I’ll keep the blather to a minimum today because we actually have some real meat-and-veg local issues to talk about this week.
First cab off the rank is the Barton Highway. A continual source of concern for people of Yass, Canberra and all spots in between, the road has been the scene of numerous serious accidents and too many deaths over recent times.
A fatal accident there just a week ago highlighted the problem and underlined the need for a dual carriage-way. The Yass Tribune ran a number of related articles and one in particular, #fixthebarton: Trib readers have their say, includes comments from readers and politicians alike.
Road safety is always a major priority in regional electorates and the Barton would be among the top roads to address in Hume. I don’t imagine there’s a lot of disagreement on that point from any of the candidates – the Barton needs fixing and I’m sure all of the candidates see that as a priority. Both Angus Taylor and James Harker-Mortlock have even spelled that out in press releases. The point of difference is more likely to be how they sell their ability to deliver.
Liberal Party critics will say Alby is the local member and hasn’t been able to make it happen. Labor critics will say that Labor is in power and hasn’t fixed it. Having a Liberal local member and a Labor led government (or vice versa for that matter) is almost a guarantee of minimal expenditure on an electorate. Local members you can’t get a lot done in opposition and governments aren’t keen to spend money on electorates that aren’t their own or at least marginal.
PREDICTION 1: So, looking into my crystal ball, I’ll tell you the candidate best equipped to deliver a “fixed” Barton Highway. It’s (a) the one who not only wins Hume but whose colleagues win government or (b) the one who makes the seat marginal or (c) the one whose party holds the balance of power in either the House of Reps or the Senate.
Were you expecting a name?
Next cab off the rank – rail and freight. A forum was held in Goulburn on Friday (we’ve published some stories and there are more to come) about fast trains and freight rail for Goulburn and regional NSW.
This topic is another lay down misere. Surely every candidate can see proposals that include opportunities for a greater role in freight handling, improved transport and potentially the ability for tree-changers to base themselves in Hume while commuting to work elsewhere.
Rail and freight, of course, are of wide interest across the Hume electorate with not only the existing southern line set to benefit from access to rail transport, freight delivery and potentially safer roads but also inland rail services. Presumably it’s an obvious priority and no-brainer vote-getter.
Angus Taylor attended the forum (I haven’t received word from the other candidates if they attended – have I mentioned it’d be nice if they’d send me details of what they’ve been up to so I can pass it on?) as both a candidate and someone with experience in the area.
PREDICTION 2: Early call, this one… SHOULD the Liberal Party win government and SHOULD Angus Taylor win Hume, he will be given the Transport portfolio (if not straight away, then soon into his term).
Next topic, the matter of Angus representing Alby in an official capacity at events. I’ve said a lot on the matter so I won’t repeat myself now - I’m mentioning it at all because James Harker-Mortlock, Bruce Nicholson and Alby Schultz each addressed the issue in the pages of Yass Tribune. Those letters are online and can be accessed on Hume Chronicles so feel free to have a read and/or offer an opinion.
Lastly… have we finally caught a glimpse of the soon-to-be-selected Labor candidate?
A new Labor Party columnist has picked up the quill for the Yass Tribune, taking over from previous writer Brendon Forde. His name, Michael Pilbrow and here is his first column.
There is some solid speculation to suggest that Mr Pilbrow may be the presumptive ALP candidate for Hume. I haven’t spoken to Mr Pilbrow to verify one way or the other, but it might be a solid lead to follow up.
My spidey senses tingled when I noticed the column, largely because of the timing. The Trib has been without a Labor columnist for a while now and the Party’s choice to launch this column so close to announcing their candidate doesn’t seem coincidental.
You could postulate two theories: (1) that Mr Pilbrow’s column is a testing of the water for him before deciding if he wants to be the candidate, as well as an opportunity to make himself known to a larger audience ahead of a campaign announcement; or (2) that Mr Pilbrow’s column is evidence that he won’t be running for the seat of Hume, because you wouldn’t start a new column and then pull the pin on it two week’s later when you’ve been announced as the candidate and can’t continue with a regular column.
There may even be other theories… either way we’re about two week’s shy of finding out.
PREDICTION 3: Ignoring my crystal ball, I tossed a coin and came up with the result that Pilbrow will be the Labor candidate.
Predictions aside, it was a week in which events placed some of the key priorities for Hume front and centre to be addressed and commented upon. Some candidates did, some didn’t. Yes, there’s 210 days to go… but the clock is ticking.
King of the week… you know if this gets monotonous just tell me. One reader commented last week that I’m biasing this column towards Angus Taylor. The seemingly pointless King of the Week award actually does have a point. It’s to highlight not only who’s putting in the hard yards (at least observably) but who is picking up momentum.
Nice as it would be to give everyone a turn (and generous as I am in terms of encouraging improvement) it would defeat the point. Winner this week is Angus Taylor for engaging in the Barton Highway online discussion, taking a role in the rail forum and for providing a detailed itinerary.
If any of the candidates, Angus included, wish to provide lots of information on what they are up to for the voters, or little, that’s entirely their call… we’re just trying to use this place as a digest of the week in review to pass on as much information as they give us.
ANGUS TAYLOR (Liberal Party)
Sat Feb 16: Swim (with family) at Macarthur Cystic Fibrosis swim-a-thon
ANGUS TAYLOR (Liberal Party)