The pre-election procession of politicians continued this week with Labor’s Shadow Minister for Water, Housing and Homelessness Rose Jackson flying the flag in Wagga alongside candidate Keryn Foley.
“We’re here with less than two weeks to go to spend a full day meeting with a range of housing organisations to talk to them about what I think is one of the big issues in regional communities,” Ms Jackson said, confronting claims that regional communities are often overlooked by Labor.
“We are going to every single corner of the state, we are fighting for every single vote, nothing is being taken for granted.
“Twelve years in Opposition is a long time. We’re really excited about the prospect of having the opportunity to have a fresh start and we’re going to be making sure that we bring everyone along on that journey.”
Ms Foley explained that they would spend the day meeting with local stakeholders to discuss issues around housing availability and homelessness.
“I have people that come to see me that are paying about 42 per cent of their wages on rent, and they’re having to decide between paying their gas bill and putting food on the table,” she said.
“So we do want to look at the innovative solutions that our community is coming up with to help.”
In terms of concrete policy, Ms Jackson pointed to Labor’s plans for rental reforms to strengthen tenants’ rights, cuts to stamp duty for first-time buyers and the promise to establish a new centralised social housing agency.
“I think it is fair to say regional communities often are ignored or are the last to get the social and affordable housing they need. The conversation on housing has really been very Sydney-centric. I absolutely accept that,” conceded Ms Jackson, promising to “shift the orientation to regional communities” if Labor is elected.
“The housing crisis in regional NSW, I think, is more acute than it is in Sydney right now. I’m open about that and I say that to regional communities, in a way, to be held accountable by them.”
As for how a Labor government would speed up the delivery of housing stock, Ms Jackson said there had been too much bickering between state and local government.
“The Regional Housing Task Force, which the State Government did, emphasises that it’s not really on councils to rezone land,” she said.
“Most of the councils have done that work. It’s State Government infrastructure that’s missing, the sewerage, the roads, the schools, the hospital upgrade, that’s actually one of the major barriers to housing in the regions.”
Labor is yet to advance a clear position on the hot-button local issue of the Gobbagombalin Bridge duplication.
During Friday’s candidates’ forum, Ms Foley said she had not discussed the project with party leaders and offered the generalisation that “good government makes decisions and prioritises on the basis of need”.
A spokesperson later confirmed that she would “advocate on behalf of the community, including the second crossing”.
While Ms Jackson didn’t offer a view on the issue, she did respond to the Nationals’ call for Liberal Party candidate Julia Ham to resign after she appeared to commit to building the bridge.
Ms Ham later clarified that she had misspoken and had meant to confirm her commitment to “a prompt delivery of the feasibility study”, but was savaged by Nationals MLC Wes Fang.
Ms Jackson described the spat as “unedifying” and said that Ms Ham should “absolutely continue as a candidate”.
“I almost brought my popcorn when I came into town today,” she quipped.
“Both the National Party and the Liberal Party should get a hold of themselves, calm down and start talking about the issues that matter to regional communities.
“I do think that it’s really important that all politicians from all parties make responsible promises and don’t promise things that aren’t budgeted for and they can’t deliver.”