Since the Annual Conference met in 2012, Country Labor has been busy campaigning, organising and recruiting across rural and regional NSW – contesting Local Government elections around the state, the Northern Tablelands by-election and the 2013 Federal Election. Preparations are now well underway for the 2015 NSW Election, including the Country Labor Conference, which will be held in Queanbeyan from Friday 24 – Sunday 26 October 2014.
Country Labor has used these election campaigns as an opportunity to campaign right around NSW – not just winning votes, but also identifying supporters and recruiting new members. More importantly, Country Labor has also campaigned between elections, holding street stalls, making phone calls and gathering signatures on petitions: raising awareness on the education cuts announced by the NSW Liberal-National Government, and on a range of other local issues.
Steve Whan MLC tabled hundreds of signatures in the NSW Parliament, where the Nationals refused to reverse the cuts to local schools and jobs – even after they discovered the ‘lost’ billion dollars in the 2012 NSW budget. The Goulburn Branch alone gathered over 700 signatures on a petition against the education cuts. The Port Macquarie Country Labor branch also has a long history of advocating for their local community.
When the local Port Macquarie bus company, Busways, started a new bus route leaving aged pensioners to walk up to 30 minutes to get to the CBD, the Port Macquarie Branch gathered over 3,500 signatures on their petition, gaining considerable local media coverage as well.
Country Organiser, Courtney Roche has been on maternity leave from January 2014. Both the Administrative Committee and the Country Labor Committee endorsed Josephine Hillard to act as Country Organiser in Courtney’s absence. Country Labor would like to thank Josephine for all of her hard work and dedication while she has been Acting Country Organiser.
Local government elections 2012
The Local Government elections in 2012 had many great results for Country Labor. Jenny Dowell was re-elected Mayor of Lismore with more than 53% of the primary vote. Bob Pynsent won back the Mayoralty of Cessnock for Country Labor, fighting off 9 other candidates. In Broken Hill Council, Labor increased its representation to 4 Labor councillors. In Queanbeyan, Maitland and Lithgow, Country Labor ran a strong campaign with a new generation of candidates and maintained the Country Labor representation on each council. In Wingecarribee and Great Lakes the Country Labor Councillors were re-elected.
As part of a broader strategy, aimed at building the local credibility of Country Labor and reconnecting with local communities, Country Labor endorsed candidates in a number of Local Government areas where it hadn’t previously either endorsed or run candidates. In Albury, Palerang and Tweed councils, Country Labor picked up a Councillor in all three.
In Wagga Wagga, Ballina, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, we narrowly lost (in Port Macquarie by just one vote), but the locals ran strong campaigns, building Country Labor’s local credibility, and ensuring there is a strong foundation for the next Local Government elections in 2016.
A number of other Country Labor members were also elected without Party endorsement around NSW.
Northern Tablelands By-election
In the midst of the Federal Election campaign in 2013, the sudden resignation of Federal National Party candidate Richard Torbay forced a by-election in the Northern Tablelands, which was held on 25 May 2013. In the past, NSW Labor has
shied away from endorsing candidates in many by-elections. However, John Robertson, NSW Labor Leader has strongly advocated running Country Labor candidates in all circumstances. Herman Beyersdorf, Deputy Mayor and professor at
the University of New England ran a strong, grassroots campaign focused on the Liberal-National Government’s cuts to hospitals and community health services, local public service jobs and cuts to the Department of Primary Industries. As a result, Country Labor was able to increase the Labor vote by nearly 7%, despite being hugely outspent by the National Party.
NSW Labor Leader John Robertson and Shadow Cabinet members were strongly supportive of the campaign, with Country Labor MLCs Steve Whan and Mick Veitch spending a significant amount of time in the electorate over the four week campaign.
Thank you to the many volunteers, who assisted both on the day and over the entire campaign, especially to Young Labor and all other members who travelled to help out on Election Day.
Federal Election 2013
Country Labor fielded a strong and diverse range of candidates in the Federal Election in 2013 who held their local National and Liberal candidates to account. Country Labor candidates campaigned hard on the achievements of the Federal Labor Government:
Building the National Broadband Network, delivering affordable, high-speed internet access to all Australians, no matter where they live;
Investing in road infrastructure around NSW (which the previous Coalition government neglected for 11 years) – the $1.7 billion Hunter Expressway, the duplication of the Pacific Highway, and building Bega By-pass.
