As an Independent my policies are what you and my communities want, I won’t present a set of policies and promises before an election and then abandon them or my communities after an election and I won’t support policies or legislation harmful to my rural communities. I will cross the floor of Parliament if required I won’t just talk about it.
The following are my positions on some key issues that may impact the fine people of the Electorate of Tamworth in alphabetical order. You may not agree with everything listed below but if you believe I have made an omission or error or have some advice you might like to share, I would be delighted to hear from you. I welcome the feedback of my electorate. One thing you can be sure of as an Independent, I am not beholden to a political party or their vested interests and I will always do my best – Mark Rodda.
Agriculture is the basis of our rural wealth and much of our national prosperity. Our prime agricultural land is a finite resource and its conservation should be a matter of concern to us all. The Government’s belated response to the drought has also been a matter of concern. Many farmers still cannot access assistance provided and many do not want the burden of more loans. For further information see also headings regarding mining. Around our electorate and more widely more resources are needed to address invasive species such as deer and treating the pest as a feral animal as it is having a dramatic impact on our State’s primary industries.
Asset Recycling / Privatisation
I oppose any further privatisation/asset recycling of State-owned assets such as our critical water supplies or educational institutions such as TAFE. Rural NSW is still waiting for a June 2014 promised $6 billion bounty. Added to that are the proceeds of the sale of the NSW portion of the Snowy-Hydro Scheme for $4.15 billion.
Climate & Environment
State and Commonwealth Governments need to address the causes of record high temperatures, minimal rain events, violent storm events and extended drought by supporting schemes to reduce CO2 emissions such as an urgent transition to renewable energy alternatives and digester technology for household food waste that currently ends up in landfill.
I will work for the reafforestation of parched unproductive pastures and farmland and urban greening of rural villages, towns and cities with street and park tree plantings to reduce the ambient temperature and cool our communities; revision of clearing laws and stock-take of multi-national owned farming land with high capacity water storages. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Resource Organisation (CSIRO) report regarding the State of the Climate 2018 makes sobering reading. See https://www.csiro.au/en/Showcase/state-of-the-climate for further information.
Cost of Living Pressures
When the NSW Liberals and Nationals agreed to sell NSW electricity infrastructure the former Premier Mike Baird claimed that their decision would reduce electricity prices. Rural Government MP’s for the electoral districts of Tamworth and Northern Tablelands claimed that they had “saved Essential Energy” and got a $6 billion privatisation promise for rural/regional/coastal NSW. Rural NSW residents are suffering record high energy bills and thousands of rural workers have been made redundant in Essential Energy and Transgrid. You cannot leave critical monopoly revenue-producing infrastructure in the hands of shareholders and directors and hope to see cheaper prices. I support the State and Commonwealth reinvesting back into the energy market in the network and renewable energy and investigations into alternative energy sources such as anaerobic digesters.
Decentralisation – Special Economic Zones
Neither State or Commonwealth governments have been fair dinkum about decentralisation. The Commonwealth’s reckless immigration intake and State infrastructure needs cannot keep apace of population growth, particularly in metropolitan areas.
To mitigate the impacts on metropolitan areas I support a genuine decentralisation policy for all NSW Government departments and businesses. Rural NSW needs infrastructure, services and jobs. Rural NSW can play its part mitigating metropolitan overpopulation by ameliorating the infrastructure and services of rural NSW.
We need to cut red tape for staff transfers of critical health, education and other public sector employment positions. I oppose any forced rural Council amalgamations because this dilutes representation and reduces local jobs, however councils need to be sustainable too.
I support an inclusive society and diversity throughout our rural communities and support disadvantaged members of our community as well as our ethnic and LGBTQI members around our communities. I am reminded that we all need each other, we all belong to one another, it is in serving each other and sacrificing for our common good that we are finding our true life.
Many rural people will recall that up until July 2018 the NSW Government refused to acknowledge the unfolding disaster and impacts of the sustained drought. Unfortunately, belated drought funding support by State and Commonwealth Governments has been difficult to almost impossible for many farmers to access. There should be flexibility for farmers to access any Farm Managed Deposits they may have, tax and fee free, particularly if they are used to lessen the impacts of the sustained drought and help their families. During this drought many businesses allied to agriculture have also been impacted and should also be considered for assistance.
Public Schools - I support needs-based funding for our public schools and ongoing investment in crumbling public school infrastructure as well as a plan to replace all demountable school buildings by 2025. I support the installation of air conditioners in all NSW State schools.
TAFE - The NSW Liberals and Nationals have an appalling record of treatment of our TAFE. TAFE NSW has always been a fantastic education provider to rural kids who may not have had the aptitude or means for university but would glean an affordable vocational education to kickstart their careers. In 2015 the NSW Government moved TAFE from the Education portfolio to the Finance, Services & Innovation portfolio, dramatically increasing course fees from hundreds into many thousands which have led to plummeting TAFE course enrolments. Even with a maximum 50% subsidy and/or student loan families and kids simply do not have the cash. You can imagine the social problems created with an uneducated, unemployed underclass of kids into the future. I support the TAFE being returned to the Education portfolio, properly funded and course fees slashed. External tertiary education providers given no taxpayer-funded subsidies.
