Labor upper house MP, Stephen Lawrence, who is special envoy to the Minister for Natural Resources, has paid an unofficial visit to the Silver City and it wasn’t all business – a stop at the Workies Club on Argent St, introduced him, he says, to, “one of the best schnitty’s in town”.
The duty MLCs (Members of the Legislative Council – the upper house of state parliament) for each electorate are yet to be announced by the Labor Party, but Mr Lawrence hopes to serve as the Duty MLC for Barwon. This potential role represents an opportunity to support communities in accessing government services and feeling appropriately represented, he told us.
Following a trip to White Cliffs alongside Resources minister Courtney Houssos, Mr Lawrence has been focused on resolving issues confronting opal miners in the region.
He told the Truth they stemmed from, “a departmental misunderstanding of various, technical but strict provisions of the legislation”. The ‘misunderstanding’, although seemingly a bureaucratic hiccup, has significantly impacted the opal mining industry and brought many mining leases to a standstill.
Mr Lawrence’s envoy role includes ensuring communication between miners and the department. He encouraged miners to document their questions, assuring them he would obtain comprehensive responses. He plans to revisit the region within a month to ensure all concerns have been addressed.
Mr Lawrence spoke warmly of his ties to Broken Hill. As a former employee of the Aboriginal Legal Service he frequently represented individuals and managed court matters in the city.
“It’s a truly captivating and fascinating place,” he told us.
“I aim to take this role very seriously. As a resident of Dubbo, I have experienced the challenges that communities like Bourke, Walgett, and Broken Hill face. I am committed to visiting these areas regularly and ensuring I am always accessible to individuals with government issues.”
He pinpointed housing as a significant challenge for Broken Hill, which may worsen due to expected population growth. Despite government efforts in social housing and land development, housing remains a critical regional issue.
As a former councillor and Mayor of Dubbo, Mr Lawrence said he is keen to form relationships with Broken Hill City Council. He plans to arrange formal introductions with the councillors once his MLC position is confirmed.