I’ve convened a few pre-election candidate forums in my time. The most memorable may be some years ago, in a place far away. An independent candidate, a perfectly pleasant gentleman by the name of Donald Keys, was quite upfront in his campaign strategy. This was to capture the donkey vote. Get it? DonKeys…
Nothing quite so memorable at last Wednesday night’s Kyogle forum.
The order of speaking was decided by draw and Alison Waters from the Animal Justice Party got first shot. In a slip of the tongue, to Alison’s delight, I managed to call this the Alison Justice Party. Alison told us that empathy, kindness, compassion and equality were her driving motivators. To all animals, including Homo sapiens.
Dan Reid from the Greens said he came late to politics and hadn’t been involved with student activism or protest. As custodians of the land, Dan says, farmers need support to manage their land. He’s a supporter of good faith conversations, allowing that people might not always agree.
Fiona Leviny grew up in a man’s world, but has overcome this rocky start. She learnt a lot, and found a lot of courage from seven years as an active member of the Nationals. Standing as an Independent is wonderful, she told us, picking the best pieces of policy from across the spectrum.
Labor’s Patrick Deegan is committed to health and education and is bothered that many parts of the Page electorate are missing out on key services. He outlined some of Labor’s policies and stressed how important it was to have a Labor representative in what is likely to be a federal Labor government.
Kevin Hogan was unable to attend due to a prior commitment. While there are different views on the validity of that excuse, Kevin, after some understandable hesitation, sent a staff member to represent him. The staffer ably read a list of the sitting member’s achievements. More health funding and less unemployment. And bridges, road upgrades and infrastructure spending as far as the eye can see.
Neither Peter Walker from the Christian Democrats nor John Mudge from United Australia Party responded to our approaches so nothing to report on them.
The crowd was around 40 which was way down from the number that turned up to the state election forum in early March. That maybe because the sitting member wasn’t coming. It may be because of the televised debate between Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten was on at the same time. Or it may be that people are just a bit over politics.
Surprisingly, given previous assurances, Mr Hogan’s representative declined to respond to any questions at all which was a little bit of a dampener. Though it gave the others more time.
The first question was on Labor’s dental plan for pensioners. Others that followed were on ABC funding and independence, TAFE funding, the future of family farming and mobile phone black spots.
CSG, climate change and Adani got air time, as did water and vegetation management. The diminished state of Australia’s merchant navy was up for comment.
Someone said he had asked some government people for examples of where privatisation of government services had led to better outcomes. Apparently they came up blank. Comments from the candidates were sought and freely offered. Similar outsourcing concerns over the NDIS were raised.
The inter-linked issues of domestic violence and family poverty, both high in the Kyogle Local Government Area, were raised. Taxation policies was entirely missing from the conversation.
But the really pleasing thing from my personal point of view is the extent to which candidates, in both these forums, have been perfectly civil towards each other. And I’d say this has largely rubbed off on both audiences which have been almost completely niggle free. Well done Kyogle!
Unless something drastic and unexpected should happen that’s it for candidate forums in Kyogle – until the local government elections in September 2020.