ARMIDALE Regional Council’s recently elected Labor representative is a great sign for the party in the New England region, Senator Sam Dastyari said as he announced Labor’s intentions of running a candidate in the electorate should a by-election be called.
With beer in hand, the popular senator took questions from the audience in a “politics in the pub” session at the Wicklow Hotel on Sunday.
“Armidale is fantastic, it’s an incredible city,” Senator Dastyari said.
Should the High Court rule sitting New England MP Barnaby Joyce is ineligible due to his dual New Zealand citizenship, triggering a by-election, Labor will be ready.
“If there is a by-election, Labor will be running a candidate and we will be running to win,” Senator Dastyari said.
“For too long this community has been taken for granted and frankly that needs to come to an end.”
Senator Dastyari acknowledged the New England electorate had not seen a Labor representative in more than a century, but the recently elected Labor councillor Debra O’Brien gave the party hope.
“It’s a great sign for Labor party in the region,” he said.
“Let’s not beat around the bush, this is a tough area for the Labor Party and it’s always been a tough area for the Labor Party. But we have a responsibility that the community up here is given an alternative option and a proper voice.
“Labor takes this area serious and that means running strong campaigns with strong candidates. Maybe this is our year, this is our chance.”
Along with “same issues you get everywhere”, such as social and economic justice, Senator Dastyari said the big frustration to come out of the informal Q&A session was the region’s health services.
“There’s this sense that health services have really be neglected in this region, that was an area that people pulled me aside and wanted to talk to me about,” Senator Dastyari said.
While Labor had “a few candidates in mind”, Senator Dastyari didn’t want to “preempt the process”.
The senator repeated Labor’s call for Mr Joyce to stand down as Deputy Prime Minister and from the cabinet until the High Court made its decision.
“The precedent set by their own minister, by Matt Canavan himself from the National party, was to step down and allow to the court to follow its processes,” he said.