Acting Prime Minister and National Party leader Michael McCormack hopes to see Tumut represented by the Nationals at both state and federal level following two elections in the first half of next year.
The Nationals are gearing up for campaigns in Wagga Wagga (state) and Eden-Monaro (federal) two seats it normally leaves to its senior Coalition partner, the Liberals, to contest. But in 2019 the Nationals will enter the race for the former bellwether electorate of Eden-Monaro through Yass farmer Sophie Wade, creating a rare three-cornered contest. And Mackenna Powell will contest the state seat of Wagga, which the Liberals had held for 60 years prior to Daryl Maguire’s inglorious departure, and the subsequent election of independent Dr Joe McGirr.
Mr McCormack, visiting Tumut with Ms Powell on Wednesday, said there’s nothing extraordinary about the National Party entering a candidate for the seat of Eden-Monaro, despite it creating a rare three-cornered contest between the National, Liberal and Labor Parties.
“We always, or generally, contest Eden-Monaro; we place our resources where we think we (the Nationals) are a very viable chance, and it’s also going to be handy to maximise our potential senate vote, and we deliver, we achieve,” the Deputy PM said.
“We believe that rural and regional electorates are best served by a National Party representative.
“I do appreciate that the Liberal Party holds regional seats, but, when there is an opportunity to contest these seats, we generally do.
“We had a three-cornered contest when I stood for parliament in 2010; at the time, Tumut was in the seat of Riverina, and I’d like to think then that when I was a federal Tumut representative I did a good job for Tumut. I would like to see Tumut represented by a National Party member, both state and federal.”
Booths in Tumut, Batlow and Tumbarumba have shown strong support for Labor’s Mike Kelly at the past two federal elections when the towns have been in the seat of Eden-Monaro – helping Mr Kelly secure the seat in 2007 and then in 2016.
Mr McCormick believes he knows why Tumut, Batlow and Tumbarumba residents voted Labor when in Eden-Monaro despite having voted for the Coalition when in the seat of Riverina.
“There were people who, let’s face it, were upset and annoyed with the (council) mergers, and I understand that,” he said.
“While there were some councils, particularly in metropolitan areas, and some regional areas, that needed to be merged, but for Tumbarumba and Tumut to be merged, I understand the angst. We need to work now with what has been done and make the best of it. Whilst I understand there was a protest vote about that, federally, perhaps unfairly, the state Liberal-National government has been very good for regional areas that were ignored by Labor.
“I understand there were two decisions that were made that were unpopular, the mergers and the greyhounds, and I felt for those areas affected and share their views. I believe that people should look the future and put their faith in the National Party, because we do deliver and we do listen.”
Mr McCormack concedes that recent times have been rocky for the government, but is confident it can win the election.
Mr McCormack has been in the national headlines recently over his handling of the Andrew Broad “sugar daddy” affair, which saw Broad declare he’ll quit his seat of Malee at the next election.
“There are a lot of things that have happened that are quite frankly Canberra bubble issues, issues that largely play out in social media, and yes, a change of Prime Minister always causes consternation amongst those who would just like to see stability,” he said.
“The world has changed since John Howard was Prime Minister for 11 years, and sadly we have seen a revolving door since Kevin Rudd was given the chop, and the precedent started there, and unfortunately it has continued.”
But the Deputy PM said the government had a good story to tell.
“People these days are far less patient then what they used to be, but that said we have been a very, very good government. We are rolling out a $75 billion infrastructure spend, a record amount. Imagine what we could do if we had a surplus, and we will have a surplus. We will produce the first surplus budget in more than a decade on April 2 this year.
“The NSW Government is rolling out $89 billion over a four year period, and that’s what you can do when you are in surplus. I see what the NSW Government is doing with $4.2 billion from the sale of Snowy Hydro; they are quarantining that money for rural and regional NSW. I have always maintained that when the regions are strong, so to is the state and country. It is high time that more city people realised that their wealth an prosperity is largely dependant on our regions being strong, places like Tumut.”
Mr McCormack restated his support of the Snowy 2.0 project.
“What it can do is not just create jobs in the construction phase, but indeed provide power for half a million homes and dare I say businesses on the eastern seaboard, and anything that is going to generate power from a largely renewable source, using the best of modern technologies and traditional know-how has got to be seen as a good thing. Since the change of leadership with Scott Morrison we’re pushing on with it.”
Mr McCormack said that people should look at what the Federal Government had done economically when casting its vote in the election.
“The lowest business tax rate for small to medium enterprises for 79 years, the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since the Howard era, that we are rolling out the $75 billion infrastructure spend, but at the end of the day it’s all about jobs and making sure people have the ability to utilise the money that they earn, the way they want. We’re not going to take away franking credits for pensioners. There are a lot of people in Tumut that have investment properties, and they are not wealthy as Labor would have you believe, and we are not going to whack them for their ability to invest in their future.”
However, McCormack isn’t getting overconfident about the government’s chances of re-election.
“I never get too far ahead of myself,” he said.
“A lot can happen between now and March 23, the State Election, and a whole lot more can happen between now and when we will hold the Federal Election, probably in May, so that’s to be determined. I will continue to work hard as I do every day. We want to ensure that rural and regional people are well catered for in every aspect of their