It is understood the “leader” of the National Party, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, is visiting Coffs Harbour on Monday, 11 March 2019.

It is understood Mr McCormack is coming here for a “PR opportunity”. 

Mr McCormack should ditch the scissors, opening ribbon, Iced VoVos and Black and Gold tea bags while here and get down to some real work. 

Mr McCormack has serious questions to answer on youth unemployment and the Coffs Harbour Bypass. 

Visits by Mr McCormack to the mid-north coast should be for real work and not tea-parties and selfies.

Youth unemployment

At the northern end of the federal electorate of Cowper, there is a youth unemployment crisis. 

This should be the key focus of Mr McCormack’s visit. 

Close to one-in-four young people in the Coffs-Clarence area are unemployed. That’s the highest for any region in the state.

And general unemployment is double that of Sydney. 

This is the legacy of Nationals holding Cowper for nearly a century. 

He should be convening a meeting of business, community and governmental organisations and ask what support is needed to fix this problem in the short, medium and long terms. 

Labor has a plan – the Nationals don’t. 

He should apologise for Luke Hartsuyker’s callous remarks on ABC Radio on Thursday morning where he said it is all the fault of youth as they don’t want to work. 

And Mr McCormack should apologise for his remarks in federal parliament on 20 February 2019 where he said: “If you want to work in this country, well, there’s a job there for you“. 

As demonstrated by the statistics in Coffs-Clarence, he lied.

Both statements demonstrate just how out of touch the Nationals are.

Coffs Harbour Bypass

While here, Mr McCormack should convene a public meeting with the Coffs Harbour community to answer questions from the public about the bypass.

The Nationals have turned the bypass into an Olympics class event – giving the community the mega-run-around and loading the everyone up with spin and lies. 

During his visit, Mr McCormack has to face the media and public and answer ten key questions:

  1. Confirm that the bypass will have three tunnels.
  2. Confirm that these tunnels will be ‘real’ tunnels and not road bridges or cut and cover imitations.
  3. Confirm they should be similar in length and design to the twin-tube St Helena Tunnel at Byron Bay.
  4. Announce an estimate on how much the three tunnels will add to the cost of the project (in addition to the $971 million federal funding announced in last year’s budget).
  5. Explain when the $736 million black-hole in the project budget will be filled (last year’s federal budget indicated federal spending from 2013/14 to 2021/22 will total only $235 million). It made no reference to when the missing $736 million was programmed for expenditure. Any funding for tunnels will be in addition to the $971m/$736m. 
  6. Explain why there will be no allowance made in this year’s (2 April 2019) federal budget for the additional cost of the tunnels.
  7. Explain who is funding the additional cost (is it 80/20 federal state as per the May 2018 announcement?)
  8. Announce he will immediately release all reports on Aboriginal heritage, noise impacts on residents, the natural environment, the built environment, agriculture and farms, employment and housing prices (or commit to releasing them when they are handed to the NSW Government by consultants). 
  9. Announce when the Environmental Impact Statement will be released and the process following its release. 
  10. Announce revised start and completion dates for the project. 

We’re all totally over the stupid games being played by the federal and state Nationals on the bypass. 

Please Mr McCormack, just answer these questions. We all want to know. 

The truth bypass has to stop. Monday is Mr McCormack’s opportunity.