As always a big crowd packed the Cessnock Leagues Club for Cessnock VIEW Club’s Christmas luncheon last Thursday.  The Mayor and I are always impressed with the strength, enthusiasm and dedication of the Club’s membership.

Members Ruth Gorton and Judith Wright were again recognised for their work in the community and their earlier recognition on the NSW Hidden Treasures honour Roll.  They are just two fine examples of the quality of the people who make up our VIEW Clubs.

I thank the Ladies again for allowing me to be part of their special occasions.

I've received some great entries in the "What makes your town GREAT" Colouring-in Competition. There are two great bikes to be won ! If you know a stage 2 school student who lives in the Hunter electorate and would like to enter, please phone my office on 49911022 or email joel.fitzgibbon.mp@aph.gov.au and I'll arrange for an entry to be sent. Entries close 3rd December 2014.

Australia did not sign a China Free Trade Agreement last week.  It signed an agreement to agree to an agreement sometime in the future.  That said, it is a good thing that we are inching closer to trade liberalisation agreement with the world’s second biggest economy.

When complete, the FTA will be the culmination of the work of four governments over a ten year period and a good thing for Australia.  Just how good is unknown due to an inexplicable shroud of secrecy.  We know much about what Australia “won” – lower tariffs on many of our agricultural products and better access for many of our services in to the huge China market.

What we know less about is what the Chinese “won”.  In addition to the lowering of our own tariffs, I’ll be watching most closely what is happening with visitor-working rights and the mechanisms for challenging the business-impact of the decisions of the Australia Government.  These so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses allow foreign companies to go to an independent international arbiter if they believe they have been unfairly disadvantaged by a government decision.  Not surprisingly, ISDS clauses have not been without controversy elsewhere around the world.

All that said, the China FTA will bring great opportunities to Australia but just how great will depend on how smart and strategic the Australia Government is in capitalising on those opportunities.

Voting in Australia is compulsory, but it is also a privilege.  It is important that you exercise your right to vote and to do so you need to make sure your enrolment is up to date. 

To check your current enrolment or to register to vote go to http://www.aec.gov.au/and follow the links or call my office for more information.  Make your vote count!

If you are a senior or a person with a disability and are having trouble using your home or mobile phone, Telstra may be able to assist you. 

My office has booklets and a limited amount of DVD’s available that provide useful information in relation to the use of your telephone.  Please contact my office for more information.

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 www.joelfitzgibbon.com or you can even sign up to my E-Newsletter.

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

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