Name: Calum Blair
Political party: Sustainable Australia Party
What background experience do you bring to the political table?
Firstly, I am the only Upper Hunter by-election candidate who contested the recent 2019 NSW state election. The 2019 election experience was invaluable and helped me to fully understand the need to balance and respect the needs of all communities in the Hunter Valley, including small business, farming and mining. Having completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) at the University of Newcastle and now working in the rail industry across the Upper Hunter and NSW, I am passionate about local jobs and the need for a more diverse economy - particularly a strong manufacturing base.
In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues facing this electorate?
The creation of sustainable jobs for the Hunter Valley. Rather than ever-expanding mining, this can be achieved through both an environmental job guarantee and better support for manufacturing. For starters, NSW can and should build our own trains, right here in the Hunter Valley. This would help to reinvigorate local manufacturing and economic innovation. A combined state and federally funded environmental job guarantee should be introduced for all workers transitioning out of the coal industry. Environmental projects would include rehabilitation of abandoned mines, humane reduction and eradication programs for high risk feral species and conservation land management projects to help relevant farmers and rural land owners manage biodiversity values on their properties.
What is your plan for TAFE and future education opportunities?
Creating sustainable environmental and manufacturing jobs in the Hunter Valley means investing more in TAFE, not closing it down or privatising it. In terms of an environmental job guarantee, projects would be determined through the input of local communities and be run by local councils. This would be underpinned by developing employment and training in conservation and land management, particularly through local TAFE in the Hunter Valley.
What are your plans to bring more jobs to the Upper Hunter?
Two big areas for jobs growth are manufacturing and environmental jobs, as outlined above. Sustainable Australia Party supports secure jobs via a more diverse economy, with manufacturing as the bedrock. Given my work in the rail industry, and the fact that today's Tangara trains were built in Broadmeadow near Newcastle, I was particularly disappointed in NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian's misguided recent claim that "Australia and New South Wales are not good at building trains, that's why we have to purchase them." This attitude is wrong and I will work hard to change it.
How would you address the rural and regional health crisis and staffing issues facing our health services?
Ultimately, investment in training and education underpins our regional skills base, along with government incentives to move to and/or stay in the regions. If we need to increase remuneration to attract more and better workers, so be it.
How do you plan to address the Upper Hunter's poor track record on air quality?
We need a transparent and democratic planning system, that imposes serious penalties for breaches of environmental laws including air pollution and water contamination. Without a healthy environment, we cannot have a healthy Upper Hunter community or economy.
Why should Upper Hunter vote for you?
Born and bred in Singleton, I am a truly local candidate. Sustainable Australia Party is an independent community movement from the political centre. We support a science and evidence-based approach to policy - not a left or right wing ideology. My priorities are to protect our environment, stop overdevelopment and stop corruption. I vote for me is a vote for the sustainability of the Upper Hunter's environmental and economic future.
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