Name: Dr Jess Jennings
Political Party: Labor
Family: Married with 2 kids
Where do you live? The Lagoon (10km south of Bathurst)
What do you do for a living? Self-employed Agricultural Consultant, Bathurst Councillor, CEO of Australian Milling Museum, Adjunct Research Fellow Charles Sturt university, Senior Researcher of the History of Australia's Grain Milling Industry
How long have you lived in the Calare electorate? Born in Bathurst, built our house 2003, moved into house in 2010 permanently (from Sydney).
What is the best part of living in the Calare electorate? Local community, clean air, no rat race hassles and living in country landscape.
Why are you running for the seat of Calare? To make Calare fair for all of us, especially through better schools and hospitals for country families by reversing the Liberal and National's savage cuts.
What is your political experience? Bathurst Councillor since 2012
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The crippling effects of the drought continue to be felt by the electorate's farmers. What kinds of measures would you fight to install to drought-proof the region? Is the creation of more dams part of the solution, and if so, where should they be located?
Locally, I've already fought and won the policy of free water for farmers (stock and domestic) through Bathurst Regional Council, and am looking to extend this across Bathurst region. Across Calare, different areas require different water solutions, for example the best major infrastructure option in Bathurst is a secure pipeline from Ben Chifley Dam to the town water plant. Dams should be built where they are the best option on a case by case basis, as well as plenty other water use efficiency (WUE) measures implemented.
A Shorten Labor Government will restore the CoAG process for drought reform and dispatch Australia's agriculture-based Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) to help farmers build defences against the impacts of an increasingly variable climate such as protracted drought, severe storms, frost, pests and diseases.
Labor will ask the Council of RDCs to lead the development of an Agricultural Climate Response Plan (ACRP) to dramatically increase the uptake of drought mitigation, best practice and sustainable farming methods. Many farmers are already building resilience and adopting best land management practices which help them defend against drought and we need to help others do the same.
A Labor Government will implement a $400 million Farm Productivity and Sustainable Profitability Program. The climate is growing more challenging for our farmers and drought can no longer be viewed as an exceptional event. Rather, a hotter and drier environment should be considered the new normal.
Labor will establish a Panel of Guardians for the Program, to advise government on policy design and implementation strategies.
A Shorten Labor Government will establish the Panel within the first 60 days of office and put it immediately to work.
The Panel of Guardians will include:
- A representative of a national farm leadership group.
- A leading soils and environmental science expert.
- A water projects and water efficiency expert.
- A leading economist.
- The Soils Advocate.
- The Chair or CEO of the Council of RDCs.
- The Secretary of the relevant CoAG Committee.
- The Panel will report to the Minister for Agriculture and will be asked to provide a detailed plan within 12 months.
Do you support the proposal to relocate immigrants to regional centres as a means of relieving pressure on metropolitan infrastructure and increasing the population of and diversity in country towns and cities?
I'm a second-generation migrant from Latvia and UK, so I support migrants and their massive contribution to the Australian economy to date. Relocating new migrants to regional areas must only be considered if supporting infrastructure and services are boosted at the same time, and it's not clear this is happening under The Nationals because hospital and school funding is already suffering badly across Calare.
Many fruit growers in the region lament the lack of seasonal workers to pick their crops because of restrictions with the current visas system. If elected, what changes would you push to make to alleviate this concern?
Labor believes people are our most valuable asset. A well trained and well paid workforce is crucial to the success of our food and fibre sectors. Australia's agribusinesses have struggled in recent years to secure the workforce they need. Both skilled and unskilled labour has been too hard to find.
To provide the agriculture sector with the workforce it needs we need to focus on education and training in our regions. When governments cut education funding as the Morrison Government has done, it hits our regional communities disproportionately.
How should the federal government increase the export potential of Calare's primary producers and manufacturers?
