CALARE MP Andrew Gee’s successful intervention to save local migrant support funding is a good news story for both the community and our elected representative.
Mr Gee engaged in a bit of a dangerous game last week when he blamed a funding cut for The Neighbourhood Centre’s migrant support program on “faraway bureaucrats” who, he said, did not properly understand the local situation.
He made it clear he had not been consulted about the plan to cut migrant support funding across his electorate and vowed to keep fighting to find a solution.
They were strong words from Mr Gee but they were a gamble.
We have no reason to doubt his claim that he was not aware that The Neighbourhood Centre funding was to be cut, nor should we doubt his genuine frustration at only finding out once the decision had been made.
But by coming out so boldly, Mr Gee drew a line in the sand for him to be judged by.
He made it his promise to find a solution and the electorate was going to demand he did just that.
And now he has.
Mr Gee has announced that $84,000 in interim funding has been secured to keep the migrant support program going for the next year, at least.
The interim funding will allow The Neighbourhood Centre to retain an employee to handle local migrant issues and will also take much of the pressure off the Orange office that had been tasked with overseeing Bathurst under the new arrangements.
It’s undoubtedly a good result and Mr Gee has indicated he will keep fighting for further funding in 2021 and 2022.
But some questions still remain.
First, how could this funding – funding that all seem to agree is vital for our community – have been removed without consultation in the first place?
Second, if a member of the federal government holds such a disdainful view of the bureaucrats working within that government’s own departments, then why should the rest of us have any faith in them.
And, third, where should the voting public draw the line between decisions of the government and the decisions of government departments? How can mere mortals hope to tell the two apart?
But, for now, let’s try to focus on the positive. The Neighbourhood Centre has 84,000 reasons to smile today, and that’s good enough for us.