SUBJECTS:  Regional inequality  

STEPHEN JONES: I’m delighted to be here on the peninsular with my Labor colleagues, Anne Charlton, who is the Labor Candidate for the seat of Robertson, and of course Senator Deb O’Neil, who’s been a fierce advocate for the Central Coast. We’re here to talk about the growing inequality in Australia, but particularly the growing inequality between people who live in regions like this, and the capital cities. And I’ve got to say, Tuesday’s budget; the test for Malcolm Turnbull and the Government, is how is it going to reduce growing inequality, between the haves and the have nots, and between people who are living in capital cities and people who are living in regions like the Central Coast. We know it’s growing, and see want to see measures which are going to reduce inequality.


We think the budget is an opportunity for the Government to demonstrate its priorities. We should be investing in universities, in TAFE, in education, and they’re a greater priority than a $50 billion tax cut to some of the country’s wealthiest businesses.  We know that when you live in regional areas, connectivity is absolutely critical. So you want a decent, reliable, affordable broadband. And I know we’ve had problems with the NBN roll out in this region, and we’ll hear more about it when we go inside.


Unemployment: absolutely critical.   If we’ve going to do anything about reducing inequality, the number one priority has got to be providing jobs, and particularly jobs for young school leavers. That’s the test for Malcolm Turnbull. That’s the test for Tuesday’s budget.


JOURNALIST: Why the Central Coast – what brings you here?


STEPHEN JONES: I’m Labor’s Spokesperson for Regional Services. I’ve spent most of the last 12 months getting to regional towns and communities, talking to them about the issues that matter. And there’s a different conversation going on in the Regions than there is in the capital cities. It’s a lot harder to get a job, it’s a lot harder to get access to services – access to things people in the cities take for granted. If you compare this area here – you compare the Woy Woy peninsular, to Malcolm Turnbull’s own electorate, in the inner city of Sydney, you’ve got big gaps. It’s all twice as hard to find a job, access to transport is much more difficult, there is a 10 per cent gap in your capacity to access broadband services on the Central Coast compared to where Malcolm Turnbull lives. And the very clear message is, people here live in a different world – we love it here – we don’t expect everything here to be the same as the city, in fact we don’t want it to be – but access to the basic services which are going to give us a fair go in life, that’s got to be our aim.


JOURNALIST: Obviously you’re yet to head into the forum, but what kind of issues do you expect to be raised?


STEPHEN JONES: Well, the first four people who have walked in the door as we’ve been waiting here have said we’ve got to do something about the NBN.


JOURNALIST: Are there other issues though?


STEPHEN JONES: Absolutely: doing something about unemployment. If we’re going to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in this country, between the people who are struggling and the people who are doing very well, then we’ve got to be creating jobs in regional areas. Getting a decent broadband service, getting infrastructure services sorted out here on the Central Coast, has got to be a high priority in Tuesday’s budget. We’re often forgotten in regional areas, and that’s got to stop.


JOURNALIST: So Anne, talk me through what’s happening today?


ANNE CHARLTON: I just don’t think Malcolm Turnbull gets what life is like here in the Central Coast. We need to prioritise. Rather than giving a $50 billion tax cut to the big end of town and big business, I think, for example, the NRMA’s report card on roads a few years ago said that some of the roads here in the peninsular are some of the worst roads in NSW. How about we fix some of those? The people of Kurrajong feel like they’ve been completely forgotten and ignored by the Liberals. They were promised the NBN four years ago. Still no show. We’ve got roads up there that have been promised to be fixed, that haven’t, we’ve got under employment, we’ve got the local Liberals saying – “well, TAFEs not our problem.” We need to really reprioritise and that’s why I’m here. I want to talk to our local people, listen to what they’ve got to say, and understand the issues from their perspective. For me, it’s about making sure our kids have got jobs, and ensure that they have the access to training that they need, and making sure we have the infrastructure on the coast that we need. The roads that we need and deserve, and making sure we have proper connectivity. Access to the NBN, even being able to listen to the wireless, and having the ABC working properly  would be great as far as I’m concerned.


JOURNALIST: Obviously we’re seeing plenty of people roll in here – do you think this is indicative of public feeling? That people are feeling that they are disadvantaged here on the coast?


ANNE CHARLTON: What I’m hearing when I’m out and about talking to locals everyday, is that people don’t feel like they’re being heard by the local Liberals. They feel like they’re being largely ignored. I get that. The people up at Kurrajong were promised something more than three years ago, and that still hasn’t been delivered. The local Liberals promised 600 jobs to this region – they haven’t delivered one. We really are a region which has been forgotten. So we’re so pleased to have Stephen Jones here today, because it’s great for me to not only able to show case what a wonderful area we have, with such enormous potential, but also to show how we need to reprioritise the Liberal mistakes and make sure out region gets what we deserve.


JOURNALIST: So obviously budget is on Tuesday, what are you hoping for the region?


ANNE CHARLTON: I’m hoping that we can get some of the infrastructure projects we’ve been promised for a start. I hope we actually have the NBN, which can actually be useful and properly connected. So many people that I’ve spoken to have lost their telephone for weeks and weeks and weeks on end and it’s not okay. We need to be able to have a TAFE up and running. Gosford TAFE is sometimes like a ghost town. Our local member has said that she can’t do anything about that, that’s not her job – that’s a State Government issue. For me, our kids are every body’s issue. I care about everybody in this community and I want to make sure I have access to training and to be able to get the jobs of the future that they deserve and need.