Lismore MP Thomas George announces retirement
LISMORE Nationals MP Thomas George has officially announced he will step down at the next state election in 2019.
The long-serving MP, who has held the seat since 1999, said he had previously said this would be his last term but has waited until now to confirm it.
During his parliamentary career Mr George served as The Nationals' Whip, on numerous committees and rose to the position of Deputy Speaker, which he currently holds.
"It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the people of the Lismore electorate since 1999," he said.
"Representing our communities in Sydney has been an enormous responsibility, and a role I have never taken lightly. It's a difficult task, but one that I will be eternally grateful to locals for entrusting me with."
Mr George will have been in the seat for 20 years by the time he retires, which included 12 years in opposition prior to gaining government in 2011.
He cited the Lismore Base Hospital redevelopment as his crowning achievement.
The project, which spent years in limbo, benefited from an extra $52 million commitment in the most recent State Budget to build three extra floors on the planned North Tower.
The Coalition also made a critical $180 million election promise to the hospital at the 2015 election which was seen as countering a massive protest vote over coal-seam gas.
Mr George won the last election on the slimmest of margins, by less than 0.5% on a two-party preferred basis with Labor: 50.23% to 49.77%.
He admitted he was "shocked" and "disappointed" to see his once strong margin crumble but said it wasn't a factor in him stepping down.
"No one's proud of losing 25%. But I think the fact that I'd worked so hard and been part of such a strong team returned me," he said.
Asked if the result was about the politically toxic issue of CSG, he said: "I'm sure it wouldn't have been anything else."
In a statement The Nationals' state director Nathan Quigley recognised Mr George's history of delivery for the electorate.
"Thomas George has been a staunch and effective representative for the Lismore electorate. You just need only to look at the Lismore Base Hospital redevelopment to see the practical and positive impact his advocacy has delivered for the area," Mr Quigley said.
"Thomas secured over $300 million to redevelop the hospital into what will be a world-class facility, with the services and infrastructure to deliver the healthcare the people of Lismore deserve. Without Thomas being a vocal proponent of the development inside The Nationals and Liberals government, it would never have got off the ground."
In response to Mr George's retirement, the NSW Nationals have announced they will run a "community pre-selection" this November ahead of the 2019 state election, where everyone gets a vote.
North Coast Nationals MLC Ben Franklin said the party felt with an "open seat" it was a timely opportunity to open up the pre-selection process to all.
"In this day and age there's a great need for political parties to open their doors to the community," Mr Franklin said.
"What we want to do is prove to the community that we're there for them first... we want someone who is in alignment with their values and their views."
"We want someone who is going to be a broad representative of the community."
All members of the public who are enrolled to vote in the Lismore electorate will be invited to cast a ballot on 18 November 2017.
Nominations open today (June 30) and remain open until Friday August 11.