During the wash of pre-election promises the NSW Government announced on 22 February 2019 it would launch a NSW Regional Seniors Transport Card in 2020. Like so many of the Government’s announcements, the proclamation was without detail, so I wrote to the Minister on 13 December last year seeking information about eligibility requirements, the application process, and the entitlements cardholders would receive.
As the first month of 2020 passed without a response from the minister or any dissemination of further public detail, my office called Minister Toole’s office at 9.31am Thursday morning to again press for a response. It had become apparent to me that the Berejiklian Government was yet again following the well-trodden path of Federal Liberal and National Party politicians who are big on announcements but small on details or due process.
I received an eight-sentence email from one of the minister’s advisers at 12.14pm on Thursday.
I am curious to know when The Mercury received its Letter to the Editor, ‘Seniors Card’ (The Maitland Mercury, page 7, 31 January 2020) and how the correspondent was privy to this information. The brief email communique I received was not even forwarded to all NSW Parliamentarians – it seems that only those who had phoned or written to the minister pressing for information were given the scant courtesy of the email.
Unless, of course, they were Nationals MPs (or indeed their failed 2019 NSW candidates). They appear to have been privy to the information several days earlier and had been promoting the card to their communities via social and traditional media streams. Another well-trodden path, recently made infamous by Minister Bridget McKenzie, who is alleged to have thumbed her nose at due process to funnel money towards pet projects.
What will it take for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and their Liberal-National colleagues to park their egos, stop playing for points, and just roll up their sleeves in support of those who need it?
The reality is that, three months after a major fire event, a mere financial pittance has hit the ground in North Coast communities. On the South Coast, people are yet to see a dollar. I know this because I have spent the past fortnight travelling around both the South and North Coast communities, and inland to Batlow and Tumbarumba, talking to primary producers, tourism operators and small business people about what their experience has been, and what they need to recover from this tragedy.
The reality is also that back in February 2019 the NSW Government made a slick pre-election commitment to a travel subsidy for NSW Regional Seniors. They then dodged the release of any detail until hard-pressed by those of us in the Labor Opposition.
It took me six weeks to find out whether Maitland people would be eligible for the NSW Regional Seniors Transport Card. I’ve now been able to write directly to older people in my community to give them more details about the scheme.
Whether it’s subsidised travel for our regional seniors, payments to volunteer firefighters, or grants to drought- and bushfire-affected communities, our community is tired of being fed fancy-sounding marketing memes that don’t live up to expectations.
We must hold both State and Federal governments to account for their glossy promises.
It’s time to stand and deliver.