Union to swing rail axe against the ALP

By ALEX EASTON

A KEY union has vowed to fight the State Government at the next election over its decision to axe the Casino-to-Murwillumbah train service.

Rail Tram and Bus Union secretary Nick Lewocki yesterday said the union had decided to drop blanket support for the Labor Party at the 2007 State election; instead only backing Labor, independent or minor party candidates who supported the train.

The comment comes as Transport Minister John Watkins prepares for his first official visit to the region tomorrow in his new portfolio, and as the Labor Party's Ballina branch released a letter urging the line be reopened.

The Northern Star has acquired a copy of the letter, signed by branch secretary Sue Dakin, which says a branch meeting last month unanimously called for train services to at least be restored as far as Lismore in the short term, and for the Minister to explain the status of Federal funding for the line promised during the Federal election campaign.

A spokeswoman for Mr Watkins said he would listen to all concerns and ideas when he visited the region tomorrow, but there remained no plans to revisit the decision to axe the service.

Lismore ALP branch secretary Jenny Dowell said her branch unanimously voted at its last meeting to prepare a motion for Labor's State Conference in June, calling for the return of train services to the Northern Rivers.

A similar motion was passed unanimously at last year's Country Labor conference, but was ignored by the Government.

Mr Lewocki said that decision was a factor behind the union's withdrawal of support.

"That's the policy body of the party and it (the motion) should have been implemented," he said.

"The then (Transport) Minister (Michael Costa) was there and he should have spoken against it if he wasn't going to do it. The next day the Premier was there and he should have spoken on it."



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