General News

26 June, 2024

Do everything except the obvious, MP taunts

Cross Border Commissioner welcomed

By Elizabeth Voneiff

Southern Downs MP James Lister.
Southern Downs MP James Lister.

The current Labor government will do anything to get re-elected.

“Except build a house,” commented Southern Downs MP James Lister in parliament recently and many would agree.

Mr Lister rose to add his voice to the budget bills for this year last week, starting with the admission that he has “very little to praise” other than the announcement of a Cross Border Commissioner.

“This is something I have taken as a commitment to both the 2017 and the 2020 state elections, and it was my in tension to do so again at the upcoming election.”

The Cross Border Commissioner is extremely important for communities like the Southern Downs that straddle the NSW border.

“Living on the border is not easy when you have to face the red tape, the restrictions and the difficulties in doing business on either side,” Mr Lister told parliament.

“We found that to be most acute during the COVID lockdowns and the border closures. It would have been fantastic to have the Cross Border Commissioner available for us then.”

Mr Lister believes that Mayor Hamilton “will be pleased about that announcement".

However, Mr Lister urges for the Commissioner to be placed in the Premier’s department rather than the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water so that they can bring departments together and insist, “with the imprimatur of the Premier and the director-general of the Premier’s department, on cooperation and understanding of the unique difficulties of living on the border.”

A list of cross-border issues, including youth crime, transport red tape, schooling, health, infrastructure, disaster preparedness and recovery, have been collated by Mr Lister as a suggestion.

“I know the Goondiwindi Regional Council needs help to make sure the communities on the southern side of the border have an integrated plan with them for disaster preparedness,” he continued, including firearms regulation, biosecurity and, importantly, the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement implementation.

“That is a good initiative and I thank the minister for it.”

But what about housing?

The member for the Southern Downs then turned to one of the biggest issues facing the shire.

“I want to talk about the housing situation. In my electorate of the Southern Downs, housing availability is in a dire state. It is my understanding that my electorate has the worst vacancies in the state. That does now surprise me because I have people coming to see me saying, “I’m homeless. I’ve rented for 20 years. I have a job but I don’t have a home.’”

“That is really difficult to see.”

Mr Lister praised opposition leader David Crisafulli’s reply on the housing crisis and criticised the state government for making repeated announcements and “putting elaborate and glitzy stuff on social media.”

Mr Lister agrees with the LNP plan to abolish stamp duty for first home buyers of a new property valued below $700,000 and believes that it will improve supply and encourage new construction.

The MP is keen to see government partner with community and not-for-profit sectors to come up with innovative ideas for social housing and questioned why the current government has not been more proactive on this front.

“In the absence of some sort of logical explanation as to why a good proposal goes nowhere, you are left to consider that the government just says, ‘no, only big bureaucracies can provide housing’. That is not true and we will do something about that.”


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