Senator puts Labor’s case in the Bush
Senator Tim Ayres in Bourke Photo TWH
Raising the profile of the Labor party as the natural political choice of people in the bush has become the life's work Senator Tim Ayres.
While the National Party claims it holds the political hearts and minds of country people, Senator Ayres is putting up a strong case for people to look to the ALP as the representative party of regional Australia.
Senator Ayres was in Bourke last week to promote Labor as a viable choice at the ballot box.
“As a Labor senator who grew up in the bush, I have a very strong view that the party's origins are in country NSW and Queensland,” he said.
“Right here in Bourke is where the Labor movement story began with Henry Lawson and the shearers' and transport unions.
“That identity, that set of issues, are the identity of the people who live and work in these communities and should be driving Labor every day.
“I am committed to working for country people and fighting for the blue-collar jobs that make a difference in these towns,” the Senator said.
Mr Ayres said he had a “lucky life' growing up on a beef cattle farm in northern NSW before moving to Glen Innes and eventually to university in Sydney. It was while he was a university student that he was chosen for a cadetship with the ACTU. His election to parliament came after more than 25 years of work in the Labor movement.
“It's very competitive process in the Labor party and I had a lot of support in country NSW to get preselection,” Senator Ayres said.
“I owe it to country NSW to keep doing the kinds of things I was doing as a union leader - fighting for regional jobs, and that we have a government committed to making sure this country is not just a quarry and a nice place to visit.”
Senator Ayres said the loss of jobs as a result of the closure of manufacturing industries across regional NSW was one of the biggest blows to the prosperity of small communities like Bourke.
“In the town where I grew up, we had tin mining, a boot factory, a butter factory and a timber mill. All of them are closed now and none of those jobs are there anymore.
“In country towns now, there is no opportunity for kids leaving school. Kids who do well leave town and never come back and that's the way the social capital is lost.
“It tears families apart, people don't grow up together, and on top of that you have extended drought.
“Of course, it's not all bad news – these towns are great places to live, with people doing remarkable things.”
Senator Ayres said the divisive cultural war between the renewable energy sector and the coal industry was alienating voters.
“In the toxic politics of the election the division between coal and renewables was a contest in the imagination of the Greens and Liberal party and people were not remotely interested,” he said.
“We know there is big market for coal and coking coal is an industry that will support the renewable sector in the future.”
Mr Ayes said Australia was lagging behind the rest of the world in manufacturing, research and development and said ALP Opposition leader Anthony Albanese had set out a clear agenda to prioritise jobs in the bush.
“The latest Harvard report released three weeks ago said Australia had fallen 24 rankings in the Export Complexity Index since the global financial crisis a decade ago.
“We're hanging out with Turkmenistan and Angola in terms of our export earnings,” he said,
“Where the good jobs are now is in complex exports, research and development. We can either manufacture and value add or just dig it up and export it as raw material which is easy, lazy and complacent.
“I am delighted Anthony Albanese has set a course for Labor supporting the blue-collar worker and advanced manufacturing industries - and that matters in regional NSW.
“That's where the opportunities are for jobs. You must decide which side of the debate you are on and I am on the side for jobs.
“I want to see fairness and growth opportunities in country towns. Labor has a simple, straightforward policy people can mobilise around.
“What I've been doing while I am touring around the region is listening, learning and working through issues with local people.
“My view is that government has got to be determined about the kinds of industries we have in Australia. We should be driving the skills of the future; we need to re-engage with TAFE - we have 160,000 less apprenticeships than when this government started.
“We should be developing apprentices, spending money on research and development to have a competitive advantage to export to the rest of world.
“We have the best solar and wind resources on the globe and have the capability, skills and technical capacity to deliver so we absolutely should be in that game.
“We should not be involved in some futile culture war that only serves the interests of Scott Morrison and the Greens.
“One of my jobs is to get people enthusiastic and fighting for better options for their community,” Senator Ayres said.