Ballarat’s political candidates went head to head on the major issues at yesterday’s Ballarat election forum.
The forum, organised by the Committee for Ballarat and supported by The Courier and ABC Ballarat, put six candidates and their policies under a spotlight by an audience of voters and community leaders.
Representing the major political parties, Labor’s Catherine King and the Liberals’ John Fitzgibbon traded blows on the economy, the national broadband network, health and education.
Minor party candidates were also keen to have their platforms heard – and to prove their points of difference
Labor incumbent Catherine King highlighted her party’s accomplishments in Ballarat, arguing Labor remained in the best position to manage Australia’s economy.
The party had a strong record of delivering for the Ballarat region, she said, from the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre to school, community and sporting infrastructure.
But Liberal candidate John Fitzgibbon was looking to the future and said it was time for a change.
“It should be easier for families, it should be easier for business,” he said.
Standing to deliver his opening address, Katter’s Australian Party candidate Shane Dunne proclaimed he was not going to be reading off a speech.
“I’m a little bit different to the other candidates here,” he said.
Concerned about the dominance of Coles and Woolworths in the grocery market, he spoke in support of Australia’s farmers.
Greens candidate Stephanie Hodgins-May drew attention to climate change and the government’s role in ending the age of fossil fuels, while Palmer United Party candidate Gerard Murphy called for taxes to be cut across the board.
The Democratic Labor Party’s Stephen Vereker said his party did not support an emissions trading scheme, which he said would harm Australia’s future.
But Ms King hit back at the claim: “This from a party ... that does not believe in climate change,” she said.
Candidates were asked if they planned to fund Ballarat’s proposed Eureka Stadium redevelopment, but in this there was a consensus.
Both major parties indicated the proposal wasn’t ready.