I’ll win back the bush

Da­ley’s first pledge: I’ll boost ru­ral jobs

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - LABOR LEADERSHIP - LINDA SILMALIS

NEW La­bor leader Michael Da­ley has vowed to win back the bush, promis­ing to boost ru­ral jobs, tackle the re­gional ice epi­demic, and close the gap be­tween city and coun­try.

With re­cent in­ter­nal La­bor polling show­ing the Na­tion­als’ vote has col­lapsed in coun­try ar­eas, Mr Da­ley said one of his first pri­or­i­ties was to shift La­bor’s fo­cus back to the bush with strong re­gional poli­cies.

Un­der La­bor, a “back-to-ba­sics” jobs plan would see the man­u­fac­ture of all new rail­way rolling stock moved from Korea to re­gional NSW. He also pledged to set up six “ice detox clin­ics”, four in the bush, where court-or­dered re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion would take place.

Mr Da­ley also promised to fo­cus on in­vest­ment and in­no­va­tion in re­new­ables, with the de­tails to be un­veiled in the com­ing weeks.

Cit­ing for­mer pre­mier Wil­liam McKell, whose 1941 elec­tion vic­tory was at­trib­uted to him fo­cus­ing on the con­cerns of the ru­ral work­ing class, Mr Da­ley said the di­vide be­tween the bush and the city had wors­ened over the years.

“Peo­ple in ru­ral NSW are an­gry at be­ing left be­hind and I am be­wil­dered it has got­ten so bad,” he said. “So if I am pre­mier in March, I want to quickly put in place plans to fix this. I want to speak to the work­ers who live in the re­gions and the sub­urbs.

“My fa­ther was from Kempsey and my grand­fa­ther was a dairy farmer and pres­i­dent of the North Coast Dairy Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, so I feel a re­ally strong affin­ity with peo­ple in the re­gions.

“And what I find be­wil­der­ing is that they are all an­gry.”

The for­mer cor­po­rate lawyer also wants to mod­ernise state par­lia­ment, with a ban on “ridicu­lous” late-night sit­tings to make it more fam­ily friendly.

He also promised to ad­dress as- saults on nurs­ing staff by sta­tion­ing in hospi­tals 200 se­cu­rity of­fi­cers with pow­ers equiv­a­lent to the spe­cial con­sta­bles of state par­lia­ment.

“In the last five years, as­saults in hospi­tals have in­creased by a third — there are now 50 a month,” he said. “The se­cu­rity guards won’t be the kind who can’t lay their hands on any­one, but will have pow­ers to seize and make ar­rests so nurses can go about their jobs.”

Mr Da­ley, a right-wing MP who re­placed long-serv­ing La­bor pre­mier Bob Carr as mem­ber for Maroubra, de­feated Chris Minns by 33 to 12 in a party-room lead­er­ship bal­lot yes­ter­day af­ter Luke Fo­ley stood down fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment by ABC re­porter Ash­leigh Raper. Mr Fo­ley de­nies the al­le­ga­tions.

A La­bor bench­mark poll in Septem­ber showed Mr Da­ley had greater recog­ni­tion among vot­ers than Mr Fo­ley, and that La­bor was do­ing well with fe­male vot­ers.

While the scan­dal was ex­pected to erode those gains, Mr Da­ley said he felt con­fi­dent about be­ing able to win back the con­fi­dence of women. “Firstly, I am a lov­ing hus- band, I have been with my wife for 20 years, and I have two daugh­ters with whom I have a ter­rific re­la­tion­ship. But ac­tions speak louder than words,” he said.

“I was the first male to come out to say in very clear terms that I be­lieve Ash­leigh Raper, to say it shouldn’t hap­pen again, and to re­mind peo­ple that th­ese are not La­bor val­ues.

“I also said some strong words about Luke and that I was un­happy with his press con­fer­ence.”

Mr Da­ley, who will ad­dress the La­bor cau­cus over the is­sue at its first meet­ing, said it had been a “dif­fi­cult” time for the party, but that it was time to move for­ward.

“This was a per­sonal fail­ing of a par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­ual,” he said. “We have a great story to tell when it comes to rep­re­sent­ing women.”

In ad­di­tion to work­ing with Pre­mier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian to lift the stan­dards of par­lia­ment, Mr Da­ley said he wanted to ban the prac­tice of late-night sit­tings.

“It’s crazy to be sit­ting un­til 2am,” he said. “Par­lia­ment needs to be brought into line with com­mu­nity stan­dards.”

Michael Da­ley with wife Christina, son Austin and daugh­ter Olivia af­ter he was elected as new NSW La­bor leader yes­ter­day. Pic­ture: Sam Rut­tyn

A young Michael Da­ley and (stand­ing at the back) with his fam­ily.

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