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Byron Shire
December 2, 2022

Editorial: Let’s all hold our noses and vote

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Hans Lovejoy & Aslan Shand

The Party Animals (oops, the Animal Justice Party) candidate Cathy Blasonato admitted at the meet the candidates forum on Monday that she didn’t really want to get elected.

What a relief, someone who is genuine! As was Keep Sydney Open candidate James Wright, who was philosophical about his chances. Sitting MP Tamara Smith (Greens) fired up the room with her re-election pitch, while a slightly more subdued Labor candidate Asren Pugh reasonably outlined his party’s polices which at least attempt to address climate change and the atrocious planning laws enacted by the current NSW Liberal National Party.

Yet it was the constant personal opinion of Nationals candidate Ben Franklin that highlighted how he is in total opposition to the policies of his own government.

Is he in the wrong party?

From supporting the Student Strike 4 Climate action, to recognising that we ‘need to do more’ to protect the environment, Mr Franklin repeatedly expressed that he could ‘work from within’ his party for change on both these more global issues, as well as gaining better outcomes for the electorate of Ballina.

It’s true, a lot of our taxes have been handed back to us of late (called pork barelling), so thanks for all that largesse.

Yet as we all know from the past experience of being a ‘safe National’ seat, as soon as the risk of losing this seat is off the table, all the money that we’ve seen rolling in will be off the table too.

Was Franklin effective in relation to the recently delivered regional forest agreements (RFA) by his Liberal National government? That delivered appalling environmental outcomes for land clearing and habitat destruction. He voted for those terrible laws.

Those who wish to live on a planet with a stable atmosphere might want to consider a report by The Guardian that annual clearing in NSW increased sharply under his government. Between mid-2013 and mid-2016, it went from 900 hectares to 7,390.

Was Franklin effective in preventing the destruction of the Murray-Darling by his party’s mismanagement? Nope. Locally, the Richmond River has diminished in health considerably under his government’s watch, too. Pity the vanishing koalas.

Franklin also voted for diminished civil rights with the Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Act 2016. It was damned by legal experts and radically extends police powers against opponents of mining projects with heavy fines for those who ‘lock on’ to mining equipment.

If that law existed at the Bentley Blockade near Lismore in 2014, neighbouring farmers and residents could have been arrested as they ‘locked on’ to the equipment.

Road side drug testing is not impairment based, and this will continue if Franklin’s government is re-elected, because his government thinks all drugs are the same and anyone who does them must be severely punished. At least Labor are on the fence with this.

And if his government is returned on March 23, there will be no ‘handing back control to councils on development decisions’ because that’s not how his party rolls.

Instead, they roll over communities – like ours.

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