Southern Regional Conference a success
Over the weekend, the Southern Regional Conference was held in Griffith with over 110 members trekking to the Griffith Exies Club from right across Southern NSW. There, they debated policy, engaged with policy experts and quizzed our ministers and parliamentarians.
A highlight of the weekend for locals was Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s pledge to delegates that he was committed to no further buybacks from irrigation communities following Friday’s meeting of the Murray-Darling Basing Ministerial Council in Mildura.
“When I was the Shadow Water Minister, Sarah Hanson-Young was working with Tony Burke about how to take 6,000 gigalitres out of the system,” he said. “You could say goodbye to Griffith after that, it wouldn’t be here.”
His comments were made on a panel facilitated by Perin Davey from Murray Irrigation and included NSW Water Minister Niall Blair, CEO of Coleambally Irrigation, John Culleton, and former President of the Australian Rice Growers’ Association, Les Gordon.
The Regional Conference is the second held in recent months after the Northern Regional Conference in Lismore late last year and was convened by Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier and Southern NSW, the Hon Bronnie Taylor MLC.
NSW is a big state and as a grassroots party, our members often find it time-consuming and expensive to travel to Annual Conference. With our regional conferences the Party is able to engage directly with our members about the challenges facing regional communities.
Party members are also able to engage with senior levels of government, including the opportunity to meet and mingle with both Federal and State parliamentarians.
The conference also saw a panel on regional telecommunications with representatives from Optus and Telstra, as well as a keynote speech from Duncan Taylor from the Country Universities Centre.
Duncan outlined the success of the first Country Universities Centre in Cooma. Supported through a corporate partnership with Snowy Hydro, the Centre has brought tertiary education to the doorstep of a town with only 6,500 people.
His model has also seen completion rates rise from 46 per cent (when students are studying via distance education only) to 71 per cent, nearly matching the rate for students studying on-campus in big cities like Sydney.
“Since our establishment in 2013 we have had 175 students register and have offered 57 types of courses from 28 Australian universities,” Duncan told the Conference.
“We are in the process of expanding to Goulburn and Broken Hill and have been in discussions with other communities in NSW.”