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Jobs and business

Tuesday, 28th May, 2019

Mark Coulton has been rewarded for his 11 years’ service to federal parliament by being appointed a minister in the new government. PICTURE: Supplied Mark Coulton has been rewarded for his 11 years’ service to federal parliament by being appointed a minister in the new government. PICTURE: Supplied

By Craig Brealey

Re-elected federal MP Mark Coulton has been appointed a minister in the new Coalition Government and he says that bringing jobs and business to country towns will be one of his main goals.

Mr Coulton has served in federal parliament for 11 years and he will be officially sworn in tomorrow as the Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government. 

He also retains the role of Assistant Trade and Investment Minister.

Getting people and businesses to move from the city to the bush and relocating government bureaucrats was something Mr Coulton said he had always supported.

Having bureaucrats in high-paying permanent jobs would lift the local economy but there was more to decentralisation, he said yesterday.

“It is not just a matter of moving government departments, although that could be part of it. It is also about encouraging individuals to move to the regions to take up the opportunities.”

In Broken Hill, Mr Coulton said, the opportunities were already here.

“There is a bit of a skill shortage on the mines and in hospitality and some other areas.

“One of the misapprehensions is that there are no opportunities in the bush. We have to make people realise that there are opportunities to relocate, that you can have a good lifestyle, you can own your house.

“We also want to encourage businesses to move to the regions. They will find cheaper rent and more space, and Broken Hill is on the main rail line to the rest of Australia so they’ll also have cheap freight.”

Mr Coulton said he was looking forward to his new responsibilities and “having a crack”.

“It’s a pretty broad brush approach at this stage, but I was only told of my appointment about 12 hours ago.

“As Minister for Regional Services, I will now be in a position to make even more of a difference to people’s lives in rural and regional areas, which is a great privilege.”

He said he also wanted to build on the government’s Mobile Black Spot Program,  improve the rollout of the NBN, and bring more doctors and medical professionals to country towns.

“There is a maldistribution of health professionals. There are far too many in the cities per head of population. In the bush, if a town loses its doctor, they’re in crisis. 

“Places like Cobar, Wilcannia, Menindee, Bourke are always looking for more people to move there and not just doctors but midwives, speech pathologists, physiotherapists.”

In Broken Hill the NBN had been delayed because the hard ground had hindered the laying of the cables, Mr Coulton said.

“But we have got to make sure it happens because the NBN is the way communities do business and people also rely on it for entertainment.” 

Mr Coulton said there were still too many mobile phone black spots but the problem would be fixed.

“It is still a serious issue across the country, especially in the Far West, but we have the funding and we will keep rolling it out,” he said.

His appointment as Minister for Local Government was especially welcome, he said.

Mr Coulton was the Mayor of Gwydir Shire Council before being elected to federal parliament in 2007.

“Local Government is close to my heart. As Member for Parkes, I have enjoyed working closely with local councils across my electorate, of which there are now 18.

“Broken Hill is unique because the City Council doesn’t have responsibility for large regional areas but I will be working with them for a fair deal with financial assistance grants.

“Local government is the primary responsibility of the state government but there is still the need for strong assistance from the Commonwealth.”

This was especially so for smaller councils in the electorate because they could not afford to be lost, he said.

“We have got to make sure we keep councils in these towns because quite often, when they go, that’s the last straw.”

Mr Coulton said he intended to make sure that his being appointed a minister did not interfere with his job as the local MP for an electorate that covers half of NSW.

“I don’t think it comes with a plane, but it would be nice.

“As the local member my primary role is making sure that I’m still accessible to people who want to talk to me.”

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