Roger Marmion asked John Turner about his time as the local member and his plans for the future.
After 23 years as the Member for Myall Lakes and having held several Shadow Ministerial positions throughout his career, John Turner could have expected to become a Minister in a future Coalition government but chose to step down before last month’s state election. Roger Marmion speaks with John Turner about his time as the local member and his plans for the future.
What brought you to the Great Lakes?
When I was elected in 1988, I lived in the Hunter Valley, just out of the seat of Myall Lakes. In those days the seat of Myall Lakes extended into the Hunter Valley, taking in areas such as Dungog, Clarence Town and parts of Raymond Terrace. However, the main population centre, at the time, was Forster / Tuncurry (Taree was added in 1991 to the electorate), so we made a decision to come to the Great Lakes and locate my electorate office at Tuncurry. Although I wasn’t from the Great Lakes, I had spent plenty of time here, as my wife’s parents purchased a retirement home at Forster and we visited regularly before I was elected to Parliament. Indeed, it was on one of those visits that my wife pointed out a block of land and said she would like to live at that spot. Little did we know a few years later I would be representing the area. We purchased the block and built our home.
What do you enjoy about the area?
The people and the beauty of the area are what I enjoy the most. When I was first elected, there was still some rivalry between Forster and Tuncurry. As I built my home at Forster, it was suggested I have my office at Tuncurry to even things out.
I really want to thank that rivalry (now long gone), for I now drive to work every day past and over the most scenic and picturesque waterway in Australia, with the aquamarine waters enlivened by dolphins, whales and the many varieties of sea birds.
The people of the area have adapted to this beautiful way of life with a carefree but responsible attitude (if you can use those two words together).
What motivated you to stand for state politics?
People have asked me over the years what made me get into politics. After 23 years, I do not have a glib answer to that question. I guess if politics can be equated to community service, I was born into it. My father was very much involved in our then community, including local government.
My older brother, Richard, likewise was involved in local government, with both of us at one time serving together as Aldermen on the Greater Cessnock City Council. I accepted that being involved with the community was part of one’s lot in life.
I did not have any ideological reasons to become a Member of Parliament, and I know ego was not a motivation. I think coming from that approach has been beneficial to me, because I did not have an axe to grind to get in the way of representing people. I believe that on both sides of Parliament, the greater majority of members come from that angle.
What do you believe your greatest contribution has been to the local area?
I am reluctant to deal with material aspects of my term in office, but would say the completion to dual carriageway of the Pacific Highway throughout my electorate has been very pleasing.
When I was first elected to Parliament, I would wake up to the early news bulletin announcing another death or serious accident on the then notorious Pacific Highway, particularly at O’Sullivans Gap or at the Wootton bends on the Pacific Highway. I fretted deeply about those deaths and maimings, having had personal experience of road trauma. I knew the effects that those accidents were having on families. So it was with relief that not long after I was elected I was advised that the Bulahdelah to Coolongolook deviation was to be constructed to take out the death-trap areas. I remember I was picked up by helicopter – my first ride in one – and taken to see the proposed route. From the air it was so obvious. It took a long time for that project to be finished, but during my term in office the entire electorate is now dual carriageway, or will be when the Bulahdelah bypass is finished.
Those who have recently driven through my beautiful electorate will know what an easy and safe drive it now is, with deaths on the Pacific Highway, in my electorate, because of road conditions, virtually eliminated.
Many of your constituents may be wondering why you chose to step down when your chances of a Ministry were looking very promising.
The time is right for me to step down. I have spent 23 years in the Parliament and enjoyed every minute (or nearly every minute); however, there is always a time to go and recognising that time is important, I think.
Figuratively speaking, I retained the ‘fire in the belly’ as far as being a Member of Parliament; however, I could see the fire engine coming down the hill.
I certainly didn’t want to wake up in two or three years time and question why I was still in the Parliament, just warming a seat.
What are your plans for the future?
Relax for a while and try to bring my golf handicap down and to do a little travelling. I will then look around for some work to occupy my mind. I don’t think after all the years of working first as a lawyer then as a Member of Parliament that I can just stop cold – nor do I want to.
What would you like to see the next Member for Myall Lakes do for the area?
It’s up to the new member how he runs his race, but representing the people is the greatest thing you can do as a ‘local member’. I wish the new Member for Myall Lakes all the best for a long and successful career, representing the great people of this great area.
Thank you John.