- Name: Stephen Nugent.
- Political party: The Greens.
- Age: 57.
- Family: I’m married to Fiona and we have two daughters, Freya and Portia. My extended family is mostly in Queensland while Fiona comes from a local farming family. Family is very important to me and one of the main reasons we moved to Orange from Sydney.
- Where do you live? We live in Orange on the fringe of the Central Business District.
- What do you do for a living? I’m lucky enough to have three jobs that keep me fairly busy. The main one is Deputy Chief Executive Officer at OCTEC Limited, a community-based organisation that provides employment, training and youth services from 140 sites in NSW, the ACT, Victoria and Queensland. My second job is Orange City Councillor, a position that I was elected to in 2017. And the third one is a labour of love – Fiona and I run a martial arts dojo where we teach the Japanese martial art, Aikido, to children, teenagers and adults of all ages.
- How long have you lived in the Orange electorate? 18 years.
- What is the best part of living in the Orange electorate? The Orange electorate is a magic place to live. The city of Orange has brilliant health, education and cultural facilities that service not just Orange, but the whole electorate. And while Orange is big enough to have plenty of diversity, it doesn’t have many of the downsides of big city life. The rural nature of much of the electorate makes it a great place to bring up kids, while our location gives us easy access to Sydney and Canberra and all those cities have to offer. So the best thing about living in the Orange electorate – our perfect balance.
- Why are you running for the state seat of Orange? We’ve had conservative governments in power at the state and federal levels for a number of years now and that has taken its toll on the environment and many regional communities. Climate change is real and is happening but our governments don’t want to talk about it or take any meaningful action to address it. In this situation, it’s important to have progressive voices speaking for the environment, for sustainable local communities and for the many groups in our communities who are often forgotten or ignored by the conservative right.
- In the past couple of years Orange has received far less government funding than the Bathurst and Dubbo electorates. How do you propose to redress that imbalance and, if elected, what would you spend the money on? It’s a disgrace that this government has been so inequitable in their distribution of funding - it’s almost as if they’ve been punishing the people of Orange for the 2016 byelection result. In terms of redressing the imbalance, it’s important to have a local member who is capable and fearless in advocating for their local electorate. And, of course, having a local member that holds some sway is also helpful. The Greens could hold the balance of power in the lower house and/or the upper house after this election and that would put a Greens local member in a very strong position. In terms of where the money is spent, that’s not just my call – individuals, community groups, businesses and the four councils that make up the electorate should all have a say. But my answers to the following questions give an indication of priorities.
- The new XPTs are in the pipeline, but there have been no meaningful commitments on track upgrades to straighten the line between Orange and Bathurst. Meanwhile, the push to extend the Bathurst Bullet train to Orange and build servicing facilities for the train here is yet to yield results. If elected, what will you do about these much-needed service upgrades? The Rail Action Group has been doing an excellent job advocating for better rail services for Orange. I’d work closely with them and lobby the government to fund three key initiatives – 1. the investigation and construction of line upgrades and track straightening, 2. day-return train services to Sydney, and 3. Orange Railway Station developed as a transport hub. In terms of the first, I’d seek funding for the investigation of line upgrade routes and the acquisition of easements (if not already crown land) as an important first step. On the second, I would strongly advocate for the overnight stabling of the current Bathurst Bullet train in Orange rather than Lithgow. And on the third, I’d liaise closely with NSW TrailLink Coaches, Orange Buslines and Orange Council to upgrade passenger facilities at Orange Railway Station to 2020 standard for local and regional coaches.
The 12-month trial and four-bed facility has been a good start and a tribute to all involved in the 'Push for Palliative' campaign. But it’s not enough. Most large rural and regional cities have access to palliative care bed facilities, so why not Orange?
- The Northern Distributor Road is taking the lion's share of Orange's freight traffic now. If elected, will you fight to make the Northern Distributor Road a regional road to shore up its maintenance funding, and if not, what will you do to ensure Orange City Council receives help to maintain it? The Northern Distributor Road is quite clearly a regional road and carries a considerable amount of traffic that is not local. There is ‘state’ traffic travelling between Sydney and Western NSW, and regional traffic travelling between different parts of the Central West. In these circumstances, the state government should take responsibility for maintenance of the road – they should have before now and they should definitely do so from here on. Cost-shifting from the state to local government is a long-term and ongoing trend that needs to be challenged at every turn. An election and possible change in government presents a great opportunity to get the Northern Distributor Road back onto the agenda and I would be arguing strongly for the state government to fulfil its responsibilities.
- If elected, what measures would you support to tackle to ice and illegal drug issues in Orange? Is the solution as simple as increasing the number of police in the city? There are no simple solutions to the tragic impact that ice and other illegal drugs have on lives and communities. Simply increasing the number of police will not do it and the so-called ‘War on Drugs’, with its emphasis on prohibition and ‘law and order’ policies, has manifestly failed to reduce the harmful use of drugs and associated social impacts. The Greens have long advocated a public health approach to illegal drug use with a focus on harm minimisation. Alternatives to prohibition-based drug policies have been successfully trialled and legislated internationally. We need to evaluate what’s happening around the world and adopt best practice in terms of information and education programs. And we need to re-direct alcohol and drug taxes to fund an independent drug regulatory authority whose principal aim is to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use to the user and the community.
