Ursula Stephens vows to take fight up to Pru Goward in Goulburn

Newly pre-selected Labor candidate for the seat of Goulburn, Ursula Stephens with Goulburn State Electoral Council president Brendan Forde at today's pre-selection ballot.
Newly pre-selected Labor candidate for the seat of Goulburn, Ursula Stephens with Goulburn State Electoral Council president Brendan Forde at today's pre-selection ballot.

Labor is promising to throw everything at winning the seat of Goulburn following Dr Ursula Stephens’ pre-selection on Saturday.

The former Federal senator beat off Yass nominee Anna Ritson 33 votes to 14 in the members’ ballot across Goulburn, Moss Vale and Yass.

“It’s helpful for the party to have a process like this because it makes everything transparent but I’m very pleased to have that level of support,” Dr Stephens said.

“Come Monday, I start campaigning.”

It’s her second pre-selection for the seat. In 2015 she also stood against sitting MP Pru Goward and dented her margin by 20 per cent. Ms Goward still sits on a 6.6pc margin.

Goulburn Labor president, Jason Shepherd said the party had been campaigning for the past four years and could win the seat.

“In this case we’ll be doubling the amount we threw at it in 2015,” he said.

Dr Stephens, who was a senator from 2001 to 2014, said this time around, the party would be closely analysing State and Federal polling trends, new enrolments and connecting with an increasing number of families moving into the electorate.

“Labor needs to win 13 seats to win government and we have the capacity to build on the swing that we achieved last time and deliver this seat,” she said.

“If we don’t win Goulburn, we don’t win government and so that’s why it will be a big 12-month campaign to deliver that outcome.”

She has cited Goulburn Base Hospital’s upgrade as a key issue. Dr Stephens said she was pressing Opposition leader Luke Foley to keep $270 million promised before the 2015 election, on the table. She argued a modern hospital able to cater for a growing population and attract top health professionals would not be achieved with the current $120m plan.

Dr Stephens said a greenfield site was the best solution but acknowledged work could go “past the point of no return” between now and the election. 

“It’s a constrained site and parking has not been dealt with,” she said.

“Grafton received a commitment for a $240m new hospital only a few weeks ago. It almost seems to be a mental block that our hospital is not deserving of a rebuild rather than a refurbishment.”

The candidate has also vowed an assault against “massive funding cuts” to TAFE and “to stop propping up private providers who were profiting from a market that didn’t exist.” She said this was particularly important in Goulburn which she believed needed a public education provider.

Dr Stephens told The Post the Goulburn campus could be used for advanced manufacturing, anti-terrorism training and digital transformation courses.

Labor pre-selection candidate Anna Ritson from Yass congratulated successful candidate Dr Ursula Stephens after the voting count at the Goulburn Workers Club on Saturday.

Labor pre-selection candidate Anna Ritson from Yass congratulated successful candidate Dr Ursula Stephens after the voting count at the Goulburn Workers Club on Saturday.

On the battleground of train services, she maintained contracts with freight carriers could be negotiated to free-up more passenger services. 

“There are always issues of conflicting priorities but this government has just gone for the dollar and the contract rather than the convenience for people,” Dr Stephens said. 

She was pleased that the council had pursued a replacement bus to Canberra from Goulburn but said she had hoped for greater cooperation between the NSW and ACT governments to “get people off the road.” 

“Until we have an improved rail service, we’re always going to be stuck with the problem that people in Goulburn can’t get out of town for work, health or anything else,” she said.

On another front, Dr Stephens argued Goulburn’s growth projection of a further 7000 people demanded greater effort to create jobs and career paths. 

Staff benchmarking at Goulburn Correctional Centre, due to be released this month, was also a key issue. Dr Stephens was expecting job cuts on top of 10 teaching positions lost at the facility last year. However, Corrective Services management has said job losses in regional areas were not its intent.

The party says it will be mobilising more than 100 volunteers in coming weeks to start the campaign.

“I believe people do think it’s time for a change...They want a local member who understands the issues,” Dr Stephens said.

“I keep saying to people, Einstein was the one who said you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. We’ve been represented by a conservative MP since 1965. Unless we do something different, we won’t get any different outcomes in the future.”

Ms Ritson said she never considered pulling out of the pre-selection contest and committed to supporting Dr Stephens “100 per cent.”

“This was never about me versus Ursula,” she said. 

“This was about giving the members a say and getting behind whoever the candidate is and putting on a good show.”

Goulburn State Electoral Council president Brendan Forde said Dr Stephens offered Labor the best possible chance of claiming the seat.

“It will be a tough campaign and you’ll hear more details about policy commitments between now and (the election in) March, 2019 but we’re in this to win it,” he said.

This story Stephens wins Labor pre-selection for Goulburn first appeared on Goulburn Post.

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