Deputy Premier and Nationals’ leader Paul Toole launched our election campaign in Taree on Friday. This is what he had to say.
You may not be aware but last Sunday actually marked the 100-year anniversary of the Coalition.
A partnership that’s lasted a century
And it’s great to have Dom at the opposite end of the crease as we go into bat for another innings.
Can I acknowledge as well:
- Uncle Russell
- State chairman Andrew Fraser
- State director Joe Lundy
- My wife Jo, and our children Rhayne, Keely and Scout
- Life members Jenny Gardiner and John Cameron
- My ministerial, parliamentary team and our candidates at this election
- And all of you proud Nats
The journey to get here, for many of you, has been a long one.
For me, the road to Myall Lakes started in Wentworth last week.
About 1300 kilometres south west of here.
Since then I’ve travelled from west to east through Broken Hill, Dubbo, Orange, Blayney, Muswellbrook, Wauchope and Kempsey.
A 12 day trip through the regions that’s told a story 12 years in the making
A story of game-changing investment, of growth and of communities transformed.
Of a regional revolution.
I can give you numbers.
How many hospitals and schools we’ve built.
The number of jobs we’ve created.
But the numbers don’t do it justice.
Because it’s not about numbers
It’s about people.
And the Nats are the party putting regional people first
A mate of mine said to me the other day:
‘There’s only two things that scare me: Short-date chicken and the idea of a Labor Government in NSW.’
You just know… neither of them will be good for you.
Chris Minns wants to convince people it’s time for change…a fresh start.
But a Labor Government won’t offer a fresh start for the regions.
In fact, it won’t offer the regions anything.
Labor has pledged $16 million to bring cage-fighting to Sydney.
But not a single dollar for regional roads.
It’s promised mobile phone chargers for Sydney train users.
But no plan to boost mobile signal in the Far West.
And there’s a reason for that.
Because Labor’s plan for this election doesn’t include the regions.
And if it wins Government, its plans won’t include the regions either.
And Labor’s regional MPs know it.
Look at their social media.
They’re not spruiking Labor’s policies – they’re spruiking ours!
The Regional Seniors Travel Card
Scholarships for rural women
Back to School vouchers
Even Labor’s regional MPs know the best outcome for their seats is a Liberal and Nationals Government.
Chris Minns will tell you he doesn’t pretend to have any expertise about regional NSW.
My problem with that is he doesn’t want to learn.
We cannot risk a Labor Government that doesn’t understand the regions and doesn’t want to.
We cannot risk a Labor/Greens/Independent alliance that creates chaos for country NSW.
A vote for the Nats is the only way to guarantee we can keep building the future regional NSW deserves.
And here’s how.
Our Government’s investment in regional hospitals is the biggest in our nation’s history.
In Wentworth, we’re investing $30 million to build a new hospital to service one of the most remote corners of our State….just down the road from a new health hub at Buronga.
By the end of 2027, we will have built or upgraded more than 150 hospitals and health projects across regional NSW
Including Griffith, Gunnedah, Cowra and Bathurst.
And that game-changing hospital for the Tweed.
And we’re not done yet in our transformation of the health infrastructure in this state.
Today marks a landmark day for health care on the Mid North Coast.
This morning, I was proud to stand with our candidate for Myall Lakes, Tanya Thompson, to announce that if re-elected the Nationals in Government will invest a further $114 million into Manning Base Hospital.
It will take our total investment in this hospital to $250 million and help us bring the full vision for what it can deliver to life.
We’ve already delivered enhanced cancer care and renal dialysis services at the hospital.
And this new funding will mean investment in intensive care, emergency medicine and theatres.
Investment in better care for every family in the Manning Valley.
Not just that but we’ve made a big step forward on our promise to deliver a public hospital in Forster Tuncurry.
We can now confirm Forster Private Hospital as our preferred site and a plan to deliver a modern fit-for-purpose hospital with emergency, inpatient and outpatient care to meet the demands of the community now and into the future.
