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May 8, 2021

CSG is first priority for new Ballina MP

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Greens MP for Ballina, Tamara Smith.
Greens MP for Ballina, Tamara Smith.

Chris Dobney

New Greens Ballina MP Tamara Smith has wasted no time getting on with the job.

While failed Nationals candidate Kris Beavis was handing out his concession statement at the Ballina Returning Office yesterday, Ms Smith was already in Sydney learning the lay of the land.

Speaking to Echonetdaily after her first tour of Parliament House yesterday afternoon, Ms Smith said that no CSG for the northern rivers was her number one election promise and that in parliament it would be her number one priority.

Asked about her decision to head straight to Sydney Ms Smith said, ‘I’ve yet to see where Antony Green’s ever got it wrong. And we had a scrutineer who’d come up from Melbourne who was very confident with the preferences. So my attitude was to slowly proceed as if it was all going ahead.’

After taking the opportunity to visit family in Sydney, Ms Smith had her first meeting with fellow lower-house Greens MPs Jamie Parker (Balmain) and Jenny Leong (Newtown) yesterday.

‘It’s a whole new world. Until now Jamie’s been our only lower house rep, so it’s very exciting and so were’ doing some of that party-room stuff and it’s the same again tomorrow.’

Between now and May 6, when the new parliament meets for the first time, Ms Smith will have to employ staff and set up her Ballina electorate office.

‘I’ve already had hundreds of emails from people, so taking the time to ensure we start listening to constituents’ concerns and actioning them is an issue,’ she said.

‘It’s a big learning curve – I haven’t had a day off yet so I might take the chance to do that this weekend.’

Referendum on CSG

In terms of the ‘big issues’ Ms Smith said that coal seam gas remains ‘front and centre’ of her concerns.

‘It was a referendum on coal seam gas and that’s my most pressing issue.

‘I heard Thomas George say today that they want to buy back PEL 445. I want that to be front and centre in parliament because that’s not good enough. We want the whole of the northern rivers declared coal seam gas free, permanently.

‘So I need to be briefed on that by Jeremy Buckingham and start working on a strategy so we immediately put the pressure on in parliament, as soon as it sits.’

‘West Byron’s not far behind it, the mega-development. We’ve got a new planning minister in Rob Stokes so hoping that he is going to come up and just have a good look and see first hand that that development would not be appropriate.’

Ms Smith said there were a range of other issues she was keen to address, including Brunswick Heads residents’ concerns regarding the unpopular proposed redevelopment of the town’s foreshore by NSW Crown Holiday Parks.

‘We’ve got a long list of promises that I’ve made during the election and we’re wanting to have a regular report card, via a newsletter, of where we’re at with each thing. There’s a lot there.

I need more information on where that’s at, who to make representations to straight up, and I want to see exactly where we’re at with the proposed works.

Quizzed about Mr Beavis’ accusation yesterday that the parties opposing him had ‘gamed’ the preferential process against him, Ms Smith said it was clear the electorate was in the mood for change.

‘I think we’ve got to remember that on the primary vote 65 per cent of the electorate did not vote for the Nationals. And I just think that puts it in perspective. Sixty-five per cent of the electorate did not want him as the sitting member.

‘He’s entitled to look at it through any lens that he likes but that’s the lens that I think is really important.’

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