By Colin MacGillivray
FIVE of the seven candidates for the federal electorate of McEwen were at Riddells Creek last week for a community question-and-answer forum ahead of the May 21 election.
Incumbent Labor member Rob Mitchell, Liberal Richard Welch, Greens candidate Neil Barker, Liberal Democrat John Herron and the Australian Federation Party’s Christopher Neil spent about two hours answering questions from community members at Riddell Creek Primary School on Wednesday night.
United Australia Party candidate Paul McRae and One Nation candidate Chris Bradbury did not attend the forum.
Community questions covered a range of concerns, including the mental and physical health impacts of climate change, the establishment of a federal independent commission against corruption, ICAC, the detention of refugees, funding for the ABC, aged care, income inequality, the provision of local jobs and infrastructure, and telecommunications.
Candidates were also given a chance to introduce themselves to voters and outline their visions for the McEwen electorate.
Mr Herron, a Riddells Creek resident, said the murder of his daughter three years ago spurred him on an advocacy campaign on family violence and violence against women.
He said he saw a lack of diversity in political representation, and he had chosen to stand for the Liberal Democrats because they offered more freedom of choice. He said he had leeway to challenge party doctrine within the Liberal Democrats, which other candidates lacked.
Mr Welch said his background in business and work in impoverished areas had given him a sense of how economic development could improve communities.
He described McEwen as an area of ‘incredible growth, incredible challenges and incredible opportunities’.
He said improving roads, creating jobs in the region and boosting youth mental health and telecommunications capabilities were his key goals.
Mr Mitchell focused on the issues of affordable housing, childcare, higher wages and action on climate change.
He said as a long-term resident of McEwen and the incumbent member, he was accountable as ‘the one who stands up and has to look you in the eye if we don’t deliver on something’.
Mr Barker described climate change as the most urgent issue of the election and ‘without climate action there will be no economy at all’.
He also decried the Liberal-Nationals government’s cuts to Medicare and called for the establishment of an ICAC.
Mr Neil said he disagreed with the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and it had resulted in ‘breaches of our liberties and our rights of movement and freedom of choice’.
He described Australia’s two-party system as ‘broken’ and pledged to listen to all constituents if elected.
Moderator Lisa Linton, from Riddells Creek Neighbourhood House, thanked the candidates and community for attending the forum.
“I want to thank the constituents of McEwen for coming, because your passionate engagement is what gets our communities what they need,” she said.
“I’d also like to thank the candidates. Our democracy works on people being willing to stand up and do things like this where people can ask questions. We can tell you’re all very passionate.”