And with the funding to deliver it as soon as late next year.
I want to pause here to acknowledge a very special person in the room – the Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead.
No one has fought harder to ensure the people of this electorate get the health services they deserve than Brommy.
It was part of his first speech to Parliament and his last.
Because, he like me, believes in the need to deliver care as close as possible to home.
Right now Brommy is fighting his own health battle…but I’m so pleased he could be here today.
And Brommy, here’s my promise to you.
On behalf of every Nat in this room: We will keep up this fight so you can focus on yours.
Of course we know it takes more than new hospitals to deliver the care regional families deserve.
We know it takes more than new workers.
It takes new ideas – and a new way of looking at things.
It’s why the Nats delivered the State’s first dedicated Regional Health Minister.
It’s why that Minister, my deputy Bronnie Taylor, is leading the biggest ever shake-up of regional health incentives to grow our workforce.
It’s why we’re fighting for the Feds to back our plan to attract and retain more doctors in the bush.
It’s why this Government has delivered landmark reforms making it easier to get more medications through your pharmacy without having to wait weeks to see a GP.
And why our next package of reforms is all about bringing better care to you, no matter where you live.
And we’ll have more to say about those in the coming weeks.
Last week I was out on the Silver City Highway near Broken Hill.
Generations have dreamed of this road being sealed – and we’ve made it a reality.
A ribbon of bitumen from border to border through the Far West, linking locals to supplies, markets and a whole new stream of tourists in two-wheel drives.
Dom, WestConnex might be good.
Let me tell you connecting the Far West is even better.
Under Labor, the sealing of the Silver City would never have happened.
It took the Nats to get the Pacific Highway finished and start the Coffs Bypass.
It took the Nats to fight for the bypasses we’re building at Muswellbrook and Singleton.
It took the Nats to build a war chest of $4.5 billion for the Great Western Highway for a better road over the mountains only for Federal Labor to try and jam on the handbrake.
At the last election, the Nats promised $1 billion to fix local roads and timber bridges.
And we delivered.
More than 500 safer, stronger bridges that are cutting down freight times and ensuring the school bus gets home safely.
Hundreds of local roads upgraded, benefitting every corner of the State.
And we’re going to do it again.
We’ve already put more than $330 million on the table for regional councils to fix potholes.
And today I announce with the Nationals in Government we will invest another billion dollars to deliver the road and rail connections regional communities deserve.
This is a landmark announcement.
- It will mean another $400 million for our Fixing Local Roads program – a program that has delivered projects in every regional LGA in the State
- $300 million for a new program to Fast Tracking Freight to tackle pinchpoints, build capacity and get goods to market faster
- And $300 million to help rebuild transport infrastructure after disaster better than it was before.
We need a road and rail network built for the long-term that ensures when disaster strikes, communities and supply chains remain connected.
As Nats, we know it’s not good enough to replace a bridge washed away by floods with a like-for-like product.
When the Black Summer bushfires hit, we were confronted with the ridiculous prospect of replacing a timber bridge with another timber bridge.
That’s why the Nats have been fighting for a new approach.
To ensure that communities hit by fires and floods can build back better, stronger and more prepared for the future.
This month we’ll roll out the first projects from a $300 million pilot jointly funded with the Federal Government to drive betterment in flood-affected parts of northern NSW.
It’s the first of its kind in the country – and it’s the way of the future.
And I say to Federal Labor: Match us again.
Put $300 million on the table to keep working with us and help our regions rebuild to be stronger.
Do it for communities like Lismore, Bourke, Forbes and Moree.
We know a little bit of help with everyday living expenses can make a big difference to your household budget.
We have already delivered more than 70 ways to save on household bills.
Vouchers for families to buy new school shoes, to help kids learn to swim, to cover the cost of kids’ sport and to ease the pressure on power bills.
But as Nats, we know there’s specific cost pressures that bite in the bush…simply because of the distances we travel.
