The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (SFF) will launch their campaign for the NSW seat of Goulburn on Friday (18 January) when local school teacher Andrew Wood steps into what promises to be a keen-fought battle for the electorate’s vote.
Mr Wood joins Labor Party stalwart and former ALP Federal Senator Ursula Stephens, and an as-yet-unnamed Liberal Party candidate who will replace the current Member for Goulburn Pru Goward, who announced her retirement from politics due to family reasons before Christmas.
The Liberals won’t be holding pre-selection for Goulburn due to time constraints – the NSW election will be held in March – instead, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will announce Ms Goward’s replacement.
Former Goulburn Mayor Geoff Kettle has said he’s keen to step forward as the Liberal candidate and, if not selected, will run as an Independent. Mr Kettle may also have the support of some local Liberal Party members who have criticised the lack of pre-selection for the seat. Political speculation has centred on the possibility of the Liberal Party putting forward former Boorowa mayor Wendy Tuckerman; Ms Goward’s daughter, Penny Fischer, who failed to be pre-selected for the nearby seat of Wollondilly in 2018; and Yass resident and chairman of the Liberals State Electoral Council for Goulburn Nick Tyrell.
For the SFF, Goulburn is part of a statewide strategy to add more Lower House seats to their bailiwick following the conservative party’s historic defeat of a National Party stronghold in Orange in 2016. However, for Mr Wood it’s less about the political tussling of the major parties and more about what they are not doing for their constituents.
“It’s clear that the policy decisions for rural people are Sydney-based. The separation between the Liberals and the Nationals is cursory at best and the SFF offers genuine rural focus. What we say, we back up with action. We want to be serving people in local electorates and it’s clear the National Party hasn’t been,” Mr Wood said.
Mr Wood describes himself as a family man, a father of eight, and an active member of the local Anglican parish. His motivation for standing had its genesis in the NSW Firearms Registry closure of the Goulburn Rifle Range. Subsequent negotiations have meant sporting shooters now have limited use of the range.
“I’m club captain of the Goulburn and District branch of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia. The closure of the local range was due to a council development and could have been rectified easily but wasn’t. The range is now restricted to low power rifles only. This means the rifles Goulburn clubs have used safely since before WW1 cannot currently be used.
“For me, the SFF puts protection of personal freedoms high on the list of importance. It’s not just shooting and fishing rights, but religious freedoms and other personal freedoms. The SFF takes a common sense approach.”
Mr Wood sees the main issues for the electorate as being the redevelopment of the Goulburn Base Hospital and administration of health services generally and education and drought funding relief for the region’s farmers. Fishing rights and overcoming neglect of waterways and improving rail links to Goulburn also get Mr Wood’s attention.
“There’s a whole raft of problems in health for example. It’s not just to do with the redevelopment of the Goulburn Base Hospital but how health services are administered. Decisions are made on most things in Sydney and rural NSW suffers as a result,” he said.
“Literacy and numeracy rates and school funding are key issues for me and the government needs to continue to support farmers – in some cases the drought relief funding is not reaching them.
“Rural Australia isn’t being serviced by government adequately and what I’m offering is an alternative. We want to fight for the Goulburn electorate. I’m not a career politician. I just want to change things for the electorate and make the major parties accountable.”
Mr Wood described the SFF as a centre-right and independent party.
“We’re not taking directions from Sydney and there’s no danger of me jet-setting across the State as a Minister,” he said.
The SFF will launch its campaign for Goulburn on Friday at 10 am in Belmore Park and will outline a strategy which identifies the needs of the electorate and what the SFF can do to bring about change.
Mr Wood would not be drawn on who or which party the SFF might preference. “That will be up to the Party to make that decision but if the people want to see an independent rural candidate for Goulburn, then put the number one next to me.”
At the time of publication, the Liberal Party had not announced the Coalition candidate for Goulburn. Just before Christmas, the Goulburn Nationals Chair James Harker-Mortlock said the National Party was still considering a run against the Liberals, its Coalition partner, in Goulburn.
Meanwhile, the ALP candidate Dr Stephens said the ALP will maintain its campaign focus on bringing new jobs to the region and delivering for schools, education and essential infrastructure in the electorate.