Parkes Council Public Forum
Last Tuesday I attended the Parkes Shire Council Forum to discuss the delivery and models of health service at the Parkes Hospital. Despite there being a large number of concerned community members in attendance, many of whom asked some very valid questions, the event stuck to a time limit and the vast majority of questions went unanswered by the Local Health District (LHD) representatives.
It was disappointing to see that the forum was run with a strong bias towards the LHD, with the moderator controlling and participating in the discussion. The small portion of questions that were actually answered, were not answered sufficiently, and it's once again obvious to me that the LHD do not genuinely care about this outcome and its effects on Parkes and Forbes residents.
The LHD have neglected the Parkes and Forbes community, and this decision to provide a lower-level of maternity services at Parkes has already proven itself to be a dangerous one. I've had families contact me about roadside births and having to travel to Orange due to these changes, and it's just not good enough.
LHD need to restore Level 4 Maternity Services to Parkes, urgently.
The Drought and Our Kids
The drought has had, and continues to have, an enormous impact on our rural communities. Country kids suffer as well, and they need support. I've asked the government a number of times about the provision of counselling services for students at rural and remote schools in our electorate, including Trundle and Tullamore schools.
Late last month I finally received the response, with the Minister stating that the Department of Education acknowledges the enormous impact of the drought on the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities across NSW, and is prioritising these areas in its planning.
Trundle Central School is one of 38 drought affected schools in NSW that have been identified as a priority to be offered the batyr school mental health program from 2020 in addition to a fly-in fly-out and telepsychology service.
I'm pleased to see the Government is finally paying attention.
A Step in the Right Direction
After pointing out to Parliament several times how disgusted I am that Government contracts were awarded to interstate contractors to complete works along the Newell Highway, it seems they've finally paid attention - but it's not enough.
Prospective suppliers located within the Local Government Area (LGA) where works are undertaken will receive a 10% weighted benefit to their tender, while suppliers located in the neighbouring LGA will receive a 7.5% weighted benefit. Suppliers located beyond but from an LGA in the Newell corridor receive a 5% weighted benefit to their tender.
Sadly, these changes are temporary and only for the Newell Highway project.
Weighted benefits, or a bias, should be applied to all rural and regional businesses tendering for Government procurement contracts in the bush, particularly while this drought crisis continues. Rural economies have taken a huge hit and such a measure would go a long way to supporting country communities.
Last Sunday the 8th of December I had the pleasure of joining the community at the Trundle Children's Centre for the graduation Christmas ceremony for eight of their students. It was great to see the kids so proud of their accomplishments and meet the families. The centre is a fantastic early educational facility with dedicated enthusiastic staff and parents.
Thank you all for having me.
Wishing you all a happy Christmas with your loved ones. My office will be closed from Monday, December 23 to Monday, January 13. I'll see you next year, stay safe and enjoy!