Does anyone here dream of a political career?
When I watch politicians on TV I’m appalled at the tirades of personal attacks, the fine-spun twists of truth, the refusal to tackle the deep, big issues that affect the welfare and happiness of ourselves and our children and grandchildren, the endemic corruption, and the refusal to work together across politics for the common good.
I’m not running because this is my dream. I’m running because it feels necessary and I reckon I’m up for it.
When I decided to stand, local friends and volunteers began the daunting, exciting task of learning how to build an election campaign from scratch – a very fast community start up I guess you’d call it.
When the big rains began I cancelled my launch and played my small part in our community’s first steps to recovery. As we begin to settle after the shock, the grief, and the relief and pride of seeing the love and strength and courage of people with us and around us when we were abandoned by State and Federal governments, it was obvious that I can’t run a ‘normal’ campaign.
These are not normal times. At least 20 of my supporters have lost their homes – one saw her house slide down a hill. Some were in boats. They’ve all been scrubbing flood mud and working hard to recover. Three are isolating with covid. Another is trying to get family back from Ukraine.
So here I am today, with music, on Emerald Beach in Coffs Harbour, then to Grafton for politics in the park and Lismore.
Who am I?
I was a child running, sprinting, away from home to live in a government supported home until, with the priceless support of mentors, I left that house as a high school graduate with a real chance in life.
I am a mother who believes in a free and quality education for all and despairs that funding inequity between our public and privately funded schools has created a two-speed education system.
I am a daughter who, when my 80 year old mother needed extra help, realised how broken our aged-care system is.
I was a granddaughter who cared for my dear Gran in Cornwall as dementia set in and saw what well supported aged-care can look like.
I am a neighbour who saw a steadily growing housing crisis becoming a housing emergency over the last two years and, now, a housing catastrophe.
I am also a survivor, like so many here today. I was in the Sari Club when the Bali Bomb terrorists claimed so many Australian lives. In the aftermath, I saw what it means to be Australian, what it means to be human. It didn’t matter who you were or where anyone one was from, it was just people helping people.
As I walked away from those flames with a second chance, I vowed to make my life count. For Marc Gajardo, for Tom Singer and all who were lost.
I am now a university lecturer who loves her work with farmers to create a better future for rural communities and with students to help them pursue their dreams.
But I have seen some of my best colleagues leave the profession, along with an estimated 20% of university staff across Australia. Over the past two years I’ve seen many small businesses go to the wall, and I’ve spoken to nurses who gave their all during COVID..
We are the 8th poorest electorate in the country going backwards under the current government even when Australia’s economy was booming. Why?
A political system built on party politics has FAILED us. Decisions made in the cities repeatedly leave the regions behind and there is still no national regional plan.
I’m here to ask you to trust me to speak for us after listening to you and inviting you to come up with your plans to secure our future here in Page.
For our children, we need fair funding to strengthen our public school system, to make this an attractive profession that teachers can be proud of, where all children are given a real chance to thrive and succeed.
For our families, we need long-term funding for health, disability, mental health and youth services that keep people out of hospitals. For the sake of our health and our health workers, we need a national strategy for patient quotas and we need to find a way to stop nurses leaving this state in droves.
For our prosperity, we need a community-driven regional plan for Page, including a regional economy that encourages locally owned businesses, farms and cooperatives to magnify every dollar in OUR communities. We need to take back control of our supply chains and maximise our capacity for processing and manufacturing on OUR shores.
Our universities should be a thriving regional hub, stimulating and supporting the innovations of all our regional industries to provide well paid jobs for the future.
This flood cost us an estimated $2.5 billion – not taking into account the broken hearts of people across our region and the immeasurable social costs.
Like so many others, I found myself in a tinny on an enormous lake on what used to be a road watching the houses of my friends, family and neighbours go under water. Woodburn was an Island 100 metres wide.
Our Community response was profoundly inspirational.
In the racing waters of this terrible flood I saw our Australian values in gumboots – mateship, equality, mutual respect, a fair go, and compassion.
I believe deeply that if we work together, we can create a better future in Page.
For our tens of thousands of homeless we need immediate action to develop a long-term plan for our region.
We need a bold solution so that our public funds are spent on the things that matter to us. $2.5bn for a Recovery Commission would go a long way to rebuilding from this flood. If strategic planning doesn’t happen right now, millions will go to waste paying for rent on camper vans, setting our communities onto a pathway to more of the same.
As we rebuild, we need to prepare for what comes next, whatever that be. The type of Cyclones that once hit only northern Australia will soon come as far south as Coffs Harbour. Rain events like we’ve seen this month. Fires like those we lived through two years ago.
The costs of extreme weather will rise to an average of $33 billion per year by 2050.
Right now, 97% of funds we spend on natural disasters in Australia are on the clean up – not preparation, this needs to be turned on its head.
Last year, our government threw $10bn of our taxes at coal and gas. An overseas company can apply for a government grant of $50million to explore for gas in the Northern Territory. What I would like to see is these companies paying their fair share and not getting handouts from public funds.
Regional and rural Australia has little to lose from emissions cuts, and everything to gain. These industries are NOT the foundation of our workforce – they represent less than 0.5% of Australian jobs, while we miss out on 76,000 jobs in renewables. It simply does not make economic sense.
If we don’t come up with a sensible transition plan, Australia will win a wooden spoon award for energy and jobs, because the world is moving on. It’s not too late to be a leader in this space but we are being left behind.
Our housing catastrophe requires a long-term plan to house our families.
Unless people like you and me work together, nothing is going to get better. It’s just not.
We live in dangerous times where uncertainty has become the norm. We need to take care of each other, and in Page this election has to be about us. It’s time for our communities in Page to embrace their own power and elect someone who listens to them and answers to them.
Today is not about me, it’s about us and what we do from here. I’d like to be YOUR REPRESENTATIVE in Canberra with no ambition other than to faithfully serve you with courage, strength and integrity and to ensure that our voice will be heard and listened to in Canberra.
This community can be at the centre of what happens next. I will be accountable only to you. I will be loyal only to you. My only purpose will be to serve you, the people of Page.
This is our chance to show the people of Page mean business. This is our chance for Page to shine on the national stage. This is our chance to help transform our broken party politics by sending a community independent of integrity to Canberra to clean up politics and make it work for we, the people.
I hope you’ll join our local volunteer campaign as we do our bit to ensure disaster lights a flame for change in Page.