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Last pitch effort

Saturday, 26th March, 2011

ON AIR: John Williams (left), Heidi Hendry and Neville Gasmier at the ABC yesterday morning. PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt ON AIR: John Williams (left), Heidi Hendry and Neville Gasmier at the ABC yesterday morning. PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt

By Andrew Robertson
As election debates go it was a tame affair. But yesterday’s on-air forum did shed some light on where the city’s three candidates stand on issues ranging from abortion to hotel opening hours.
 In one of their final opportunities to get their messages out to voters before today’s NSW election, the candidates also tackled law and order, health, roads and the financial stress on councils during the forum broadcast on ABC Radio.
 Labor’s Neville Gasmier began by repeating the government’s commitment to increase police numbers in every area command in the State.
 But incumbent John Williams said the government had had 16 years to address a shortage of police on the ground.
 “These have been burning issues for far too long. Law and order have been one of the major issues in this electorate,” Mr Williams said.
 The Member for Murray-Darling also said juvenile crime was the electorate’s number one problem and must be addressed.
 The Greens’ candidate, Heidi Hendry, said while Broken Hill had a reasonably low crime rate compared to somewhere like Sydney, more police were always welcome.
 But she said The Greens also wanted to see programs like neighbourhood watch and others aimed at youth receive more government funding.
 Asked how she would reduce the financial stress on councils and shires, Ms Hendry said The Greens would provide more funding to them.
 Local government, she said, was having more and more responsibility placed on them without any extra financial assistance from the government.
 Neville Gasmier also said councils needed more income but suggested they should get it by increasing the level of rates on some sections of their business community.
 “The mines here have a very generous (mine rate), and that needs to be addressed.”
 The Nationals’ John Williams said a Coalition government would “re-visit” recommendations made in a report commissioned six years ago that looked at cost issues facing councils.
 He said none of the recommendations in the Percy Allan report were adopted by the government and the problems “are still consistent today”.
 The state of the electorate’s roads was also covered. Mr Williams said he would make sealing the Tibooburra road “in a reasonable time frame” a priority if re-elected.

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