9 February 2023

Labor's candidate for Wagga picks women's health as election battleground

| Chris Roe
Join the conversation
Keryn Foley

Labor candidate Keryn Foley has announced her preselection for the NSW election. Photo: Chris Roe.

Labor’s newly announced candidate for the seat of Wagga Wagga, Keryn Foley, has made it clear that women’s health is top of her list of priorities ahead of the 25 March NSW election.

The Wagga family counsellor and mediator was confirmed as Labor’s pick just six weeks out from the poll and was straight on the front foot with a swipe at current member Dr Joe McGirr.

“I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring because I think it’s very important to have a wider representation of the electorate in the decisions that are made in politics,” she said, addressing the media outside Wagga’s Women’s Health Centre.

“Joe has voted against things which I see are in women’s best interests, and I feel strongly about that.”

READ ALSO Greens candidate Ray Goodlass has entered the chat but who else will stand?

In 2019, Dr McGirr voted against a bill to decriminalise abortion in NSW. While the bill ultimately passed, bringing NSW into line with all other states, Ms Foley said he had let down Wagga voters.

“The best way for women to make decisions is for them to be supported, for them to have all options put out for them and then determine what is the best course of action for them,” she said.

“This is something that the Women’s Health Centre has totally committed to and that’s why we want to fund the Women’s Health Centre.”

She also highlighted social justice issues and said that Labor was the best choice to “make the community a better place to live in”.

“If you are disadvantaged, you will do much better under a Labor government that will actually put in place policies that will lift people from poverty,” she said.

Keryn Foley

Keryn Foley says women’s health and social justice issues are high on her agenda. Photo: Chris Roe.

One of the key criticisms of Labor in regional electorates is its perceived focus on metropolitan seats.

When Region pressed Ms Foley on the lateness of her preselection and the lack of any Labor MLCs in attendance at the announcement, she became emotional.

“This is not an easy decision that I made. I’m not really a politician,” she said through tears.

“It’s quite difficult to step into public life and put yourself out to public scrutiny.”

Labor’s former federal candidate, Mark Jefferson, explained that MLC Tara Moriarty and Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs Mick Veitch had been due to attend but were delayed.

“They’re in Sydney and we’re a victim of Qantas and Rex flight schedules,” he explained with a frustrated shrug.

“All that we can do is just keep on stepping out saying we’re the Labor Party, this is what we stand for, this is what we believe and then this is what we’ll do for the electorate.”

READ ALSO Dr Joe warns of a ‘tough election’ as the Nats, Libs and Greens set their sights on his seat

Mr Veitch did indeed arrive as the media event concluded and the Tumut local defended his party’s regional record.

“People would say that we aren’t able to represent regional seats, but Bega and Lismore make it pretty clear that that’s not the case,” he said.

“Certainly, I’ve been doing a pretty fair job in my time, representing regional New South Wales, advocating pretty hard in the parliament for regional New South Wales and particularly people who live and work in the regions.”

Ms Foley is now the fourth candidate to enter the race, joining the National’s Adrianna Benjamin and Greens veteran Ray Goodlass in challenging Dr McGirr.

The Liberal Party is yet to announce a candidate after it was revealed that they had rejected a bid by local business owner and Wagga branch secretary Richard Moffatt.

Time is running out, but party sources say they are still hopeful that they will have a name on the ballot.

Dr Joe at desk

Independent MP Dr Joe McGirr pushed back on suggestions that he has let voters down on Women’s Health issues. Photo: Chris Roe.

Dr Joe McGirr congratulated Ms Foley on her preselection.

“It’s a big commitment that takes genuine courage and also commitment from your family,” he said.

“So congratulations on her doing this as it’s important for our democracy, of course.”

He also pushed back on her suggestion that he has not done enough for women’s health.

“The electorate is aware of the vote that I took on the termination of pregnancy issues and, as I said at the time, I believe that actually represents a very substantial proportion of the electorate,” he began.

“It’s now decriminalised, and since that time, I’ve continued to be a strong advocate of women’s issues, particularly in relation to domestic violence.

“I think it’s an absolutely critical issue that we respect women and that we deliver on services in recognition of their concerns, particularly around issues of domestic violence.”

READ ALSO Concern for ducks drinking toxic water as Lake Albert remains off limits to public

When pushed on Wagga’s perceived lack of abortion services, Dr McGirr said that all health services should be available as locally as possible for people in the regions.

“I have followed up on this with the local health district and, as a result, they have instituted a scheme where they’ve got nurse practitioners providing this support in the last six months,” he said.

“There has been criticism that people didn’t know about that, and I think that’s a fair point.

“I don’t expect the local health district to advertise public health services, but health professionals in the community should be aware of the services that are available.”

With just weeks to go until the 25 March poll, Ms Foley says she’ll be busy travelling the electorate and explaining Labor’s policies to voters. When asked where her preferences would go, she kept her cards close but hinted that women’s health would be the deciding factor.

“I would represent my electorate, I would listen to my electorate, of which roughly 50 per cent of them are women, and I would vote according to what is the best for the community and from a human rights perspective.”

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.