State Election

Clayton Barr - Private Member's Statement

Mr CLAYTON BARR (Cessnock) (20:02): I comment on the 2023 State election in the electorate of Cessnock. I recognise from the outset that I have had the chance to make a couple of contributions in this House since that election but, due to some important recognition of people who have passed, I have not been able to go back to this issue. In March this year, the people of New South Wales across the board had indicated they were ready for a change and, while the Labor Party has formed a new Government, it is indeed a minority Government. In the electorate of Cessnock, seven people put their hands up seeking the privilege of representing that wonderful community. I speak of Andrew Fenwick from the Legalise Cannabis Party, Ash Barnham from the National Party, Graham Jones from the Sustainable Australia Party, Quintin King from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, Victoria Davies from the Animal Justice Party, Llynda Nairn from The Greens and, of course, me.

One of the surprising results of that election was that Legalise Cannabis managed to secure 11.92 per cent of the vote, which means in essence that one out of every nine people in my community voted to legalise cannabis. There might be a variety of reasons for that. I have appreciated the many conversations I have had with Andrew Fenwick during and after the campaign, when we have spoken at length about the many uses for the cannabis plant, including as building products and the like.

We need to stop being afraid of the word “cannabis” because there are so many applications that have nothing to do with a person ingesting it and having their particular high. Cannabis also has various strengths. The low end strength cannot get a person intoxicated, as I would describe it, because the volumes of tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] simply are not there. There is the medium range that people would normally use for recreational purposes, albeit that is illegal in New South Wales at the moment. Higher THC levels are harvested and used for medicinal purposes. There is a lot we need to learn and know about cannabis. I am happy to have started my journey in that regard. I do not profess to be an expert but I am a willing learner.

Ash Barnham from the National Party was unfortunately disendorsed after the nomination processes were finalised. That was due in part to some comments he made online in the past. One of the challenges for nominees and candidates going forward, no matter what party they come from or what their platform is, is that young people in this day and age have grown up in a time when they have been entirely exposed to social media and their histories will follow them. I am confident that nobody in this House has managed to get to this part of their lives without doing foolish, silly stuff that they regret. Ash pulled out but still managed to receive 11 per cent of the vote. To be fair, he won the booth of Pokolbin. I feel like I do so much for the people of Pokolbin but I just cannot crack it with them. They grow grapes and produce lovely products, like spicy grape sauce. It is a wonderful product.

Graham Jones is from the Sustainable Australia Party. I do not think I ever met or saw Graham. He got 2 per cent of the vote. Good on him, he should crack on. Quintin King from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party is a gentle, quiet soul who goes about what he is doing with real reserve and pause. He has proven to be a nice person for me to get to know as somebody who lives in the community. Victoria Davies from the Animal Justice Party is an outstanding human being and we continue to do work on other fronts. Sometimes we go into these competitions essentially as competitors and enemies but at the end of it feel very much like friends. I look forward to continuing to work with Victoria on a range of things. I say the same about Llynda Nairn and The Greens movement at large. I thank the community of Cessnock for re-electing me to this place to represent them. I will treat them with respect and decency, and offer them the courage and sincerity in this place that they all deserve. If I cannot do that I should not be here for them.