Two years as the Member for Barwon

23 March, 2021
Two years as the Member for Barwon Image

Today marks two years since the people of Barwon elected me to represent them in this place. I do not shy away from saying how much of an honour and privilege it is being here. For decades the Coalition treated Barwon like they do any safe seat—as a given. They took the people of Barwon, Orange and Murray for granted. Now almost half a million square kilometres of New South Wales is represented by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party—60 per cent of New South Wales. When I was elected I was asked how the Government had got to this point. I said the Coalition's losses were "the price they pay for regional neglect". When I was asked about how they had treated Barwon communities, I was short and succinct in my answer, "Abandoned, ignored, not listening."

As a candidate I promised only to work hard and be honest, to bring back representation to the people of Barwon, to listen, to give people a voice in Parliament, to take the concerns of the west all the way to Macquarie Street, and to fight for Barwon and keep fighting until we receive the necessary investment and attention from the Government. It does not sit well with me to talk about achievements because when I look at the Barwon electorate I see communities that have been so severely neglected that many of the things we are achieving are the necessities of life. They are things that electorates in the city would take for granted. While today we have rain drenching the State, it most certainly was not like this a year ago. It was a dust bowl out west, but we were told by the Government to pray for rain instead of looking to the Government to provide drought support. I lobbied for drought assistance every chance I got and I am still lobbying the Government to actually address drought, drought support and drought recovery instead of developing memory loss and burying their heads in the dust. It must be difficult for them to have a member for Barwon who cannot be silenced.

The Government should also never forget that they stood by and allowed charities to deliver bottled water to communities in my electorate so that citizens of New South Wales would have access to clean drinking water. Through political and social pressure, the Government came late to the unfolding disaster and started paying for water to be delivered. Those very same communities were having plans drawn up to prepare for evacuation because they had no access to acceptable drinking water. This is the type of neglect people in Barwon faced. Access to water—not a shiny new pool or a flying car—that is what people in Barwon were crying out for. They asked for clean drinking water in the twenty-first century in New South Wales. A few weeks ago a member of this Government made the claim that I like to take credit for things. I have had a look at the announcements that the Government makes in the Barwon electorate. Since March 2019 there are a stack of them—hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into the electorate. I tell people to shake their hand, take their money and ask for more.

I would like to point out a couple of things regarding these announcements. I have no problem not being invited. As I frequently say, I am not deluded in thinking that I am important. I just occupy an important position. But I do have a problem with how little respect is shown for the community members, sporting clubs and organisations who put in hours of hard work to apply for grants, who do amazing things in our communities on the smell of an oily rag, and who are forced to beg the Government for a little bit of money to keep going or to provide our kids with opportunities like kids in the city have. This is not a generous New South Wales Government seeking out areas of need in towns across Barwon. The money comes because passionate, community‑minded people slog out application forms. They spend their evenings gathering data, writing proposals, getting quotes and calling people for letters of support. It is their work in our communities that is deserving of any credit, not a government that likes to keep our communities on a funding drip-feed. Perhaps those in this Parliament who like to visit Barwon and make announcements should keep this feedback in mind the next time they are out west trying to buy back some love.

Now, there are a few lines my opponents like to use when they visit Barwon: "Roy's not at the decision‑making table. He won't be able to get any change", and, "Roy's not part of the Government. He can't do anything". They know it is a furphy but it is all they have got. Dishonesty does not trump real representation. Despite what my opponents suggest, working with genuine members of the Government has been productive for the Barwon electorate—for example, the Wanaaring Health Centre funding, the repurposing of Ivanhoe and Brewarrina Correctional Centres, vital legislative amendments, a rural healthcare inquiry, the review of the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme, funding of wild dog control measures, expanded transport subsidies for restocking and the active engagement of my office by Ministers who take their role to govern for the whole of New South Wales seriously.

Through negotiation with genuine Ministers—and they know who they are—I have been able to get the Government to begin to address festering problems that are long in the tooth and often unique to Barwon. At the end of the day, politicking belongs at election times. Genuine members of Government understand that. Those out for their own gain will probably never understand that. I would like to acknowledge that there are areas of New South Wales significantly affected by floods at the moment and I pass on my thoughts and hopes for the safety of those people. I thank the people in the emergency services who are placing themselves at risk while trying to take care of those communities.

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