Broken Hill wrap up
That’s a wrap!
This year over 320 delegates and guests converged on Broken Hill for our Annual General Conference. Back in Broken Hill or ‘The Outback Capital’ for the first time since 2002, this year’s Conference was well attended, with many taking the opportunity to explore the vast outback as part of their trip. The strong numbers show how committed our members are to engaging and crafting the policies and direction of The Nationals.
The conference was also the first event held at the Broken Hill Civic Centre since its refurbishment, with Deputy Premier John Barilaro, and local state and federal MPs Kevin Humphries and Mark Coulton officially reopening the Centre on Friday. All attendees would agree that the Centre is an outstanding facility of which Broken Hill can be rightfully proud.
This year was also the first time in nearly two decades that a current Liberal Premier has visited the Conference, with Gladys Berejiklian making a commitment for water supply and jobs in the region.
Her visit is an acknowledgement that the grassroots drive the policies and priorities of The Nationals, and she was warmly welcomed for her first visit as Premier.
Our leader, John Barilaro delivered a rousing address, where he first took the time to thank Duncan Gay for his time service to the Party, Duncan having announced his retirement from politics during Central Council on Thursday. During his time as one of NSW’s longest serving roads Ministers, investment in regional roads and rail increased to the highest levels ever seen, with 65% of total expenditure in the regions. A Nationals member for 43 years and an active politician for 29, Duncan’s advocacy for rural and regional issues will be sorely missed. We have no doubt he will enjoying more time with his family and will be honouring him appropriately at a later date.
John also used his speech to highlight the achievements of the Nationals in the last six years, which has seen $6 billion in funds spent in ‘turbocharging’ the regions. The strong NSW economy combined with a strong National party means regional and rural NSW is in a better position than it has been for some time.
Looking to the future, Barilaro honed his focus, telling delegates that Party from now to 2019 and beyond would focus on growing local economies, building better communities, protecting our land and resources and ensuring a future for our youth. Barilaro also promised to continue having the tough, politically difficult conversations that others are afraid to have, including options for energy security and the red-tape barriers to effective decentralisation.
Members were also urged to reaffirm their commitment to the Party, reminding delegates that the Nationals are more than just citizens, but are people who create communities through hard work, and adherence to our values. Finally, he reminded delegates of the significance of their membership in keeping the Nationals strong, concluding by saying “We are on the cusp of doing thing we have only dreamt of…never before have we had this opportunity to make sure our regions finally get their fair share. We need you. We need you with us now”.
In conjunction with Conference, several projects were announced for the Broken Hill area by NSW Nationals & Liberal MPs, including a $500 million dollar pipeline to be built exclusively from Australian steel to ensure Broken Hill’s water supply and $700,000 in funding for a new truck wash for Broken Hill, a vital piece of infrastructure as part of the broader stock movement sector. Also announced was the roll out of a Country Universities Centre in Broken Hill, a model which has been trialled with great success in Cooma following an $8 million dollar boost to the program by John Barilaro.
The strength of the Party was also reflected in the depth of topics covered by Conference. With over 65 motions considered over two days covering a broad array of areas, each day saw rigorous and considered debate with grassroots members and members of Parliament alike, able to state their case.
Of particular significance was motion 31, which called for the wording of ‘Coalition’ to be dropped. This motion was successful, meaning that the NSW Nationals will move to using the phrases ‘Liberals & Nationals’ or ‘Nationals & Liberals’ rather than ‘Coalition’ to outline our status as a stand-alone party.
Another significant motion was motion seven, which called for a Royal Commission into the banking sector. The motion was amended to include other areas of the financial services industry, amendments which were backed by long time champion for transparency in this area, John ‘Wacka” Williams.
Another motion with strong representative support was motion 26, calling for the NSW Nationals to support the Commonwealth’s position on unvaccinated children being unable to attend preschools. This was moved by Leslie Williams MP and seconded by Sarah Mitchell MLC, and carried by an overwhelming majority of our delegates. A further motion in support of a federal position congratulated the Commonwealth on the move to needs-based funding for schools was unanimously carried by delegates.
As ever, the state of health care in the regions was a significant area of debate, with numerous motions concerned with the topic. Successful motions included calling for more women’s services in the regions (21), with Young Nationals Chair Jessica Price-Purnell providing a powerful example of the challenges faced by regional and rural women when planning the birth of their children, as she explained her decision to have her child in a Gold Coast Hospital rather than her local area, which is serviced by just two gynaecologists.
Other successful health motions included a call for increased training opportunities of nurses by way of mobile units (24) and better provision of neurological nurses into regional areas (24). The latter was moved by member for Bathurst Paul Toole MP as an urgency motion, in response to a constituent’s battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Animals were also on this year’s agenda. Better protection for Koalas was backed by the delegates with motion 39 being carried as was motion 38, which called for increased kangaroo culls and a resumption of the kangaroo meat trade.
The most strident and perhaps emotive debate of the Conference could well have been motion 42, which called on Conference to recognise the cultural significance of the Snowy Mountains Brumby. This motion arose from the Southern Regional Conference, where it was similarly a hot topic and strongly debated. The move to enshrine the cultural significance of the horses particularly to people in the Snowy Mountain areas was powerfully advocated by John Barilaro. Ultimately successful, the motion is clear in its aim to recognise that the brumbies hold a special place in the hearts of Australians, without calling for special treatment.
Motion 6 was also successful and was yet another motion proposed by a regional event – the Northern Regional Conference. This motion calls for the development of a pilot program which would enable regional employers to have the choice to pay payroll tax, or instead divert those funds to pay for new staff. These motions highlight the importance our Regional Conferences in engaging members in policy debates, which can then be further developed at a state-wide level.
Another significant motion carried was motion 27, which called on Conference to support greater protection of vulnerable witnesses by allowing them to give pre-recorded evidence in Court. Under the current legislation, victims of abuse may have to face their abuser in Court while undergoing cross-examination. This is particularly painful for those subject to domestic violence, overwhelmingly women and children.
Other successful motions included the simplification of rules around the movement of farm machinery (56), the provision of laundry facilities to the homeless (62) and two motions from the recent Young Nationals Conference in Moree, which call for an independent model for careers advisers (8) and the compulsory provision of Tax File Numbers for high school students (10). This motion aims to support school leavers in finding jobs, as many often lack significant and necessary paperwork upon leaving, later hampering their ability to join the workforce.
This is a mere snapshot of the many motions which were debated at Conference. For a full list, including amended motions’ outcomes please click contact Head Office on 02 9299 5811.
Finally, Central Council re-elected Bede Burke to the role of Chairman of the Nationals for his 4th term, with Dom Hopkinson and Grant McMillian continuing as Vice-Presidents.
We as a Party should be proud of our achievements at this year’s Annual Conference. We look forward to repeating this success next year, which judging by the strength of this year’s attendance, could be the largest Annual conference in recent times.