Sitting MP Pru Goward will have a fight on her hands come the next State election but she is well used to the tussle.
Few will forget her hard fought contest against former Goulburn Mulwaree Mayor and independent Paul Stephenson in 2007 which catapulted her into Parliament.
Up until 2015 she was not seriously challenged in the seat. That’s when former Labor Senator Ursula Stephens decided to have a tilt. The party seriously dented Ms Goward’s margin, riding on a platform of the Goulburn Base Hospital’s redevelopment and train services.
Neither of those issues are going away and another election looms. However the fact that $120 million is in the bag for the hospital, albeit with questions surrounding its adequacy, will count in Ms Goward’s favour. Planning work and community consultation is well underway and from latest feedback, the schematic design is being well received. For the most part, Goulburn and district people are simply grateful that this project is finally underway.
Labor may well have a point about the adequacy of this funding and that there’s no money for future staging. But so far it hasn’t come up with any dosh itself. Opposition Health spokesman Walt Secord could not commit to any sum when he visited Goulburn in October, other than to say it would be “substantial.” Labor will need “more meat on the bones” to make a convincing argument.
Buoyed by the 2015 result, Labor and the unions have maintained a strong campaign in the seat. Little doubt it will throw extra resources at the electorate in 2019 but it will also need another high profile candidate to topple Ms Goward. Dr Stephens has not committed to running again, to our knowledge.
In that context, it is difficult to judge the sitting MP’s real current margin.
Yet there is little room for complacency on the Liberal Party’s part. Despite the lobbying, Ms Goward has failed to make any material difference to Goulburn’s train services. Clearly, the State Government does not think beyond the Southern Highlands on the crucial Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne line and we endure a third-rate service as a result.
Ms Goward has secured more regional money for Goulburn but according to the council at least, we are behind on many other rural areas.
It’s all grist for the mill come the 2019 poll.