Who Gets Your Vote? – Compare the policies of Coffs Harbour state election candidates

Kellie Pearce, Animal Justice Party.

WITH the NSW State election only a week away, News Of The Area lines up the major policies of the candidates for the seat of Coffs Harbour for voters to compare.

The candidates, as they will appear on the ballot paper, are Tony Judge (Australian Labor Party), the sitting Member for Coffs Harbour, Gurmesh Singh (Nationals), Ruth Cully (Sustainable Australia Party), Tihema Elliston (Legalise Cannabis Australia), Sally Townley (Independent), Kellie Pearce (Animal Justice Party) and Timothy Nott (Greens).

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News Of The Area spoke to the candidates on a range of key election topics.

The first half of the responses can be read below, with more tackled in next week’s edition.

By Andrew VIVIAN


Mr Judge: “I have stood with nurses over five years and seen the eighteen hour shifts, the understaffing and the despair.

“Nurses are burning out and patients are suffering.

“A Labor Government will mandate safe staffing levels on all shifts so that safe staffing will improve the quality of care, reduce burnout and bring nurses back to the profession they love.

“We are already in crisis and four more years of the same will cost lives.

“The future can be so much better than the present, but that means change.”

Mr Singh: “Now that the $194m Coffs Harbour Hospital upgrade has been completed, the number one priority in health is workforce – attracting and retaining staff.

“In the past ten years staff have increased by 25,700 full time equivalent staff with more than 10,000 of those roles in regional areas.

“Over the next four years we will invest $4.5 billion more to recruit more than 10,100 full-time equivalent staff into its hospitals and health services and 3800 positions will go into the regions.

“We have also secured $883 million over four years to implement a major regional health workforce incentives scheme which aims to attract and retain staff in Regional NSW alongside new training and recruitment pathways to build a pipeline of regionally based workers and futureproof healthcare in places like Coffs Harbour.

“We have doubled subsidies across the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) to $149.5 million.

“A $743 million funding boost over the next five years will enhance end-of-life care in NSW.

“We also introduced landmark reform to expand the vaccinations and medications they are allowed to administer including the contraceptive pills that will open up more GP appointments.

“700 more regional paramedics will be committed to NSW Ambulance and I’m also committed to working closely with the Health Services Union to implement the paramedic restructure being proposed which takes into account the changes to the roles our paramedics perform.”


Ms Cully: “The Sustainable Australia Party aims to achieve a healthy and long living Australian population, supported by an innovative and universal health system.

“In particular, we would better promote preventative health care through healthier lifestyle choices.

“The pre-conditions for human health are healthy soil, clean water and clean air.

“The greatest risks to human health are pollution, overcrowding, poverty, biodiversity loss, and climate change.

“We will ramp up doctor training, pay nurses and allied health decent wages, and offer free rural health degrees, to address chronic understaffing and treatment delays in rural and regional NSW.”


Ms Elliston: “Thousands and thousands of people have discovered the healing properties of cannabis.

“Cannabis should be available for us to consume fresh from the garden daily.

“It is non psychoactive in this form and extremely good for your health.

“90 years of prohibition has caused an endocannabinoid deficiency in many people that leads to all sorts of ill health and disease.

“Medicinal cannabis is available but at a price that is out of financial reach to too many who need it.

“Commercially produced oils and tinctures are expensive and weak.

“People are finding they are not as good as products they may have made themselves, or that they may have purchased from one of the underground producers.

“I have seen and heard many testimonials from people who were not satisfied with the cost or
availability of the legal products and that they were still suffering.

“Legalising cannabis will enable a patient or their loved ones to grow the plant; and make oils for them – which is extremely simple to do.

“Legalising cannabis could be the gateway to good health that will reduce the amount of money ploughed into the state health budget every year.”


Ms Pearce: “Animal Justice Party (AJP) supports increased investment in free and affordable medical, dental and mental health care services, including general and emergency care, health promotion and preventative healthcare initiatives.

“The AJP supports an increase in nurse and midwife-to-patient ratios in hospitals to ensure adequate staffing, improve patient safety and outcomes and reduce workplace fatigue.

“The AJP believes it is important to develop and implement a strategy to respond to the increasing health impacts of climate change and related environmental crises such as bushfires and floods.

“The AJP supports an increase in investment in community health workers to assist people from diverse backgrounds to access the health, social and other supports they need.”


