Foley and Labor back Sheahan for Coota seat

Country Labor candidate for the seat of Cootamundra Charlie Sheahan addresses the media with NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley and MLC Mick Veitch in Gundagai last Friday.
Country Labor candidate for the seat of Cootamundra Charlie Sheahan addresses the media with NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley and MLC Mick Veitch in Gundagai last Friday.

Charlie Sheahan is Country Labor’s candidate for the seat of Cootamundra in the upcoming by-election on October 14.

After weeks of speculation, NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley was in Gundagai last Friday to make the announcement, citing the by-election as a “once-

in-a-generation” chance for voters to send a clear message to the National Party.

“Voters here in National Party heartland have been taken for granted by the Nationals. You just have to look here in Gundagai where, despite the promises before the last election, people were forced into a merger without having any say whatsoever,” Mr Foley said.

“I challenged the Deputy Premier in Parliament only yesterday to give people in Gundagai and Cootamundra the chance to vote at a plebiscite on October 14 when voters go to the polls here, to decide whether they want to stick with these forced mergers or revert to a stand alone council.

“Of course the National Party won’t grant people that democratic right on October 14, so this is a once-in-a-generation chance for people in a traditional National Party area to send a message, send a protest that they’re sick of being taken for granted by the Party that purports to represent them but has been content to play second fiddle to the Liberals in Sydney.”

He said while the state government has wasted billions of dollars in cost blow-outs for infrastructure projects in Sydney, what Labor stands for is a big investment in regional NSW.

“Our policy is that when the state government transfers its share of the Snowy Hydro to the federal government, all of the proceeds, five to six billion, one hundred per cent of the proceeds to be invested in regional NSW. That’s a commitment the National Party just refused to match,” Mr Foley said.

“A vote for Charlie and Country Labor at this by-election will send a big message to the National Party in government to no longer take the people and communities in the Cootamundra electorate for granted.”

Mr Sheahan said he stands by the commitment he made as a candidate in the 2015 state election, to represent the people across the Cootamundra electorate.

“I am disappointed with the level of representation we have received for many years now under the Nationals,” he said.

“They have failed time and time again and made promises that they haven’t been able to keep.

“One important issue in 2015 was the threat to merge our councils. I knew that wouldn’t work in our communities. In 2015, the Nationals said there would be no forced mergers, but they lied and went ahead with them.

“Today we’re just on the eve of the new councils being put into place, which have the difficult task of uniting those communities back together again. I’m sure we will be able to do that, but ultimately these smaller communities like Gundagai need to have that democratic right to self-determination. We have seen historically communities that have lost their councils, such as Adelong and Batlow, literally die, it’s a nail in their coffin. These communities deserve that self-determination, a say about what happens in their own community.”

To the constituents of the Cootamundra electorate, the Country Labor candidate said he offers strong representation, and is not afraid to stand up to the Nationals.

“It’s been bad government that we’ve had and people are very aware of it,” Mr Sheahan said.

“We’ve had our public assets dwindled away, we’ve had our essential services eroded before us, our health services, our aged care facilities, they’re all struggling in these little communities, and these are vital for rural and regional people.”

Like the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party, Labor is also opposing the state government’s re-engineering of the NSW Police Force, fearing “re-structuring” is code for cost-cutting.

This is an issue that (Police Minister) Troy Grant is trying to fob off as a re-engineering study. It’s not, it’s a cost-cutting effort by the Minister to centralise those Local Area Commands,” Mr Sheahan said.

“They have said there will be no loss of police jobs that is true, but we will lose ancillary staff and these are individuals and families that will be lost out of our communities, not to mention the loss of a police presence.

“Wagga is a big city now, and the need for policing will be drawn to there, which will take away the police presence in our smaller towns. Their argument is that our crime rates are low, but that’s simply because we have a police presence, but remove that and it could be a different story.”

Mr Foley said the only way the Gundagai community will get to stand on its own two feet again is under a Labor government.

“Here in this electorate, the Labor Party is putting forward someone like Charlie who was born and bred here, who is a farm manager, a wool classer, who knows this area so well,” he said.

“Charlie is a terrific candidate for this state seat and what we’re saying to people is, if you’ve voted Nationals all your life, this time is perhaps the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to really send the Nationals a message to stop taking you for granted and just give you your fair share here in this part of NSW.

“That’s what a Labor vote is about in this by-election. We’re taking this very seriously, giving voters a real choice.

“There’s so many local issues including policing, health, education and of course the trashing of local democracy through the forced mergers. There is a heap of local issues and what the Labor Party and Charlie stand for is the delivery of those key services from state government that all communities rely on, and the people of all the towns of the Cootamundra electorate getting their fair share for a change.”

He said while the Labor Party has not yet had any preference discussions with the Shooters, they will be talking to other candidates.

“All candidates who are campaigning on the basis of the National Party taking this seat and this region for granted, we’ll talk to them. That happens in a democratic society,” Mr Foley said.

While in Gundagai, the Opposition Leader reiterated his Party’s pledge that should Labor win the next state election in 2019, communities will be allowed a plebiscite to determine whether or not their council remains merged.

“So for communities like Gundagai, they’ll get that opportunity under the next Labor government in 18 months time,” he said.