Forum puts jobs as biggest issue
By ALEX EASTON
THE war is a worry; environment, health and education are all important and did you hear that thing about the Queen?
In what may have been one of the most surreal moments of the local election campaign, Citizens Electoral Council candidate Angela Griffiths at The Northern Star election forum last night, confirmed her party believed the Royal Family was involved in large-scale drug dealing.
Apparently, it had something to do with London being at the centre of the financial world and Europe's royal families being at the apex of that world.
"You can't prove it, but you can smell it," Ms Griffiths told a chuckling crowd, which did not appear convinced, in response to a question about the Queen.
However, the biggest issue for the night was jobs. How to get them here; how to get people to them; and what impact jobs growth will have on the region.
Page MP Ian Causley proudly announced the Coalition had brought the jobless rate in page down to 7.9 per cent.
This claim brought an immediate attack from Greens candidate Mark Jackson who said that the definition of unemployment had been changed to cover casual and part-time jobs, reducing the rate.
And everyone had a solution.
Mr Causley liked the existing Sustainable Regions program, which helped attract industry to the region by helping them expand and employ new workers.
Ultimately that could also lift local pay levels closer to national averages.
Mr Causley said his next term, which would be his fourth as Page MP, would be judged by a continued push to reduce the jobless rate.
Labor candidate Kevin Bell agreed with the push for new industry, but said it was important the Northern Rivers focused on developing industry in areas it was already good at, such as the arts.
Mr Bell said no attempts to improve the employment rate on the Northern Rivers would have much luck without an improved public transport system.
"We have a great TAFE that is beautifully positioned in the middle of nowhere," Mr Bell quipped.
As the Member for Page, Mr Bell said he would set up a public transport forum for the region, which would look at where the shortfalls were and how to solve them.
Greens candidate Mark Jackson said anyone unemployed for six months should automatically get a job with the government, preferably working in areas such as environmental repair.
Mr Jackson's position was backed by Socialist Alliance candidate Tom Flanagan, who said people on work for the dole projects should also receive a full wage for their work.
And Ms Griffiths said a nationally-owned bank could create jobs by funding major infrastructure projects such as drought-proofing, building a cross-continent fast-rail link, even a nuclear power plant.