliberation at this conference. That’s a reflection of the electoral cycle and the fact that at the federal level, government and business is considering the implications of the Finkel Review and the review of climate change policy. From a state perspective, the policies we took to the 2015 state election remain in place, including the Great Koala National Park. We’re solid at the state and federal level on environment policy and have plenty of time to tighten things up for the next state and federal elections. The federal poll will happen in the next 12 to 24 months and the state poll will occur in March 2019. We will have candidates in all seats in place for both by the end of the first quarter of 2018.
My other pet issue is internet connectivity. Labor is very strong on this too and it remains a first order issue. Bill spoke to it several times in his speech and it was a recurring theme in most addresses speaking about issues in the country and city. Labor’s 2016 policy of Fibre to the Curb/Premises remains in place and that’s good news for Bellingen Shire where the Nationals are implementing a digital divide. Some people will get best practise, some will get second-rate practise and some will be left behind when it comes to fibre (like those who have been told they will remain on Fixed Wireless in urban areas). That’s not good enough and we will push to have this changed before and after the election. I spoke at length with the Shadow Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, and she was well aware of the issues in Bellingen Shire.
So, for me it is back to Bello today and to get cracking on commenting on plans for Bongil Bongil National Park, Waterfall Way and Solitary Islands Marine Park.
Bellingen River Labor
- Luke Foley to NSW Labor Conference, 29 July 2017
- Bill Shorten to NSW Labor Conference, 30 July 2017 or PDF