The Seymour We Want group conducted a candidates forum last Wed 28th August; an opportunity for locals to find out just what the candidates stand for, discuss the policies of each party, and quiz the candidates about matters of greatest concern to the locals. Several members of BEAM went along for the evening, and publishes the following commentary about how the various candidates for McEwen presented their cases.
One of the candidates for a major party didn’t attend – Donna Petrovich , Liberal Candidate for McEwen wasn’t present – and Barry Newton for Family First, and Ian Cranson for Country Alliance were also absent.
A forum at such a local level would suggest that local issues may be on the table for discussion. However, most candidates were instead spruiking the policies of their Party Headquarters, rather than how it may relate at a more local level. An exception to this would be Labor candidate Rob Mitchell, who would have scored points from some in the audience when he asserted that Seymour had been unfairly represented in the media at large, and that there was many a good reason to be optimistic about what the future holds for its residents. He stated that there has been $1.5 billion invested into the electorate over the last 3 years under Labor. Throughout the evening, Mr Mitchell’s catch cry was very much along the lines of how he’ll do more of what he has already done. There was some indication from the audience, though, that they might be more interested in just what he’d do differently.
Neil Barker, the Green’s candidate addressed the gathering at length and often fought to speak on after the final bell had well and truly been rung. The two minute limit was barely enough time to convey much more than an overview of ideas, but Mr Barker certainly tried to add substance. Climate change, unsurprisingly, was one of his main agendas, and the residents of Seymour were told that he believes that the polluters must pay for polluting; that it is unfair for the taxpayer to foot the bill.
Ferdi Verdan for the Rise Up Australia Party, spoke of his desire to keep Australia Australian, and to discourage ethnic enclaves. He sees a need to protect Australian farming and manufacturing. He also sees a need to ‘stop the boats’.
Bruce Stevens of Katter’s Australian Party declared that Keating’s Free Trade agreement was the commencement of the degradation of Australia. His initial address focussed on how power bills have tripled, with energy from a power grid owned by China and Singapore. The Katter Party talks of building a National Energy Grid. He also spoke of the need to protect Australia’s food supply and prevent foreign ownership of Australia’s agricultural land, so that Australia’s food might be grown to feed Australians.
Other candidates – Victoria Nash of the Australian Sex Party, and Trevor Dance of Palmer United – also introduced themselves and had input throughout the evening. Ms Nash places emphasis on equal rights and improving protection under the sexual discrimination laws, and one of Mr Dance’s solutions to the asylum seeker/boat arrivals question, was that his party would ensure that all asylum seekers purchased an air ticket to Australia, and that those found not to be genuine refugees would be despached straight back from whence they came.
There were many and varied questions from the floor, but space requires that we focus on just a few.
One question sought to address a matter around the proposed Cherry Tree Wind Farm, but after an objection by the Labor candidate, and strict moderation/editing by the MC, the question was diluted into “whether the candidate supports renewable energy?”. All candidates present said yes. Mr Dance of Palmer United was seen to be saying that he ‘fully supports renewables’ and the Green’s candidate likewise, with a nod to wind power specifically, though it was noticed that he did endorse that statement with “in appropriate places” but gave no definition of the same.
A question relating to coal seam gas exploration had most candidates declaring they are plainly against it. The Katter candidate added that they would have an immediate moratorium on CSG exploration; the Palmer party candidate said that further research was necessary into the environmental impact and community views.
We perhaps should remember that, without Donna Petrovich in attendance, nothing was heard about the Liberal’s intentions in any of these areas. So a thoughtful question that considered the Liberal’s Plan to abolish the Carbon Tax, carbon trading, along with the various government bodies that support the reaching of the 20% Renewable Energy Target. While the question focussed on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and whether the responsibility should be for government or the private sector, there were some very brief responses by some candidates. The Katter candidate reaffirmed that they would be buying back the National Grid, though didn’t elaborate on just what they would then do with it. Rob Mitchell for Labor seemed keen to say that South Australia was now producing more from wind power on a windy day than the power stations there. Neil Barker for the Greens told the gathering how Europe was way ahead, and Australia will ‘wake up to find itself behind the eightball’, and he confirmed that the Greens would increase the Renewable Energy Target to 90% by 2030, and that they’d increase funding to $30 billion (over 10 years) to the CEFC.
While an interesting exercise, the candidate’s performance at the forum is unlikely to have provided much more than we can glean from the already published policies and plans of the key players. President of BEAM, Richard Telford, has submitted a letter to the local media in response to the forum, and that can be found here.
After the election was first called and the candidates became known, BEAM also took the time to send a questionnaire to each, asking for their views about issues that would be of interest to the BEAM membership.
The reluctance of some parties to provide meaningful information to the electorate means voters have to make some very difficult decisions before polling day this Saturday . There’s interesting times ahead!