Residents living in the PFAS red zone, schools funding, health, aviation, tourism and mobile phone coverage are just some of the more significant issues to be pushed by recently re-endorsed federal Labor candidate for Paterson, Meryl Swanson.
The MP strode into power at the 2016 election with a 10.5 per cent swing, defeating Liberal candidate Karen Howard after incumbent Bob Baldwin’s decision to quit politics prior to the election.
The coalminer’s daughter who was born in Kurri Kurri and grew up in Heddon Greta said that residents affected by the contamination from firefighting foam at Williamtown would be a priority if Labor won government at the 2019 election.
“I have become known around the corridors of parliament house as ‘the voice for red zone residents’ and I wear that title with pride,” Ms Swanson said.
“I met with with Christopher Pine [Minister for Defence] during his visit to the RAAF base last Monday [for the arrival of the joint strike fighters] and said something along the lines that ‘if we can spend billions of dollars on these aircraft, then surely we can do something for these residents’.
“Labor is yet to reveal its policy following the recent senate inquiry findings, but I can say categorically that we will look closely at the range of options available to the government and provide some form of recompense to affected residents.”
Ms Swanson said that education was another high on her list of priorities, announcing more than $23 million of funding to schools in the Paterson electorate with all three Port Stephens high schools – Tomaree, Irrawang and Hunter River – each securing in excess of $1 million. Primary schools grants ranged between $300,00 and $640,000, with the exception of smaller schools Bobs Farm ($50,000), Fern Bay ($70,000) and Salt Ash ($110,000).
She said that health, specifically the National Disability Insurance Scheme, would receive special attention as would the NBN rollout and mobile phone coverage.
“Currently there is work being undertaken to erect mobile phone towers in two areas of high need, at Boat Harbour and Fullerton Cove,” she said.
“Telstra has committed to funding and building a tower in Boat Harbour. However, the wheels are still in motion and we’ve not been made aware of the timeline for this to happen.
“Also Optus has announced a tower in Fern Bay will be completed by the end of June 2019.
“Another area I am passionate about is the development of Williamtown Airport into international standard and the economic benefits driven by the region’s wider aerospace industry.
“I am proud to say that I was responsible for lobbying the minister to speed up cabinet approval for the installation of border security. This new facility will have far reaching economic benefits in business, jobs and tourism.
“This is also the reason I am passionate about having today’s youth more engaged more in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and it's not just the high level jobs but the extended workforce around this industry.”
With a background in communications, media, tourism and health science, Ms Swanson said there would be no slowing down in the lead up to the federal election, expected to be called for early March or May, 2019.
“I am fortunate to have an incredible staff who deal daily with the high number of correspondence - phone calls, emails and walk-ins – we get at the Raymond Terrace office for people seeking support in federal issues, most commonly the NDIS, Centrelink and Defence Veterans Affairs.
“And I have no plans of slowing down. I will campaign as hard as I ever have, providing strong representation to the people of Port Stephens on the things that I am passionate about and believe in.”
The Liberals are yet to nominate their candidate for the seat of Paterson.