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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Are you the next Member for the South Coast

Independent NSW MP Justin Field posts: Many people have been asking me recently if I am going to run in the March 2023 NSW State Election, either to recontest my position in the Legislative Council or as an independent candidate for the Liberal-held seat of the South Coast. I can confirm that I am not going to be a candidate in the March election.

But the level of interest from South Coast community members has made me think about the potential for an independent candidate to run and win the seat and whether the momentum generated by the federal community-led independent movement could flourish at the state level?

The seat of South Coast has a proud history of independent representation with John Hatton AO - a nominated National Living Treasure - holding the seat between 1973 to 1995. Could an independent in the vein of corruption fighter John Hatton, or the many successful ‘teal’ independents at the recent federal election, who put integrity and climate at the centre of their campaigns, run and win here? Is that something our community would like to see and get behind?

I think a community independent could be successful in the seat of South Coast, but ultimately that is up to the community.

The thing about the recent community independent movement is that it is genuinely community driven. A deliberate decision to come together, to decide what is important and to select a candidate to represent that movement at the election. Often it is motivated by a feeling of a lack of representation, or disengagement by sitting members. Or it may be frustration that issues are not being addressed by either of the major parties and an independent voice is needed. At the federal level the issues were primarily a failure on climate action, a lack of integrity and the treatment of women but also the tin ear of the Government of the day and the sense they just weren’t listening.

I think there is a similar rot at the heart of the current NSW Liberal and National Government and a genuine question mark about the ability and willingness of Labor to address the big challenges. Climate remains central. In just the last 4 years, 11 major new coal and gas projects have been approved in NSW by the Coalition Government. Climate policy isn’t just about vague targets. State governments are the ones that approve climate destroying fossil fuel developments and enable deforestation through unregulated land clearing and logging. We need more state MPs in parliament pushing for change - to me that is not coming from the major parties.

I am encouraged by the community independent campaigns emerging in state seats such as Lane Cove, North Sydney, Manly, Wakehurst, Pittwater and Vaucluse. Voters in these areas clearly demonstrated climate, integrity and environment matter to them and they voted for change in the recent federal election. Given the NSW Liberal and National Government’s policy record, I’m not surprised there is energy for change at the state level too. Is that energy here in South Coast?

Integrity, or a lack of it is also a massive issue at the state level. The Barilaro affair is just the tip of the iceberg. Jobs for the boys and a lack of integrity and transparency in decision making smacks of the arrogance and entitlement of a three term government. Billions of dollars in grants dolled out to marginal Coalition seats has made many furious that politics trumps good evidence-based policy making and the public pays the price.

At the state level - where the delivery of services is core business - there is another very potent electoral issue. Hospitals and schools are at the front of mind to many. In our South Coast region schools are overcrowded and the Covid population boom has exacerbated the problem. There is a desperate need for new schools but little is on the table from the major parties. A redeveloped Shoalhaven Hospital will barely keep pace with population growth and the entire southern half of the region feels like a health desert. We need a strong advocate for urgent new schools and health services for our region.

This mix of issues, and no doubt many others, including the ongoing legacy of social, environmental and economic challenges in recovery from the fires and the pandemic, should be subject to rigorous local debate during the next state election.

The question is, who is best placed to drive this debate and take our community’s view on these issues to the next parliament?

If the community wants an independent representative to do that, best not sit back and wait for someone to put up their hand. The community independents movement has established a model that works. Coming together as a community to decide what’s important and then finding a candidate who will represent those views and working together to back them in a campaign is the best way to win.

It is not too late to do that before the next state election in March, but time is running out.

So for those people who have reached out to me, or for those who have been thinking you want to see a community independent, it’s up to you to get off your seat and make a change. This movement needs to start from the community, not from the candidate.

I know some good people have already begun this discussion for the South Coast. I am happy to play a role to connect interested people and to connect people to successful community independent campaigns across the state. Of course I’ll also be there to get behind a candidate when we find the right person for our community.

The next step is up to you. Justin Field


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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