There was an audible gasp of shocked bewilderment.
It doesn't happen often happen at a Goondiwindi get-together. In fact in covering more than 35 years of public meetings we've possibly only heard it once
There's been mutterings of surprise, a slight rise in polite anger, and occasional scoffing, but bewilderment? Perhaps when the then Queensland Minister of Everything, Russ Hinze announced to a packed RSL, after listening to 90minutes of residential arguments about why the then proposed bypass should not go ahead, rose ponderously to his feet and said something along the lines of, "Thanks for your views, I've listened closely....And 've decided it will go, here", while pointing to the existing route.
We can now add to Russ Hinze the name of local Member, David Littleproud. He was more succinct then big Russ, he only had to use two words: Bill Shorten. Mr Littleproud was speaking at a breakfast of the party-faithful at the Victoria Hotel last week. "It's well known in Canberra that your next Agriculture Minister under an Albanese government would be (Former Labor leader) Bill Shorten." "Ag," he said was a "poison chalice for the Labor Party. No-one wants to do it...And if Bill gets in, good luck.."
Mr Littleproud began though with an apology. "Thank you for your perseverance. I haven't been here much over the past year and a half such has been the demands. But I don't take the good people of Maranoa for granted and I have fought to ensure they get their fair share." However, he said that would all end under a Labor government. "They don't have the ideology which thinks about west of the Great Divide...It's only when we are in power as the National Party that we can be the conscience of rural and regional Australia."
He responded to a range of questions including the impact of cost of living and rising inflation. "We had to face up to a scale and variety of challenges on-one has ever ever had to deal with before. We faced up to a pandemic. We had to have economic measures in place that would keep money in your pockets and businesses going so that when you were allowed out from under the doona you got moving again because you are the ones that repay debt and employ people."
"We don't create jobs, that's the one thing I don't agree with Scott Morrison, the only jobs we create are the ones you pay for. You're the ones who create jobs. Our job is to create the environment and infrastructure to support you. That's where we grow the pie. Because if you get your money back ( in tax incentives) as business people you invest back into your business, you grow the pie.... You employ more people, you grow the your business, you grow the economy."
And communities such as Goondiwindi have been doing that at a time when many industries had to "pull up the doona" due to the OVID 19 pandemic, "You weren't . You were still out there producing food and fibre". "You have paid the bllls, literally. If it wasn't for regional economies our nation would be buggered. We should be proud of what we've done out here and we should make sure no-one forgets it. On behalf of the government can I say that you did this, not us, all we did was empower you and that's our job.. It's you the Australian people and particularly regional Australians and particularly this part of the country.".
Mr Littleproud was questioned about a number of issues. They included a lack of overseas workers, the "bias" of the ABC, cost of living pressures, and whether the federal government mucked up it's dealings with the Solomon Islands.
His responses in brief. Worker shortages: Huge problem. Was 140,000 backpackers in Australia three years ago, now 30,000 and losing 2000 a month. National Party wants a scheme to attract skilled and unskilled labor from various countries which will lead to permanent residency in regional areas. ABC 'bias": The ABC is vital for regional Australia. There are "fair ABC journalists" He believes there are those that aren't. There needs to be regulatory control so it is fair and balanced for all parties. The Solomon Islands: A response of trust us we're from the government. There's a great deal the government has been doing behind the scenes which he says Labor understands fully.
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