MP embarks on anniversary flight
Tuesday, 15th November, 2011
By Kurtis Eichler
Federal MP Sussan Ley is flying through her electorate this week to mark her 10th year in office and to illustrate the sheer size of the seat of Farrer.
Yesterday the Liberal MP chatted with locals in Tibooburra before attending the Central Darling Shire Council meeting in White Cliffs.
After that it’s on to Wilcannia for the town’s Community Awareness Day.
Ms Ley, 50, said she’d wanted to do a couple of days flying as a way of demonstrating the “diversity and the size of my electorate.”
“In regional Australia everyone struggles with distance, particularly in the Far West,” Ms Ley said.
“Just because 80 per cent of Australians live 20kms or closer to the coast, we should never overlook the vital contribution that the other 20 per cent make.”
On Friday she visited Albury, Corowa, Moama, Hay and Deniliquin in her two-seater aircraft.
Her decade-long stint has had its fair share of challenges.
Ms Ley said helping to maintain tourism, agriculture and mining had been tough.
“Securing the prosperity and the ongoing economic foundation of rural and regional Australia is the challenge of every regional member of Parliament,” she said.
“So for us it’s about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, whether that’s going to add or subtract from agriculture and farming.
“We’ve obviously got a strong agriculture sector. Now that we’ve recovered from the drought we’ve got to make sure that continues.”
Sustaining local tourism also comes down to the electorate’s roads, she said .
“We’ve got to have good roads in the Far West and I know that’s something that is a priority at the state level with John Williams.
“But the 300,000 tourists visiting Broken Hill ever year, many of them are not able to get through to Tibooburra and therefore complete those outback tours.”
She said that bringing then PM John Howard to the electorate twice during the drought was one of her greatest achievements.
“It helped implement our drought policy which was vital to western NSW. Without our Exceptional Circumstances Drought Support, which included interest rate payments and fortnightly Centrelink payments, we wouldn’t have the farmers here that we do and they just would have gone.
“The Murray-Darling Basin Plan remains an ongoing challenge but so far there hasn’t been policy that has damaged either the environment or agriculture.”
Ms Ley revealed that she feared losing at her very first election in 2001.
Standing against 11 other candidates, Ms Ley only held the seat by 206 votes in an era when BH was included in the neighbouring electorate of Parkes.
“I was never expected to win, In fact, Centrebet had the odds of me winning at 33 to one.
“In that first election I only had the money that I’d fundraised locally.”
There was no money from her party and Ms Ley said she’d had no other patronage and was known by “no one.”
“I think that underscores the reality of Australian politics, that you can actually become elected as a very ordinary person.”
Now, she said, she doesn’t take any federal election for granted.
“I had a strong independent at the last election who got 11 per cent of the vote.”
Ms Ley only ever receives about 50 per cent of the vote in BH.
“That means to me that I’ve got to work hard to earn the votes of the people in Broken Hill.”
As for the next 10 years, Ms Ley said the aim was to extend the life of the city’s mines.
“We’ve got to remember that mining is always boom and bust,” she said.
“When it’s good it’s good, but we’ve got to prepare for a time when world prices are not so good and it becomes uneconomic.
“The more infrastructure we can put in for the mining industry in this region, the more likely it is for miners to invest long term.
“We want to make sure that the mining tax and the carbon tax don’t actually go ahead so we don’t make it any harder for our mining industry to continue.”