Candidates forum 1
Five of the eight candidates for Eden-Monaro attended, Peter Hendy, Liberal Party, Mike Kelly, Labor Party, Catherine Moore, The Greens, Costa Goumas, Citizens Electoral Council and Andrew Thaler, Independent.
Candidates forum 2
Some of the audience at the candidates forum.
About 120 local people listened carefully as candidates for the seat of Eden-Monaro in Saturday’s federal election answered a range of questions, covering Tafe, asylum seekers, marine parks, veterans superannuation, agricultural policy, carer pensions, the economy and euthanasia in a Q and A session organised by ABC South East radio at the Merimbula RSL Club on Sunday, September 1.
Five of the eight candidates for Eden-Monaro attended, Peter Hendy, Liberal Party, Mike Kelly, Labor Party, Catherine Moore, The Greens, Costa Goumas, Citizens Electoral Council and Andrew Thaler, Independent. Each candidate was given an opportunity to make a presentation with Mr Hendy, Goumas and Thaler making their presentations at the start of the session and Ms Moore and Dr Kelly choosing to present at the end.
Mr Hendy spoke about his family history, the importance of small business and the removal of the carbon tax. Mr Goumas said his party wanted to scrap free trade and have a nationalised banking system. Mr Thaler spent much of his presentation defending himself against an assault charge and referring to charges from the EPA (the Environment Protection Agency) but it was when he made a potentially defamatory reference to Dean Lynch, the candidate from the Palmer United Party, the moderator, Tim Holt from the ABC quickly stepped in to remove the microphone from Mr Thaler.
After this early excitement, the audience settled back to hear refugees discussed as Sally Ann Brown, of Bega asked: “As someone who works towards social justice what reason do I have to vote for you?”
Mr Goumas said the problem wasn’t in Australia but was being created in war-torn countries.
Mr Thaler said it being used to wedge both sides of politics and that the discussion needed to change to rise above politics.
Ms Moore said that many millions of people would continue to make the journey and that the Greens would aim to process them in 30 days.
Dr Kelly said: “This is an issue that has morally challenged me since 2001. I have regretted the poisonous debate in this country. I just hope we can grow up and have a mature discussion on this issue.”
Mr Hendy agreed that it was a huge humanitarian issue but said it was an issue that was created in 2007/08. “It had been resolved. The trade had stopped. There were only four people in detention at the end of the Howard era,” he said.
In an issue much closer to home, David Granger, of Bega referred to the cuts in the Tafe system and loss of 200 jobs in Tafe NSW.
Ms Moore said: “The Greens have been very vocal on the lost money to Tafe. Regional and rural areas should be self-sufficient.”
Mr Goumas bemused the audience by talk of superannuation and the economy but Mr Thaler elicited warm applause after talking about his own experience at Tafe and the need to allow students to be more well-rounded through practical and hands-on practical experience,.
Mr Hendy said that the Liberals would extend the Hex system to apprentices to assist in their training.
Dr Kelly said: “This is absolutely crucial. The NSW government has been vandalising the education system. We will directly target funding to Tafes and set up Tafes Australia. We intend to save Tafes.”
Shaun Wykes, of Merimbula brought some audience pressure to bear when he asked what each candidate would be able to do if they were elected butnot their party.
Mr Hendy said: “All the promises I have made I will lobby to get done. I hope to see a change of government.”
Dr Kelly said that there was still a lot you could do as a member whether you were in government or not by working with private investors and the community.
Mr Goumas said that the electorate needed someone different to have a voice on free education and medical facilities, cheaper electricity, adding that the country needs to have nuclear energy. He did not explain how he might enable any of these extremely expensive programs though.
Mr Thaler tried some working class appeal saying that he wasn’t a shiny shoe candidate in a suit and tie, he would be independent and for Eden-Monaro.
Ms Moore said that it was valuable to have The Greens take the seat whether they were in government or not because they would be advocating their policies.
Beef producer, Claire McMahon, of Kiah raised the issue of stopping live exports to Indonesia and how it has hurt the market.
Dr Kelly said that Australia had to be in the “clean, green, space” and that producers had been let down by the MLA (Meat & Livestock Australia) while Ms Moore said that The Greens were committed to working with farmers.
“Agriculture is absolutely vital to exports and to rural industry,” Mr Hendy said. “We would not let that fiasco happen again. We have a $100 million R & D policy and we’re putting money into bio-security.
In a question that one might be tempted to think revealed more about the Bega Valley Shire and Councillor Sharon Tapscott’s own experience, she asked: “Given that we’ve all heard many promises, how do you get the bureaucrats on board to carry out the promises?”
Mr Hendy reassured the audience that public servants overwhelmingly want to do the right thing but when it is apparent that they are not following ministers’ directions then someone had to step in.
In a reference to his own defence expertise, Dr Kelly said that it had been of great benefit to know when advice was accurate. “You need people around you to gross error check. You have to have a minister on top of the portfolio or staff who understand it,” he said.
The economy came up several times and there was clearly a feeling in the audience that the only reason the Labor government was able to get through the GFC was because there had been a surplus generated by the previous Liberal government which was then used to keep the country afloat.
When Lesley Dobson, of Tura Beach asked how the country might get through another GFC with no reserves, Dr Kelly tried to explain some of the complexities of the economy. “The Howard government got the reserves by not spending on infrastructure projects and being one of the highest taxing governments.”
Dr Kelly said that the Howard government had the benefit of the mining boom. “In times when the economy is in overdrive you have a surplus.” He said that when the economy hit more difficult times it was appropriate to borrow. “It is prudent to have the economy balanced appropriately, unlike the UK which was sent into recession.”
Dr Kelly said that current borrowing was at the right level for the country. “It’s like earning $100,000 a year and borrowing $13,000,” he said, “it’s not a big deal.”
But Mr Hendy said there had been an acceleration in unprecedented levels of debt. “We’re moving from where the budget was under control to where it’s not,” he said.
Mr Goumas raised the ire of the time keeper in his long response about nationalising the bank, re-industralisation, nuclear power and scrapping the GST.
The audience was reminded by Ms Moore that much of the increase in electricity prices had been caused by gold plating of the network, through a state government arrangements with the electricity providers and not through the carbon tax.