Mr Nott: “The Greens will reverse the trend of health decisions made by managers without medical training and stop the sale of public assets.

“We need dental and mental health in Medicare and hospitals free to focus on health not profit.

“Community volunteers studied Hearnes Lake to find it has banned chemicals in dangerous levels.

“Woolgoolga and Emerald beaches were the second and third most polluted beaches in NSW so I will set up water testing for other catchments to see the extent of the danger.

“A 50 percent reduction in male testosterone in Australia since 1970 is linked to plastics, pesticides and chemicals sold and used on the Coffs Coast.

“Our regulator is failing to protect us from corporate greed in addition to less health workers after decades of funding cuts.

“The Therapeutic Goods Administration is funded over 90 percent by those it regulates so we will fund regulators properly without corporate donations.

“The Greens have introduced a bill to NSW Parliament requiring minimum medical staff to patient ratios.

“Our platform of free TAFE and University combined with local growth in nursing courses and incentives for younger doctors to move to regional areas is part of our long term plan to ensure Australians get the care required, whatever their financial position.

“Good health increases productivity and prosperity.

“The Greens policies prioritise healthy food over processed, organic over genetic and assists farmers to improve land management.”


Mr Judge: “I have stood up and spoken up about the housing crisis in Coffs.

“I have achieved a rent reduction for our homeless hub, Pete’s Place, and raised the rental crisis in Coffs in national media.

“As a Labor candidate I can offer policies that will make a real difference to social and affordable housing and address that crisis.

“A Labor government will audit all vacant State-owned land to find opportunities for residential development.“

At least 30 percent of any development will be social and affordable housing.

“A new agency will have the goal of building, maintaining and managing all social housing with the aim of increasing housing stock.

“That will have a real impact on homelessness and create more opportunities for families to find a home here.

“We can offer a fair go for renters, an end to unfair evictions, genuinely portable rental bonds and more opportunity for renters to have pets.

“As more and more people need to rent in the long term we need to make sure that they are treated fairly and have a sense of security.”


Mr Singh: “By creating a mixture of urban infill and enabling new green field housing sites, our plan enables more housing to be built at every level – including for working families.

“We’re helping councils build enabling infrastructure like the $5.85 million to upgrade North Boambee Rd which enables over 860 homes to be built.

“Our $175 million Growing Regional Economies Fund will invest further in infrastructure and facilitate projects that unlock housing in regions like the Coffs Coast.

“We also have a plan for social and affordable housing through the redevelopment of Argyll Estate that will increase the number of social homes in that estate as well as increase mixed-tenured affordable homes close to schools, shops, and other amenities.

“That is part of a $183 million plan to deliver

social and affordable homes across New South Wales.

“We have also launched the Regional Housing Flying Squad Program to help regional councils to assess DA’s to ensure that the supply of housing is not being held up.

“We also have begun the First Home Buyer Choice program that offers eligible home buyers the choice between paying a one-off stamp duty or a smaller annual property tax which allows more people to get into the housing market sooner.”


Ms Cully: “Housing is a fundamental need and human right.

“Perversely, our governments treat homes as a speculator’s tax shelter, instead of a physical shelter, intrinsic to our security and quality of life.

“Government engineered hyper demand for housing through investor tax concessions (negative gearing and capital gains tax), foreign ownership and rapid population growth has culminated in unaffordable housing, with record levels of mortgage stress, rent stress and homelessness.

“A single wage once paid the mortgage, bought a car, and fed and clothed a family.

“Now, many families are dual-income mortgage slaves, struggling to service repayments, while sole parents and singles are locked out of home ownership.

“As Satyajit Das observed, Australia has a two-trick economy: houses and holes.

“We dig holes in the ground (iron ore and coal) to sell for foreign income, which is diverted to hyper-investment in housing instead of productive capacity.

“It’s made billionaires of a few developers, who lobby for more growth, so they can clear more land, densify housing, and sell more high-rise boxes.

“In 2021-22, Australia’s population grew by 291,000 people (while granting less than 6000 refugee visas).

“In 2022-23, we’re on track to 324,000 more people.

“Where will they live?

“In a housing crisis, pursuing hyper demand for housing is as rational as putting out a fire with gasoline.

“We will end investor tax concessions, foreign ownership and stabilise Australia’s population size as soon as practicable to relieve housing pressures.

“We will increase investment in public housing and ensure a minimum ten percent public or affordable social housing is integrated into significant new residential developments through zoning requirements.”


