Andrew Fraser says he's not the 'Indispensable Man'
ANDREW Fraser has never been afraid to speak his mind.
The maverick local member, NSW's longest serving current member in State Politics, summed it by saying "I mean what I say and I say what I mean."
Today announcing he will step down at the State Election in March, Mr Fraser reflected on his 28-years in the party room, cabinet and the halls of power in New South Wales.
"Every four years someone puts a name on a ballot paper and you've got to have earned that right to serve," Mr Fraser said.
"Sure I've spoken out against the party when the electorate has told me we have got policy and decisions wrong - like with the greyhounds - but I've never crossed the floor and never voted against the party.
"When I was first elected, I was told by Wal Murray, you can't be anything in politics unless you are a local member first.
Mr Fraser, 65, said in retirement his primary focus would rest with his family.
"In politics as a regional member there are many kilometres travelled, air flights, hotel and motel rooms - it's a lonely life at times and it's hard on the family," he said.
"I've always said Kerrie has raised three really great kids, Alexandra, Elizabeth and Angus. That's the reality of politics.
"I never found out exactly how much time I'd spent away from home until my children were adults.
"As a local member even when you return home from parliamentary sittings, the calendar is full of events.
"I always believe what my father said when he told me 'if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well.'
As one of the state's most popular politicians at the March, 2015 State Election with a landslide 27 per cent margin, Mr Fraser won 64 per cent of the primary vote.
Yet when he first stood for pre-selection for the Nationals at the 1990 by-election he and six other candidates threw their hats in the ring.
"I was raised with the understanding of how important it was to get involved in your community," Mr Fraser said.
"I served as the chairman for the Australia Day Award committee and was president of the Tyalla P&C because the kids were at school and I was approached to enter politics.
"A good friend in the Labor party asked me to stand, but I was always conservative by nature, that's why I stood for pre-selection with the Nats.
"To be honest I never intended to become a member of parliament, Kerrie had just finished eight months cancer treatment in Newcastle, she was undergoing radiotherapy because at that point Coffs Harbour didn't have the cancer care unit.
"When I asked her whether I stood stand, she said 'Andrew why don't you go and get paid for what you have been doing for free all these years.
"You see when you get into politics the party gets a two for one deal, when I couldn't get to events Kerrie represented me.
"That's what being a local member is about, I'm concerned because in this day and age there's a lot of career politicians in parliament.
"It's not about the front page photo shoot in The Advocate and social media posts, it's about the 18-hour days and working for your community. Representing openly and honestly.
"I've enjoyed my time in politics and I must thank the electorate and the community who have stood by me and placed their trust in me.
"Really I've done the best I can. A number of people in the electorate are probably glad to see the back of me, but I've done my very best and worked as hard as I could, like I said there are far too many career politicians and they should do themselves a favour and read John Hewson's article from early 2017 that career politicians should not govern.
"I have also had long serving, loyal and dedicated staff who keep the 'ship sailing' while Parliament is sitting and while other parliamentary duties need to be attended to.
Infamously, Mr Fraser made national headlines in 2005, when he confronted Labor MP Joe Tripodi, the then Roads Minister on the floor of parliament in a heated exchange.
"Yes it is something I shouldn't have done, but at the time I was sick and tired of people being killed on that stretch of road (the Pacific Highway at Bonville)," he said.
"There had been 13 deaths in about a six month period and yet we had absolutely no action from State Labor or Federal Labor in getting on with the highway.
"My actions put the focus on the Pacific Highway and $245 million followed for the Bonville bypass.
"Then we saw the Raleigh deviation, the Englands and Lyons Rd works, Coffs Harbour to Woolgoolga, Woolgoolga to Halfway Creek and now we've got the Coffs Bypass starting.
With the State Budget to be announced on Tuesday night, Mr Fraser said he's proud the Coffs Harbour Health Campus upgrade will be funded.
"To be honest I'd like to be there to cut the ribbon," he said.
"I have been asked to stand in March, and hold off on stepping down until two years, but that would only force a by-election costing $500,000 ... I'd rather see that money flow into the electorate.
"After the Budget is handed down I have my daughter's wedding in France, but I'll be working hard until the election. Then after that Kerrie wants to see more of Europe and I'll have time to play more golf.
As for the pending pre-selection to decide his successor, Mr Fraser said it was a decision for the local Nationals branch.
"I can only cast a single party vote, of course I'll always be there to give advice, but there's nothing more past than the past member," he said.
"On my wall here in parliament I have a poster that reads 'I've been kicked, punched, promised, robbed, under appreciated, overworked and overlooked, but the only reason I stay in this bloody place is to see what happens next ... that just about sums it up.
"There's a poem, that I found in my father's wallet after he died, called The Indispensable Man (Saxon White Kessigner) and it says do the best you can do, be proud, but remember there's no indispensable man'... I've never forgotten that."