It was an uncomfortably hot day but it didn’t dampen the spirits of those attending the Greta-Branxton Umbrella Festival or Cessnock’s Relay for Life.  Both events were a great success and I congratulate and thank all those who made them so.

The China Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) passed the Parliament last week.  I’m calling it ChAFTA Plus because it’s a better outcome than the one Tony Abbott wanted passed.

Of course despite its name, ChAFTA is not really a free trade agreement.  Rather, it is a preferential trade agreement.  That is, it provides Australia with lower tariff barriers than some of our competitors or indeed, now puts us on an equal footing with competitors who struck deals earlier than us.  This last point is an important one.  For example, for some years now the New Zealand dairy industry has been able to export to China at lower tariffs than Australia.  That made it hard for us to compete.

There is no doubt that the agreement is a good thing for the Australian economy and particularly good for agriculture.  But while the agreement reached was good for some, it was not good for everyone.  That's because there were no guarantees that Australians would be offered the job opportunities first.

It's not the Australian way to accept a deal which is good for some but hurts others.  Labor insisted on changes to the arrangements and I'm delighted Malcolm Turnbull accepted them.  The result is a very good one for Australia.


Last week NBN released its 3 year rollout plan that included many local towns including Branxton, Greta, Cessnock, Bellbird, Denman, Kandos, Rylstone, Kurri Kurri, Maitland, Murrurundi, Muswellbrook, Scone and Singleton.                                                                  
NBN promises to connect more than half the country to the NBN in just two years – but only after the next election. This financial year NBN says it will connect 953,000 homes and business to the NBN in the fixed line footprint. In the next two financial years this ramps up to 6.2 million homes and businesses connected.

Malcolm Turnbull promised that his second rate version of the National Broadband Network would be rolled out faster and cheaper. He promised his second rate NBN would be built for $29.5 billion—that cost has almost doubled to $56 billion. He also promised that his second rate NBN would be rolled out to all homes and businesses by the end of 2016—that’s now more than doubled to 7 years.

I guess time will tell if this rollout plan is achievable.

I want to remind young athletes to apply for funding support to help them realise their sporting dreams and compete in a championship.

The former Federal Labor Government introduced the Local Sporting Champions program in 2008 to help our junior sport stars meet the costs of participation at eligible sporting competitions.

Local junior athletes can apply for a grant to cover the cost of their travel, accommodation, uniforms or equipment associated with participating in an eligible championship. This grant program is designed to help families cover the costs of expenses associated with participating in sporting competitions and support our junior athletes and future Olympians.

Individual athletes who are participating in appropriately endorsed state school sport championships or international competitions are eligible to apply for a $500 grant.

I encourage parents, coaches and junior athletes to apply for a Local Sporting Champions grant to help them meet the costs of their involvement in a sporting championship.
Grant applications are assessed three times each year.

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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