Tamworth University – Support a new Tamworth university with public/central schools providing satellite tertiary education using NBN/satellite communications. Also, an Agricultural College for Gunnedah to ensure that the Liverpool Plains and Northern NSW remains the great agricultural region of rural NSW.
Election Donation Reform – Transparency & Accountability
The major parties oppose election donation reform. It is clear they don’t want the people of NSW knowing where their donations are coming with donation transactions listed on a website before an election because they know it may sway the decision of informed voters if they knew donations were received from unsavoury donor sources. I support transparency in this process with a ban on developers, miners, real estate agents and foreign corporations and individuals and I support the right of the people of NSW to know who is donating to parties and candidates before an election, not months after. I advocate for full transparency and accountability of all political party election funding and donation reform.
See under Climate & Environment
Freedom of Information (FOI/GIPA)
None of the governments ruled by the major parties actually believe in Freedom of Information or “GIPA” as it is called now. Despite taxpayers paying taxes, they still have to pay, beg and grovel for information about the administration of their state. Much of it is mired in Cabinet/Commercial in Confidence to avoid transparency in government decisions and accountability for poor decision making. I recommend and support a review of FOI legislation, regulations and provisions.
Australians are some of the highest gamblers in the world and gambling is a huge problem for the people of our State. I support a ban on all TV, radio, print and internet advertising of gambling sites and services throughout NSW.
I support the provision of more health infrastructure. After 8 years of this government towns and districts still wait for upgraded facilities. A new Gunnedah hospital and Tamworth Banksia acute Mental Health unit coupled with a dedicated drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. Also a plan for the prevention of mental health issues, anxiety, depression and stress and services to get recovering patients back into the workforce and back on track with their lives.
More nurses and support for mandatory ratios in our hospitals. We need more paramedics stationed in rural areas. Work towards attracting more health and allied professionals to rural areas and expedite the training and financial support of rural medical students willing to stay and work in rural centres. More paramedics throughout rural NSW. Fastrack medicinal cannabis and take it out of the hands of foreign pharmaceutical and chemical companies. Work toward a solution to address our State’s ICE epidemic as well as further education campaigns.
Tamworth needs a dedicated 24 hour mental health team that can manage the urgent and critical needs of patients in danger.
Urgent funds into more resources for our regions MRI and second Linear Accelerator equipment.
Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) – Transparency & Accountability
Immediately prior to former Premier Mike Baird leaving Parliament, the Liberals and Nationals weakened the powers of our ICAC making the investigation of corrupt conduct harder. I support ICAC being properly funded and reintroduction of provisions to enable easy investigation of corrupt conduct.
While the NSW Government has belatedly announced taxpayer-funded projects throughout rural electorates, the priority of this government is an unnecessary and wasteful Sydney stadium knockdown and rebuild project costing taxpayers billions of privatisation dollars. They then intend to waste $1 billion dollars on unnecessarily moving the States’ Powerhouse Museum from its Ultimo home to Parramatta to benefit Sydney party donors. Throughout our electorate infrastructure has been delayed because unnecessary Sydney projects have taken precedence. Gunnedah’s hospital, Tamworth Banksia acute mental health unit, the Gunnedah overpass has only just begun after 8 years with costs up from $15.8 million to $62 million, Rangari Road upgrade, Port Stephens Cutting, sections of Werris Creek Road, Goonoo Goonoo Road (New England Highway), Mullaley and Boggabri road users had to wait another 8 years for the Grain Valley Road announcement.
See under Health above.
Mining – Exploration Licence (EL) and Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL) Buy-Back
In December 2014 the NSW Government introduced an exploration licence buy-back of a number of PEL’s throughout Sydney basin and northern NSW. I support the expansion of this policy to include EL 7223 held by Shenhua Watermark Coal and PEL 1 near Gunnedah.
Mining – Expansion
Drought resistant Namoi River farmers near Gunnedah adjoining the historic homestead “Kurrumbede” are at grave risk of destruction from an expansion of the Vickery coal mine. Alternative locations should be investigated for the expanded mine north away from the Namoi river farms and productive alluvial farmland. I support Government policy that values food production ahead of mining royalty revenue and there are alternative options.
Mining – Royalties for Regions (Getting our Fair Share)
Rural NSW does not see its fair share of mining revenue future proofing the communities impacted by mining, particularly when mining ceases. I support a Royalties for Regions policy similar to the Western Australian Nationals which mandates 20-25% of royalty revenue from extractive industries around the north-west meaning that Gunnedah Shire, Narrabri Shire, Liverpool Plains Shire and Tamworth Regional Council would all receive a portion of royalty revenue to spend on infrastructure in their local government areas keeping those areas vibrant and attractive to residents and future residents wishing to make a tree-change.
