Name: Jeff Drayton
Political party: Labor
What background experience do you bring to the political table?
I'm Upper Hunter born and bred. I was born in Denman, I went to school at Muswellbrook High and I've worked in our wineries, energy industry and coal mines. I did 14 years as a linesman for Energy Australia and 10 years as coal miner at Mt Arthur Coal mine.
I've been fighting for our region all my life. Whether it was as Deputy Mayor of Muswellbrook Shire Council, coaching the Aberdeen Tigers, or standing up to big coal companies as a union official, I have always stood up for the people in this community.
The communities of the Upper Hunter need someone on their side in Macquarie Street. Someone who will put up a fight and won't back down - that's me.
In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues facing this electorate?
The biggest issue is that we are not getting our fair share. The Upper Hunter electorate is an economic powerhouse for NSW. Our power stations keep the lights on across the state, our wine and thoroughbred industries are world-famous.
Our coal mining industry sends $800 million a year to Sydney, but we only get $10 million back through 'Resources for Regions' programs. We are getting ripped off and we are paying a big price.
We have roads full of potholes; hospitals without enough doctors; firies without fire stations; long ambulance waiting times; homeless people sleeping rough; vulnerable kids without caseworkers and our TAFE campuses being replaced with cheap online learning.
The National Party have represented this seat for 90 years and they have taken us for granted. People want someone who will go to Sydney fight for our fair share.
What is your plan for TAFE and future education opportunities?
Labor will maintain all existing TAFE facilities in the Upper Hunter and invest further in vocational training.
The sale of Scone TAFE is a real blow for local skills training; and to make matters worse the National Party has not ruled out selling more Upper Hunter TAFE campuses, like Quirindi or Singleton.
The National Party think you can replace classrooms with online courses but it is no substitute for the hands-on experience provided by a full TAFE campus.
There are some skills you just can't learn in a classroom, like shoeing a horse, plumbing a toilet, driving a tractor. The National Party has slashed TAFE offerings statewide. I'm committed to investing more in skills training to support employment and the skills needs of industry.
What are your plans to bring more jobs to the Upper Hunter?
I will fight for jobs and investment across all our key industries.
I will always stand up for the coal industry and the jobs it delivers - and the first thing I'll do is introduce legislation to make mining jobs safer and more secure.
I will also fight for investment in the health, education and social services our community is calling out for, which will create jobs: we need more doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and TAFE teachers.
I will fight against privatisation of any of Upper Hunter assets. When assets are sold, good jobs always go with them.
And I will advocate for a real jobs plan for the industrial future of our region, with investment to match. We can't build the new industries of the future without a plan and without serious funding.
How would you address the rural and regional health crisis and staffing issues facing our health services?
Fixing the crisis in the Upper Hunter's health services requires a substantial investment of money. I will fight for the funding we need and deserve.
We are sending money down to Sydney to pay for state-of-the-art hospitals but in the meantime, we have surgical wards with no operating theatres. People endure long waiting times, travel long distances or go without the medical treatment and care they need.
My first priority is completing Stage 2 of the Muswellbrook Hospital redevelopment.
It is ludicrous that Muswellbrook Hospital has a surgical ward without an operating theatre, but it's just one more example of the National Party dropping the ball on our essential services.
Muswellbrook Hospital is just the start. I will fight for increased funding for health services across the board, to address unacceptable shortages in staffing, expertise and capacity.
Investment in our health services has not kept up with the needs of the local population, I will change that.
How do you plan to address the Upper Hunter's poor track record on air quality?
The Upper Hunter needs a tougher cop on the beat to make sure mine operators stick to their strict air quality obligations.
We all want and deserve great air quality in the Upper Hunter. All the coal miners I work with are also community members who want clean air for themselves and their families.
NSW mining and power station operators are subject to strict requirements about air pollution, but they too often breach their commitments.
There's no question that some of these big mining companies like BHP can do better.
Our community deserves better monitoring and a beefed-up regulator to hold these companies account on dust and pollution. Coal communities like ours should be properly supported to manage air quality.
Why should Upper Hunter vote for you?
I will fight for the Upper Hunter's fair share and I will deliver it. The Nationals have had 90 years to represent our communities and they have taken us for granted. They have sat back and twiddled their thumbs while our communities send rivers of gold to Sydney, but get little in return. It has taken a crucial by-election to embarrass them into noticing we need services and infrastructure.
I was born in the Upper Hunter, I've raised my family here and I've worked in our key industries. I'm committed to a strong and prosperous future for our region, where no-one is left behind and I have the experience and fighting spirit to deliver it. Let's get our fair share.
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