Has Goulburn ever had so much attention?
We smell an election in the air but that may be a good thing. Just two weeks ago a parade of State Government Ministers rolled into town for a Community Cabinet meeting. Funding announcements, openings and meet and greets were staged across two days. We could believe this was part of the Coalition’s regionalisation thrust but it was also a warm-up to sitting MP Pru Goward’s re-election campaign.
The contest has heated up this week with confirmation that two Labor Party members – Ursula Stephens and Anna Ritson – will run for pre-selection. Dr Stephens (pictured) gave Ms Goward a run for her money at the 2015 poll, denting her margin by almost 20 per cent.
She is a formidable rival, using her vast political experience to challenge the sitting MP on hospital and TAFE funding, train services and regional infrastructure. There is little doubt that Goulburn received greater attention at the last election and since, given this hard fought and close contest.
With no disrespect to Ms Ritson, it’s highly likely Labor will choose Dr Stephens again.
But Ms Goward has also achieved some real gains. Despite claims it wasn’t enough, the $120 million for Goulburn Base Hospital’s upgrade has won favour. So too has the ambulance station upgrade and the $47m Supermax addition won’t do her any harm either. Goulburn also has a strong chance of scoring $4.5m in State funding for the performing arts centre. In recent weeks it has announced $896,000 for Victoria Park’s upgrade.
Expect Labor to make a big play of the hospital upgrade over the next year. In 2015 the party pulled out a $270m funding promise just weeks before the election. It included $20m for planning on a greenfield site. Dr Stephens has not let up in her criticism of the current plan and allegations of a funding shortfall.
Train services remain a sore point with Goulburn residents. There’s been some tinkering around the edges under Ms Goward but no real gains. A hastily announced extra NSW Trainlink bus service between Moss Vale, Goulburn and Canberra two weeks ago gained little traction, doubling up on a local private service.
Labor is highly organised in this seat. We have the sense its campaign has never stopped. It all bodes well in keeping Goulburn high in government thinking. We just urge candidates to keep it respectful.