GIPPSLAND Trades and Labour Council secretary John Parker will contest McMillan as an independent in this year’s federal election, arguing Gippsland’s economic transition is being ignored.
Pictured: Mr Parker. Photo by William PJ Kulich.
In an interview with The Warragul Citizen, the Buln Buln man listed support for jobs and industry in Gippsland and the treatment of asylum seekers as major differences between him and the major parties.
“What we want to do is make sure the Gippsland region is on the agenda,” Mr Parker said.
“We require a lot of assistance for transitioning our economy to the new economy that’s emerging and Gippsland’s in an ideal position to do that but currently it’s not getting the attention it should be getting.
“McMillan and Gippsland, the two seats in Gippsland, are not marginal seats, they’re not considered by the two parties so most of the attention from Canberra is going to Geelong (and other areas).”
Mr Parker hit out at sitting Liberal MP for McMillan Russell Broadbent and Gippsland MP Darren Chester, saying they had been seeking photo opportunities and not a better deal for the region.
“They haven’t been lobbyists for the local areas at all,” Mr Parker said.
“I’ve been engaged in all those areas (in economic transition) and I haven’t seen any representative from them.
“The only people that have been engaged have been the state level.”
Mr Parker said he would push for an inquiry into the cost of living if elected.
“There’s a lot of people being left behind so I would certainly be wanting an inquiry into the cost of living for a single [parent] and what it costs and what the society should be maintaining in [standards] for those people both in wages and social welfare,” Mr Parker said.
Mr Parker said Australia had to “re-look at how we do skilled training.”
“We have 45 per cent of apprentices and 51 of standard trainees drop out before they’ve finished their time,” Mr Parker said.
“State and federal governments who spend huge amounts of money on so-called dedication programs are missing the mark by half.
“We would require more government funding at the federal level to ensure the maximum amount of training takes place.
“[They] drop out because of lack of work… yet we have governments wanting to bring in 457 visas.”
Mr Parker said governments were partially responsible for the high drop-out figure and said Liberal leader Tony Abbott might make further cuts to government employment opportunities.
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“We certainly don’t want an Abbott government to do the slash and burn that the state governments have done here in Victoria and Queensland in the Education and public sector,” Mr Parker said.
“We also want to make sure the current government doesn’t weaken on those positions as well because they also pander to some of the big end of town.”
Despite saying he “wouldn’t side with Tony Abbott,” Mr Parker said that if elected in a minority government Labor could not count on unconditional support from him.
“A Labor government wouldn’t necessarily be able to do whatever it wanted to do either, there are certain items that I wouldn’t vote for and irregardless, asylum seekers for instance,” Mr Parker said.
“I think that we’ve got an obligation under the human rights to look after asylum seekers when they come to our shores and not keep them in concentration camps, it’s just outrageous.
“They (the major parties) just keep rattling on about people smugglers and boat people, but probably Moses was a people smuggler… they’ve been around since time began.
“There would have been thousands and thousands of Jews who would have gone to concentration camps with the Nazis if there hadn’t been people helping them escape.
“I’m not saying that the people smugglers are anything great, but they’re just a fact of life when people are desperate.
“Needless to say I wouldn’t be as quiet about it.”
But Mr Parker said his focus was on the region’s economic transition.
“The fact is we need to transition our economies to meet the new challenges as the coal industry drops off,” Mr Parker said.
“We weren’t taken seriously enough by the federal government and certainly weren’t taken seriously by the opposition.
“All they wanted to do was rattle on about ‘the (removal of the) price of carbon is going to solve the problems down in Gippsland’ and that just shows the total lack of knowledge of what Gippsland is.
“Also we, especially in the McMillan region, can lever off the Melbourne area. We need to be looking much more aggressively on how we can market ourselves for industry to locate here.
“We can develop this region into a greater and more dynamic region [but] if we don’t start to… push hard the money goes to the Geelongs and the Hunter Valleys.
Training for businesses to take advantage of the incoming National Broadband Network was also an important issue for Mr Parker.
“They can market for the world if they really think about it but they need to be in a position where they know how to do that,” Mr Parker said.
More Baw Baw 2013 coverage:
PUP enters battle for McMillan
Rudd’s policies will make little difference in McMillan: Labor candidate
Education, CSG and gay marriage key issues for Labor in McMillan: Naus
Katter fields candidate for McMillan
McKelvie disappointed by Labor’s budget
McKelvie for McMillan: Greens select candidate for September election
Liberal MP Russell Broadbent and KAP candidate David Amor are yet to respond to interview requests.
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