Ms Elliston: “Affordable housing has been at crisis levels for long enough to attract the attention of everyone in Australia.

“Furthermore the impacts have been felt by those that least expected it, the average Australian, hard-working, paying their taxes – then boom they cannot keep up with constant increases in rent and housing repayments.

“I live in the Argyll Estate where rezoning proposals were put forward to our community.

“The majority of residents disagree with these proposals and insisted that they repair and refurbish public housing tenants’ homes instead.

“Our community has been in limbo for over six months now after we all received a visit without being notified to see if we had changed our minds.

“We are not being listened to by the current government.

“A state-based tax on purchasing legal cannabis could contribute toward building more public housing.

“Houses built from hemp in the future would be cheaper and stronger and could be manufactured right on our doorstep.

“Fireproof, waterproof, mould resistant – leading to a better quality of health in your environment.

“But, first, we would have to legalise cannabis to enable us to stop treating hemp like a drug.

“Hemp is a versatile and low maintenance crop that has many, many uses beyond just building houses.”


Dr Townley: “The current approach to affordable housing can be seen in the approach to the Argyll St proposed redevelopment.

“The plan is to remove and relocate tenants, build more smaller high-density dwellings and retain only the exact same number of social housing homes to offer to returning tenants, with zero increase in available public housing.

“However, there is a decrease because most three and four bedroom homes will be replaced by one and two bedroom homes.

“An additional number of higher density homes will be created for the private market which does increase the stock of affordable homes for the private market, but all profits from this venture will be directed to the private contractors.

“This policy means taxpayers are missing out on the profits from the redevelopment and the stock of public housing is not increasing.

“I will seek to change this policy so that profits made from public housing construction and redevelopment go back into growing the public housing sector.

“Inclusionary zoning is another method of increasing affordable housing and involves mandating developers to include a percentage of affordable housing in certain sized developments.

“This is now widely done in metropolitan areas and could be brought into regional areas like Coffs Harbour.

“I also support stamp duty reform as a means of removing a barrier to home purchase.”


Ms Pearce: “People without a home is an indictment on our society.

“Everyone has the right to adequate housing.

“The Animal Justice Party (AJP) urges the Australian Commonwealth, state and territory governments to meet their international obligations to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, stable housing that provides

privacy, space, security, lighting, heating/ventilation, sanitation and reasonable access to essential services.

“Over 116,000 people in Australia fall under the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ definition of homeless, and locally we have over 300 people experiencing homelessness.

“Homelessness significantly impacts vulnerable groups such as the women over 50, unemployed, First Nations people (especially in remote communities), youth, seniors, migrants, those with disabilities or mental health issues and victim-survivors of family and domestic violence.

“These issues are compounded when people have companion animals and/or insecure housing.
“Insecure housing affects both people and companion animals.
“It is a major cause of animal surrenders.

“Vulnerable groups living with animals are at a greater risk of housing instability.

“Lack of animal-friendly housing options may cause individuals to remain in unsafe or precarious living situations in order to remain with their animals.

“The AJP recognises and is guided by the expertise of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) on homelessness.

“Accordingly, the AJP supports prevention and intervention measures advocated by ACOSS in 2020 to combat homelessness, including a proactive national housing strategy, sustained investment in affordable housing, and tax


“We will support any further inquiries or trials that aim to look at the underlying economics and effectiveness of interventions that prevent homelessness.”


Mr Nott: “Housing has become less affordable and this will continue with current policies.

“The failures to protect our cost of living and economy are well demonstrated with Coffs Harbour’s new development zones, flood affected.

“I will continue to push for increased supply of homes away from risks, near town centres.

“NSW Greens will improve housing affordability by increasing the number, and variety of homes, stopping the privatisation of public land used for housing and limiting rent rises and evictions due to rent increases.

“We will fund and enable local councils to create more affordable homes and support not-for-profit community housing initiatives, including shared equity and cooperative housing models.

“We will require big property developers to include affordable housing.

“We need housing for everyone, not excessive profit for the few.

“I will advocate for a system that integrates living, transport and employment to bring people together, safe and secure.”


Mr Judge: “Our kids need and deserve the opportunities that come from a great education, but our teachers are leaving in droves.

“Under Labor, teachers will have a reduction of at least five hours per week in the crippling administrative workload that is making their job unsustainable.

“They will have more time to plan, help and teach.

