The Abbott Government's abolition of the Hunter's Medicare Local is a devastating blow for the Region.  Many readers will remember the dark days of not that long ago when our GP to resident ratio had grown so bad many simply could not get into a Doctor.

We largely overcame that problem with a number of strategies with help of the Medicare local.  When a gap re-appears my first call is to the same organisation.  The team at the Medicare Local work to ensure additional services like mental health and other specialist services are also available in our townships.  Further, it runs the successful after hours care scheme at Maitland Hospital.

Sadly the Government has not even attempted to explain this crazy decision.

Australia attracted international media attention recently.  It wasn’t due to a research break-through by one of our leading scientists, or the success of one of our outstanding sports men or women.  It wasn’t even about Tony Abbott’s blue ties.

Rather, the enormous round of international publicity was about Johnnie Depp’s dogs!  Some no doubt found it amusing but incidents like this do our international reputation harm and it didn’t need to be.

Depp appears to have easily avoided the scrutiny of Customs and Department of Agriculture officials.  It was a very serious breach of our quarantine although given Depp’s dogs live better than most of us the threat in this case was probably small.

The key point is the publicity was completely unnecessary.  The matter should have been handled internally – dogs quarantined, deported first chance, fine imposed, remedial policy developed and implemented to stop it happening again.  End of story.

But rather than take responsibility for the breach, Barnaby Joyce launched a personal attack on one of Hollywood’s stars, a bit of theatre he knew would attract international attention. Particularly given his threat to put the dogs down. 

Could he argue it had deterrence affect?  Yeah, to all those in the US and the UK who were thinking about smuggling their dogs in the next time they visit!

A media release from Member for Paterson Bob Baldwin caught my eye last week.  My old sparring partner wants residents to be happy that Hunter Councils have received funding thanks to the latest round of Federal Assistance Grants (FAGs).  These are standard annual allocations and it would certainly be a big story if our Councils didn’t receive an allocation.

What Bob Baldwin didn’t say is that due to a Budget decision to freeze the indexation of the grants, Council’s in the Paterson and Hunter electorates will receive $14 million less over four years than should have been the case.  This is a big hit on our cash-strapped Councils and will mean less money for much needed local projects.


Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea is a chance for Australians to get together and raise money for a great cause. 1 in 2 Australians are diagnosed with cancer by age 85 but one dollar at a time you are making a real difference helping to fund Cancer Council’s vital research, prevention and support service programmes.

As little as $5 can help give a newly diagnosed cancer patient important support and information resources for what’s ahead.
I will be hosting a “Morning Tea” this Thursday from 10am to 12noon in HJ Sternbeck Park in Vincent Street, Cessnock.

Come along, have a cuppa and make a donation to help raise funds in support of the Cancer Council.

I am always keen to assist with issues or questions relating to Federal Government departments or put you in contact with someone who can, so please ring, write, visit the website or call in.

Why not go the extra step by following me on my Facebook page “Joel Fitzgibbon” or on Twitter and type in the search bar “fitzhunter”. Or by regularly checking my website at or you can even sign up to my E-Newsletter.

To contact the office, phone 1300 301 753, visit or by post 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325.


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