Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Another chance?

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Will the electorate of Mackillop give Nick McBride another chance in 2026?

If they do, what would this mean for them and for Mr McBride, and will he, as an independent member, be able to put Mackillop on the map for all the decision-makers in Adelaide.

Mr McBride says if he is allowed to do 12 years—that means win the next election in 2026—he would like the people to think they had a member for 12 years who did everything he could to find traction, benefit, investment, and better outcomes for Mackillop.

The [Naracoorte Community] News caught up with the local politician, asking him the tough questions and what he would like his legacy to be as the battle for the votes heats up.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: How have things progressed for you as an independent following your decision to quit the Liberal Party?

Mr McBride: Since the announcement that Thursday morning, it has been quite tough and stressful to leave the party. Some of the language used by the Liberal Leader (the opposition leader) was probably something I didn’t hear or didn’t notice. But you know that one-to-two weeks took a little bit to settle down; perhaps it was a bit stressful, there was anxiety around it, and I didn’t know what the decision would mean or do. But since then, it has been really positive and well received, and people have been coming down to me and thanking me. I had a couple strong Liberal members and voters, and they are disappointed that I have left and am not in the party.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: Since leaving the party and working as an independent member, what sort of feedback have you received from your electorate?

Mr McBride: The overwhelming majority of the people who have come to me are very supportive.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: Would you be able to tell me how many people visit your office every week asking for help on matters affecting them and the community?

Mr McBride: Since we are independent, we probably see 10 or 20 people coming to the office every week. But we would have a number of phone calls and emails; they are the biggest enquiries we have in numbers. How many? Look, I’d imagine five to 10 a day. How does that compare? We were quieter before when we were in opposition. But then, I can say that during the Marshall government days, it was probably standard during the normal government days, but when we were in Covid, oh my gosh, that was a different period altogether. What we got to recognise here, as part of this answer, is that we are a very big electorate. So, people can’t get here and walk into my front door, so when we want to try and reach out, the phone and the email system are probably the most useful to most people.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: What sort of issues or challenges do people come up with?

Mr McBride: Its varied, but sometimes people come to me with very personal issues around education, schooling, the school bus, or issues with the school. We have health, a number of written letters of people’s personal experience through the health system and how they would see it. They would say they haven’t had the best of services from the health system. We then have a number of enquiries on roads and damage to roads. Perhaps other road issues—flooding, trees on the road—could be pot holes. A number of people are coming to me about the south end turnoff, where they want turnoff lanes. Then we have got telecommunications; we have people speak to us about any sort of mobile phone issue, and sometimes we have to go personally to Optus or Telstra and find out what’s going on a tower where they did have service and they don’t, or they don’t have any service at all. Landlines are a big issue too; they are not being maintained. Then, with migrants, workers, and visa workers, we seem to have had more enquiries around that in the last 12 months, trying to find solutions and what we can do. Then we have childcare. We hear about childcare in nearly all towns—the lack of childcare. Even with these childcare facilities, we hear that they are not enough. So, I have given you pretty much a broad spectrum, but that’s pretty much the things that people come to us for, including children in special care. We also deal with compensation around work cover, perhaps seen as not as fair on constituents as it could be, and the medical system is not able to cover all those people’s needs.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: As an independent member, what are the top issues you will fight for or continue to fight for?

Mr McBride: Affordable housing – My number one priority is affordable housing. I’ll say if there is some social housing, that’s fine, which is good. There is some government housing, which is great because it can be for teachers, policemen, and firemen alike. That takes them off the housing market, and that takes pressure off the private sector, so it makes room for other people to take on those houses if the government will provide them. But affordable housing is our number one, and I see that around population growth, growing our towns, boosting our businesses, lifting productivity, and all that Mackillop stands for, I think housing needs to be redressed and sold first.

Health – Without health, you have nothing. So, then we have to look after the people to live their lives, have confidence living in this region that they will be looked after, can be picked up by an ambulance, whether volunteer or paid professionals, and be able to see a GP or a nurse, getting into a hospital for a minor procedure rather than having to go all the way to Mount Gambier or Adelaide.

Roads – Ensure the roads are safe and people have confidence using them. They don’t wreck their cars, vehicles, or heavy transport. Its purpose is to transport people and produce around my electorate to the markets and to where people need to get. We have roads 17 years past their used-by date that should have been reserviced and maintained and that have slipped by Mackillop badly.

