South Australian Senate candidate Nick Xenophon made his way to Mount Gambier on Tuesday as part of his political campaign trail.
Mr Xenophon said he thought he would be a “political hermit” but he is making a comeback and running for the Senate again, as he claimed he “could no longer stand back” and “was not giving up”.
“I thought I was done with politics, but politics was not done with me,” Mr Xenophon said.
“I see the potential of the South East, I have had strong support here to do with manufacturing, to do with health issues, the ice epidemic, so here I am, and the reception’s been pretty good.”
Mr Xenophon believed there were many challenges in the region and the key issues he wanted to address in Mount Gambier were health, aged care and the NDIS.
He said it was a “disgrace” there was no haematologist in the region.
“How is it a community this big, this important in the state, that if you get leukaemia, you have to go all the way to Adelaide and be uprooted from your family for treatment, for your care, and that’s wrong,” he said.
Mr Xenophon said country towns struggling to get GP’s was an issue and solutions must be found for this.
He said the Mount Gambier Hospital’s recent Code White was a “red flag for the health system” and said there needed to be preventative health measures.
“With aged care, you cannot have aged care workers on 22 bucks an hour, it’s wrong,” he said.
“And NDIS is a real problem, NDIS is a very important program, but there are too many complaints about it, the way it’s been administered.”
In regards to the timber industry, Mr Xenophon said it was “wrong” that millions of tonnes of woodchip and untreated timber from the South East was being exported to be processed and said this should be done here.
“We are now spending the money of the timber being processed overseas to come back here and you’re paying an enormous amount for it,” he said.
“This region here could be the centrepiece for excellence and innovation in timber value-adding.
“What that will do is it will drive jobs, it will drive education opportunities, it will drive research and development, it will just drive an advance in manufacturing jobs.
“But you’re not going to do it without political will, you have got to think big.”
Mr Xenophon said he was also concerned about the ‘brain drain’ of young people leaving the region for interstate and metropolitan areas.
“You’re halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne, it’s just got so much potential here,” he said.
“You’re losing young people because they’re going for tertiary education and they’re not coming back.”
Further issues Mr Xenophon said he was concerned about were the impact of gambling, stating that pokies were “not a good way for economic development” and the ice epidemic.
He said tackling substance abuse would have a “cascading effect” to preventing other issues such as domestic violence, mental health, crime and dangerous driving.
He said housing affordability was also a major issue and he wanted to address this in regional areas.
“It’s a national issue but in regional areas, it should not be happening here,” Mr Xenophon said.
“Imagine how many people would live here if there were jobs here and the price of a house here was half the price of capital cities, it would make a big difference.”
Mr Xenophon said he had given his heart and soul for the state in the Senate and had energy, passion and commitment.
“The challenges are huge, but the potential for the South East to be a growth hub in this state is really enormous, and I want to achieve that,” Mr Xenophon said.
“This is where a lot of solutions are to a lot of problems, and it would give me great satisfaction to see Mount Gambier grow and reach its full potential.”