Since 2007 Federal Labor has doubled funding to schools, upgrading every local school to ensure all children have access to the best education right across Australia.
Investing over $1 billion in new funding for hospitals, and a new, sustainable funding model to cope with future growth.
Country Labor would like to thank all of the fantastic candidates across NSW. In an election that was always going to be tough Country Labor candidates and their campaign teams did an excellent job. As a result of their efforts, the swing against Labor in NSW was well below the national average.
Congratulations to Justine Elliot and Joel Fitzgibbon who held onto their seats despite big-spending Nationals campaigns against them. Country Labor sincerely thanks Mike Kelly, Janelle Saffin and Ursula Stephens who have been fantastic and hardworking representatives for their local communities.
Country Labor Committee
Throughout 2013, the Country Labor Committee maintained its focus on local election campaigning, with all of the Committee members playing crucial roles in their local campaign teams. The Country Labor Committee held their face-to- face meeting at Trades Hall in Sydney on Friday 22 November 2013.
The agenda for the day encompassed a broad range of issues and allowed the Committee to both reflect on the last 12 months, and also plan for 2014 and beyond. The Committee was welcomed by Jamie Clements, General Secretary before a detailed debrief on the Federal Election, which included a presentation from Kaila Murnain, Assistant General Secretary on the results and lessons from the central NSW campaign. Courtney Roche, Country Organiser outlined the Country Labor State Election strategy, including Country Labor’s key targets and also areas in which Country Labor will need to build beyond 2015. The Committee endorsed the strategy unanimously. This is the first time that the Committee has taken such a strategic approach over several election campaigns.
The Country Labor Committee also unanimously recommended holding Country Conference 2014 in Queanbeyan from Friday 24 – Sunday 26 October, adopting the successful model for Country Conference that was trialled in Cessnock in 2012.
NSW election 2015
Preparations for the 2015 NSW Campaign are well underway across country NSW. Preselections for Country Labor candidates began in November 2013, sixteen months before the 2015 election, and many of the Country Labor candidates will be endorsed for at least a full year before March 2015. This was part of a deliberate strategic decision to maximise the amount of time candidates will have to raise their profiles locally and campaign against their National and Liberal opponents. However, it will increase the already demanding workload on these candidates, and Country Labor thanks them for their dedication and sacrifice.
To assist local campaign teams build capacity and expertise at a local level, a number of Country Campaign Insight Training days will be held around NSW, with successful seminars already held in Bathurst, Maitland, and Tamworth. These training days are designed specifically for campaigning in rural and regional NSW, and train members and activists on the most up- to-date campaigning skills and techniques.
After three years in government, it is clear that the Nationals have again failed to stand up for country NSW. Both the NSW and Federal Liberal-National governments have made harsh cuts to local hospitals, schools and jobs, whilst funnelling money into Sydney. The recent announcement that the NSW Liberals and Nationals will sell off the electricity poles and wires is another reminder of how the Nationals talk tough, but cannot stand up for rural and regional NSW. All of Country Labor’s candidates will be working hard to remind their local communities about the National Party’s failure in the lead up to the NSW election in March 2015.
Country Labor Conference 2014
This year’s Country Labor Conference will be held in Queanbeyan from 24 – 26 October 2014. After the successful trial at the 2012 Country Labor Conference in Cessnock, the Country Labor Committee has decided to implement the new Country Labor Conference model in Queanbeyan in 2014.
Conference will include a specific Country Campaign Insight training seminar for all Country Labor candidates and local campaign teams. All delegates are welcome to attend this full day training seminar, which will include a briefing on the broader Country Labor campaign strategy.
The policy workshops, which proved so popular in Cessnock in 2012 will also be repeated. The Country Labor Committee has determined that the policy workshops will be programmed to allow all delegates to attend two policy workshops, rather than just one. The Country Labor Committee decided that the four key policy challenges that will be addressed by the policy workshops will be health, regional development, education and NDIS & ageing.
The Bluey Rodwell Award will also be announced at the Conference dinner. The Bluey Rodwell Award is the highest honour within Country Labor and is presented at every Country Conference.
Thank you to the Country Labor Committee for their ongoing support and assistance with the planning for what will be a very productive and insightful conference.
Party Unit and Union Motions (Click to download)