Candidates make final pitch

Candidates make final pitch

Candidates battling it out for the Federal seat of Gippsland at tomorrow’s election had a chance to win over voters at a public forum at Bairnsdale Sporting and Convention Centre on Tuesday night, with the vast majority of public questioning revolving around climate change.

In what is considered a safe Nationals seat, occupied by Darren Chester since 2008, those competing against the sitting member spoke of similar sentiments – it’s time for change.

Labor candidate, Antionette Holm, said Gippslanders deserve much better, providing funding for schools and cancer patients and delivering on opportunities.

“Elections are moments of opportunity where people get to effect change, to make change,” she said.

“You have an incumbent who should rightfully be judged on his record and you have a strong opposition.

“My party, the Labor Party, has a vision for Australia. That vision is one of hope and opportunity.

“We look squarely into the effects of climate change and seek to act.”

Dr Holm said she chose to run for parliament because she could no longer watch inaction on drought and climate change.

“This election is about change, the opportunity to say to a National Party that 100 years is enough, you’ve had enough time, you need to act. This about saying ‘is this it, is this all you’ve got’, we deserve so much better,” she said.

Dr Holm said Gippsland provides so much to the country, however faces difficulty in numerous areas.

Her goal is to “make Gippsland matter”.

“You know that milk in your coffee, that electricity powering your laptop, that lettuce in your sandwich, that comes from Gippsland, and yet with all of this wealth and productivity, all of these resources and people, we have some pretty poor outcomes too – higher rates of cancer and suicide, lower educational opportunities and growing generational poverty,” she said.

“This is not right, we need to make Gippsland matter, matter to Victoria, matter to the nation.”

Greens candidate, Dr Deb Foskey, said standing for her party was “not a popular gig instead of a bright young thing”, however said that doesn’t mean young people don’t care and that we need to fight against climate change.

“Young people are passionately concerned about the world they will inherit and are begging government to act on their behalf,” she said.

“Climate change is biting and droughts can no longer be shrugged off as natural cycles. Along with fire and flood, extremes in a climate change world are more extreme.

“The state of the rivers and the Gippsland Lakes has many people worried, add to that the threat of a mine on our most productive agricultural land, taking over from a water table we know little about and threatening the Mitchell River, which provides water to the bulk of East Gippsland’s homes and businesses, well that has people really worried, as it should.”

Dr Foskey said the Greens are the only part with a policy to take carbon emissions to zero, “as it’s required”.

“Because the Greens have polices that tackle climate change, along with comprehensive polices on jobs and agriculture and health and education, we offer Gippslanders a real choice at this election.”

Dr Foskey suggested if Mr Chester is re-elected, that he should seek out the people whose interests “you have been brushing aside, that we are representing all the locals of Gippsland”.

Mr Chester suggested Gippslanders should vote for him on the back of “a proven track record”.

“The first reason I got involved in politics is because I wanted to make a difference in our community,” he said.

“I’ve had to work with the opposition and with the Labor Party to try and achieve results here in Gippsland, with some success, and I’ve had to work with the Federal Coalition over the past six years to try achieve results, firstly as parliamentary secretary and later as a cabinet minister and we have been able to achieve some extraordinary results.

“If you vote for me, you do know what you’re going to get. You know you are going to get someone who is passionate about Gippsland, who has experience in the Federal Parliament, who even my critics would say ‘is a hard worker’, and ‘doesn’t get involved  in stupid political games in Canberra’.

“The passion and enthusiasm I had 10 years ago, I’ve added to that experience in opposition and in government and experience goes a long way when trying to get results out of Canberra.

“I recognise that you’re not there only to represent the people that vote for you, but you are there to protect everyone.”

Independent candidate, Sonia Buckley, suggested an independent candidate could be a powerful solution in a minority government.

“We’ve become disillusioned with the two party system, it’s out of touch and no
longer has long term vision,” she said.

“Economics is vitally important, but has become the focal point for our government. Health of the planet, the happiness and social cohesion of the people is equally important, yet deemed less relevant in current government policy.”

Ms Buckley said she is not a climate denier, nor a climate alarmist, and is neither for or against mining, however said Kalbar’s proposed Glenaladale mine is an area that should be exempt.

One of Ms Buckley’s major points centered around government creating legislation around fraud, telling a story of person who had money stolen under deception.

Ms Buckley said the “election process needs an overhaul”, suggesting voting could be voluntary, not mandatory.

“We need effective government, less taxes and we must reserve our right for freedom and I’ll fight for that, so this election give an independent a go,” she said.

Neville Tickner, who did not speak at the forum but is standing for the Fraser Anning Conservative National Party, said his party’s policies reflect his beliefs and that he would fight to ensure a safe future for his children, their children and so forth.

He said his party would support farmers, pensioners, war veterans and work to restore Australia’s sovereignty.