CESSNOCK ADVERTISER COLUMN 17 DECEMBER 2014

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. 
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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.
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Watch out for scammers trying to cash-in on the Christmas mail rush by posing as postal services. If you are expecting delivery of a gift for family or friends, or might receive a present, it’s important to beware of these scams arriving in your inbox.

These emails appear to be from a legitimate parcel delivery service such as Australia Post or FedEx and may be personalised with your name and address. Consumers are told that they missed a parcel delivery at home and information for retrieving the package is attached to the email.

However, it is an executable file (.exe) and once opened, will install ransomware on your computer. Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to the computer system that it infects, and demands a ransom be paid to the creator(s) of the malware in order for the restriction to be removed. Even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee your computer will be unlocked and you’re likely to be up for expensive repairs to your computer and the loss of your data.

Another variation of the scam is that you will be offered re-delivery at a convenient time if you pay a fee of $10 to $30 via wire transfer or credit card. If you transfer money, you’ll never see it again. If you give your personal financial details, you’re accounts have been compromised.

If you are suspicious about a ‘missed’ parcel delivery, call the company directly to verify that the correspondence is genuine and do not click on the links or attachments. Independently source the contact details through an internet search or phone book – do not rely on numbers provided.

Keep in mind that you, or the purchaser, are likely to have already paid any costs associated with delivery and there should not be further charges. If you think you have provided your banking or credit card details to a scammer contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

For further information, visit www.scamwatch.gov.au
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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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