By Jackson Russell

Young people from the Mitchell Shire had a chance to hear directly from federal election candidates at a Youth Candidates Forum in Wallan last week.

Sitting Labor member Rob Mitchell, Animal Justice Party’s Ruth Parramore, independent Robert Hyndman and United Australia Party’s Chris Hayman attended while Greens candidate Neil Barker, currently overseas, was represented by former Macedon candidate Ralf Thesing.

Liberal candidate Phillip Fusco, One Nation candidate Ronnie Graham and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party candidate Deb Butler did not attend.

Questions about issues facing youth in the electorate were workshopped by the community before the forum and posed to all candidates.

Topics included waste management and recycling, climate change, mental health services and funding, youth allowance, the Watson Street interchange, vaping and drug policies, home ownership and affordable housing.

Candidates for McEwen were posed questions by members of Mitchell Youth council and the wider community at the Youth Candidates Forum.

Only one candidate, Rob Mitchell, was aware of Wallan’s Watson Street interchange project, despite Mitchell Shire Council prioritising it on its federal election wishlist.

Mr Thesing said the Greens have a target of achieving 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

“We want to create 180,000 new jobs in renewables, we want to support coal workers in the transition to retrain them and we want to look beyond renewable energy, that’s the first step, the easiest step, we should’ve solved this 10 years ago,” he said.

Ms Parramore agreed with the Greens but went a step further.

“Unlike any other party, the AJP believes that we have to address the significant impact on climate change that animal agriculture presents,” she said.

Mr Mitchell said bringing a second headspace centre to McEwen is part of Labor’s focus on mental health.

“Working closely with Mitchell Shire Suicide Prevention Network, working as an ambassador for Bully Zero, knowing families in this region that have lost children to bullying and suicide, mental health is a very key part of what we’re doing,” he said.

Most candidates were in favour of removing fees on tertiary education. Mr Hyndman said he was able to directly benefit from a free education.

“I wasn’t a HECS student so I didn’t have the trauma of what today’s youth have. I feel very sorry, I can’t understand how we took away free university education or free TAFE education and I can’t see any reason why it can’t be reinstituted,” he said.

Mr Hayman suggested decentralisation to push people into regional centres as a fix for housing affordability.

“We want to work with all parties to force decentralisation back on the agenda. We have a policy of fast rail in all capital cities to develop regional centres like Ballarat or Bendigo,” he said.