Deputy at ease on Tweed election trail
By KATE McINTOSH
HIS government may be behind in the polls.
But Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile was yesterday showing no signs of election fatigue.
The Nationals leader turned in an assured performance on a visit to the Tweed ahead of the November 24 federal election.
Trailed by his media advisors and security staff, Mr Vaile appeared relatively at ease despite the latest Newspoll data showing the Coalition lagging well behind the Kevin Rudd-led opposition.
Mr Vaile, who was in town as a show of support for Nationals candidate Dr Sue Page and a key funding announcement, said it was paramount all sectors of the community benefited from the country's current economic prosperity.
Dr Page, who is stepping up her campaign in the lead up to next month's poll date, was not shy either in delivering her point across, interrupting her senior leader on several occasions to highlight key local concerns.
Speaking to the Daily News ahead of official duties, Mr Vaile, who was flanked by Dr Page throughout yesterday's visit, identified health and infrastructure as major issues in light of major population growth experienced in the region.
Mr Vaile also threw his support behind establishment of locally-run hospital boards, saying the government-backed plan offered wide-reaching benefits for cash-strapped Murwillumbah Hospital.
Mr Vaile said the implementation of hospital boards in other areas of the Far North Coast had brought much better outcomes for individual communities and allowed for more local control over how health services were administered.
The long awaited upgrade to the Sexton Hill blackspot also remains on Mr Vaile's political radar.
Re-iterating the need for independent research into the community preferred tunnel option, Mr Vaile said he was committed to seeing the best option built.
"There's enough scepticism and concern out there in the community that we need to take another look and I'm happy to do that," he said.
"In the end it will be a value judgement (as to which option is goes ahead), but at least if we get it properly tested then the community can be satisfied that every aspect has been analysed."
His comments follow the federal government's $2.4 billion pledge last month to upgrade the Pacific Highway.
Mr Vaile also announced $1.1 million in funding for the Christian City Church at Kingscliff as part of his campaign visit to the Tweed.
The funding injection will go towards a $2.5 million community facility incorporating a 284 seat auditorium at the existing Sand Street site.
Mr Vaile was greeted by spontaneous applause and cheers from the local community after formally announcing his government's funding approval for the state-of-the-art community centre.
Mr Vaile's visit marks the beginning of a surge in fly-in visits from ministerial heavy-weights and key policy announcements as local candidates seek to shore up their footing in the marginal Richmond electorate.