Education – I will include education in early learning, and with early learning, I will include childcare. So, you put them as a broad-based spectrum; we would love to see more childcare; we know the benefits of early learning; the benefits of having children come to these learning centres at three, four, and five years of age; and the outcomes are exponential on the other end. Then I would obviously want to see schools, curriculum, and subject choices as good as we can provide for the numbers that we have. Knowing that I have 40 odd schools in my electorate, which is a large number of schools.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: How close are you to the electorate or community to be able to know these top issues affecting them? Do they tell you?

Mr McBride: This is one thing that puts me in good stead for representing Mackillop. I lived here most of my life. I have a business that works around the centre of Mackillop, and we have been here for three generations, and so I have lived, worked, played, had a family, and so forth. And I felt the brunt, the windfalls, the excitement of good times, and perhaps the sadness of tougher times. Be it bushfires, downturns in commodities, and droughts—when things get tough, I really appreciate as much as anyone about what it sort of means. Interest rates are high, it’s hard to get workers, meet our commitments with loans, and so forth. I think as a member, with my many hats, I have three of them. I am a member of Mackillop, then I have a family farming operation, and then I have a corporate family farming business. All these aspects give me a good insight into the way government affects us and what government can do, whether it be bad or good. One of my strengths is my ability to be able to address things with respect and in a polite and non-aggressive way.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: Have you decided or planned which side (Liberal or Labor) you will lean to if you’re to make a choice?

Mr McBride: So, this is one of the things that I really need to do to make sure that I get this message out. I am an economic conservative, and I am also what we call liberal-progressive on social issues, and I am still that way inclined. So, I am very conservative around small government, less interference, small taxes, and allowing people to thrive—live and thrive in the environment they choose. And so that means that I think that sort of value still gives me a place for what I think the Liberal Party should stand for.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: Would you be going to both parties to ask for help on issues or challenges affecting people?

Mr McBride: This is the best way to answer that question. When we were in opposition, it was my first time. I thought it was quite pointless, and wasting people’s time throwing rocks at a new government that was now responsible for the economic well-being and responsibilities that entails as a new state Labor Government that they were—this is the Malinauskas government in 2022 that I know find myself being able to work with that government and work on a respectful level playing field. I see the Liberal opposition has to be that opposition and perhaps be aggressive, negative, and perhaps stone-throwing. I am sorry. I find that very difficult to do, particularly with the fact that I think this Labor Malinauskas government is probably one of the most conservative labor governments we have seen in a long time. Really, what I am saying is that this isn’t the government that hasn’t done much wrong so far, and I don’t think they will at this stage, and yes, they can get a few things. Let’s say they might not do everything that might have been seen in a Liberal government, but they are there. So, I am probably more willing to answer your question, more willing to work with the Labor Government, than trying to entertain, help, and assist the Liberals.

When I say this, I am going to say find their way.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: Are you in any negotiations (or have you done any negotiations so far) with the parties for your future? What negotiations are they?

Mr McBride: Look, one of the things is that when I made the decision to go independent, it was all about Mackillop. It was just not about Nick McBride anymore. There have been some offers, and I have done so earlier, like a year or so before the last election, for me to become an independent, perhaps luring me to be a minister, and I ruled that out very early. There was no way that I could do that, and it was just not going to ever happen. Those sorts of discussions have been had since, and I am not looking for them. This is about Mackillop; this is all about what I can get for this electorate as an independent, and like I said earlier about the roads being 17 years behind the used-by date, I think that’s a consequence of this place being very conservative, forgotten about from a labor government point of view, but also forgotten from a liberal conservative point of view because it’s safe. This is what I want to try and catch up on and try and capture that huge black hole that has been left behind in Mackillop, and I’d like to fill in that over the coming years, and hopefully in the next term, if the electorate is willing, votes me back in towards advocating and winning support for Mackillop, where we haven’t had it for many years.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: Your supporters are watching and waiting. When should they know of your choice or decision?

