North Coast may receive attention

THE North Coast’s influence in State Parliament will be in for a radical boost if the Liberal/National Coalition wins next year’s NSW election, Lennox Head-based MP Catherine Cusack says.

Ms Cusack, the Opposition spokeswoman for climate change and environmental sustainability, said the Northern Rivers was home to two Coalition frontbenchers – herself and Ballina MP Don Page.

Coffs Harbour-based MLC Melinda Pavey lifted the broader North Coast’s representation at a possible Coalition Government cabinet table to three.

Mr Page is Opposition spokesman for small business, regulatory reform and the North Coast. Ms Pavey is spokeswoman for emergency services.

The comments came as Ms Cusack was preselected in the seventh spot on a combined Liberal/Nationals Legislative Council ticket. The position on the ticket virtually guarantees Ms Cusack a spot in the next Parliament.

Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils president, and prominent local Labor Party member, Jenny Dowell, said having local MPs in government and in Cabinet would help the region.

“There’s certainly an advantage in having a minister or even just a sitting member who is in government,” she said. “I would think everyone would welcome that.”

Ballina mayor Phillip Silver, whose shire is home to both Mr Page and Ms Cusack, said it would ‘be good to have them in government’.

However, he also pointed to the hard-fought 2007 battle for the Federal seat of Page to say – without wishing any sitting local members ill – having a marginal seat might be a more powerful way to get a government’s undivided attention.

Mr Page said having local MPs in Cabinet would strengthen the region’s voice, pointing to the impact of former Clarence Labor MP Harry Woods, who held a variety of ministerial posts between 1996 and 2003.

Mr Page said he was taking nothing for granted – his election, a Coalition victory or his selection for a front bench spot in a Coalition government.

However, he said the Coalition had a strong commitment to the Northern Rivers and was already working on things such as a transport strategy for the region.

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