Don PageMember for Ballina- State Matters
NSW Nationals conference 2006
This years NSW Nationals annual general conference, held at the Ballina RSL Club from July 15-17, was a resounding success.
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of The Nationals Mark Vaile, Federal Minister for Transport and Regional Services Warren Truss, Leader of the NSW Nationals Andrew Stoner and I had the opportunity to address the 300 delegates from throughout NSW who had travelled to the conference.
The annual general conference allows the NSW Nationals to meet and discuss in detail the policy directions for the party, particularly in the lead up to the state election in March next year.
North Coast Policy
On Friday I was given the opportunity to address the NSW Nationals annual general conference. In my capacity as Deputy Leader of the NSW Nationals and the Shadow Minister for North Coast, I used my address to unveil the key elements of the Nationals North Coast Policy.
Under the current Labor Government the North Coast has been starved of government support. However a Liberal/Nationals Coalition Government would deliver in spades for coastal and country NSW communities.
Due to the changing nature of North Coast seats, and the importance of the area to the Nationals, the first thing we will do in government is appoint a Minister for the North Coast. It is important that the needs and aspirations of this growing area be actively represented at the Cabinet table.
The first thing our Minister for the North Coast will do is to ensure delayed infrastructure investment is brought on line. There are already a number of projects we have committed ourselves to. These include the immediate construction of the Alstonville bypass promised by Labor in March 2003 but still not delivered.
We will also re-instate train services on the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line, axed by Labor two years ago. We want to introduce commuter rail services on this line which would also connect with the XPT services at Casino. We also want to start the process involved in connecting our line up with the Queensland rail system.
Lismore Base, Grafton Base, Ballina and Byron Shire hospitals are also on our agenda for major capital expenditure.
At the conclusion of the current federal/state Auslink agreement the Nationals would be looking to substantially increase the state governments contribution to the Pacific Highway to enable the dual carriageway from Hexham to the Queensland border to be completed as soon as possible.
I have also urged The Nationals to develop more proactive policies to deal with the effects of global warming and climate change.
The full transcript of my address to the conference is available on my website at www.donpage.com.au by following the Speeches link.
Workers comp for apprentices update
The NSW Liberal/Nationals Coalition has announced in government we will assist with workers compensation premiums for employers who take on an apprentice to help address the skills shortage in NSW.
This initiative will be applied over a four-year period, commencing in the 2008-09 Budget year. In the first two years, premiums will be halved, with the full exemption to be delivered in the 2010-2011 Budget.
This policy applies to all apprentices regardless of the sector they are employed in and makes taking on an apprentice an attractive option for employers.
Apprentices will remain covered by WorkCover but this exemption will bring NSW in line with Victoria where this policy is already successfully underway.
The most recent figures show there are 46,600 job vacancies in NSW. Late last year the job vacancy figure in NSW stood at 45,400. These job vacancies are largely in the trade areas. The skilled workers shortage is clearly worsening and something needs to be done.
We must address the skills shortage gripping this state and this initiative will help to do that.
Nominations are now open in the 2006 NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Awards that reward individuals, businesses, communities and organisations that have made a difference to economic, social or environmental prosperity in regional and rural NSW and the ACT.
Nominations are open in the Business Enterprise Award, Events and Tourism Award, Regional Service Award, Environment and Landcare Award and the Community of the Year Award.
Nomination forms are available from my office, at www.awardsaustralia.com or by phoning 9899 7251.
Phone: 6686 7522
Fax: 6686 7470
Address: PO Box 1018, Ballina, NSW, 2478