John Cobb farewells Parliament after 15 years
On Saturday one of the living legends of western NSW hung up his boots.
John Cobb, Member for Calare and former Member for Parkes, announced at a meeting of the Calare Electorate Council that he would not be contesting the next federal election. Cobby has been part of the furniture for many people in the west and central-west of the state for over two decades, known widely for his roles as President of NSW Farmers, as a local MP, as a Minister in the Howard Government and as Shadow Minister for Agriculture for three years.
John was first elected as a National Party MP in 2001, in the seat of Parkes, which at that time stretched from Dubbo to Broken Hill. It was a vast electorate and Cobby was just the man to handle it, putting in immense distances on the road between the isolated communities he represented. In 2005 he was rewarded for his work with appointment to the Ministry.
A savage redistribution in 2006 moved Parkes violently north, away from his home in the Lachlan Valley and John moved with the boundaries to become the Member for Calare, the first for The Nationals in 24 years. It was a close election, fought between The Nationals, Labor and Independent Gavin Priestley who had been touted as Peter Andren’s successor in the seat.
Before the next election the state was redistributed once again, and John found himself without the western booths that had anchored his campaigns in the past. With a margin of less than 3.5% Calare became a target for the Labor Party. John fought off that challenge easily, winning a swing of more than 7% and making strong inroads into traditional Labor heartland in Bathurst and Lithgow. Following the 2010 election he was elevated to the Shadow Agriculture portfolio. Sometime in this period John lost his trademark moustache – perhaps a nod to the more urbane image required of a politician in the Central West.
Despite his disappointment with losing Agriculture when the Nationals entered government with the Liberals in 2013, John kept working hard for his electorate and goes with the good grace of his constituents. We wish him and Lisa well in his retirement and hope that he remains a familiar sight in the National Party as well as in the streets and the pubs of western NSW.