- Do you support the proposed Mount Canobolas mountain bike trail centre? If so, and if elected, how will you help Orange get the required funding to make the project a reality? As a keen cyclist and mountain bike rider myself, I love the idea of a mountain bike trail centre being built near Orange. However, I don’t support any development that will compromise the significant environmental values of the Mount Canobolas State Conservation Area. There have been more than 800 species recorded on the mountain and the vegetation is quite different to other bushland in the Central West. There are a number of endemic species which are not found anywhere else in the world, 3 Endangered Ecological Communities and 8 threatened fauna species including the greater glider, scarlet robin, dusky woodswallow and eastern bentwing bat. I’m very happy to advocate strongly for funding to build a mountain bike trail centre and develop world class tracks, as long as the SCA’s important and significant environmental value is not put at risk.
- If elected, will you support replacing the palliative care 12-month trial with a full-time facility, and with more than the current four beds? The 12-month trial and four-bed facility has been a good start and a tribute to all involved in the 'Push for Palliative' campaign. But it’s not enough and a full-time ongoing facility with more beds is needed. Most large rural and regional cities have access to palliative care bed facilities, so why not Orange? Providing appropriate options and choices is critical to people being able to maintain dignity when in need of end of life care. And it’s not just the elderly. Some younger people require end of life care and it’s not ideal for them to be nursed in a general medical ward or aged care facility. To me palliative care best practice means individuals and families being able to prepare for death on their own terms and with full dignity, and a dedicated palliative care facility is essential to that.
POLL: Have your say …
Poll conducted by polldaddy
- What are the major issues facing the villages and small communities in the Orange electorate, and if elected, what steps would you take to improve them? As an Orange City Councillor, I’ve seen firsthand some of the issues faced by Lucknow and Spring Hill. One of the major challenges is not to be forgotten, not to be left behind. In the same way that the state government sometimes forgets about everything west of the sandstone curtain, I’m sure that many residents in our towns and villages feel they are overlooked by their councils. In my experience, smaller towns and villages like Lucknow, Spring Hill, Eugowra and Peak Hill face issues such as equity of access to basic services/infrastructure like curb and guttering, waste collection and road maintenance, as well as the lack of local employment opportunities and the big question of their long-term sustainability. Helping to activate these local communities, ensuring they're well-connected to services and building on the strengths that exist within each community, are three key things I would do to support them.
- If elected, what measures would you introduce to decrease the up to six-week-long waiting lists for people seeking support for mental health issues in Orange? As a former psychologist and a current consortium member of both Orange headspace and LikeMind Orange, I have a keen interest in mental health services. Six-week waiting lists do concern me, although I understand that there is a triage process which identifies acute cases needing more immediate attention. That being said, there are some initiatives that would help to address waiting lists. The first is increased funding. Federal and state governments have done a lot in recent times to recognise and address mental health issues in the community, but there’s always more to do. Another requirement is the increased availability of qualified staff to deliver services. There seems to be a constant struggle to fill positions and we need positive programs to attract and retain qualified mental health professionals to regional areas. And finally, I’d work to see more community-wide prevention programs put in place like Mentally Health Orange.
- The crippling effects of the drought continue to be felt in the Orange electorate. Assuming you are elected and the drought continues, what relief measures would you fight for in the first weeks and months of your term? The feedback I hear on current drought-relief measures is that the eligibility requirements are too restrictive, there’s too much red tape, and in many cases the so-called ‘relief’ is simply saddling farmers with more debt. In the short term, the new government needs to undertake a complete review of its relief measures within the first six months of taking power to ensure that packages are as easy as possible to access, are customised to the specific needs of each farmer and do not result in unintended consequences for the recipient. In the longer term, the government needs to act on climate change, overhaul the management of our water resources and look at how farms can be more resilient and prepare for the heatwaves, drought and extreme events we’ll see in the future.
- There is a possibility the next state Parliament will have a conscience vote on decriminalising abortion in NSW. Where do you stand on this issue? In NSW, people who have an abortion, along with their doctors, still risk prosecution - NSW is one of the few remaining states in Australia where abortion legislation has not been modernised. In this day and age, it is unthinkable that women do not have the right to bodily autonomy without the threat of devastating legal consequences. Abortions should be safe, free and legal – they are matter of health and welfare, not a criminal issue. Greens policy is to decriminalise abortion by removing division 12 of the NSW Crimes Act 1900, provide publicly-funded and accessible abortions, and say no to Zoe’s Law. Right now, there are no publicly-funded abortion services in NSW, and existing services are limited, privatised and expensive. The Greens will continue to advocate for access to surgical abortions in public hospitals and fully fund abortion services through Medicare.
People might not always agree with the position I choose, but they would be assured that I would act on a consistent set of principles, try to do what's best and work with the community to build understanding and support.
- Orange has an enormous amount of early education-aged children. If elected, what would you do to help families tackle the growing cost of day care? The cost of day care is a complex issue. We all love our kids and want them to be safe and well cared for, but of course good quality care costs money. New parents should have the ability to return to work as soon as they wish and a key component of that is access to affordable day care. Childcare workers have important and demanding roles but don’t get particularly well paid. I think the current balance in child care is close to being optimal but there are two key things that might help. One is ensuring that there continues to be public and community child care facilities, e.g. those offered by Orange City Council, to balance the for-profits in the industry. The second is to ensure that other household expenses such as energy prices are kept under control to help families meet the costs of good quality care.
- If elected, would you be willing to speak and vote against your party's policies and platforms if if was clear that the majority of the Orange electorate's constituents held a contrary belief? The role of local Member of Parliament is an important representational and leadership role and one that I would take very seriously. If elected, I would take it as an endorsement of the Greens four pillars - ecological sustainability, grassroots participatory democracy, social justice, and peace and non-violence. These would guide the way I conducted myself and the position I took on specific issues. I would always act based on my values to serve the interests of the people, the communities and the natural environment across the electorate. People might not always agree with the position I choose, but they would be assured that I would act on a consistent set of principles, try to do what's best and work with the community to build understanding and support.
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