James Harker-Mortlock selected as Nationals candidate for Whitlam

The Nationals have selected a candidate for the federal seat of Whitlam, following strong conservative polling in the Southern Highlands during the state election.

James Harker-Mortlock, a grazier from Bango in the Yass Valley, has a long involvement in politics.

James Harker-Mortlock says he wants to address prices for farmers, funding for small and medium-sized businesses, the Illawarra Highway and Maldon to Dombarton railway line.

James Harker-Mortlock says he wants to address prices for farmers, funding for small and medium-sized businesses, the Illawarra Highway and Maldon to Dombarton railway line.

He said he has been a Nationals member about 10 years. He joined in 2006, but took a two-year break after 2013 when he ran as an independent for the Hume electorate. He renewed his party membership around 2015 and has been the chairman of the Nationals' State Electoral Council for Goulburn since February, 2018.

Mr Harker-Mortlock said the Nationals would try to build on the success the coalition had in the Southern Highlands, where the Liberals won the region's main centres of Bowral, Berrima, Moss Vale and Sutton.

Mr Harker-Mortlock said the Nationals were looking to open an office in the Southern Highlands soon and that he had already been meeting with Whitlam constituents.

"The Nationals needed someone to fly the flag and this is a good opportunity to talk about the issues," he said.

As a grazier, Mr Harker-Mortlock would like to see better prices for farmers, in particular dairy farmers, as well as safety improvement for older farmers.

"I'm dismayed at the mortality of older farmers. They're often working alone, their children aren't with them and they have poor communications (ie. mobile reception). I think we need to look at an emergency system that allows farmers to communicate with a button," he said.

Mr Harker-Mortlock also has a long involvement in business and would like to see access to finances made easier for small and medium-sized businesses.

"I think we need to continue the work of the Royal Commission into banking," he said.

"The reaction of the banks to the Royal Commission has been to make credit very difficult for small and medium businesses and that's making life very difficult for them. We need small and medium businesses to drive the economy."

Mr Harker-Mortlock also believes legal advice should be made more affordable for everyone.

"There is no point in giving people rights if they can't implement them and Labor bringing in negative gearing will make it more difficult," he said.

He would also like to support veterans affected by the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme (DFRDB) and address why young defence personnel are ending up homeless.

"I think their ability to get employed when they return home could be a part of it," he said. "We need to address why."

Mr Harker-Mortlock is the leader of the 'Duplicate the Barton Highway Community Action Group' in the Yass Valley and will also be advocating for upgrades to the Illawarra Highway and to complete the railway connection from Maldon to Dombarton.

"People in the Whitlam electorate seem to travel a lot," he said. "We need to take some pressure off passenger traffic."

The Nationals have previously run in the electorate of Whitlam, named in honour of former Australian prime minister,  Gough Whitlam AC QC. Jan Mandelson ran for the seat for The Nationals in 2016, when Whitlam incumbent Stephen Jones of the Labor Party won.

Mr Harker-Mortlock said he wasn't sure if the Liberals would run a candidate in the electorate. Traditionally, the Nationals and Liberals don't run against one another to save sharing the conservative vote.

"[However] anything is possible in politics," he said. "We'll give it a red hot go."