Editorial May 8th 2020

Welcome to this week’s editorial, Irrespective as to whether it is politics or a local group, when you sign up to be ‘on the team’ it is understood that you will do your best. Be it secretary, treasurer or even president, those who nominate you and vote for you do so thinking that you will deliver your best for THEM. No doubt in the role you take on you will find the unexpected that will demand more from you. Applying for grants, attending meetings to promote your group and from time to time the pressure of the role might have you ask yourself “is this all worth it?”. To this question you look to those who had faith in you hoping that when the going got tough it was YOU that they pinned their hopes on. Well the going has got tough in the South East and during the bushfires the community looked for reassurance from those they felt were leaders. While Shane Fitzgibbons was remarkable in his role he was in fact doing his job. And doing it well applying all the skills, experience and resource he could muster. As is expected of somebody in THAT Job. The same applies to Warren Sharpe and the Emergency Operations Centre personnel. All did an outstanding job but…. That was their job. Either they did it well or that didn’t. The ABC was there as an emergency broadcaster… doing their job that they knew demanded that they rise to the occasion when it occurred. With the reassurance that those in control were doing their job we then looked to civic leaders to fill in the gaps and remind us that things were being handled. The Public Relations. And from out of the flames came two civic leaders who stood in front of the cameras and addressed their community. In the south was Bega Mayor Kristy McBain who, from day one assembled her council, took to conducting daily updates with the key emergency personnel and ensured that her community was informed, included and most importantly being represented by a civic leader offering reassurance and critical information. Fortunately to the north of the region Andrew Constance took the same role giving those in the Batemans Bay area the same level of civic reassurance. Each was doing their job. Under difficult circumstances but as expected. When the going gets tough you MUST rise to the occasion. That is the understood of anyone who might choose to step up to a task or duty. But now we have the Eden Monaro by-election announced and both of our civic leaders have decided to stand to represent the region at a Federal level. With Mayor Kristy McBain the decision to stand came from her desire to see the South East better recognised by the Federal Government and to bring home the enormity of the impact that bushfires, recessions and Covid have had on the region. There was only so much she could do as a council mayor and the continued lobbying on behalf of her community was only reaching deaf ears at a State and Federal level. Those who voted for her at a council level now support her intentions to represent them at a Federal level. Even her fellow councillors supported the endeavour and elected a new Mayor in an emergency meeting this week to ensure stability, leadership and continuity remained at a local council level. But the Member for Bega has not had the same positive response to his Federal aspirations. As a State member of the current NSW government, able to do so much more for his electorate with State funding and resources, and with so much ‘unfinished business’ in the region, it was a surprise to hear he intended to walk away from that to aspire to a Federal seat. He had been voted in to do a job, his region had been hammered and even though he had openly declared he would not run again at the next State election here he was now choosing to step down from Bega and aspire to Federal politics. Then it got messier As we know Andrew Constance has said on several occasions that he plans to quit state politics once the bushfire recovery was complete. The Bega electorate saw this as his ongoing commitment to the region and respected him when he was vocal against the apparent withholding of donations by organisations such as Red Cross. They supported his comment against the Prime Minister around the treatment of the PM on his visit to Cobargo and they respected his appeals for more mental health assistance to the area for the community desperate for financial and emotional support. The community saw him as their leader and assumed he was there for the long game doing his JOB. But this week has seen that all come unstuck. Firstly there was the John Barilaro debacle with a nomination then withdrawal, his leaked stoush with Federal National Leader McCormick then his front page expletive directed at Andrew Constance. John also had a JOB he was prepared to walk away from ...the NSW Minister for Bushfire Recovery. So with Andrew Constance in the box seat of State politics as the Member for Bega, a senior member of the cabinet able to apply influence on behalf of his electorate and having stated a commitment to the electorate to be there to see out the bushfire recovery it doesn’t make sense that he would then stand against the only other champion of the South East in Kristy McBain who also has the electorate at her heart and stood side by side with Andrew Constance on many an occasion addressing and reassuring the community. Not as Liberal and Labor but as civic leaders with a JOB to do. By rights, now that he has stood down, he should be backing Ms McBain as much as he can for the benefit of the region and those in HIS State electorate. Now more than ever Andrew Constance has a JOB to do as his region begins to come out of isolation to face once again the reality that has not gone away—the loss of 1000 homes, a region financially crippled by a poor summer season, bushfires and now Covid-19. To date the electorate has received State funding for two bridges and some road works. But these projects had already been budgeted for before the Great Calamities. At present there are NO STATE funded projects of any substance south of Moruya where the bulk of the Bega Electorate lies. While there is $150m promised for a regional hospital in the Eurobodalla that is still to be proven. $25m was gifted for the pool in Batemans Bay however that too has its own difficulties. In all, the State funding from the Regional Growth Fund and Transport NSW, has injected $335m to Batemans Bay and surrounds but those funds were forthcoming as equitable allocations of the NSW revenue and asset replacement. Many have asked of the Member for Bega “What about the rest of the region? As Minister for Roads you have poured billions into metropolitan projects.” This is true. He has….. But then THAT WAS HIS JOB. The test will now come to see if he takes on his new JOB as Member for BEGA. Until next—Lei

.. while we are on the subject... where are the Eurobodalla councillors and Mayor?