Encourage new and existing manufacturing, especially in new areas like lithium batteries, electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel production and supporting industries. Existing industries, including coal and food manufacturing (Simplot, Mars) are also a key part of our future industry and energy mix in order to keep the lights on and employment strong. Labor's package for business is the best on offer with the Australian Investment Guarantee, the instant asset write-offs (originated by Rudd Government), and Labor's New Jobs Tax Cut will give small businesses an incentive to put on additional employees aged under 25, over 55 and carers returning to the workforce.
I'd also like to grow our region's reputation as an agricultural food bowl of the world, with stronger emphasis on great regional characteristics, fresh, clean and green produce, and place-of-origin branding/marketing.
Labor's $400 million Farm Productivity and Sustainable Profitability Program is designed to help with this.
A Shorten Labor Government will help more businesses to export by prioritising the finalisation of trade agreements with the European Union and the United Kingdom as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
The conclusion of a trade agreement with Indonesia is a high priority for a future Shorten Labor Government and Bill Shorten welcomed its signing in March this year. Like all trade agreements it will follow the normal parliamentary processes and be examined by the Joint Standing Committee for 20 joint sitting days before any legislation is introduced in the Parliament.
Labor believes that removing non-tariff barriers is one of the most important things we can do to help increase trade.
A Shorten Labor Government will set up a joint team made up of officers from DFAT, Austrade, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Industry to deal with these issues. The team will report to a Committee of Cabinet.
Food provenance is increasingly a source of competitive advantage but branding has not been an area of strength for Australia. Our neighbour's "100% Pure New Zealand" branding strategy has met with considerable success.
By contrast, Australia's effort has been fragmented, inconsistent and underwhelming. A Labor Government will work with industry to secure a strong branding message for global markets.
Do you agree with the idea of decentralising government departments to regional areas, and, if so, which departments would you like to see be relocated to the Calare electorate?
In principle yes, but this needs to be done without destroying the capacity of the actual departments that get relocated, or wasting millions of tax payers dollars, which is exactly what Barnaby Joyce has done when he damaged the effectiveness of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to do its job in the relocated town of Armidale due the costly forced and ill thought-through pork barrel Mr Joyce. There needs to be careful consideration given to which departments are able to be successfully decentralised.
Will you push for federal funding to help fund a pipeline from Ben Chifley Dam to Bathurst to help conserve water?
Yes, amongst other options (like better water use efficiency).
What is the best way to improve links between Sydney and the Central West? Do you support a Bells Line Express Way? Do you support upgrading the Great Western Highway including tunnelling through the Blue Mountains? Should the federal government favour (and fund) one approach over the other? If so which approach should be the priority?
In the short to medium term the Great Western Highway should be significantly upgraded, but over the longer-term Bells Line should be addressed (although this is really a state project), as well as any other future technology driven alternatives as they become more economically viable, such as tunnelling.
Neither Bill Shorten, Scott Morrison nor Michael McCormack have visited Calare in recent memory. Do the major parties and their leaders not care about Calare?
Bill Shorten visited Calare in 2012 and delivered the annual public Light on the Hill Address in Bathurst.
Chris Bowen has visited Calare 5 times in 5 years as Shadow Treasurer and vows to return in future whether he is Australia's Treasurer or not.
The Nats do not care about Calare because they have stripped regional public schools and public hospitals of literally millions of dollars of federal funding, all of which Labor has committed to restoring if elected. That's $24.5 million to Calare public schools and a total cut of over $19 million to Calare public hospitals if the LNP is re-elected, and Labor has committed to fully reversing these cuts.
What infrastructure do you want to see built or fixed in the electorate over the next three years?
Inland rail is physically outside Calare but will have positive impacts inside Calare, especially linking to Sydney through Calare. Labor invested $900 million in Inland Rail when it was in office.
Roads are always an important and on-going maintenance job. Some by-passes for local towns should be looked at, as well as town road infrastructure like an extra river crossing for Bathurst.
