Federal Member Luke Hartsuyker will be voting no if the Coalition votes along conscience lines on the upcoming gay marriage bill.
Federal Member Luke Hartsuyker will be voting no if the Coalition votes along conscience lines on the upcoming gay marriage bill. Trevor Veale

Hartsuyker challenges Oakeshott

LUKE Hartsuyker wants to square off publicly against Rob Oakeshott over the carbon tax.

The Member for Cowper challenged his Lyne counterpart to an open debate on home turf yesterday and, so far, the challenge has not been taken up.

Mr Hartsuyker says he has thrown down the gauntlet because of concerns raised with him by many North Coast residents and business owners.

“Julia Gillard told those MPs who support the carbon tax to get out there and sell the package,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

“And as the Government's representative in Lyne, Mr Oakeshott needs to explain why this carbon tax is good for our region.

“During a visit to Port Macquarie and Wauchope last Tuesday and Wednesday, a number of people raised concerns about the carbon tax and questioned whether Mr Oakeshott was representing the best interests of his constituents.

“I believe the people of Lyne and Cowper deserve to be heard and that's why I'm proposing a series of debates across the North Coast.”

He said the Port Panthers Club had kindly offered its premises for the first of the showdowns.

“I propose that we select a mutually convenient date as soon as possible with

sufficient time allowed to promote the event.”

Mr Hartsuyker then let fly with the first punch, saying that in his view the Gillard/Greens/Independent carbon tax represented an assault on the standard of living of millions of Australians.

“It will drive up the cost of living for North Coast families and it will threaten many businesses – in the end it is going to cost local jobs.

“I believe no effective member of parliament from a regional seat would support this tax which so discriminates against regional Australia.

“Mr Oakeshott has to explain why he is so intent on harming his electorate and the people who entrusted him with their vote.

“North Coast communities deserve to be fully informed about this issue and a public debate would be an appropriate forum.”

By 3pm yesterday Mr Oakeshott had opted to hold his fire, releasing no formal response at this stage.

Mr Oakeshott has long been a controversial figure in North Coast politics.

In 2002, having been elected to the National Party seat of Port Macquarie, he defected from the party to run as an independent at the 2003 NSW elections.

He was successful and returned to the seat in his own right.

In 2008 he resigned as the member for Port Macquarie to make the leap into federal politics and ran as an independent in the Lyne by-election.

He was re-elected to the federal parliament last year and in September gave his backing to the formation of a Labor minority government.

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