As the Federal election on Saturday May 18 approaches, we asked a number of Wauchope people what issues are most important to them. Wauchope Chamber of Commerce president, Gary Rainbow believes that education, health infrastructure and climate change must be high on the agenda.
He said the Federal government should also focus on drought-proofing the nation, check the sale of rural land to foreign investors and support Australian farmers during the drought.
"A project like a Very Fast Train, that would link the capitals to regional areas, would allow more people to live in the regions and work in the cities," said Mr Rainbow.
He said the Federal government should be looking at a plan to improve road and rail transport between the coast and inland districts, and also further develop NBN services in regional areas.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Deputy Mayor Cr Lisa Intemann feels social concerns are the most pressing.
She says the flat economy is a big issue of course, especially for local business and penalty rates are controversial. But social concerns loom larger, especially among youth.
"People want the basics back - honest civility in politics and national media, real teeth against rorting, decent jobs and wages, no more top-end tax cuts. Education. Child care. Health. Serious action on climate change, chemical pollution and renewables," she said.
"They want confidence in our people and the future. Who to vote for, especially in the Senate? The perception of lies on all sides makes it hard to know what vote is best," added Cr Intemann.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Councillor Sharon Griffiths says when the economy is functioning well all Australians benefit.
"Good financial management cannot be ignored as this provides for the future needs of communities. Congestion is a cost which adds to the cost of purchases, time is money, which is becoming a greater issue for our community," said Cr Griffiths.
"Infrastructure investment (roads and bridges) is required for communities to be productive and keep costs down. Further investment in infrastructure to expand medical facilities to keep pace with the growing population as demand for medical services increases."
She said that although a living wage seems like a good option, as soon as the increase in wages is applied, the cost of all items purchased will go up to cover the cost. Cr Griffiths believes that providing incentives and tax deductions allows locals to keep more money in their pocket.
"Our area has a high percentage of retirees living in the area. Many pensioners have invested to provide for their own retirement income. Tax paid on an investment is entitled to be refunded (franking credit)," she added. She also wants more regional funding for sports and tourism.
Wauchope vet Michael Ferguson thinks the biggest issue for the current political parties and the upcoming election is the environment. He says that over the last few years no government or party has been able to placate their constituents or agree to any way forward on how we deal with this complex issue and all the knock-on effects it has.
"Carbon taxes came and went, Kyoto protocols, Paris agreements, NEG's and now the Adani project are tearing the parties apart yet none had shown enough leadership to take a firm stance in any form," he said.
"It's having a huge polarising effect on the whole nation and I haven't seen any politician juggle the issue well. It's creating a lot of buisness uncertainty while kicking the bucket down the road for our kids to deal with. It's allowing a few smaller parties to throw simplistic policies around and take votes, causing the big parties to scramble to avoid losing too many fringe voters."
Michael acknowledges that it's a very tough job to run a country, and jumping up and down with catchy one-liners isn't going to get us anywhere. And as yet, he is undecided who to vote for.
Niels Heffernan is a member of the Wauchope Area Committee, which is primarily focussed on local government, so he says these views are his own.
"I believe the following items should rate high on the agenda for any party or candidate contesting the coming election:
- Housing availability and cost. There is a known shortage of affordable housing. The cost of housing is rising faster than inflation, and has been for some time. Successive governments have excluded housing costs from figures used to calculate the official rate of inflation.
- Failure of wages/salaries to keep pace with inflation. Excluding home costs such as rates, rents, etc, from the official inflation calculations leaves many Australians struggling to make ends meet, as pay rises are regarded as unjustified during times of low inflation. However, by discounting such rises in living costs, the official rate of inflation is artificially low, and does not reflect the true costs of basic necessities.
- Another necessity of modern life, electricity, is rising at several times the rate of inflation. Recently, a rise of 11% in price per kWh has been imposed by suppliers, but there is no corresponding rise in the rate paid to those lucky enough to have solar panels. Again, rising costs of energy are excluded from the official rate of inflation, and many Australians are struggling to keep up. Particularly those who are in rental properties, and/or unable to afford solar panels, modern appliances, etc.
"To summarise, Australians are finding themselves less and less able to pay for basic necessities, and the simple fact is seemingly ignored by the major parties, with minor parties and independents seldom referring to it," added Mr Heffernan.