Moderator Lisa Linton introduces the McEwen candidates.

Candidates’ answers to submitted questions

Q: Climate change has increased the burden on mental and physical health systems. How do the candidates plan to address these challenges?

John Herron: It’s about emissions. We need a zero-carbon-emission economy. I’m going against the Liberal Democrats who talk about climate alarmism. Personally that’s not my view.

Richard Welch: I disagree that our hospital crisis is caused by climate change. It is due to the mismanagement of the state health system. I don’t think we are arguing any more about the significance of climate change. What we really are discussing is how we manage the transition of our energy base.

Rob Mitchell: Climate and mental health are linked. People are worried about their future. Farmers are worried about whether they’re going to be able to farm. Our environmental platforms all have input from people under the age of 29, because we want them to have a safe future.

Neil Barker: The Greens have the toughest emissions target of net zero by 2035. We have to set an example to the rest of the world.Barnaby Joyce has a problem with climate change, and so do other people in his party.

Chris Neil: I’m in favour of reducing emissions in a way that’s sustainable for industry and jobs. We have an interest in carbon sequestration, and that’s part of the short-term solution.

Q: More than 80 per cent of Australians have concerns about corruption in politics. What will your parties do to address the issue?

JH: I’m all for an ICAC. I’ve worked with three tiers of government and I’ve seen some disgusting things as far as corruption goes.

RW: I support a federal ICAC. We must be careful of which model we adopt. No judicial body can have more power than a democratically elected parliament. We must never have a situation where an ICAC can bring down a parliament.

RM: Labor supports an ICAC and an integrity commission. There is no reason a member of parliament, their staff, or bureaucrats should be treated better than anyone else.

NB: In draft legislation there will be no public hearings and no one will know an investigation is taking place. The definition of corruption is so narrow that very few investigations will ever be conducted. The proposed ICAC would only be able to take references from other agencies including the Attorney-General. What a joke.

CN: I fully support an ICAC. I have a friend who suffered because of being a whistleblower in a Federal Government matter. I don’t see politicians resigning when they do the wrong thing anymore – there is no accountability.

Q: Do you support the indefinite detention of refugees in offshore detention centres like Manus Island and Nauru?

RM: No. We shouldn’t be leaving people stranded and we should be working with our neighbours. Why have we got people locked up for nine years when New Zealand has said they will take them? It is wrong, it is unfair and it is cruel.

NB: It’s a travesty of justice. It brings shame on Australia and its reputation as a welcoming country.The government is using refugee policy for political purposes. We should be ashamed that we’re allowing this to happen on our watch.

CN: That’s unacceptable in Australia. On Christmas Island no worker is allowed to speak out about what they experienced on pain of two years’ imprisonment and the cancellation of their right to practice medicine. This era of refugee policy has major questions that need to be addressed.

RW: I do not support indefinite detention. Australia has a long and proud history of embracing refugees, but we need to make a clear distinction between refugees and illegal immigration. We had 50,000 people coming by boats. Both major parties agree that hard love in that respect has saved lives.

JH: The Liberal Democrats do not support detention. There are 50 million refugees around the world. For every dollar you spend here, $13 could be spent on refugees around the world. We need to look at this globally.

RM (reply to RW): It is not illegal under international law to seek asylum in another country.

Q: What experience do you have in McEwen service organisations?

CH: My kids went to Scouts. We’re busy with church. We have a large friendship network and we try to help people in our network as much as possible.

NB: I’ve given up on the local football club and basketball club and retired to gardening. I have a 10-year involvement with the Greens, and being a politician is one of the great things you can do for a community.

RM: I was an active member in forming the first Community Emergency Response Team in Australia. I’m actively involved in Lions clubs, supporting migrant groups, pony clubs and fundraisers across the electorate.

RW: I don’t have a huge track record in McEwen as I’ve been overseas for a long time. I was an English tutor to Bangladeshi refugees in London and I mentored Somalian children. I’m a member of Friends of Yarra Valley Parks and Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail.

JH: I manage and coach Riddells Creek tennis and basketball in Gisborne. My son is in Scouts and I’m a member of Zonta, the women’s group. I do a lot of campaigning for domestic violence and victims of crime. I was the only Legal Aid lawyer in McEwen.

Q: Aged care is failing to support older people. How will you address this?

JH: I think raising the pension so it’s above the poverty line is a good start. There needs to be more community services the aged can access.

RW: Aged people being able to stay in their homes is vital. We need medical services that fill the gap between acute care at hospitals and GPs, where they can receive care at home.

RM: We had a royal commission that the government fought against and it produced a report titled ‘Neglect’. At the moment there are 100,000 people waiting to get home-care packages. With an aging population we need to do better.

NB: The Greens support home-based aged care. I’ve had personal experience with my mother going into aged care and it took two months to get everything sorted.

CN: The best nursing homes function as small to medium businesses where the owner has a personal stake in the care provided. I’m dubious of the deregulation of that industry opening it up to shareholders for profit.

Q: What will you do to address increasing inequity in income, housing, education and job security?

RM: A lot of women make up the care sector and are underpaid for the work they do. This increases inequity, and that’s why we put forward a policy to reduce the gender pay gap.

NB: Australia is a less equal country now than it was in 1995, with higher than the average increase in inequality of the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries.

CN: I’ve been concerned about the cost of living for a long time.Housing affordability is a huge problem and I don’t agree with Labor’s policy of 30 to 35 per cent ownership by the state, because that will push up prices.

RW: One of the best ways to address inequality is making sure we have jobs and access to services. I’m the only one who has brought $1.62 billion for a freight terminal that is going to generate 20,000 jobs.

JH: Taxation needs to be reduced to a large degree to reduce inequality.

Q: What are candidates doing to bring jobs, business and infrastructure to our region?

JH: I worked on the WIFT [Western Interstate Freight Terminal] and the BIFT [Beveridge Interstate Freight Terminal]. That was in 2010 and nothing has happened since then. I think what has been proposed is a great idea.

RW: The [BIFT] is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for this region.We have massive population growth an no other major industries. It will create 20,000 jobs. It’s not just an election promise, it’s in the budget. It’s been funded. It must be completed by 2027 because of Inland Rail.It will be a cornerstone of economic growth in our region.

RM: If you want to create more wealth, pay people properly and give them secure employment. The BIFT is a good idea, but it’s not going to be built by 2027. The government’s own budget allocates $200 million over four years. If it’s going to be built by 2027 there is a lot of work to do in the last 12 months. We need diversity of employment, we need small businesses and we need to make people are paid properly.

NB: The Prime Minister is more interested in politics than allocating funds on the basis of need. Victoria has 26 per cent of the population and gets 18 per cent of the federal transport funds. NSW, with less than a third of the population, gets 33 per cent.

CN: I agree that the BIFT is a win for McEwen. I would support infrastructure any way I could for this electorate.

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