Surprising home of a nation


A glimpse of the Hunter Valley hills will probably spark good memories in the minds of those lucky enough to venture there.

Whether desperately trying not to fall off a pushbike while walking through endless vineyards, or retreating and enjoying serenity, they are likely to enjoy copious amounts of the region's most prized produce.

We are, of course, talking about wine, which draws millions of visitors to the doors of Hunter's winery every year and wins illustrious awards from the region around the world.

But since May 18, the Hunter has won an arguably more questionable applause, depending on which side of the political fence you are perched on.

It became the boiling focus of Pauline Hanson's One Nation.

Despite a scandal-ridden campaign, a 33-year-old tattooed charcoal mine mechanic, Stuart Bonds, garnered nearly 22 percent of the primary votes at Hunter's headquarters.

The impressive result made him the most popular candidate of a nation in the country.

It was not enough to topple the brave Labor and former Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, who seized the bank after a lengthy and prolonged count.

But, Mr. Bonds' popularity, which tells that he is just a "common subject", in a seat that Labor has held for more than 109 years, should send a clear warning signal to main parties.

And if you look beyond the vineyards and the glossy brochures of tourism, this result does not begin to look surprising, especially when you arrive at Cessnock.

You can almost feel a sense of abandonment and anger in the air as you enter the city of almost 60,000 people just two hours north of Sydney.

Sometimes, as a reporter, it takes a real effort to get people you've never met to open about their political opinions. But in Cessnock this is certainly not the case.

Sipping a cold at the Cessnock Hotel, an open Australian bar at a crossroads with the main street of the city, I approached the locals with a simple question.

I wanted to know what was driving Labor voters away from their working-class heart.

The blunt answer was, "Well, how much time do you have?"

It was as if the floodgates opened and a wave of anger, sadness, and longing dissipated. I was surrounded by people who spoke about two different worlds – what tourists see and what they live every day.

"We are a suffering," one told me, with a distant look in his eyes. "All the tourists are going up the road and everything is fine. but it's us who keep the community running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we have nothing to show. "

The general consensus was that Cessnock – once a thriving coal mining town – had been abandoned, forgotten and taken for granted over many years, when the mines were closed and the workers laid off.

Born and raised in Cessnock, Mitch Ingham said that a Hunter's traditional career was to leave school and go straight to the mines, or take a business and take him to the mines where they would do unqualified or semi- skilled work, often for decent pay.

With that money, they would invest in an affordable and spacious home for their families.

However, as the area moved away from mining to a wine-service center economy, workers who were left behind had no recourse skills – and were stuck for a mortgage in a city that had no work for them .

"I knew a guy who had a job 40 years ago and one day they just let him go," Ingham said. "He had nothing left. Mining was the only thing he knew.

Adam Brodica, who works at Old Mate's Bakery on the city's main avenue, told me that nothing had come to fill the void left by mining, and Cessnock was now in sharp decline.

He counted 30 companies that have closed around him in the past two years, leaving the city's CBD with closed shop fronts.

"You can not buy a pair of shoes for your child because there is no shoe store," he said. "It's so bad."

He said that the lack of economic life, the lack of investment in public services and the expansion of Cessnock prison resulted in major social problems, including an "ice epidemic" on the streets.

Others I talked to reported an endless list of problems they believed to be choking the life of the community where many of them were born and raised.

They ranged from everyday problems such as parking and traffic problems to worrying stories about how emergency services are poorly equipped and understaffed.

And in their eyes, the blame was directly on labor at the local, state, and federal levels.

One resident of Cessnock, Miranda Goodwin, told me that labor was breaking promises ever since she remembered.

"The last time they actually built anything here was TAFE college in 1959 and since then she's been disappointed after the disappointment," she said.

She said that this feeling of abandonment was aggravated by the feeling that Maitland – a 30-minute drive north – was up because she was in a swinging seat.

Hunter, on the other hand, has been safe for Labor for so long that people believe the party does not care about them anymore and just chases votes in the downtown seats.

When asked why a nation did so well on May 18, residents said it was simple.

They felt left behind, taken for granted and that the labor politicians they saw on TV did not live in the real world.

It was this sentiment that was taken by One Nation's candidate, Mr. Bonds, who told that Hunter Valley staff had been "taken advantage of by the bipartisan system for a long time."

Gathering his views while working alongside locals in the coal industry, Mr. Bonds said that there were two key issues that mattered in Hunter: the protection of mining and agriculture and the increase in pensions to support our more affluent Australians. old ones.

He claimed that One Nation was the only party that really cared about these issues and that Labor had forgotten its roots in the working class.

"The Hunter people are tired of being left behind, while coalition and labor governments continue to boast about how many cranes they have across the skyline of Sydney and Melbourne," he said.

However, Labor MP reelected Joel Fitzgibbon told that the rise in Bond's popularity was based on a unilateral "scare" campaign that Labor wanted to get rid of all coal mining jobs.

He said there was only one candidate debate during this year's election campaign because Mr. Bonds was "hiding" after his disparaging remarks about women and gays in online videos.

"He came up with a large piece of coal and put it in front of him and said," I'm Stuart Bonds and that's what I stand for, "said Fitzgibbon.

"And that's what he ran. He ran with fear among the coal miners that his jobs were at stake and he succeeded. "

He said labor supported the mining and coal exports, but the party made a "terrible mistake" in the campaign.

"Labor supports coal mining but was not prepared to say it for fear of losing more progressive voters elsewhere," he said.

Fitzgibbon said that the acrimonious battle for the Hunter's hearts and minds had occurred between him and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson for more than 20 years.

Mr. Fitzgibbon realized he had a fight in his hands on June 13, 1998, when One Nation won 11 seats in the Queensland elections – with 23% of the state voting for the party.

The federal election was coming in October and Hanson appeared in Cessnock on more than one occasion, including a tense rally at Hotel Australia.

Fitzgibbon said he took "some big guys who knew how to deal with themselves" as protection and headed for the pub, which he claims to be full of "blue collar miners who love their guns".

He confronted Hanson – questioning his voting records on industrial relations and elder care – and from there he said that One Nation never gave up trying to overthrow him.

Any and every election, he says One Nation tried the same tact – playing with the fears of the coal miners, which he claims to have a very different view of life than his ordinary latte drinker in town.

"The coal miners have always been very, very proud. They are like soldiers, "he said. "They boldly crumble in all these adverse conditions and earn coal, which feeds their home.

"They are very patriotic because they really believe that what they are doing is important to the community and to the country."

One of these miners is, of course, Mr. Bonds, who said that the result of his election showed that One Nation's message had hit Hunter's voters.

"As the campaign weeks went on and more and more volunteers showed up, and as my campaign team continued to grow, I knew that the major parties were in for a nightly election surprise," he said.

Now, he says it is clear that One Nation "filled a void" in the Hunter, and his heart was filled with pride for him and his team having made the "marginal seat for the first time in history."

And after a strenuous campaign, Mr. Bonds said it was time to get back to everyday life before planning his next move.

"Right now, I'm back to work in the mine and spending time with my daughter Penny and my wife Sini, whose love I could not have done without," he said. "I have cattle ranching and a farm to manage, and many companions to get a beer.

"As for the next federal election, you'll have to wait and see."


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