30 March 2023

Will the new Labor Government commit to building a bridge for Wagga?

| Chris Roe
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Dr Joe McGirr

Dr Joe McGirr has backed the new Labor Government with a statement of ‘confidence and supply’. Photo: Supplied.

With another four years in the NSW Parliament confirmed, the Member for Wagga Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr has been straight back to business, and has committed to a positive working relationship with the new Labor Government.

“I’ve indicated that I want to work constructively with them and in the first instance, I intend to give them the benefit of the doubt,” he said.

Despite being two seats short of a majority, Premier Chris Minns was sworn in on Tuesday with the support of Dr McGirr and fellow independents, Alex Greenwich, the Member for Sydney, and Greg Piper, the Member for Lake Macquarie.

READ ALSO Wagga animal shelter pounded by post-COVID neglect

The trio issued a joint statement of ‘confidence and supply’, traditionally given as a commitment to either vote with the Government or abstain from voting on confidence motions and budget issues.

“They were keen to get underway and Greg and Alex and I agreed that we’d give them supply so they can start the Government,” said Dr McGirr.

“We reserve the right to vote on all the legislation the way we see fit and of course, the crossbench is a much bigger organisation this time, so it’s going to be an interesting parliament.”

Chris Minns

Labor leader Chris Minns was sworn in as the 47th Premier of NSW. Photo: Chris Minns/Facebook.

Dr McGirr was clear in his list of priorities through the campaign and said he’d continue pushing on key local issues such as regional health, gaming reform, road repair and the Gobbagombalin Bridge duplication.

While Labor did make a number of local commitments to the seat during the campaign, including almost $12 million in emergency road repairs, they had little to say on the call to duplicate the Gobbagombalin Bridge.

READ ALSO COVID couldn’t slow Dr Joe on the way to a decisive victory in Wagga

According to a recent survey conducted by the Committee 4 Wagga, 96 per cent of respondents declared that the existing two-lane bridge was not adequate.

“We were working with the previous government on reducing the gap of up to five years for a business case, to up to two years,” said C4W chairman Adam Drummond.

“It will be interesting from our perspective to see how Dr Joe can negotiate on our behalf with this new Government.”

Adam Drummond and Dr Joe McGirr

C4W chair Adam Drummond is hopeful that Dr Joe will be able to put the bridge duplication on the new Government’s agenda. Photo: Chris Roe.

The roadmap for transport in Wagga, unveiled in August last year, included an agreement to “investigate” the need for a second bridge. Dr McGirr said there was no reason for the new Government not to follow through.

“It’s in the five-year plan from Transport for NSW and we got them to start that process at the end of last year,” he said.

“I think the two-year timeframe for that study would be eminently doable, and it’s something that [the] Government should commit to.”

Ryan Park

Labor MP Ryan Park (right) has been sworn in as the Minister for Health and Rural Health. Photo: Ryan Park/Facebook.

Another key issue for Dr McGirr is the continuation of the Regional Health portfolio that Labor had suggested would be scrapped if they won the election.

As the interim ministry was sworn in, Ryan Park was this week named the Minister for Health and the Minister for Regional Health.

“I don’t think having the same person do both roles is the best outcome and I think the Rural Health Inquiry pretty clearly said there should be a Minister for Regional Health,” said Dr McGirr.

“It isn’t going to be as effective and that’s certainly something I want to take up with the Government.

“At the end of the day, the main thing is getting outcomes for regional health and getting the inquiry’s recommendations implemented.”

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