Labor to run the rural over 'out of touch' Cobb's patch

INCREASED living costs for rural communities will be scrutinised as part of a country caucus, spearheaded by Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon.

Mr Fitzgibbon said seats like Eden-Monaro and Page were the main priorities because Labor held them prior to the last federal election, but Calare would also be a focus.

The opposition agriculture spokesman said Calare had been taken for granted.

“It’s not just about providing an alternative, it’s about providing competition - if we’re working hard, it makes the Coalition work hard,” he said.

“I can assure [member for Calare] John Cobb we will be paying close attention - his comment about hitchhiking into town to get a job shows he is completely out of touch with young people in rural communities.

“My daughter goes to CSU and I wouldn’t let her do that.” 

The country caucus would be composed of Labor’s country MPs and senators, who will act as a “clearing house” to test the impact of legislation on rural Australia.

They will also generate rural-focused policies.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the fuel excise would hit harder because country people drove further.

“And they will pay more GST because the GST is added on top of the fuel excise,” he said.

He said the GP co-payment would have wider-reaching effects because finding a bulk-billing doctor was more difficult in country areas, and cuts to social welfare would take their toll because of the reduced access to public transport to either travel to work or find a job.

“Labor was partly born out of the shearing sheds of rural Queensland and has long been a champion of the bush,” he said.

“But I want to formalise our processes.”

While metropolitan MPs outnumber their country colleagues, Mr Fitzgibbon said the more united they were, the more successful they would be.

In September, Mr Cobb won the seat with almost 66 per cent of the vote on a two-party preferred basis against Labor’s Jess Jennings with 34 per cent. 

danielle.cetinski@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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