FOR the first time since he was elected in March 2011, Premier Barry O’Farrell will visit Orange tomorrow to open the Ron Finemore Transport freight logistics facility.
But with cuts to education, health and the public sector causing disquiet in the electorate, the visit may not be clear sailing for the man wielding the axe.
Locally a paramedic shortage, the ongoing battle to secure a 24-hour helicopter retrieval service, cuts to TAFE funding and jobs have continued to weigh heavily for voters. State funding for roads and other services also remains a perennial issue for residents.
Mr O’Farrell last visited Orange as opposition leader in June 2010.
Health Services Union (HSU) central west branch president and paramedic Ian Spurway said he hoped to have a delegation together to meet with the Premier and discuss how cutbacks to health would affect the community.
“There have been lots of infrastructure projects approved, but health has been rolled back and I’d like to see some balance,” Mr Spurway said.
Mr Spurway said if a meeting was arranged he was confident the Premier would be given background about the staffing and workload issues plaguing paramedics in Orange.
Advocate for the 24-hour rescue helicopter service and intensive care doctor John Lambert said he would be happy to discuss the need for a helicopter with Mr O’Farrell for the first time.
“As premiers go he’s pretty quiet,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of him for regional issues.
Dr Lambert said the Orange Health Service did not have enough fat where cuts could be made unlike more established metropolitan hospitals where services could be scaled back now they were being duplicated in regional areas.
Public Service Association organiser Bernard Fitzsimon said it was unlikely the group would protest during Mr O’Farrell’s visit as they were still in the organising stage, but he was confident yesterday’s strike would get the message across.
“It’s all very well to celebrate Finemores opening a shed, but not if people are dropping off the twig,” he said.
Mr Fitzsimon said he would explain his concerns about the government’s cuts to jobs and services in regional, rural and remote areas if he had the opportunity to meet with the Premier.
It is understood advocates for Orange TAFE art courses may protest during Mr O’Farrell’s visit about funding cuts that will put course fees beyond the reach of many students, following on from their petition circulating the community.
Roads Minister Duncan Gay will visit the Orange region today.