Last week the Advertiser ran a story on the progress of our plans to build a new health clinic in Kurri Kurri.  Let me expand.  One of the key objectives of the Rudd Government’s health policies was to improve on the availability of health services in rural and regional areas.

A range of initiatives were embraced to help boost GPs numbers outside our capital cities, including here in the Cessnock Local Government Area.  They included the new Medicare Locals and new boundaries for GP incentives.  One program helped to fund a new clinic in Greta and another, the Health & Hospitals Fund, provided money for the Kurri Kurri clinic.

The Kurri project brought many challenges over many years including a decision by the local proponents to move the proposal from the Kurri Hospital site to Lang Street, and a change of government.

But we prevailed and the result is an exciting one.  There can be no more important a role for government than to provide ready access to affordable health care.  The Rudd Government achieved substantially in that task. 

The down-turn in the mining industry has had a big impact on our local economy this year.  When the industry turns downwards, we all feel it.  Not just the coal miners but all those who operate or work in a local business – manufacturing, services, property and retail.

Despite Tony Abbott’s pre-election efforts to claim otherwise, it’s all about the price we secure for our product and the value of the Australian dollar.  It’s also been about the progressive shift from the construction phase of mining to the less labour-intensive production stage.

Let’s hope things pick up sooner rather than late.  In the meantime, those who say our economy is too dependent on coal are wrong.  While we should always strive for more, we have an abundance of diversity – the services sector, manufacturing, agriculture, viticulture, thoroughbred breeding and many more.  It’s the coal economy which lifts us above the norm when it’s travelling well.  It’s what allows towns such as Muswellbrook to at times run second only to beach-side Merewether on the measure of average household incomes.
I wish all readers a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy 2015.  Life seems busier for us all and I hope rest and recovery is possible for everyone who needs it. 

I thank all those in our community who volunteered their time again throughout the year to help others less fortunate.  We are certainly blessed with a strong sense of community spirit.  I also thank all those organisations who have worked with me to make our region an even better place.

See you in 2015.

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