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Have gun, will shoot foot

Geoff Helisma |

Over recent weeks, as candidates manoeuvre for next year’s state and federal election, here at the Independent we have received media releases of the kind that accuse the other side of doing wrong.

For example, NSW Labor issued a media release this week that screams “100 DAYS TO NSW ELECTION: DALEY LABOR PLEDGES TO PUT PEOPLE FIRST ON NORTH COAST”.

In the release, Labor promises to address numerous issues: Re-regulating the electricity retail market to bring power bills down; Mandating nurse-to-patient ratios to bring staffing levels on North Coast hospitals up to standards in Sydney; Building the $534 million Tweed Hospital in Kings Forest rather than on sensitive Cudgen farmland; Retaining the old Tweed Hospital site in public hands for community and continuing healthcare; Saving TAFE to ensure people on the North Coast are work-ready; Extra security guards at North Coast hospitals; Air conditioning all NSW schools; Affordable housing targets; and, Ending no-fault evictions.

However, rather than focussing on how each of those issues would be specifically addressed, Labor’s media release stated: “[Labor leader Michael] Daley said the Nationals have stopped listening to the North Coast and are too focused on Sydney.

“He cited the Nationals’ support for splurging $2.2 billion on Sydney stadiums as the most recent example.”
The Independent subsequently pointed out to NSW Labor that in the Clarence electorate and “here in the Clarence Valley (the most southern area of the Northern Rivers and a part of the ‘far north coast’) the Nationals has been handing out grants and funding infrastructure at an unprecedented rate”.
Labor responded: “Thanks [for] getting in touch and thanks for your feedback on [the] release on local issues.
“There are a number of very substantial examples of how the Government has stopped listening – the stadiums is just one.
“…Labor will have a more to say on local commitments and upgrades over the next few months.”

Meanwhile, a media release from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate for Clarence, Steve Cansdell, “is calling on the current coalition Government to include a self-admission, 10-bed, Mental Health Unit in the Grafton Base Hospital upgrade plans”.
“The fact that our kids, neighbours and friends have to be sent out of the valley for treatment is a disgrace,” Mr Cansdell said.
“…If I’m elected … I will fight for this whether it be with a Labor or Coalition government.
“I will be the powerful voice the Clarence and Richmond valleys need in parliament.”

However, this, too, appears to be a rhetorical claim.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis told the Independent that mental health inpatient beds are included in the $268million upgrade for which he is campaigning – the Northern NSW Local Health District rates the hospital’s redevelopment as its top priority.

Mr Gulaptis said Mr Cansdell “is just chasing a headline without doing the research”.
“If he bothered, he would see that inpatient mental health beds are included,” he said.
“That is one of the things we are fighting for; it’s in the master plan for the Grafton Base Hospital.”

A GBH redevelopment document states that there is a “need for inpatient and community-based health services consistent with the National Mental Health Service Performance Framework modelling tool”, which is a tool “designed to help plan, coordinate and resource mental health services to meet population needs”.