Push to form Valley Liberal branch

SHE'S a youth advocate through the Clarence Valley Youth Initiative, an outspoken commentator on local and national issues, and a retailer, but these are just a few of the many hats worn by South Grafton resident Ursula Tunks.

Now the former Federal Police intelligence analyst wants to form the Clarence Valley's first Liberal Party branch. Though her request to put forward a Liberal candidate in the upcoming Clarence by-election was voted down by the party's state executive, Ms Tunks said she was confident the party could build a strong foothold and run a candidate in the future.

Terry Deefholts asks ...

When did you first apply for the establishment of a Liberal Party branch in the Clarence Valley?

I've been working towards this branch for more than 18 months. By the end of this month I should have enough members - we need 10. The time has blown out because I bought the shop and started running it seven days a week. So for the best part of the last 15 months, I've been a tad busy. However, I now have the support of country representative to the State Executive Aileen McDonald and the president of my current branch, Coffs Harbour, Jenny Farquhar. Both these women are providing immense moral support, advice and resources and with such amazing support I know we will have a Clarence Valley branch of the Liberal Party before the end of this year.

What is the status of the branch now?

I've sought approval to call the branch the Clarence Valley Branch, this has been approved. Once I have the numbers/members I will then write to state executive to seek approval of the formation of the Clarence Valley Branch of the Liberal Party. It will then be up to the State Executive to approve the formation of the branch but given the strategic goals for the Country Liberals I'm confident that we will have our branch formation approved.

Will the branch be established even if you can't run a candidate?

Hell yes. Of course it will be - this is about the long term and giving members of the Liberal Party the capacity to advocate for their community through their party - not someone else's.

Why do you feel there needs to be a Liberal Party branch when there is a strong National Party contingent in the area and, as a coalition, they are on the same side?

Because the Liberal is its own party, it isn't the National Party. I guess one of the perils of a coalition is that people perceive the parties to be the same. They are not. If people wanted to be members of the National Party they would be, but there are many who don't and want the option of being active in the Liberal Party despite living in a traditional National Party stronghold. Our regional demographic is changing, we have many more retirees moving here, as well as new families who come to the area, many of these people want the option of being part of a Liberal Party branch. There's also the fact that there are many long-term residents who've never had an option to join the Liberal Party and would choose to if a branch was available to them. They deserve the choice.

Do you feel the decision not to run a Liberal candidate in Clarence is a blight on democracy?

After 16 years of Labor's scandals, lies and failure in NSW it is critical the O'Farrell Government is focused on fixing this state. Labor governments in NSW and Canberra show the damage that is done when they focus on themselves. My priority is to build up a strong organisation for the Liberal Party locally so that in the future we have the structure to support a Liberal candidate, within our strong and united Coalition.

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