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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

Editorial: Dear federal member of parliament

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Aslan Shand, guest editorial

Despite pressures to the contrary, it is your role to represent your constituents.

And it is not just about seeking funding on their behalf and lobbying for other local advantages. You need to represent their views on issues that affect the whole nation, such as health, education, and defence, and on volatile issues such as fracking, a ‘favourite’ in the Northern Rivers.

So when your constituents want a clear answer on your position on issues, from fracking to the Adani coal mine, they are not just asking about their own backyard. They are seeking reassurance that you will represent them accurately at the highest level of government.

The problem for Richmond MP Justine Elliot (Labor) in refusing to clearly state how she will represent her constituents on fracking and the Adani mine (and others) is that she is only allowing voters half the information they need to make a decision.

I want more

Yes, the Labor Party’s policy on climate change is better than the Liberal/National coalition’s, but I want more. I want an assurance from the candidates seeking my vote that they are not only going to support their party’s climate-change policies but that within their party they are going to put forward better policies.

That they are going to push for more change and stronger action. That when it comes to the environment they are going to be the activists within their parties to create the change that I want to see. Not sit on the backbench enjoying the pay, toeing the line, and waiting for a pension.

Playground politics

When I was at primary school we had to vote for the school captain and I remember asking my dad, ‘How do I decide whom to vote for?’ His advice is sound for all levels of politics.

He told me that I shouldn’t vote for someone because they were the most popular person, or because they were my friend.

He said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you like or don’t like the person you choose to vote for’.

‘The most important part of the decision is who will be the best person to lead the school.’

So what I want from the candidates running in this election is a clear stance (not just their ‘personal opinion’) on issues that are important to me as a voter, such as fracking.

And I want them to tell me how they are going to drive the issues that are important to me, not only by supporting their party’s proposed policy but also by driving change within their party to make it better, fairer, and more equitable for all Australians.

To win that essential swinging voter, MP Justine Elliot needs to tell her constituents what she represents at both a local and national levels. This does not mean she has to tell them she will cross the floor on certain issues (even if I’d like her to) but she needs to persuade voters that she will continue to fight for what is important.

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  1. This is not entirely true. While MPs are “representatives” they also get to go with their own, and their party’s view. If every MP just agreed with their constituents, we’d still have the death penalty. Be careful what you wish for.

  2. People also expect their MPs to be consistant, honest and trusworthy.

    MPs who campaign on an issue they know is important to their constituents, also promising funding for that crucial infrastructure/servcie, such as ‘getting the trains running’, then do backflips when their party is not elected, or when they believe they’ll be elected regardless of broken promises, have destroyed the community’s trust in the whole political institution.

    That lack of trust and disillusionment has allowed some very disreputable, self-serving people to take advantage of voters and democricy is being destroyed as a consequence.

    • I appreciate you do not agree with the Arup report Louise, that government-funded train services are not viable, but it is a bit unfair to label members who accept that advice as not being “…consistent, honest and trustworthy”.

      Speaking to the public with the Northern Rivers Rail Trail at the Casino Beef Week celebrations last weekend, some people told us they miss the trains, which we can understand. But notwithstanding our nostalgia, most of us accept that governments are not putting trains back and we continue to receive a very positive response to the rail trail as a way of re-purposing and protecting the corridor. Mayor Robert Mustow and local member Chris Galaptis both told us of the support they had received from the constituents for the trail and for the recently announced federal commitment from the Nationals for the start of stage two. Like others in our region, Casino people appreciate the need for investments in tourism and recreational infrastructure that supports the growth of small business and jobs. It is understandable that our local members want to deliver that growth, and the NSW and Commonwealth funding of stage one of the rail trail gives their constituents confidence the funding will be delivered.

  3. I’d like to know what Justine Elliot’s ‘stand’ is.
    She said she didn’t support Adani March 1st
    but her silence suggests the opposite. Ditto
    to the fracking. Another ho-hum moment
    like stick-with-the-party rules.

  4. In one sentance: “Dear Justine Your job is to represent your constituents in the Byron Shire and nowhere else in your electorate, and to make sure your party supports policies on issues like Adani that will guarantee the ALP never gets into governemnt, just like the Greens we all voted for anyway.”


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