Taking it Souris-ly

Sally Alden

After 27 years in Parliament, MP George Souris has announced his retirement.
“When I was dropped from the Ministry, it certainly changed everything. I have been in politics for a long time, so I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family.”

The self-described egalitarian, says you can’t avoid being recognized and noticeable in his position, but he hopes to be remembered for his achievements.

“I seriously hope that the public view me as always representing anyone who has asked for assistance. I have always represented those that come through my door.”

The member for the Upper Hunter Electorate was originally encouraged to enter politics through the local government system.

“Communities continued to support me over the years and next thing you know I was in State politics.”

Mr Souris will retire from Parliament at the NSW General Election to be held next year on March 28.

“Of course I will be voting for the National Party representative.”

Mr Souris, who has been on the front bench as a Minister or Shadow Minister for 23 of those years serving in the Greiner, Fahey and O’Farrell Cabinets said he would be interested in a role somewhere in the corporate or business sector.

“I hope to find some niche role in the corporate world using my accounting and finance skills. I also want to make a voluntary contribution ether in sports or arts or whatever may arise, but I’m not planning anything until I have served my term.”

Mr Souris also acknowledges his family, friends and especially thanked his wife Vassy who has been an integral part of his public life, attending almost all electorate engagements, events and functions whenever possible.

“There remain a number of challenges in the Electorate not the least of which is the contest of land use in our agricultural, equine, viticulture and mining industries.

However, I believe major funding for the electorate with the successful Resources for Regions and Restart NSW are providing much needed attention and investment benefiting the local economy are great achievements.”

The Minister told the Quirindi Advocate, one of the biggest changes he has seen in politics is the erosion of the political process itself.

“There is a general lack of respect for the political process, but it has become so for a good reason, it’s because there is far far greater community involvement in the democratic process than there was before. The process is not helped by what is coming out of ICAC at present.”

However, the Minister is enthusiastic about the future of younger generations.

“I attend schools, TAFE’s and universities in my role as Minister and the younger generation is fantastic. They are bright; they are better at communicating and making their opinions clear. One of the highlights of my career has been meeting and encouraging younger people.”

Mr Souris said he believes the Liverpool Plains Shire Council should remain a stand-alone council.

“I think Liverpool Plains is amalgamated enough. Amalgamated areas get into trouble when there are two major centres and I think that you would have Gunnedah versus Quirindi and I don’t think that would be great for the smaller communities.”

The Minister is choosing an interesting time to leave politics, with the Nationals and Greens holding 92% of the state.

“The Nationals Green have 19 of the possible 20 seats you could have, the twentieth is Cessnock and I don’t think the party has ever been stronger.”

Many of the policy initiatives Mr Souris has been involved in include the public float of the GIO Insurance and commencement of the transfer of the State Bank to the corporate sector, during a period as Minister for Finance.

As Minister for Land and Water Conservation Mr Souris was involved in many measures including soil conservation, dam infrastructure upgrades, the transfer of irrigation districts to grower control and forestry security.

“I’m very sensitive that Coal Seam Gas (CSG) should not be extracted off the Liverpool Plains. I was born in Gunnedah and understand the agricultural productiveness and majesty of the Liverpool Plains. Maybe there are some good places where CSG extraction could be, but the unbelievable soils of the productive plains and its unlimited water resource is a unique confluence of resources that should be protected.”

As Minister for Ethnic Affairs, Mr Souris was proud to develop the first Charter of Principles, which later became the first Australian Act. As Shadow Minister for Hospitality/Gaming, Mr Souris was responsible for the Memorandum of Understanding with the registered Clubs movement; an agreement which secured the future of Clubs and the hospitality sector generally.”

Amongst his other achievements, Mr Souris was also twice Minister for Racing responsible for the introduction of Sunday Racing and in 2014 together with Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club, the highly successful The Championships.

Mr Souris is looking forward to having more to pursue his interests, but is passionate to tick some boxes before his retirement.

“There are a few projects that I started that I want to see come to fruition. I am heartfelt, as I have had a massive support for the last 27 years from the people of the Liverpool Plains Shire and I would encourage residents to use the TAFE College in Quirindi as it needs continued support,” concluded Mr Souris.

 

Photograph by sallyaldenphotography.com

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