A Reactive Response (but we'll take it)
I've mentioned previously how disappointed I was that the Government chose to use interstate contractors to work on the Newell Highway, while local contractors didn't even get the opportunity to tender.
I discussed this with Paul Toole in a meeting which was joined by Council representatives from Forbes and Gilgandra, letting him know that this just wasn't good enough - particularly when our region is suffering significantly from the drought.
In addition to the meeting, I also raised this issue in Parliament several times to call the Government to account and ensure that policies were changed.
Since then, the Deputy Premier John Barilaro has announced a new online system for businesses to engage directly with New South Wales Government on projects in their region. This will enable local tradies to be given more opportunities for the uptake of local jobs and help support local business.
I am also advised that changes have now finally been made to the procurement model for future regional roads projects. The changes to Roads and Maritime Services' procurement model will now incorporate a weighting evaluation favouring local businesses.
A percentage weighting will be applied to benefit rural and regional-based businesses tendering for projects in their local government area, and businesses in neighbouring local government areas or in the corridor of the roadway where the projects are being proposed will also benefit a weighting factor, though to lesser extents.
I'm pleased the Government has responded to my calls, even though they're reactive rather than proactive, it's still a promising result.
I'll be paying attention to make sure no further incidents of blatant disregard for supporting our drought-affected area occurs. It is imperative we keep our local businesses going, keep locals in jobs and money in our country communities.
Maternity Petition Lodged
Earlier this month I lodged a petition on behalf of residents of Parkes, Forbes and surrounding districts, bringing to the attention of Parliament residents' dissatisfaction with the downgrading of hospital services in both Parkes and Forbes, due to Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) ceasing funding for medical obstetric, anaesthetic and emergency doctors, with no long-term plan for recruitment and retention of permanent medical proceduralist staff.
As outlined in the petition, Parkes Hospital has suspended birthing babies due to lack of medical personnel (which could have been avoided with adequate forward planning), and WNSWLHD intends to reduce Parkes Hospital to a 'level 2' birthing facility, limiting the number of women able to birth in Parkes.
Since then I have met with the Health Minister, and I'm looking forward to working constructively with all stakeholders to attract and retain medical practitioners and specialists in the area. The current proposed model is not a suitable outcome for this growing regional area; women deserve the full level of care during labour.
I will continue to push for a return to full-level services so that the Parkes and Forbes hospitals can operate as they were prior to this negligent change.
Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate
In recent weeks I have received inquiries regarding access to financial assistance for emergency water infrastructure rebate scheme. Eligible primary producers can claim rebates of up to $25k on new purchases and installation costs of water infrastructure, including installation of pipes, water storage, water pumps, de-silting dams and associated power supplies such as generators.
This scheme can be applied to costs incurred from 1st July 2018 and will close on 30 June 2021 or when the funding pool of $9.25 million is exhausted.
To learn more go to raa.nsw.gov.au or call the Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593.