HUNTER Labor candidate Daniel Repacholi is seeking election to ensure there are "long-term" job opportunities in the region, saying the coal and renewables industries can "continue to grow" alongside each other.
"I currently work in an engineering shop in the Hunter Valley ... I can't get tradespeople, I can't apprentices, I can't get trainees," he told the ABC.
"I know I'm not the only person running a business here who is having those issues.
"I want to make sure that with a Labor government we give young people the opportunity, and businesses alike, to get what they all need, which is to have secure jobs and also secure long-term employees.
"That's what made me want to stand for the seat of Hunter."
Mr Repacholi said the Coalition had "let the ball drop" with skilled employment opportunities and if elected he hoped to help turn the training sector "around".
"There's been 143,000 less trainees and apprenticeships since the current government came into power," he said. "This is disgusting. Tradespeople are in huge demand all over Australia and we just haven't had them through the lack of our TAFE system and other federally funded training systems."
Asked about what else he would focus on during his election campaign, Mr Repacholi said he would advocate for the continued export of coal and adequate planning as domestic power generation switches from the fossil fuel to renewables.
"The coal industry will be a huge focus for me," he said.
"While there is demand out there for the Hunter coal to be exported all around the world, I think we should definitely fill that demand.
"We'll keep jobs safe around the area and families happy ... coal-fired power stations will be coming to an end of life over time and as that happens, we will switch our focus to renewables. There's plenty of areas where we can continue to grow them together."
Mr Repacholi was endorsed by Labor's national executive, a move that was slammed by local rank-and-file party members. Labor leader Anthony Albanese described the former Olympian on Monday as "an outstanding candidate for Hunter".
"He's someone that has been a union delegate, he's someone who knows what it's like to do it tough, he's someone who has been a strong advocate for the rights of working people," he said.
Despite the controversy over his appointment, Mr Repacholi said he expected "Labor supporters to continue to support Labor" and "with the policies we introduce over time, once the election is called, I think we'll continue to gain more and more support for Labor".
He sold himself as a "normal everyday guy" who "had worked his way up from the shop floor" yesterday and expressed remorse about online activity which has drawn criticism since he emerged as the likely candidate.
"I haven't been someone who has been told since I was 10 years of age that I was going to be the PM of Australia. I started my apprenticeship when I was 15 years of age and I've worked really hard to get to where I am today, which is running an engineering workshop in the area with 60 employees from all different backgrounds in life just like mine," he said.
"I've made some remarks on social media in the past that I'm not proud of and that I've apologised for publicly.
"I'm an everyday Australian. I love spending time with my family and friends and I just want to try and make a difference to the area of the Hunter that we live in."
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