Mr McBride: I think my political choices are made up. I am independent, and I am going to stay independent. It’s all about Mackillop. There aren’t many choices that I need to make. If I held the balance of power, it certainly would be very difficult and strange of me not to give strong consideration to putting a Liberal government back in power. That’s where I will lean and fall. That would be strange if I didn’t do that. All things being normal, I think it will be an unusual sort of circumstance for the South Australian electorate to dump the Liberal-Marshall government, put in the new labor government, and get it so badly that they get one term as well. To me, I just can’t fathom that happening. So, in making political decisions to answer that question, I don’t foresee any decisions to be made other than staying independent.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: When you started your political journey in 2018, what was your mission, and what have you learnt from it?

Mr McBride: When the local member Mitch Willams announced his retirement after 20 years of service, I was a strong liberal member. I had been through the liberal branch levels of Mackillop and Barker and enjoyed them immensely. They had the philosophy of no-good standing back and winging if you don’t get in and join them. So, I have always thought about joining the Liberal Party in the background. When the opportunity came and Mitch retired, I put my name forward. I just thought, let’s see how it goes. It was the real reason I wanted to get in. Actually, I loved, and I still do—right now, if I had choices, I would like South Australia to be an economic powerhouse. I would like it to lead the nation, and I just don’t mean making money, but lead the nation in education, lead the nation in health outcomes, lead in investment and growth, and so forth. If I can achieve that, it will be like a dream, like a wish, like winning a lotto on a Saturday night. If my political journey never had strings attached and never had any boundaries, that’s where I would have taken it, but you obviously need to have a strong support base and peers, and I never had that background, which helps capture that.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: What would you like to be the legacy of Nick McBride?

Mr McBride: If I am allowed to do 12 years, that means winning the next election in 2026. I would like people to think they had a member for 12 years who did everything he could to put Mackillop on the map for all the decision-makers in Adelaide. That means wherever we could find traction, benefit, investment, or better outcomes, I was there, betting for it, and I was able to achieve more than anyone else into the future for a number of years, and that would be a good legacy to leave behind.

The [Naracoorte Community] News: It has been a challenging few months for the South East. Shooting incident, high crime rates, rural downturn, and many more. What do you think of these challenges, and how can we address them?

Mr McBride: I have said for a number of months, particularly since coming out of Covid, that I have noticed society is not the same as it used to be. I think our communities and the people living within them, particularly what I would call our core working base, aged between 20 and 60, have been under immense pressure and stress, particularly for those that haven’t been able to let go and let their heads down. What I mean by that is to get away and travel overseas for a week or months. I think those people that are out there—numbers of them—have been able to do that. But I think for those who haven’t been able to do that, life has been harder because of Covid stress, being locked down, and what that meant. Exactly now that we see rental, energy prices, and the cost of living, everyone who is in a job is mostly working with a shortage of employees. So, they are doing more than they have ever had to before, and even if they have had more or the same number of employees they used to work with, those same people, because of the shortage and workers no longer in the industries and no longer working, I think we have lost a large number of skills. We have not been able to replace them with the same skills that we lost. So, responsibility has fallen back on those with less skill and made it harder for those remaining. And when you talk about crime, shootings, and so forth, and the road death toll, which has nearly doubled since last year, I think that is all about the stress and lack of care. People are trying to get from point a to point b and are not able to give themselves the due consideration and value they deserve to get there safely, like they did years ago. That is why it has gone so high. It’s not that the police are not there; it’s not like the rules have changed. It’s because people are quite stressed out there in our communities. How do you address this? I think we need to try and address those social pitfalls, for example, lack of employees, lack of workers, and lack of skills out there, right from every sector—from the education system to the health system, the private sector, the police force, emergency services—if they were able to pick up all the employees that were needed and the skills, I know life will be easier for all those that are there today. And then, if you think about the electricity, energy, petrol, food, and housing shortages, and if they are addressed in some fashion, then I think there will be less pressure out there. One of the things about Mackillop is that because it is such an industrial, conservative, worker-based sort of electorate, I think we have suffered more from the elements I have just explained. I don’t think the city-based sectors have seen the same stress as what we have seen on the country side. With the tyranny of distance, with the road conditions, and with the fact that we have a shortage of people and houses, I think everything is a lot stressful out here. If we address all those, we will take a lot of stress out of society.

Naracoorte News 17 January 2024

This article appeared in the Naracoorte Community News.

Related story: McBride’s choice

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