“We will end the artificial cap on salaries and negotiate in good faith to restore fair pay for teachers.

“Those measures will go a long way towards addressing the exodus of teachers from the profession and help our kids get the best start in life.”


Mr Singh: “We’re focused on ensuring every child has the best opportunities to learn and reach their potential, no matter where they live.

“The first 2,000 days of a child’s life are critical to their development and success so we’re rolling out a nation-first free universal year of pre-kindergarten learning, making preschool and childcare more affordable and introducing a full suite of developmental checks for every child before they start school.

“A new NSW school curriculum will be delivered for kindergarten to Year 10 by 2024, and Years 11 and 12 by 2025, ensuring students and teachers have access to a curriculum of the highest standard that streamlines and strengthens what is taught in our schools.

“We’re building the school workforce we need to deliver the education our kids deserve.

“Since 2011, we’ve increased the teaching workforce by 8,700 FTE or fourteen percent statewide.

“We’ve introduced new incentives to attract the best teachers and principals to regional communities and started new programs to grow our own workforce in regional schools.

“A record number of new graduates (4,500) have received their approval to teach in NSW public schools this year.

“More than 15,000 existing temporary teachers and other school-based staff will also be offered permanent positions this year, providing more job certainty and ensuring teaching remains an attractive profession.

“We will maintain a relentless focus on attracting and retaining NSW public school teachers, removing unnecessary admin tasks from their workload, and introducing sweeping reforms to recognise and reward our best teachers with salaries of up to $150,000 a year.

“Our Teacher Supply Strategy is actively addressing areas of need, including incentives for rural and remote schools.

This has been endorsed and copied across Australia, including by many Labor governments, because other jurisdictions know it works and that it will make a big difference in the next few years.”


Ms Cully: “Our education system should be resourced to provide affordable, world class education and training that gives Australians the knowledge and skills they need to secure jobs and flourish in society.

“To help achieve this, the Sustainable Australia Party will: offer free and universal university and TAFE education for Australian citizens; abolish all current HECS/HELP debts for Australian citizens; and better invest in research and development to enhance Australia’s creativity, innovation and productivity.

“Our education system also has a special role in international aid.

“Instead of poaching skilled professionals, we should support capacity building in developing countries by providing free access to online education resources.

“This is particularly important in a world where some girls and women are persecuted, and even killed, for pursuing an education.
“To prevent war, we must invest in education for peace.”


Dr Townley: “We have a massive teacher shortage and no real relative increase in teachers’ pay for years.

“Fewer people are entering the profession, and many are leaving.

“This applies to early childhood educators as well as school teachers.
“Without urgent action, our education system will be in crisis.

“I support pay reform for educators and more funding for public schools.

“I also strongly support a new K-12 school at Moonee to cater for the growing population on the Northern Beaches.

“A business case to kick off planning for the new school should commence immediately.”


Ms Pearce: “Our education system needs to value our educators and education is a right which should be respected, but not come at the expense of the suffering of other species.

“The AJP would like to see the formulation of programs across all areas of the curriculum to foster kindness and non violence towards all beings.”


Mr Nott: “Whether you live in remote areas, rural and regional communities, are in prison, or studying online through distance education – public education is for everyone.

“Our party’s policies on education are written by teachers through the lens of the universal value and benefit to society of well-resourced public education.

“The Greens will: Immediately give all NSW public school teachers a minimum fifteen percent pay rise, plus an assessment of inflation over the next two years

“We will provide an increase in two hours per week of Relief from Face to Face (RFF) teaching for all public-school primary teachers in NSW and two hours less face-to-face teaching for all High School teachers

“The Greens will develop a workforce plan in consultation with teachers, universities, and the NSW Teachers

Federation to recruit and retain 12,000 new teachers over the next ten years

“We will provide at least one additional school councillor for every public school in NSW over the next four years and reach a target of one counsellor per 500 students by 2030.

“TAFE will be free again for all students, we will deliver a salary increase for TAFE teachers that is on par with school teachers and provide pathways to permanency for 10,000 casual TAFE teachers over the next four years.”

Jetty Foreshores

Mr Judge: “The Jetty Foreshores is the playground and the jewel in the crown of Coffs.

“Like many people I speak with, I want sensible recreational development and some hospitality facilities like cafes, restaurants and small bars.

“What I am not hearing, is support for residential development.

“Let’s preserve the Jetty Foreshores as the place to go and relax as Coffs gets bigger and density increases.”


