Gloves off as state election looms

State opposition leader Luke Foley and Labor's Bega candidate Leanne Atkinson with NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association Bega branch members at the South East Regional Hospital on Wednesday. Picture: Alasdair McDonald
State opposition leader Luke Foley and Labor's Bega candidate Leanne Atkinson with NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association Bega branch members at the South East Regional Hospital on Wednesday. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

State opposition leader Luke Foley visited Bega this week to reaffirm his election campaign commitment to introduce mandated nurse staffing levels in the state’s hospitals.

Mr Foley met with NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association Bega branch members at the South East Regional Hospital on Wednesday, as he continues his tour of regional areas.

With a state election scheduled for March 23 next year, Mr Foley also took aim at the government's $3.3million equity stake in Australia's Oyster Coast.

Mr Foley called the investment a “scandalous betrayal” of farmers, and criticised Bega MP Mr Constance over his support of the move.

He claimed the MP is “up to his neck in it”, and the investment of taxpayer dollars is at the expense of local farmers.

“Family businesses are being placed at a disadvantage thanks to the actions of Andrew Constance,” Mr Foley said.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro was quizzed on the issue in state parliament this week by Labor's primary industries spokesman Mick Veitch.

“The reality is these investments are made because these are industries and businesses that are seen as an opportunity to invest taxpayer dollars rather than grants, where there is no return back on that investment,” Mr Barillaro said.

State opposition leader Luke Foley with Labor's Bega candidate Leanne Atkinson after meeting with nurses at the South East Regional Hospital on Wednesday. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

State opposition leader Luke Foley with Labor's Bega candidate Leanne Atkinson after meeting with nurses at the South East Regional Hospital on Wednesday. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

“The funds that we invest are an equity position and allow us to have a return of investment on those tax dollars back to the fund to further invest in other businesses or back to the taxpayers of New South Wales.”

Bega MP Andrew Constance said the investment “was made at arm’s length of government”, and claimed Mr Foley was “too gutless to meet with local oyster farmers” during his visit. 

“This investment is designed to bolster the region’s produce in markets both nationally and elsewhere and at the same time generate industry jobs,” Mr Constance said.

“Scaremongering, lying and downgrading our region and our industries is the only thing Labor seems good at,” he said.

He took a swipe at Bega’s Labor candidate Leanne Atkinson, claiming she and Mr Foley “cannot be trusted”, and that both are using the issue as a “political football”.

“As a former Treasurer he would know how these things are done so he can’t wash his hands of the affair and say that he didn’t know what impact it would have on the local community,” Ms Atkinson said.

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