The Hunter region has fared terribly in Mike Baird’s crisis-driven cabinet reshuffle – with no one from the Hunter left sitting at the Cabinet table to fight for local hospitals, schools and community services.
Maitland MP Robyn Parker and Upper Hunter MP George Souris have been dumped from the Ministry, leaving the region with no Ministers.
Mike Baird has also given the responsibility of Minister for the Hunter to Gladys Berejiklian – who is based on Sydney’s north shore.
“Mike Baird is taking the Hunter’s money back to Sydney while depriving it of even a single voice in the Cabinet,” Opposition Leader John Robertson said today.
“At a time when the Liberal Government has cut funding from Hunter hospitals, TAFE and child protection services – and left key transport and urban projects undelivered – it defies belief that the region’s representation has been eliminated.
“You need that local voice prepared to go into bat for the Hunter around the Cabinet table.
“Mike Baird is clearly someone more at home on the north shore of Sydney than mixing it around the State.
“The new Premier is clearly out of touch with the Hunter community – and the lack of Hunter representation in his Cabinet is bad news for the region.”
Mr Robertson noted that the Liberal Government’s track record in the Hunter over the last three years includes:
- Breaking its word and privatising the Port of Newcastle – with most proceeds sent to prop up the Government’s coffers in Sydney instead of reinvested locally;
- Cutting the Newcastle Rail Line at Wickham;
- Cutting $88 million from the Hunter New England health budget via labour expense savings;
- Leaving the region’s ambulance network in crisis, with response times nearly twice the State average;
- Failure to reopen the John Hunter public eye clinic or begin work on a new Hunter hospital;
- Failure to fund the Newcastle Art Gallery refurbishment;
- Removal of the HSC syllabus across Hunter TAFE – as well as key courses such as hospitality, tourism, welding and boat building;
- Funding cuts to 21 schools across the Hunter and Central Coast, including Morisset High School, Fennell Bay Public School (Lake Macquarie); Lakeside School and Windale Public School (Charlestown); Woodberry Public School, Tenambit Public School and Hunter River Community School (Maitland).
- Hunter child protection services left in crisis with 28 caseworker vacancies – the highest number of vacancies of any region in NSW.
Shadow Minister for the Hunter Sonia Hornery said: “There are now no locals left in in the Cabinet to fight for the critical funding needs of Hunter hospitals, community services, schools and TAFE.”
“With the change of Planning Minister, key projects such as the Newcastle urban renewal strategy have been left in limbo.
“Maitland has lost its only voice around the Cabinet table.
“Mike Baird has shown in only a few days that he has an extreme plan to privatise electricity, privatise hospitals and broaden the GST – all things that will hurt Hunter families.”