What is your stance on the future of coal mining for the region?
Coal has a solid future in Calare and will remain a critical part of the mix into the foreseeable future as a major contributor to NSW baseload power (approx. 15%).
Do you support renewable energy? If so how do you believe Calare is positioned to take advantage of the renewables market?
Yes, it's the cheapest (and getting cheaper) form of new electricity generation, but it needs to be phased in and coupled with reliable base load, batteries and other storage like pumped hydro etc. Solar and wind resources in Calare are significant and the market will deliver their arrival regardless, so Government policy must assist an orderly transition process which only Labor's policy does provide. The Greens are too radical and extreme and the Nationals are completely backward and divided on both climate and energy policy, so only Labor has a workable, achievable, socially considerate and economically viable approach.
What policy do you have to reduce power bills?
Renewable energy means more jobs, more investment, cheaper energy and lower pollution. Only Labor have a real plan for action on climate change. We will deliver 50 per cent renewables by 2030 by:
Setting a target of one million household battery systems by 2025 and providing a $2,000 rebate for 100,000 households to purchase and install battery systems.
Investing up to $1 billion from the CEFC to help schools access solar panels and battery storage through a Solar Schools Program.
Establishing Renewable Energy Zones across the country to unlock the potential of renewable energy.
Establishing a Neighbourhood Renewables Program to ensure renters and social housing residents can benefit from cheaper and cleaner renewable energy.
Doubling capital of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) by $10 billion.
What policies do you have to deal with climate change?
In addition to the above, a Labor Government will help create up to 70,000 new jobs and support more young Australians to train in the jobs for the future, with a $75 million Renewables Training Package - including support for 10,000 apprentices in the renewable and clean energy industries.
Labor supports a 45% emissions target by 2030 and 50% renewables by 2030 to directly tackle climate change noting Australia is way behind on this issue.
What are your plans to improve mental health services for the Calare electorate?
A Labor Government will invest over $1 billion to drive vital mental health and suicide prevention reform.
Labor will invest $197 million to trial four headspace Plus community-based hubs for young people aged between 12 to 25 with moderate to complex mental ill health.
Young people accessing headspace Plus will receive support from a range of mental health experts including GPs, mental health nurses, psychiatrists, addiction specialists and peer workers.
Labor will also invest:
- $35 million to headspace new centres.
- $20 million to create Australia's first ever National Plan for Eating Disorders and Body Image Research.
- $20 million for mental health nurses based on need and delivered through Primary Health Networks.
- These initiatives are in addition to more than $300 million in investments for mental health infrastructure and services that Labor has announced across the nation for hospitals and community mental health.
- This investment also builds on the mental health and suicide prevention Budget funding allocation that Labor has previously stated we will support; bringing our total package to over $1 billion.
What do you think needs to be done to improve youth employment in the region?
Bring back TAFE!
Labor will scrap upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students who choose to learn the skills that Australia needs, making it easier for Australians to gain the skills they need to get a quality job and for businesses to fill skills shortages, and Labor will commit $100 million towards a new Building TAFE for the Future Fund, to reverse the decline in TAFE facilities, and revitalise TAFE campuses across Australia.
In addition, Labor will scrap upfront fees for 10,000 early education students studying at TAFE to boost our early education workforce and meet the staffing demands for the rollout of Labor's National Preschool and Kindy Program.
Labor's New Jobs Tax Cut will give small businesses an incentive to put on additional employees aged under 25, over 55 and carers returning to the workforce.
Companies with turnover of less than $10 million which have been operating for more than two years will be eligible for an additional 30 per cent tax deduction for up to five new workers' salaries for their first year of employment, capped at $50,000 per company.
The New Jobs Tax Cut will be available to businesses hiring Australians who face real barriers to finding work. To be eligible for the additional deduction, new employees need to be unemployed for three months or more and be either:
Job seekers under the age of 25 or over 55; or Parents or carers returning to work.
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