Mr Singh: “After three years of extensive consultation, there is a strong community desire to improve the Jetty Foreshores.

“The consultation process led to the most comprehensive survey of exactly what people wanted to see – with each question clearly asking for support or opposition.

“The feedback from the community is reflected in the Refined Masterplan that sees an increase in open space equivalent to two-and-a-half football fields, more parking (and a much greater percentage of formal parking).

“Of the total site area, 39 percent is existing vegetation, 35 percent is open space and public domain, 20 percent for parking and roads, three percent for tourism uses, 1.5 percent for residential (maximum four storeys), and 1.5 percent for commercial and community use.

“I would happily support long-term leases for tenure over these sites instead of sales.

“The Jetty Foreshores is one of my favourite spots and I’m there most days.

“I want to see it retain its character, but I also recognise that it is essential to our social and economic future that the precinct be enhanced in a sensitive, moderate, and balanced way.

“I’m proud of the $20 million investment I was able to secure to start the project and to build the new community building on the TS Vendetta site which also incorporates the lighthouse optic.
“I acknowledge that there are diverse views on the future of the Jetty Foreshores – but I believe the plan strikes the right balance, and most importantly, is realistic, achievable, and underway.”


Ms Cully: “Our vision for the Jetty Foreshore is to support and extend the restoration of native vegetation that flourished on the Coffs Coast before white settlement, in consultation with Indigenous people, the Jetty Parkland Users Group, and ecologists.

“The long-term aim is to re-establish rare and vulnerable birds and wildlife.

“We will make this area a permanent eco-tourist feature, for residents and visitors to appreciate, learn and enjoy.”


Ms Elliston: “When considering the Park Beach inlet to Coffs Creek and the newly-built boat ramp at the Jetty Foreshores, I have noticed that the Coffs Creek inlet project is built in an entirely different direction, allowing natural dredging to occur around the man made wall.

“If more observations had been done in the Coffs Creek inlet, perhaps it would have prevented the wasting of such ridiculous amounts of money on dredging near the boat ramp.

“This is just one example of the constant failures and blatant and shameful waste of money in this electorate over the years.”


Dr Townley: “I have been unwavering for ten years in my stance that development at the Jetty should be framed in a way which retains public ownership.

“I support development at the Jetty which complements its existing social and cultural values.

“The Jetty Foreshore is a place where people gather to eat, drink and play and this can be enhanced by including cafes, kiosks, restaurants as well as playgrounds and pathways.

“The Jetty Foreshores should not be turned into a new suburb with hundreds of residents vying for space and parking.

“Building homes close to the open ocean goes against all common sense.

“Along the eastern seaboard we see property loss and damage due to storm surge and extreme weather.

“Since extreme weather events are predicted to increase in frequency, coastal open spaces must be retained to buffer and protect our communities.

“Much of the Jetty area is Crown land, belonging to the people of NSW.

“Some parts are Aboriginal-owned and these areas should be respected as such.

“Some is unused land being surplus railway land held by a government corporation.

“For decades, management documents have identified the transfer of surplus railway lands into public parklands.

“I will advocate for this transfer and for the area to be enhanced as a beautiful major piece of public social infrastructure which can serve our community now and into the future.”


Ms Pearce: “The AJP does not support high rise development in our Jetty Foreshore precinct.

“The land is currently zoned as public land and should remain in public hands for all to enjoy.

“The current State Government is actively working to rezone this area away from public zoning to something which will allow for multi storey residential buildings.

“This land is a public asset and should remain in public hands, and the AJP rejects proposals to take away this land from public use.”


Mr Nott: “What an exciting opportunity to make Coffs Harbour a global tourism destination.

“This incredible public space could be something great.

“Why didn’t the consultation include big ideas?

“We could increase nightlife, yet Coffs Harbour was offered outdated design, residential blocks with water views and shops looking at the street.

“I don’t accept that wealthy people must own our most valuable public space to pay for minor improvements.

“Privatising land and sterilising any disagreement as against all development demonstrates failed consultation and shows a lack of integrity.

“The Greens support development of the Jetty which includes coastal inundation in the assessment and preservation of public land.

“This tourism hub could have the Solitary Islands Marine Park and Great Koala National Park information centres together.

“I would support an open competition into the best idea and design for the area.

“The Greens want more concerts, less pokies, more local businesses, less internationals.

“The Jetty area is one of a kind, let’s get this right.”


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