About 260 invited guests joined Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott a forum at the C.Ex Club, Coffs Harbour yesterday.
About 260 invited guests joined Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott a forum at the C.Ex Club, Coffs Harbour yesterday. Bruce Thomas

Abbott in Coffs to meet believers

COFFS Harbour put its conservative credentials proudly on its sleeve by mustering in force to meet Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott yesterday.

About 260 invited guests gathered at C.ex Coffs to hear a brief exposition on the faults and follies of the present Federal Labor Government before raising their own concerns.

These ranged from the unwed state of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, setting a dire example to young people by living with a man without marrying him; to the evils of people swearing allegiance to a German woman sitting on the English throne.

One man was worried about the legality of the $5 note, because the Queen's name was missing and the Commonwealth did not get a mention.

Mr Abbott said he would be happy to take all the questionable currency off his hands.

Thankfully, less-arcane topics were also canvassed by the predominantly older crowd, including help for manufacturing industries and farming (Mr Abbott supports labelling and strengthening regulations); the future of tourism in a high Australian dollar environment (the high dollar has more room to run); security of land tenure for farmers (mining companies need to get nicer); gambling pre-commitment and the upgrading of the Pacific Highway around Coffs Harbour.

C.ex Group CEO John Rafferty said the Federal Government's proposed mandatory pre-commitment measures to curb prob- lem gambling would cost his organisation $9.7 million in its first year.

"This club would struggle to be around and it is the most successful club in the region," Mr Rafferty said.

He said the club and Clubs NSW provided support for anyone with an addiction and asked why the Government did not address these problems.

Mr Abbott said addicts' problems should be handled through better counselling.

On the Pacific Highway, Mr Abbott and Mr Hartsuyker confirmed the bypass of Coffs Harbour was not included in the current highway program, sched- uled for completion by 2016.

One man took Mr Abbott to task for claiming rising electricity prices were due to the proposed climate-change legislation, giving a detailed outline of all the factors since 1980 which have pushed up prices.

Mr Abbott said he would not go back to the old days on industrial relations but would work with the existing law.

Invitations to the event, billed as a community forum, were sent to people in Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker's database as well as to groups such as chambers of commerce.



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