Page MP Ian Causley, who last week announced he would quit politics after 23 years, has a word of advice for those wishing to fill his shoes.
With at least half a dozen contenders lining up to throw their hats into the ring for the Page preselection later this year, Mr Causley said candidates had to put in the hard yards.
People will have to get to know the new candidate so they will have to get out there and work hard because its a fairly big electorate with a large coastal population, said Mr Causley, who chose his 66th birthday last Thursday to announce his retirement. The seat is pretty safe for the Nationals, we hold it by about a six-per cent margin, but the successful candidate will still have to fight for it.
Mr Causley has declined to anoint a successor for several reasons.
History tells me its the kiss of death if you anoint someone and local (branch) members dont like someone forced upon them, he said. Theyll have to fight their own battles.
The fourth-generation cane farmer last week thanked his staff and people who voted and supported him during his time in parliament, firstly as the state Member for Clarence then as federal Member for Page. He reserved a special thank you for his wife June, whom he said acted as a second Member for all those years.
She has done so much, going to functions and all that the electorate got two for the price of one, he quipped. Shes relieved Im retiring. At least Ill be at home for a change.
Mr Causley said he was proud of his achievements during his seven years as a minister in the NSW Government, especially in the fisheries and agriculture portfolios.
He fondly remembered the bunfight he had in protecting the rights of small stallholders at Sydneys Paddys Markets against a push by a developer who bought the land to build an office/residential block.
The developer, he said, was a pretty tough character, but I was tougher.
As for federal politics, Mr Causley said it was no secret that he was disappointed at not been appointed a federal minister despite being promised, but was very proud of having served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives in the past few years.
When he retires at the end of 2007, Mr Causley plans to spend more time with his family and enjoy life on his farm at the mouth of the Clarence River.
Im sure my son Shane who runs it can find something for me to do, he said.
And how would he liked to be remembered?
Id like to be seen as someone who stood up for what he believed and who stood up strongly for the local area and Ive had some arguments along the way, he said. Everyones different but people look for someone prepared to stand up strongly and expect you to represent their area... sometimes you make decisions you know are unpopular but in the best interests of the country.
Mr Causley said many people had called him after his announcement to thank him.
Ive obviously had strong support here because to win eight elections is a fairly big effort Ive had many critics but my supporters have outweighed them, he said. It is always sad to say goodbye but nothing in this life is permanent. Thank you for all the memories I will take with me and I wish my successor all the best.
Who that successor will be is now in the hands of the Page electorates 600 branch members of the Nationals.
The highest profile contender is former MP for the seat of Richmond Larry Anthony, son of former deputy Prime Minister Doug Anthony. He said he would discuss it with his family before making a final decision.
Kyogle mayor Ernie Bennett and Chris Gulaptis, a Clarence Valley councillor and former Maclean mayor, have also expressed their desire to run for preselection.
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