Story and photo Melissa Hargraves
Respected Labor stalwart Senator John Faulkner drew many admirers during a visit to Lismore on Saturday to lend a hand to his parliamentary colleague, sitting Page MP, Janelle Saffin, in her quest for re-election at the upcoming federal election.
Scores of the Labor Party faithful descended on Spinks Park for Ms Saffin’s official campaign launch, but Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell was unable to attend due to the sudden death of her father the previous day.
Senator Faulkner used the opportunity to detail the many achievements his party in government had racked up since its election in 2007, as well as some of the challenges it had faced.
One of the great but unsung achievements is the Labor government standing up to Big Tobacco and eroding the tobacco companies’ marketing power for their deadly product.
Australia, under Labor, led the world on the issue.
‘It has been six years of challenges, internationally with unprecedented economic challenges of the global financial crisis (GFC), and of course, nationally over the last three years of the unusual circumstances in Australian politics of a minority government,’ he said.
The Labor warhorse said that in NSW, his party also had ‘faced some challenges of our own making’.
’We have met and are meeting those challenges. We have navigated our way as a government through the worst global recession since the Great Depression with solid public finances and strong growth.
‘We have low unemployment – nearly one hundred million jobs have been created since 2007. Interest rates are at record lows, inflation is contained. For the first time, our country has a AAA credit rating from all three international rating agencies.
‘This is an outstanding economic management record and it is envied around the world,’ Senator Faulkner said.
The Labor luminary reflected further on the many achievements of his party.
‘We are bringing Australia into line with the global price on carbon and place us at the forefront of the low-carbon economy,’ he said.
‘We have delivered Australia’s first ever national disability insurance scheme. This reform is in the best traditions of the Labor Party which ensures that no individual, no family is left behind.
‘Just recently we have delivered a national network of marine reserves, adding more than two million square kilometres to Australia’s marine estate.
‘We are also committed to the largest overhaul of school funding in at least 40 years.
‘We are committed to rolling out the largest infrastructure project in Australia’s history – the national broadband network.
‘This will ensure that everyone has access and our schools, businesses and universities remain at the forefront of the digital economy.
‘One thing that does not get mentioned often which I think is unheralded and a critical achievement is that the Labor government has stood up to big tobacco companies, we know tobacco kills.
‘We have eroded the marketing power of these insidious and poisonous products. We lead the world in this.’
Achievements of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard were acknowledged by Senator Faulkner.
‘Her determination to pursue Labor’s policies was unshaken by the difficulties of a hung parliament,’ he said.
Current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is only one of three Labor leaders since WWII to lead Labor to victory from the Opposition, a record Senator Faulkner is proud to elaborate on.
‘His leadership has seen our country go through the GFC. I also give him great credit for taking decisive action in reforming and renewing the structures of our own party – to increase transparency and increase democracy within the party.
‘Kevin Rudd will fight day and night to defeat Tony Abbott. He will make sure with every breath he has, that Labor’s achievements continue through another term of government. He will also need all of us to fight as well, and Janelle Saffin by his side.’
The compliments flowed as Senator Faulkner turned his attention to local Labor candidate Ms Saffin.
‘I do not know a member of the House of Representatives who works harder for her community than Janelle Saffin,’ he said.
‘I can ensure you that in Canberra, Janelle is famous for this, she drives ministers bonkers.
‘She gets results because she is taken seriously. She is experienced, she has served in our state parliament from 1995 to 2003 and was a very senior advisor to Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, who served his nation Timor Leste in the highest public office.
‘We need Janelle and we need a Labor government, let’s deliver both on September 7.’
Ms Saffin began her presentation by acknowledging Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell, who was unable to attend as she lost her father the day before.
‘Jenny sent an email this morning to give support. That is the sort of person Jenny is. So I want to say thanks for your support Jenny.
‘Jenny and I have been joking about all these Js: Jenny Dowell, Janelle Saffin and Justine Elliot who is in Richmond.
‘People are used to seeing Jenny and I at everything and they know us well, but sometimes they get our names mixed up. She always jokes “yeah we look alike don’t we”.’
The slogan for Ms Saffin’s campaign is ‘Janelle gets things done’.
‘I’d like to share how that came about,’ Ms Saffin said.
‘That came from the community, we didn’t sit down and workshop or focus group it – that came from right across the seat of Page.
‘This election is about me getting out and putting my best foot forward, and letting people know the difference I have made in the seat of Page.
‘It is not just running on your record, it is running on your commitment and determination to keep getting things done no matter what goes on in Canberra.
‘Debates about the whole national scene will always be going on there. But people want a member who will go down there, represent them and deliver for them.
‘That is why I want to serve again for Page, so I can keep doing that.
‘I am a member of the oldest political party in Australia with the greatest tradition based on values of fairness which represents all of Australia.’
Ms Saffin was open about her admiration of Senator Faulkner.
‘He is someone who is universally respected and is regarded in Australian public life. He has served as minister in various portfolios.
‘I don’t think the media have lots of quotes from John as he doesn’t court publicity or the limelight.
‘I am really proud and pleased to be in a caucus with him. John represents the values of fairness and goodness of the Australian Labor Party.’