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Close battle looms for bellwether seat

Since former federal Labor member Harry Woods held Page (1990-1996), the sitting member’s political allegiance has mirrored the government elected by Australia’s voters.

Labor’s candidate, Janelle Saffin, held the seat during the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years (2007-2013) – following the Nationals’ Ian Causley (1996-2007) – until defeated by sitting Nationals member, Kevin Hogan, whose winning margin was 3.1 per cent.
Rated as a “battleground” seat by pundits, Page will most likely attract political high fliers from Labor and the Coalition during the lead up to the July 2 election, particularly now that the seat’s boundaries have been extended to take in all of the Clarence Valley local government area.
Mr Hogan said in a media release that last week’s federal budget was “great news for our community, local small businesses, job seekers and families”.
“The tax cut for our over 10,000 local small businesses, which already employs tens of thousands of people, will help them grow and create even more jobs,” Mr Hogan said.
“I’m also happy that the government is targeting tax avoidance by multi-national corporations [as is Labor] to make sure everyone pays their fair share of tax here in Australia.
“This budget will help young people in our community into work and create a career path for them through [employability] skills training and a voluntary internship [where participants receive a $200 ‘top-up’ to their benefits for working 50 hours a fortnight], while [the business is] being supported with the Youth Bonus Subsidy [up to $10,000 paid over six months].
“There is more money to fix our local roads, more money to replace our local aging wooden bridges [although nothing specific is identified].
“We are also increasing funding for schools to $4.1 billion, an increase of 25 per cent [but less than Gonski recommended] over the next four years.

“The government is doing what it can to attract more GPs to the Northern Rivers with a new grants program and will invest $1.7 billion to provide dental services in regional and rural areas.
“I’m glad to see an additional $298.2 million over four years will be used to continue the battle against ice, something I have been lobbying for since I organised a community ice forum in Lismore.”
On his record to date, Mr Hogan said: “It is great to have delivered many large job-creating infrastructure programs for our community.
“Projects like the Casino sale yards, Ballina Marine Rescue tower, Lismore Quadrangle Project, Harwood Mill upgrade, bridges, roads and highways and funding for hospital upgrades and schools.
“My focus is always to keep bringing jobs to our region so that we and our children have career choices here.”
Meanwhile Janelle Saffin’s media release hones in on the haves and have-nots [capital v labour], harking back to the ‘class warfare’ elections of days gone by, such as the ‘Work Choices’ election of 2007.
“It’s official, Page is the most disadvantaged electorate in Australia when it comes to getting a share of the Turnbull-National government’s budget tax cuts for high-income earners,” Ms Saffin’s release trumpets.
“Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that only 14 per cent of income earners in Page earn more than $80,000 a year and would qualify for the government’s tax cuts [lifting the 37 cents in the dollar tax threshold to $87,000],” Ms Saffin said.
“Fourteen per cent – that is lowest percentage of tax-cut beneficiaries in Australia.
“Compare that to the Prime Minister’s own Sydney electorate of Wentworth, where 40 per cent of income earners will get tax cuts.
“Mr Turnbull is clearly favouring his millionaires. In Page, the average income is $41,572.”
Ms Saffin said the government’s budget and Labor’s budget reply provided voters with stark policy contrasts.
“Labor is the only party with policies which look after rural and regional Australians,” she said. “Few of us will benefit from these unfair tax cuts; meanwhile the … government is still pulling $80 million out of schools and hospitals, as outlined in the 2014 budget.”
Ms Saffin said Labor would reverse the cuts to health and education, and take “real” action on climate change.
“This election will not be about leaders or personalities or individuals,” she said. “This election is about the future of our nation.
“We do not want to create a country where the gap between the haves and have-nots becomes an unbridgeable chasm.”