Name: Tracy Norman
Political party: Independent
What background experience do you bring to the political table?
During my time as Mayor of Dungog, I gained vast experience in negotiating and collaborating with members from all three levels of government and built good working relationships with those working in government departments. Under my leadership Dungog Shire transformed itself from being considered by the Government to be unfit for the future and unable to stand alone to being declared fit for the future. This all in less than two years. I convinced the community of a need for a Special Rates Variation and then leveraged this to convince the Government that investing in Dungog was a worthwhile investment, achieving unprecedented funding for Dungog. I negotiated with both State and Federal Governments to resolve a decades old issue with a heritage bridge in the Shire that most others had thrown their hands up over, and I chased down millions of dollars of years old election funding.
In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues facing this electorate?
Being prepared for a low carbon future and making sure that the economy of the Upper Hunter remains strong has become the defining issue of this by-election. We need to prepare ourselves for the inevitable collapse of the coal market in order to keep the economy strong. If we prepare by creating certainty for investors and train and up-skill our workers, then the future economy looks bright and employment will remain strong.
Other, equally important issues relating to the economy are land use conflicts between extractive industries and the agriculture, equine and viticulture industries and the risk to investment that the uncertainty about future plans for fossil fuel exploration licenses bring.
Poor air quality and other health matters such as the lack of GPs and facilities, including access to mental health facilities, poor public transport and the need for improved roads and bridges infrastructure are all issues raised across the electorate.
What is your plan for TAFE and future education opportunities?
We need to prepare for a new low carbon economy once the fossil fuel market diminishes to a point of unprofitability, by training future workers and up-skilling existing workers. TAFE plays a vital role in this tertiary education and the short-sightedness of this Government to sell off TAFE facilities shows a lack of concern for the future of this region beyond the current election cycle.
The Hunter Joint Organisation and the 2050 Foundation has had on its agenda the idea of a "Transition Academy". This academy would provide both vocational training as well as opportunities in research and innovation. I would support and encourage the establishment such a facility in partnership with the university and TAFE sectors.
I will advocate for better support for out teachers.
I will also advocate for better public transport and improved roads infrastructure funding, allowing easy access for all to our educational facilities.
What are your plans to bring more jobs to the Upper Hunter?
A strong economy brings employment opportunities. By encouraging investment in new industries based on clean energy we can keep our economy strong now and into the future. Financial institutions and funds managers alike are actively seeking investments in clean industries.
Let's attract these investment dollars to the Upper Hunter. If we squander this opportunity and fail to act now, these investors will look elsewhere and we will be trailing the rest of the world.
Let's provide certainty to these investors by good land-use planning and incentivise investment. We already have in place much of the necessary infrastructure, the innovators, the technology and a strong workforce here. We need to provide the training facilities and other support facilities and infrastructure to make the Upper Hunter an attractive place to invest.
Certainty in land use planning will invite further investment in our other established industries such as agriculture equine, viticulture and tourism.
How would you address the rural and regional health crisis and staffing issues facing our health services?
I would consult with groups such as the NSW Rural Doctors Network. This group has programs to encourage and assist health workers transition to rural and regional areas.
The RDN provides scholarships to students willing to undertake training in a rural hospital. They provide financial support for the first two years of a medical degree. They then undergo their internship in a rural hospital.
I will advocate for the Upper Hunter to be included in this program.
I will work with all levels of government, advocating for the provision of incentives to encourage GPs to move to the Upper Hunter. This may be in the form of some sort of tax or rate relief, or exemption from stamp duty or land tax.
Investing in our schools, hospitals, recreational facilities and cultural activities will expand upon the liveability of our region and make them an even more attractive place reside.
How do you plan to address the Upper Hunter's poor track record on air quality?
Good regulation of the extractive industries in our region is crucial. I support Muswellbrook Council's call to appoint independent auditors to make sure that the extractive industries are meeting their targets with air quality.
I would also support Muswellbrook Council's call for limiting activity on high wind days and would call for the implementation of a trial for this measure.
The carriages on coal trains need to be covered. While this would prove costly, e need to look beyond the dollar cost of compliance to the cost of not implementing such a measure, both in health care costs but, more importantly, to the human cost of our community particularly our children growing up in poor health.
We need also more government investment in healthcare to manage the issues we have now with high levels of breathing disorders.
Why should Upper Hunter vote for you?
At this point in time the voters in this electorate have a golden opportunity to hold the Government to account. If an independent is elected to the seat of the Upper Hunter, the Government would be placed in minority and the balance of power would rest with the cross bench.
To pass its legislation the Government will need to collaborate and negotiate with all members of Parliament. This brings true empowerment for our community to make sure our needs and requirements are taken into account.
You should vote for me because I have a proven track record of listening to and delivering for my community.
With less than two years left in the Parliamentary term, we need someone who already has a grasp on how things operate to take full advantage of the opportunities a minority government presents. There is no time to be on L plates.
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