It’s why we’ve doubled the subsidies for travel and accommodation for people going long distances for specialist medical appointments.
It’s why we fought for the Regional Seniors Travel Card.
And why the Nats have worked to extend that help for travel to a new generation with the Regional Apprentice and University Student Travel Card that will roll out this month.
In Dubbo last week, I met Myles – one of the young tradies road-testing the $250 card before its state-wide launch.
He’s one of four brothers who are all doing a carpentry apprenticeship, all on different job sites every day and trying to get to TAFE in between.
And this card won’t just benefit chippies
It will benefit apprentice chefs, sparkies and hairdressers and later in the year those studying at regional uni campuses.
$250 that will make working towards their future just a little bit easier.
We know Labor doesn’t see the value of these savings – and if they win Government, they’ll be the first things they cut.
It’s in their DNA.
This Government is backing ag with the funding it needs to thrive, to build the Farms of the Future.
And to protect that future we’ve made the biggest investment in biosecurity of any jurisdiction.
With the threat of new exotic diseases on our doorstep with the potential to devastate our livestock industries, last August I issued pharmaceutical companies a challenge:
Develop a working mRNA vaccine for FMD and lumpy skin that could be ready for use by August 1 this year.
And today I can announce we’re making progress on our mission.
Partnering with a US based biotech company to make these vaccines a reality.
This month DPI will begin vaccinating sheep at the Elizabeth Macarthur Ag Institute with an mRNA vaccine for Border Disease.
We already have proof of concept in mice and once we crack Border Disease, we’ll have the platform to help develop the mRNA vaccine for Lumpy Skin.
DPI tells me that we will have proof of concept for this vaccine by the end of this year.
The first of its kind anywhere in the world.
And for O type FMD – the most common strand of this disease and the one circulating in Indonesia.
We hope we never have to use these vaccines.
Our first and most important mission is to keep these diseases out.
But in the event the worst happens, we want to have a vaccine that will allow us to respond faster and regain market access sooner.
And because of our efforts, we’re positioned to have vaccines ready to use by the end of 2026 – and in case of an emergency, even sooner.
With the bush booming, we need to grow our workforce.
With new incentives to encourage people to move to the regions and new ideas that drive them to stay.
That’s why this week we’ve announced a major shake-up of incentives for rural teachers that’s been two years in the making.
Incentives that are more practical and flexible.
That help young teachers move their lives and encourage them to put down roots.
With help for things like the stamp duty costs of buying a new home
Or to trade in their city wheels for a car suitable to take on roos on a regional road.
Last year, 1700 teachers benefitted from these incentives and with these changes we’ll help thousands more start a new life in the regions.
In towns like Muswellbrook and Coffs Harbour, we’re piloting a new regional concierge service to provide extra support to key workers moving to the regions.
Matching them with childcare services and helping their partners find a job.
And we’re building the pipeline of workers at home too.
Yesterday I met Dave, who’s working as a Student Learning Support Officer at Wingham High while he trains to be a teacher through our Grow Your Own program.
All while supporting his family and without leaving his home town.
This growing workforce also need a place to call home.
Over the past five years, more than 180,000 people have moved to the regions.
That’s the equivalent of five times the population of Dubbo.
It’s why we’re investing in new accommodation for health workers in Cooma, Balranald and Broken Hill.
It’s why we’re investing in new homes for teachers and police.
And why just yesterday we announced $120 million to help regional councils invest in the infrastructure that will unlock land for more homes including in high growth areas of the Mid North Coast like Hallidays Point and Old Bar.
As Nats, we know the value of investing in the next generation.
It’s why we created a dedicated Minister for Regional Youth.
It’s why in Broken Hill, we’ve backed PCYC to extend its services to help kids in remote communities like Wilcannia and Menindee.
And why we’re trialling subsidised transport for sporting teams in the Far West.
