12 May 2023

Riverina's independent MPs claim early wins as NSW Parliament returns

| Chris Roe
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 MPs Helen Dalton and Dr Joe McGirr

The Riverina’s independent state MPs Helen Dalton and Dr Joe McGirr are back in parliament this week. Photo: Supplied.

The 58th Parliament of New South Wales officially opened on Tuesday and both Wagga’s Dr Joe McGirr and Murray’s Helen Dalton were touting early wins from the new administration.

Ms Dalton secured $2 million for “urgent” research into the high rates of motor neurone disease (MND) in the Riverina, while Dr McGirr will chair a select committee to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the inquiry into rural and regional health.

“The Premier has indicated that he wants transparency and openness to be a hallmark and his approach and work with the Crossbench to this point has been completely consistent with that,” Dr McGirr said.

Ms Dalton agreed that the early indications were positive.

“It’s fantastic for the next four years, it’s a minority Labor Government, it’s an opportunity for us,” Ms Dalton said on her return to Parliament House.

“I’m going to make sure Murray is going to be heard.”

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The decision to appoint a select committee was one of the first acts of the new NSW Parliament and Health Minister Ryan Park said they were committed to implementing all 44 recommendations from the Upper House inquiry.

“Every person in NSW, no matter where they live, has the right to safe, quality medical care,” Mr Park said.

“I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of rural and regional health services since the Government was elected, and I’ll be visiting several remote health services in northwest NSW next week.

“The rural and regional health inquiry, which I fought so hard to establish in opposition, highlighted the crisis facing rural, remote and regional services such as these, and this select committee will ensure they get the support they need to care for their local communities.”

Helen Dalton

Murray MP Helen Dalton joined Minister Ryan Park to tour Leeton and Griffith health facilities. Photo: Supplied.

Dr McGirr said he had held constructive discussions with the new minister and, while his hopes for a regional health department were deemed unlikely, his suggestion of a Lower House select committee was well received.

“Ryan visited Wagga and he visited Griffith, which was actually his first visit into the regions which I appreciated, and met with the Member for Murray and myself,” Dr McGirr said.

“I think this is a chance for the new Government to have an arm’s length stocktake of what’s been happening with the recommendations from that report, to make sure they’re on track and where they’re not on track, and what needs to done in terms of legislation, policy, or finance.”

READ ALSO Cooke signs on for water and Crown Lands in NSW shadow ministry

Both Dr McGirr and Ms Dalton have been at the forefront of the push for gambling reform, and together with Crossbenchers such as Lake Macquarie’s Greg Piper and Sydney’s Alex Greenwich, have warned the new Government that it is high on their list of priorities.

Gamblers lost $4.6 billion on poker machines in NSW clubs in 2022 and a NSW Crime Commission report last year found that they were also being used by criminals to launder money.

While the former Coalition government pledged to carry through the recommendation of mandatory cashless gaming cards, Labor was more cautious, agreeing to a 12-month trial before expanding the rollout.


The NSW Labor Government has signalled a ban on political donations from clubs. Photo: File.

The Minns Government has this week proposed new laws banning political donations from venues with poker machines adding them to the list of “prohibited donors” along with property developers and liquor or gambling companies.

“I think they’ve read the room and recognised that there is a mood for change within the electorate, and there’s also a recognition by clubs that this needs to happen and they’re going to move on it,” Dr McGirr said.

“They are keen to get that trial up and running quickly and to expand it; obviously we’re waiting for more detail about all of that, but I think that early indications were actually quite positive.”

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