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Historic cabinet meeting

Wednesday, 10th September, 2008

Senior Liberal and National Party members flew into the city yesterday ahead of the first ever Opposition Cabinet meeting to be held in Broken Hill.

After arriving by charter plane, NSW Opposition leader Barry O'Farrell headed to the RFDS base where he told journalists the two-day visit would be used as a familiarisation tour.

Mr O'Farrell, who arrived with Nationals leader Andrew Stoner, Shadow Health Minister Jillian Skinner and Murray-Darling MP John Williams, said the Coalition wanted to know locals' views on a range of issues.

Those views would be taken into consideration when the Opposition formulated its policies ahead of the next election, according to Mr Stoner, who said areas of interest included health and tourism.

While talking up the credentials of the Opposition Cabinet, Mr Stoner was quick to criticise the State Government's new Cabinet for its lack of regional representation.

"This latest rehash of the State Labor Government does nothing for the people of Broken Hill and the far West, with just two Ministers from country NSW getting a seat at the Cabinet table," he said.

He singled out Phillip Costa, the new Minister charge with overseeing the portfolios of Rural Affairs, Regional Development and Water, whose electorate of Wollondilly is within the Sydney metropolitan area.

"The make-up of the Cabinet just confirms what country people already know - Labor gave up on representing regional NSW long ago."

In contrast, Mr Stoner said the fact that the Nationals had eight representatives in Parliament, and four Liberal members lived outside Sydney, would ensure country NSW would be well represented in a Coalition Government.

The visit comes one week after the Opposition scuttled State Government plans to sell-off part of the State's electricity assets.

While Labor has said the decision would cost the State $15 billion and possibly its AAA rating, Murray-Darling MP John Williams said Mr O'Farrell made the right decision.

"Barry listened to the people and I think that's the sought of Premier we need."

Meanwhile, Mr Williams described the Opposition's Cabinet meeting today at City Council's Chambers as "a great occasion" and would give his senior colleagues a "better understanding of life in Broken Hill".

Yesterday, Cabinet members met with Aboriginal elder Beryl Carmichael along with representatives from Murdi Paarki and Maari Ma health service.

Shadow Minister for Energy Mike Baird and Shadow Minister for Mineral Resources John Turner also met with representatives from Perilya, CBH and Bemax Resources.

The Opposition's spokesperson for Disability Services, Andrew Constance, and Shadow Community Services Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, visited the Silverlea Early Intervention Centre.

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