Coffs MP Luke Hartsuyker calling it a day
FEDERAL Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker will today announce his retirement from politics, bringing massive change to the North Coast political landscape.
The Nationals' Coffs Harbour-based MP will step down from office at the next federal election, having served almost 17 years in politics.
Mr Hartsuyker, the Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, will today confirm he will be leaving politics, at a mid-morning media conference.
During his political career, he has won six elections since succeeding Garry Nehl in the federal seat in 2001.
In that time he has served as the Assistant Minister for Employment, Minister for Vocational Education and Skills and Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister.
"I think it is the time for me to move on, it's been a great honour representing the electorate of Cowper for almost 17 years now," Mr Hartsuyker told The Advocate.
"There is no greater honour in this country than being able to represent your region in the Australian parliament," he said.
Mr Hartsuyker said politically it felt like a sense of completion in having the Federal Government commit $971 million to the Coffs Harbour Pacific Highway bypass on Budget night.
After years of lobbying for funding and having stood the test of six elections, the 59-year-old outgoing parliamentarian said he knew it was time on the back of that accomplishment.
"From my point of view as a local member it's a good way to depart the scene having concluded the highway duplication and having that commitment to the bypass," Mr Hartsuyker said.
"With the completion of the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Coffs Harbour and further north it's a great outcome and I think it's resulted in greater connectivity between the North Coast and the major metropolitan centres.
"That means more jobs and more opportunities and to secure in the last budget a commitment to the Coffs Harbour Bypass that's something I've been working on for so long, it's taken a long time to get here, but we had to get the duplication finished first as I think safer motoring was a priority over getting the trucks out of the main street, as important as that is I think everyone would agree that the tragedy of seeing lives lost on our roads is the first thing we needed to address."
Reflecting on his career, Mr Hartsuyker said the role he played in reforming and refining employment services as a minister and the difference it had made on the North Coast was among the highlights.
"There are great things happening in Coffs Harbour, where young people now have the opportunity of a career now in their local town not just a job. I think that's part of the growth that we've experienced," he said.
"I'm delighted to have been able to work with the community to do what I could to push the interests of Cowper the interests of Coffs Harbour and the North Coast down in Canberra.
"I also did a lot of work in regards to opening greater market access for farmers and exporters, creating jobs and creating opportunities.
Mr Hartsuyker joked in retirement he may return to the family business of making clogs "as probably the only Federal MP who would know how".
Back in 2001, his opening speech in the House of Representatives referenced his Dutch heritage, the lucky opportunity his family had been given in Australia and the fact he had become a Federal Member of Parliament having attended a state school and a regional university.
"There are few countries around the world that would provide the same types of opportunities," he said.
"I am the son of a Dutch migrant who came to this country alone at the age of 17 in 1951 with £25 in his pocket, an old guitar and all his other possessions in a toolbox."
A career in politics later and many bills, debates and ministry appointments and disappointments now passed, Mr Hartsuyker reflected fondly on that maiden speech in Parliament.
"That feeling when you take your place in the House of Representatives for the first time it's very difficult to put into words and I certainly thank the people of the region for supporting me for so long through six elections now and I've certainly done my very best to represent the region."
Mr Hartsuyker's decision not to contest the next Federal Election follows the announced retirement of The Nationals Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser earlier this year.
That will mean the party will seek to pre-select two Coffs Harbour-based candidates for the State and Federal seats ahead of the 2019 elections.
Mr Hartsuyker said he was confident a suitable Federal candidate could be found to lead the electorate forward into the future.
"I think the party is in good shape but I would say The Nationals never take any seat for granted nor does a good local member take his seat for granted," he said.
"The Nationals are the only political party that solely represent regional and rural Australia, and it's important that that regional voice is heard loud and clear in Canberra.
"It is vitally important that we can to deliver for the North Coast as we have done in the past and the Pacific Highway is a perfect example of that."