Police and Law Issues
The Police Association representing our hard-working Oxley Area Command has called on candidates to support 25 extra police for Tamworth, Gunnedah and elsewhere in our towns and districts. That is 25 more over and above attrition and is a reasonable increase to ensure that our police can keep our communities safe and enable the police to keep up to the task of protecting our communities from sex offenders, illicit drug suppliers and other anti-social issues. I support the increase officer numbers. Tamworth city residents want a second police station in South/West Tamworth, I would work toward this outcome. NSW needs a comprehensive review of the Young Offenders Act, 1997. Reintroduction and funding of the CREDIT Scheme (Court Referral of Eligible Defendents Into Treatment), a scheme that enjoyed demonstrably successful results.
Politicians’ Conditions of Employment
It is evident that the conditions of employment for our politicians are out of step with the views of our communities. Defined superannuation schemes should be abolished retrospectively. The allowance for politicians to promote themselves called “parliamentary entitlements” should be wound back to half its current level. Currently rural MP’s have more than $90,000 annually to promote themselves. Often this allowance is utilised for party-political promotion before a government enters the caretaker period one month before a State election and often excessive amounts of leaflets promoting the MP’s are mailed to voters throughout the electorate representing pure waste.
Privatisation and Cost of Living Pressures – Electricity
People everywhere are suffering increased cost of living pressures from the Nationals deliberate asset sell-off policies. In June 2014 the Liberal and Nationals made the poor decision to privatise all electricity infrastructure except Essential Energy, promising that electricity prices would drop, they claimed to have saved Essential Energy and obtained a $6 billion fund for rural, regional, remote NSW.
Sadly the reverse has been the case, electricity prices are at record highs, Essential Energy and Transgrid have lost more than 1,200 workers, many of them in rural NSW and the proceeds of a promised $6 billion bounty has not been seen by rural NSW. Added to the errors of the first privatisation the NSW Government then sold the Snowy-Hydro Scheme and rural NSW seeing all of that promised funds is unlikely.
Only reinvestment into the network and energy production by State or Commonwealth governments will reverse the trend to high electricity prices.
Privatisation and Cost of Living Pressures – Water
I oppose the privatisation agenda of the major parties and the privatisation of our States’ critical water infrastructure and facilities.
After 8 years and around the Electorate of Tamworth there are roads crying out for funding – Port Stephens Cutting between Ogunbil and Weabonga, Rangari Road between Manilla and Boggabri, sections of the Werris Creek Road, Burgmanns and Burgess Lanes and Goonoo Goonoo Road section of the New England Highway between Calala Lane and Jack Smyth Drive.
State Government Revenues & Taxes
It is an indictment on the Coalition parties who are supposed to be superior economic and fiscal managers to their opponents, that the only State revenues that NSW Treasury will be able to rely upon into the future will be the Goods and Services Tax, gambling and excise taxes, Land, Payroll and Road taxes and the royalties from coal extraction in rural areas. Having sold monopoly revenue producing electricity assets, ports and the former Land Titles Office we now see the people having been subject to dud transaction deals by the Government. We need to transition to a new revenue sources, and support enterprises that have the ability to make a positive impact on our States’ revenues renewable energies, digester technology, the creative arts, science.
Sydney Stadium Splurge (Waste)
In 2017 your local Nationals MP agreed with the city-centric Liberals to sell the former NSW Titles and Registry Service (former Land Titles Office). The proceeds of this reckless and unnecessary sale has seen the cost of buying and selling property in NSW dramatically increase by more than 1900%. It puts at risk our great Torrens property system putting it into the hands of shareholders and directors of a largely foreign corporation. The proceeds of the sale of the former Land Titles Office are to be wasted on unnecessary Sydney stadium knockdowns and rebuilds costing NSW residents billions that could be spent on rural roads, health infrastructure, police, nurses and nurses ratios and TAFE.
Water and the Murray Darling Basin
I support calls for a Royal Commission into the management of the Murray Darling Basin Authority. There are issues impacting our States riverine system going back to at least the 1990’s. However, a Royal Commission will not immediately deliver results and the major parties already know the answers to the problems of the system however do not have the desire to fix them. The Commonwealth Government acting in concert with the State jurisdictions of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia need to work toward a long-term solution to the problems of mismanagement and over-allocations. The mass fish-kills occurring throughout NSW are the result of systemic problems. Immediate inquiries should occur now into the 2012 Water Sharing plans excluding a minimum 10% of dam capacity from future water sharing plans. There should be a minimum 10% water retained in State owned lakes and dams such as Lake Keepit for non-agrarian activities and the environment. The drought is not the only environmental issue impacting the Murray-Darling system. I oppose the privatisation of NSW water assets, infrastructure and storages by the major parties.