Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Member for Parkes Mark Coulton announced on Monday that he will not be recontesting the electorate of Parkes at the next federal election.

Parkes is an enormous electorate at 393,413 km2, covering almost a third of the state, including the North West corner of the New England. Coulton was elected in the class of 2007, and has served in a number of junior ministries, including Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment in 2018-19; Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government and Assistant Minister for Trade and Investment 2019-20; and Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government from 2020-21. He has also served as a National Party whip in the House of Representatives from 2010-22, and as Chief Whip from 2022 on.

“It is with mixed emotions that I announce that I will not be contesting the seat of Parkes at the next federal election,” Mr Coulton said.

“It has been an incredible honour to represent the people of the Parkes electorate for more than 16 years, but the time has come for me to step aside.”

“I’ve spent the past 16 years travelling hundreds of thousands of kilometres across my electorate, getting to know the strong and vibrant communities I represent. It has been a great privilege and I’m extremely proud of everything we’ve been able to achieve over that time.”

“But it’s time for a fresh face to take up the baton and I’m looking forward to the members of The Nationals in the Parkes electorate finding a suitable replacement who can continue to provide strong representation in Canberra.”

Who will that fresh face be? There are many names being mumbled in corners, but there is a complicating factor that the Australian Electoral Commission is in the midst of redistributing electorates in NSW. That redistribution is already underway and is expected to be complete before the next election, with the proposed new boundaries to be published in April or May. There is considerable speculation that the boundary between New England and Parkes may shift again, with some possibility of Moree being brought into the New England electorate. The other alternative being mooted is that Inverell and the Gwydir shire leave New England for Parkes, while Gunnedah and Muswellbrook are brought in to the New England.

Without knowing the borders, and which towns are in or out, it is hard to develop a shortlist of potential candidates.

One who is not likely to nominate for the seat of Parkes is Coulton’s Northern Tablelands state counterpart Adam Marshall. The two have been working together more closely since the redistribution of the state seat brought Moree into the Northern Tablelands fold in 2013. Marshall was quick off the blocks to offer kind words on Coulton’s retirement.

“Mark Coulton is without doubt the hardest-working and dedicated local MP I have ever had the pleasure of working with or come across,” Mr Marshall said.

“I congratulate Mark on his 16-plus years serving the communities of the Parkes electorate. He has set the benchmark for commitment and duty to a vast and diverse rural electorate, covering tens of thousands of kilometres by road each year to ensure every community – large, small and remote – has access to their local Member of Parliament.”

“Congratulations on a stellar career Mark and all the very best for your future with Robyn and your family in the next chapter of your life.”

Mr Coulton will continue to serve as a the Member for Parkes until the next federal election, which can be called anytime between August this year and May next year.

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