By Evelyn Leckie
FOUR out of the eight candidates standing in the newly-named seat of Nicholls turned up to the Seymour Community Forum last week.
Absent was Nationals candidate Damian Drum, who has held the seat formerly known as the seat of Murray for the past three years.
Seymour resident Herma Duthie said she was offended that Mr Drum didn’t show, especially to address issues relating to the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
Also absent from the discussion was Pauline Hanson’s One Nation candidate Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell, Greens candidate Nickee Freeman and Independent Jeremy Parker.
Australian Labor Party member Bill Lodwick, United Australia Party Stewart Hine, Independent Nigel Hicks and Independent Andrew Bock however faced tough questions on water management, climate change, mandatary offshore detention, Indigenous issues, preference voting and superannuation.
Water management and climate change seemed to be the most pressing issues that residents were eager to hear about.
Independent Nigel Hicks, a dairy farmer, said he was concerned about the fate of the Hume Dam and that he would fight to scrap the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
“By the time the Murray Darling Basin Plan is completed – the extra 450 GL of water which is being taken despite what our Nationals friends tell us – that will be the whole capacity of the Hume Dam,” he said.
“Without that water which is a major driver of the economy of this whole region – the flow on effects to health, education – we can’t do it on a crooked foundation.”
Mr Lodwick, Mr Hine and Mr Bock also agreed they would support a Royal Commission into the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
On climate change, Mr Lodwick said Labor was the only party that had a comprehensive plan on tackling the issue, including plans to make half the cars being sold on the market electric by 2030.
“There’s also investment in new technology like hydrogen and there’s investment in helping lower income people access roof solar panels,” Mr Lodwick said.
Mr Bock said 84 per cent of people wanted action on climate change and renewable energy would be the next industrial revolution.
Mr Hicks said he sat in the middle of the road on the issue, saying the opportunities were huge particularly in the area for renewable energy – hydro and irrigation.
“I personally think we don’t need to wave the big fear stick with carbon taxes – it galvanises people one way or the other,” he said.
Mr Hine said he also wanted to find some middle ground on the issue and that renewables made much more sense to him.
He said the target for electric cars was also flawed due to coal power stations having to power electric cars.
Possibly the most divisive issue of the night was the candidates’ stance on mandatory offshore detention.|
Mr Hicks said he did not support immigration for the next five to ten years.
“We should get our own house in order before we look overseas,” he said.
Mr Hine spoke of his personal views saying people who were held offshore were not asylum seekers but people who attempted to enter Australia illegally using the paid services of people smugglers.
Mr Lodwick said he thought it was shameful that Australia has allowed mandatory offshore detention to continue for such a long time.
“Men, children and women languish overseas with no hope of going anywhere,” he said.
“If people are asylum seekers and refugees – they have rights and they need to be taken care of – I’ll fight against it.”