“People are poorer for trusting the Nats,” says independent candidate for Tamworth Mark Rodda.
The Tamworth Regional Councillor Deputy Mayor is looking to break into State politics, and thinks a change for Tamworth would do it good, but admits it’s an uphill struggle for an independent in the rusted-on Nats seat.
Rodda thinks that the election will bring a Labor government, and it would be detrimental to the residents of Tamworth to be stuck with a member who can’t work with them.
“I think the benefit of being independent will be in Parliament where I can cross the floor without any pang of guilt or, or pressure to do anything else,” Rodda said at his home on Sunday.
“I’d be looking forward to having that opportunity to be able to pick and choose the best policies for countries and not just actually vote along party lines.”
Education, healthcare, and privatisation are big concerns, as well as water security for the electorate, and the extractive industries that are encroaching on rich farmland on the Liverpool Plains – and the Nationals abandoning their traditional farming base – “They’re not making any more farmland. Why don’t they leave the farmers on the plain alone?”
A former Nationals member himself, Rodda feels that they no longer represent the bush.
“There’s this old saying: I didn’t leave the National Party, they left me. I think they left a lot of people.”
Rodda quit the party for good in 2014 after Baird government’s privatisation of electricity and other assets, something that he says resulted in a worse deal for rural areas, with the profits spent on Newcastle, Sydney, and Wollongong.
“I wrote to all the other house and Lower House National Party state MPs and said please don’t go down this path. It’ll be bad for the state of New South Wales, it’ll be bad for electricity prices, it’ll be bad for rural regional areas.”
The response, Rodda says, was “less than inspiring.”
Rodda believes privatisation of such assets has failed, and would like to see the nationalisation of electricity assets, an idea he shares with NSW Labor.
It’s not just assets and infrastructure, but Rodda also says that “it’s quite evident that this government has not invested in people.”
“Police, teachers, medical staff, they’ve just been set adrift by this government and they haven’t invested in them, and they don’t even value them and think that they deserve a pay rise.”
Rodda cites the numerous projects started or promised under the Coalition that have either stalled or failed to start: the new Dungowan Dam, Gunnedah Hospital, Banksia Acute Mental Health Care Unit.
Twelve years of Coalition government has left Tamworth little to show for it, Rodda says, but Rodda knows that running as an independent is an uphill battle.
“The party machine,” Rodda says, “is big. It’s well-oiled.”
Rodda knows that toppling Kevin Anderson will almost be an impossibility. Anderson holds a 28% lead, with a 55% primary vote at the last election.
“I think Kevin’s been found weak and wanting on many policies and legislative outcomes.”
While wary of Chris Minns – “will we just see the same old Labor?” – Rodda “definitely won’t be supporting Perrottet – that government’s had its turn. We’re now through how many premiers? Four?”
“You know, twelve years has probably demonstrated to a number of people that the government’s run its course.”