NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley and Country Labor’s candidate for the Cootamundra Charlie Sheahan today launched the Country Labor campaign for the Cootamundra by-election.

Mr Foley said the seat had clearly been taken for granted by the Nationals who’ve done nothing while their Liberal Coalition partners squander billions of dollars in Sydney – with cost blowouts on toll roads, tunnels and sports stadiums. This deprives country communities like Cootamundra of important facilities. 

The by-election is an opportunity to send the National and Liberal Coalition a clear message on out-of-control electricity prices which force families to find another $320 and small businesses around $920 annually.

The Nationals have brazenly spent nearly $2 million of taxpayer money taking legal action to stop the independent energy regulator cutting prices.

Labor, Mr Foley said, will regulate electricity prices – to give consumers relief.

On health services Mr. Foley said Labor was demanding guarantees – not weasel words – about the centralisation of services.

This followed a failed Coalition Government attempt to shut down maternity services at Temora Hospital.

Mr Foley said there is intense community suspicion it is only on ‘pause’ with every indication that the Nationals had advised the government to wait - until the by-election was safely out of the way. 

Mr Foley also referred to reports indicating that the Cootamundra Local Area Police Command will be merged into Wagga Wagga. The announcement may be made within the next few days. 

He said some senior police were sceptical, convinced it was motivated by a desire to cut costs rather than put extra police numbers on the ground. Police need the staffing, equipment and resources to do their job properly but every job moved out of an area affects local communities at several levels. 

At the launch in Cootamundra today Mr Foley reaffirmed Labor’s commitment to hold plebiscites to allow locals to vote for voluntary council de-mergers. At the local government elections last month Cootamundra residents made it clear what they thought of forced council amalgamations. Anti-merger candidates dominated the poll for the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council. 

There were job losses following the forced merger between Cootamundra and Gundagai and many locals now have to travel long distances to work. 

Like every voter they have the opportunity to express their views at the Cootamundra by-election on the 14th October. 

Today, Mr Foley re-affirmed his commitment to ensure every dollar, 100 per cent, of the proceeds from the sale of the Snowy Hydro scheme was spent in regional NSW. 

The Nationals will only commit 30 per cent of the proceeds.  But a NSW Labor Government will guarantee that the entire $5 billion in proceeds will be used to improve regional schools, TAFEs, hospitals, roads, energy, water, cultural and sporting infrastructure. 

Charlie Sheahan is a true Cootamundra local. A farm manager, he and his wife, Sue, raised their three children in Cootamundra, where he has been a volunteer with the local rural fire service, church and school council, sporting and community clubs.

Quotes attributable to NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“Charlie understands the community and lives and breathes the country air of Cootamundra. The Nationals seem to prefer the air in Macquarie Street in Sydney.

‘While Cootamundra families and businesses suffer a crisis over soaring electricity prices, the Nationals brazenly went to court – to ensure the independent energy regulator couldn’t do what it wanted – to cut the price.

“Voters in Cootamundra and across NSW overwhelmingly rejected the Liberal and Nationals’ policy of forced council mergers. Labor will allow local plebiscites on de-merging councils that have been forcibly merged.

“All of the five billion dollars the NSW government receives from the Snowy transfer will be spent by a Foley Labor government in regional NSW, on schools, hospitals, roads and water security infrastructure.” 

Quotes attributable to Labor Candidate for Cootamundra Charlie Sheahan

“This election is not a two-horse race. I’m honoured to be selected as Country Labor’s candidate to represent the community and I’m in it to win it.

“The Nationals can be defined by what they’re not doing for Cootamundra.

“The Nats find it easy to neglect this region and take it for granted – Country Labor doesn’t.

“Cootamundra needs someone who understands the local area and who will fight against the privatisation of regional hospitals and forced council mergers. Cootamundra needs someone who will fight for local jobs and better aged care, especially home care.”