Deja vu

Dear Beagle reader, We are going to the ballot box in just two weeks and I still have no idea who I will vote for. I have read the literature and flyers and I have listened to the debates. I do not believe that any other generation has faced the mix of challenges that we do today. I believe that the government needs to be innovative and must harness the true intellectual capital of all the people, not just some of the people. It has been said that the tiny tots of today will work in jobs that have not even been invented yet. In the electorate of Bega and across country New South Wales we need to ensure that innovation policy and technology provide real opportunities for people. The concepts of creating telecommuting corridors from Sydney to Melbourne along our coastline and centres of innovation excellence are a real possibility. Yet the necessary investment in broadband technology and telecommunications will not happen without leadership from government. The South Coast has long been left behind with poor NBN and telecommunication provision. We have become second class citizens compared to our metropolitan cousins. This has multiple impacts on our capacity to grow the circular economy we need to be resilient and prosper. The role of State Government to impact change in regional New South Wales through an innovative policy approach cannot be underestimated. Education is but one area that would benefit. Education is the silver bullet. It lowers unemployment, improves economic growth and engenders social change for the better. It improves people's health, reduces poverty and crime and builds the esteem and values of our community. Too many decisions about education in the Bega electorate are made not by parents, teachers or the community in which the school operates. A one-size-fits-all approach from the State is failing our children badly. We need to understand that not all wisdom resides in one person. Good ideas exist everywhere, and should be taken account of when designing education policies. I believe that we should deliver equality of opportunity when it comes to education, not equality of outcome. Government should not necessarily provide the service, but it should fund it and allow for an ever more creative and flexible approach to public education. In the end all that matters is the quality of education that the children are getting, thereby setting an example for others to follow. You have to empower people and give them a sense of ownership for them to care about what they are doing. If all the direction and all the ideas on health and education come from the top down— from those who cannot even get maintenance of buildings right—how are we enthusing the people to play a role in improving the quality of their own education and health? From high schools to hospitals we need to provide better buildings and equipment. We live in a time when anything is possible. In the history of Australia no government has raised more money through taxes than this one. How can we make more for our people when our infrastructure is run down yet the money to fix it all has never been more plentiful? We should not have to talk about the state of buildings, roads and the like. It should be a given that our children are taught in state-of-the-art classrooms, that patients are cared for in world-class facilities and that our roads are properly upgraded and kept. It should not even be on the table for discussion; that is the easy part. And yet we cannot even get past it. If the people of the South East have one flaw it is that they are willing to endure so much without too much complaint. Their claims for better roads, hospitals and schools are legitimate Everybody is concerned about the environment and the best approach to managing it. The South Coast is amongst the world's most pristine areas. We have the world's greatest national parks, including Mount Gulaga, the Deua and Murramarang. It must be remembered that 41 per cent of the electorate is national park. What concerns me though is that the State Government does not comprehend the need for better environmental management and practices. Environmental protection is not about closing off large sections of bushland by locking it up and throwing away the key. That to me is environmental vandalism. The proof in this is how we continue to manage our bushland to minimise the impact of fire. We have too many inaccessible fire trails and frustrated Rural Fire Service volunteers, who too often must deal with these problems in times of crisis. Our beaches and waterways are the best in the world and we all must work hard to balance coastal development whilst protecting these areas. This will be the greatest challenge facing State and local governments in the next decade as we continue to see massive growth in the electorates, particularly in Batemans Bay and Merimbula. We all deserve a different approach to the problems facing our environment. Too often public debate is forced inside the constraining paradigm of: development bad, protection good. These are incredibly complex issues that deserve more than simplistic, knee-jerk responses. Some people lack the attention span to care or understand them. It is sad that so many of our leaders come to this debate interested in it only if there are votes attached. The degradation of our environment, the diminution of biodiversity, the salination of our land and the abuse of underpriced and precious resources are a disgrace. Poor planning in relation to water supply has led to constant restrictions for residents. We must bite the bullet and start to harness the water flow of our short coastal rivers in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way. We need two additional off-river water storage facilities immediately to meet the demand of our communities now and in the future. That said, we must continue to look closely at ways in which we can recycle water and utilise stormwater run-off and the like. The broader policy questions about the environment mean surely it is time to dare our Government and citizens to consider every option—alternative energy, recycling of water, charging market price for the resources we use, and many other ideas. We do not face a crisis today, but we are creating one for tomorrow. All of us here will be judged harshly if our children look back at this moment and say: they understood well enough, and yet failed to act. Life is good on the far South Coast. Even though the State Government refuses to recognise the electorate's profound public education and hospital problems, the people still bond together to do the best they can. They are highly energetic and co-operative. Our Rural Fire Service volunteers, surf life savers, State Emergency Services, the Volunteer Rescue Association, and coastal patrol personnel risk their lives every day to protect property and people from the onslaught of the harsh elements that nature can throw at us. They are everyday people achieving extraordinary feats. Government is not best placed to provide these services, as these organisations are built on the back of great Australian volunteerism and spirit. That said, government has a duty to provide the necessary resources and funding to enable Australians to fulfil their important duties as safely as possible. I would like to see the State Government provide more support and resources to each of these organisations. The people of Batemans Bay deserve to have an equal chance in this life. No matter where you begin in this State, your opportunities should be just as great as any other person's. The role of any good Government is to empower the individual to make choices, and once empowered, those choices are best left to the individual. The political process touches the lives of everybody, every day. Arrogance and elitism should never characterise government. Politicians should never see themselves as above and beyond the people; rather, they must stand alongside and work with the communities they represent. Government departments should be partnering with the community and industry, not, as we are seeing, creating conflict. There is too much division in our society. Too many leaders in Parliament have taken an opportunity to divide in order to win support, rather than unite to build a stronger community. Being singularly beholden to the media cycle can detract from good policy outcomes for the community. While the media must play an important role in the process of open and accountable government, we must always remember that parliamentarians are held accountable by the people, not the daily tabloid, broadsheet or talk-back debate. Political leaders should not be held captive to the press—the spin should never be prioritised above the substantive debate that is required to deliver good. All problems are urgent, and all need solving. It strikes me that our community can achieve so much more working together, as opposed to working against each other. Difficult politics are involved here, but the leadership required to achieve it is not beyond us. Dear reader, thank you for persevering with the above. You might feel you have heard it all before - the fact is that you probably have. The statements above are principally based on an Extract from NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard and Papers Wednesday 21 May 2003 and is the inaugural speech of Andrew Constance. Yes, 19 years ago... We now need to have leaders who deliver rather than simply recognising. Blind Freddy can see the issues but there is little evidence of anyone having the capacity to deliver the solutions required and promises made. The Editor.


buymeacoffee.png