MANNING Alliance is off to Canberra on Monday, having received an invitation from prime minister Julia Gillard to meet with one of her senior policy advisors.
The invitation follows the Alliance's 'Dear Julia' Christmas newsletter to the PM (page 1 MRT December 22-23) in which she was told what's it like for rural people living in "the real world".
Member for Lyne Rob Oakeshott has lauded the Alliance's determination, saying "It is great (they) are in the door, and the voice of local people is influencing national policy reform."
Ms Gillard has invited an Alliance deputation to meet her policy advisor on climate change, energy and the environment, at Parliament House, to discuss the package of reform on which she secured agreement at the Council of Governments (COAG) meeting last December, and to discuss a range of recommendations which the Alliance wants to put forward on energy market reform.
The invitation is in direct response to the letter that Alliance chairman Peter Epov wrote to the PM in December and which Mr Oakeshott personally delivered.
In her letter, Ms Gillard recognises the work of the Alliance saying: "My office has noted the advocacy work the Manning Alliance has been engaged in regarding electricity network expenditure."
She also acknowledges, and expresses concern regarding the 'gold plating' of electricity networks in Australia saying: "As you are aware, I've been deeply concerned about rising electricity prices, especially as a result of over-investment in electricity networks."
Mr Epov told the Times a meeting has been arranged with the policy advisor on Monday.
"The opportunity to meet with the person who provides advice to the prime minister of Australia on climate change, energy and the environment is just too good to pass up.
"We now have a chance to highlight a number of our most very important issues of concern directly to the person who advises and develops policy for the PM."
Mr Epov expressed appreciation to Mr Oakeshott, saying he had been instrumental in facilitating this opportunity for the people of the Manning Valley.
"I am delighted all our hard work is now reaping rewards for the Manning community. I am particularly thrilled the PM and her staff are following the activities of the Alliance. This is an important recognition of our community and brings credit to us all," Mr Epov said.
"For some time now, the Alliance has been advocating the importance of people power in regional communities; we have been urging people to become better informed and to be engaged in public debate over issues and subjects that directly affect their lives.
"We live in a time where we can no longer just sit back in between elections and trust and rely on a politician, particularly by his brand!
"Those days are well and truly over and quite frankly we have all seen some very poor examples of branded politicians elected to parliaments... politicians, who have performed for their parties but not for the people of their electorates who actually voted them in."
Mr Epov said that while the main subject of the Canberra talks will be energy reform, he will relish the chance to also air the Alliance's concerns about coal seam gas extraction.