It’s why in Dubbo and Orange, we’re investing in world-class sporting hubs so kids like Harry who plays for the Orange Hawks can compete in a top arena without leaving home.
It’s why in Taree I was proud to yesterday open First Steps – a new community centre we’ve backed to support the kids of the Manning Valley to reach their potential.
It’s why we’ve invested to connect more than 1000 regional schools to some of the fastest internet available to students in the country.
It’s why we’re now rolling out the biggest education reform in a generation.
The introduction of a universal pre-kindergarten year of education.
And it’s starting in Bourke…and Kempsey…and Cobar…and Coonamble.
And we know it will change lives.
In the past five years, our Stronger Country Communities Fund has delivered more than 2,500 grassroots projects in regional communities right across the State.
And it’s easy to underestimate their impact.
But we’re not just building playgrounds and sporting ovals.
We’re building a community to be proud of.
We’re giving female changerooms to the South Roos from Broken Hill for the first time.
So young women like Sienna who I met last week can keep doing what she loves doing most – playing footy.
And helping Wentworth locals realise their dream of a new community medical centre to attract doctors to the region.
Locals like Bill Finney.
Bill turns 94 this week and spends his days busking with his sax on Wentworth’s main street
His mate Bob, who’s in his 80s, collects bottles and cans.
Between them they’ve raised $40,000 for a medical centre where locals can receive care closer to home.
And through Stronger Country Communities, we’ve been able to chip in another $240,000 to help bring that plan to life.
And that’s why today I’m committing another $90 million for the Stronger Country Communities Fund to take this Government’s commitment to three quarters of a billion dollars.
And Dom, you know I’m going to be knocking on your door for more.
Because projects like these might seem small.
But they mean a lot in the lives of locals.
The Nats in this room are helping shape one of the most transformative periods in the history of regional NSW.
And I’ll be proud to tell my grandkids I was part of it.
A time when we built things we’d never dreamed of before.
Created opportunities we didn’t think existed.
And did great things with lasting impact
Things everyone else said were impossible.
I’ll tell my grandkids it’s because of this Government they get a free year of pre-kindergarten.
And that they can go to the pharmacy instead of the doctor for basic medical needs.
That there’s lights on the footy field and netball court for them to train to be future Wallabies and Diamonds.
That it’s because of this Government they have the services they deserve.
That it’s because of this Government they have the world at their feet.
And that’s why March 25 matters.
Not because of what it means to me.
But because of what it will mean for Sienna at Broken Hill, for Myles at Dubbo, for Harry at Orange and for Bob and Bill at Wentworth
And because every regional kid should be able to look to the future and know it’s filled with endless opportunity.
Not despite where they live, but because of it.
We’re not done building that future for regional NSW.
And nobody but the Nats will see it through.
We will keep working to deliver the hospitals and healthcare our families deserve.
We’re going to keep investing in the next generation
From their first steps to their first job.
We’re going to keep driving down the weekly bills for families and businesses.
We’re going to keep building the roads, the bridges and the rail.
And investing in the sector that grows our food and fibre.
We’re going to keep building what makes communities proud.
As Nats, we’re not done dreaming of what we can achieve for our regions.
And we’re not done delivering what others say we can’t.
Friends, we farewell some of our party’s stalwarts at this election – Melinda Pavey, Chris Gulaptis and Steve Bromhead.
But there is a new wave of community champions ready to step up.
And not just in Clarence, Oxley and Myall Lakes.
But from Ballina in the north, to Barwon in the west, to Murray in the south.
I couldn’t be prouder to lead them into this next battle.
Make no mistake, this election will be close.
It’s an election where we need every vote on every booth in every electorate to ensure we can keep building the future regional NSW deserves.
And we need your support to do it.
Because I know you believe in our vision too.
I look out in the audience at my Nationals team and I see a team of fighters.
A team with the vision and drive to keep regional NSW moving in the right direction.
A team united by a single goal:
To put regional people first.