Farmer-turned-MP reflects on times as he marks milestone | Video

Parkes MP Mark Coulton clocks up 10 years in office


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Mark Coulton was first in opposition and now government, has seen four prime ministers, and travelled - and travelled - across the vast Parkes electorate.

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He’s the farmer who “stepped off the tractor” 10 years ago to go to federal Parliament, “not really knowing what to expect”.

The unfamiliar path taken by Mark Coulton has turned into a decade as Parkes MP - and he’s not done yet.

He started in opposition and then in 2013 as a Nationals member formed part of a new government.

He’s seen four prime ministers ascend to office.

But through all the political drama and long days on the road of his now vast electorate - “just under 400,000 square-kilometres” - Mr Coulton feels he’s making a difference.

One of his proudest achievements was securing $25 million for an integrated cancer centre at Dubbo.

As a grassroots campaign pushed for the centre, Mr Coulton took the plight of country people to the floor of Parliament in May 2016.

He told the house many people in western communities would not travel to the city and were choosing an early death rather than seeking treatment.

He reflected on that time on Monday, saying part of his job was to inform his colleagues about “how life is in my electorate”.

The nation went to the polls within two months, and during the campaign the Coalition made a $25 million election commitment to the cancer centre.

“A lot of the cynical people in Australia would say you needed to be in a marginal seat to get government funding and we managed to secure that money,” he said.

“And also the fact we had 47,500 signatures on a petition that I was able to table in Parliament, being able to lay claim that the people of my electorate were well and truly behind this proposal was a very rewarding process to be part of.”

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He reports “this is happening, it won’t matter what happens now politically, that money is secure”.

Another item of importance to Mr Coulton has been chugging along during the decade.

The inland rail project was mentioned in his first speech.

“Indeed it was one of the reasons why, the motivation for me to run for Parliament was that I believed western NSW needed this project,” he said.

“We needed to have access to more markets for our produce and cheaper rates of freight and so to be able to find that that is now happening and we’re starting to see tenders go out for design.”

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He continues to make the case for the project, even as he acknowledges it causes issues for some people.

“I’m very well aware and sympathetic to that, but this project overall is a nation-building project and I’m very pleased to have a major part in securing that,” he said.

He reported it was “getting close to an announcement on the final corridor”.

There are some lower-profile gains that mean a lot to Mr Coulton.

“A lot of my proudest achievements are ones that I don’t really talk about and they’re where I’ve been able to help individual people,” he said.

“There was a young refugee from Afghanistan, we were able to help him bring his family, his wife and two sons out, we worked with him for a long time.”

And there was a case at Narromine recently where Mr Coulton took the plight of a family facing deportation to the minister.

“So those small jobs personally where we’ve helped someone through an issue, they might have been having with a government department or a bank or something like that if, if we’ve been able to sort those things out, they’re very rewarding, not in the public sphere, Mr Coulton said.

He thanked the electorate for putting its trust in him.

“I stepped off the tractor 10 years ago to go to federal Parliament, not really knowing what to expect,” he said.

“I’ve found it rewarding.

“I’ve found that you can help people, you can actually change the way things happen in Australia.

“You don’t get everything you want, not everything goes your way, but I’ve enjoyed that part of it.

“I’ve really enjoyed all the communities I deal with, my electorate is much easier than a city one because you get to connect with people because of the smaller communities.

“And so I’m very grateful for the 10 years the people of that electorate have support me and I think it’s been a wonderful privilege.”

Daily Liberal 

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