17 March 2023

Liberal hopeful shrugs off Nationals' criticism and promises a strong economy and local infrastructure

| Chris Roe
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Julia Ham

Liberal Party deputy leader Sussan Ley with Wagga candidate Julia Ham under the Gobba Bridge. Photo: Supplied.

If she wasn’t busy enough with the NSW election race heating up, Liberal candidate for Wagga Julia Ham is gearing up to get on her bike. Literally.

“I’m doing the Snowy Valleys Challenge next weekend, starting at Adelong and riding my bike for 72 kilometres,” she said before adding with a laugh, ” but I won’t tell you how much electricity is in my bike!”

It’s been a busy and bruising few weeks for the Snowy Valleys councillor after joining the race late and facing fierce pushback from the local Nationals contingent, who had hoped for a clear run at the conservative vote.

READ ALSO WATCH: Nationals call for Liberal candidate to quit after surprise promise to build the Gobba Bridge

Ms Ham first contested the seat in the 2018 by-election in the wake of Daryl Maguire’s political demise and the Liberal Party did not field a candidate in 2019.

Wagga-based MLC Wes Fang has been an outspoken critic of his Coalition colleague’s decision to re-enter the contest and recently called for her to quit the race after confusion over comments made at a candidates’ forum.

“Look, I’m just happy campaigning for myself and looking at the issues that people are bringing up and working towards that. That’s what I’m focusing on,” she said, suggesting that the conflict was one-sided.

Julia Ham

Liberal candidate Julia Ham at Friday’s candidates’ forum. Photo: Region Riverina.

Mr Fang had fired up over her comments on the proposed Gobbagombalin Bridge duplication, something that Ms Ham was quick to clarify, accepting that she had inadvertently made it sound like she would commit to the delivery of the bridge under a re-elected Coalition government.

She confirmed that she had received assurances from within the party that a feasibility study would begin after the election.

“For me personally, and having gone through the floods, the Gobba Bridge should be a major priority,” she confirmed, explaining that she had chosen to launch her campaign in the shadow of the bridge to reinforce her commitment.

“Locally, our big focus has been advocating for infrastructure to keep up with the northside.

“That’s why we had it down in the Wiradjuri Park with the Gobba Bridge behind us.”

READ ALSO Claims controversial water buyback are ‘taking advantage of people’s misfortune’

Ms Ham said growing a strong economy was the Liberals’ focus while reducing pressure on household budgets, and supporting first-home buyers.

“I think this having a choice with first-home buyers, with the choice of taking the stamp duty or not, that’s a good step forward,” she said.

“The Tolland project, I mean, how good is that for Wagga? That’s just brilliant.

“I know I need to advocate strongly up in the Snowy Valleys. We’ve got problems up there as well and even going over to Lockhart and talking to them, it’s the same problem that they need strong advocacy to increase their housing there and they’ve got land set aside.”

Looking ahead, Ms Ham is gearing up for her big weekend of cycling and said she would also be busy visiting locals and stakeholders across the electorate.

“This week is just getting out there, doorknocking and seeing as many people as possible and getting across the community in the last couple of weeks.”

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