Novocastrians’ strength during an extremely tough year has been lauded by Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon.
And, even though we’re not totally out of the woods when it comes to all things coronavirus, the local federal member expects a similar stoic stance from residents in 2021.
In fact, she’s confident the steel city’s “community” trait is key to that.
While Ms Claydon admits recent cuts to the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments are concerning, and will place added pressure on people, she believes supporting each other – from businesses to vulnerable individuals – will hold the electorate in good stead.
Here’s what she had to say in her Newcastle Weekly opinion piece.
At the dawn of 2021, there is much to be thankful for.
The COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon and Australia has escaped the worst of this pandemic that has wreaked havoc across the globe.
Unlike those parts of the world that prioritise individualism, Australians understood the value and strength of community.
We did not rally against public health orders or requests to wear masks and maintain social distancing, because we knew these personal sacrifices were needed in order to save lives, slow the spread of disease and keep our communities safe.
To me, it is this community spirit has defined our response to the pandemic in Newcastle.
Local networks and organisations swung into action immediately.
Likewise, local businesses turned their attention and resources to looking after frontline workers and those in need.
Residents reached out to their neighbours – often for the first time.
And, all over the city, new bonds were forged across traditional generational and cultural divides.
This selfless response deserves a better future.
These are the community values that underpinned our resilience through the crisis and they should be front and centre of the national recovery, too.
While things are looking more hopeful for the new year ahead, the reality is that vulnerable people are still disproportionately bearing the negative impacts of COVID-19.
Too many are out of work; and too many local businesses are still on the edge.
In 2021, our focus must be to ensure that no one gets left behind.
At a local level, this means investing more in the community networks and organisations that have done such a remarkable job through this crisis.
And, it denotes supporting local businesses by shopping locally where ever possible.
Fortunately, Newcastle is spoilt for choice with quality local goods and services, so this isn’t hard to do.
For me as the Newcastle’s federal representative, it means continuing to make the case for the Morrison-Liberal government to maintain the support that has been so important in stopping people from freefalling into poverty.
JobKeeper and JobSeeker have been central to keeping our economy moving and ensuring that Australians can maintain a roof over their heads and food on the table.
It’s too early to be cutting these vital parts of the social safety net when almost 2 million Australians are unemployed or underemployed.
Slashing these payments forces people to make impossible choices between housing, food, health and medical expenses, gas and electricity and transport.
We also need to be looking to the future, and building on our local strengths and capabilities to ensure that Novocastrians have a strong pipeline of decent, secure jobs for generations to come.
Newcastle’s natural advantages, coupled with our diverse base of skills and expertise offer incredible opportunities to forge new industries – clean energy technologies and the potential for the development of a deepwater container terminal should be urgent priorities.
With the right focus and policy levers, the government could help deliver thousands of jobs and build the foundations for a prosperous future for our city.
- Sharon Claydon is the MP for the federal seat of Newcastle