CONTROVERSIAL Anglican Church leader Father Rod Bower and an army of protesters took to the streets during the Prime Minister’s whistlestop tour of the Central Coast today.

Mr Abbott had a mixed reception, with locals greeting him with a warm welcome at a community morning tea at Mingara before protests in Gosford against funding cutbacks and the government’s asylum seeker policy.

The Prime Minister was greeted by cheers and hugs from the crowd of 100 business and community leaders at the morning tea organised by Dobell federal Liberal MP Karen McNamara at Mingara Recreation Club at Tumbi Umbi.

But Mr Abbott was treated to a less rapturous reception by demonstrators outside Central Coast Leagues Club as he attended a private Liberal Party fundraising lunch and later as he arrived at Gosford Regional Gallery an invitation-only afternoon tea.

Outspoken archdeacon of the Central Coast Rod Bower, who last month was ejected from Parliament House during a silent protest against the asylum seeker policy, and about 150 protesters lined the entrance to the gallery in “turning their backs” on the Prime Minister as he arrived.

“This silent, nonviolent protest is our way to say to Mr Abbott that we feel shame about some of the government policies, especially its policy on asylum seekers, renewable energy and the inability to have a just marriage policy,” the Gosford Anglican Church leader said.

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister played down the chances of a private member’s bill on gay marriage being debated and put to a vote.

“It’s quite unusual for private member’s bills to come on for debate and vote in the Parliament,” he said, while being questioned by journalists during a tour of Airpack sheetmetal factory in West Gosford.

“I’ve been in the Parliament now for 21 years and there’s only been, from memory, two or three occasions when a private member’s bill has come on for debate and vote.

“We’re getting on with the job that we’re elected to do and as far as I’m concerned that will always be the focus of this Government.”

Outside the Central Coast Leagues Club, local workers and residents waving placards and chanting, protested against “cuts to pensions, unaffordable university fees, attacks on Medicare, cuts to public services and his lack of vision for jobs on the Coast” during the union organised rally.

“The Central Coast is awake and we won’t be taken for granted,” Unions NSW spokesman Salim Barbar said.

“This is not going to be the last campaign on the Central Coast. There are no jobs on the Central Coast and the Government is wholly responsible for that,” he told the crowd.

In between morning and afternoon teas, with a lunch date in Gosford in between, the Prime Minister also squeezed in a visit to the Airpak Sheetmetal factory at West Gosford to meet workers and promote the Government’s new Jobactive employment services which started on Wednesday.

While there were no new announcements for the Central Coast, Mr Abbott confirmed the Government’s commitment to creating jobs for the region.

“The Central Coast will soon have a major new Federal Government employer — the Australian Taxation Office,” he said referring to his pledge to establish an ATO office at Gosford, creating 600 jobs.

“We’re on track and hope to see the fit out work begin next year, with 600 staff moving in the year after,” he said.

He also said the “long overdue” North Connex project (the motorway linking the M1 and M2) was “at the heart of the Government’s commitment to the Central Coast”.

Mr Abbott also boasted about his Government’s measures to provide a “shot in the arm” for small businesses on the Coast and committed to working with police to tackle the region’s ice drug scourge.

He also pledged to work with local schools and training ­organisations to get young people “as job ready as possible”.

Senator Deborah O’Neill said Mr Abbott’s visit was “a smack in the face to the thousands of locals his policies have hurt”.

“In only his second visit to the Coast since the 2013 Federal Election, where he promised no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no changes to the pension, no cuts to the ABC and SBS, he has come to take money from the Coast,” she said.

“It is a disgrace that Tony Abbott hasn’t visited the Coast to speak with locals, or to answer for his cuts and lies, but instead to bury himself within Liberal Party functions.”


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