ABOUT 30 people attended tonight's public forum for candidates seeking election to the Legislative Council seat of Derwent. The function was held at the New Norfolk District Football Club, where club president Steven Dixon welcomed those present and congratulated moderator Ngaire Glover on her initiative in organising the event.
Mrs Glover welcomed candidates Craig Farrell (ALP), Phillip Bingley (Greens) and Ray Williams (Independent) and advised that the two remaining independent candidates (Deirdre Flint and Jenny Branch) had other commitments and were not able to attend.
Each candidate was then given five minutes to introduce himself before the forum moved on to a question and answer session. Some of the questions were:
Do you support the mandatory detention of asylum seekers? Mr Bingley was the only candidate to specifically answer this question, stating that he did not support mandatory detention.
Do you support container deposit legislation? All three candidates answered "yes".
Do you support the clearfelling of native forests? Mr Williams and Mr Bingley answered "no", while Mr Farrell said he supported selective harvesting in native forests.
How would you promote employment in the electorate? Mr Williams said he would lobby parliament and businesses for improved inland irrigation for increased agricultural production. He said Willow Court needed increased government funding to become an employment generator. Mr Farrell said there was no magic solution to employment but it was important to build on what we already have, in particular in tourism. He saw Willow Court and the Derwent Valley Railway was potential tourism employment generators. Mr Bingley said he would advocate the provision of government mentoring services to support private enterprise. He spoke of the success of the Agrarian Kitchen which had grown from a start-up business only a few years ago to now employing eight people.
Do you support cuts to state health and education budgets? Mr Williams said he had not seen the government's budget figures but had been concerned to read that cuts maybe made at the New Norfolk Police Station . Mr Farrell said those budgets should not be cut and said there was a need for increased support for policing and education when times were tough. Mr Bingley said front line services should be quarantined from budget cuts.
Do you support the linking of the Derwent and Huon Valleys by road? All three candidates said they supported this concept and the benefits it would bring to tourism in both regions.
What specifically are you going to do to get projects like Willow Court off the ground? Mr Williams answered "whatever it takes" and Mr Farrell said Willow Court deserved all that could be put into it, but noted that the Callington Mill redevelopment at Oatlands had taken about 30 years. Mr Bingley condemned the State Government for allowing the neglect, decay and vandalism at Willow Court to occur and said the involvement of private enterprise was needed.
Given what went wrong with Willow Court how can voters put their trust in you? This question was addressed to Mr Williams as a former Derwent Valley Councillor and Mr Farrell as a serving councillor. Mr Farrell said Willow Court's problems began when the government handed the site to the council without proper support. He said he did not carry all the responsibility for what had gone on and he did not have all the answers. Mr Williams acknowledged being on the council "when the lack of action was about" but said he had not been given the information he should have received as a councillor at the time. In particular, he did not know wages were being paid from Willow Court funds. While the question was not directed at Mr Bingley, he said he believed the recently completed report by Malcolm MacDonald provided a way forward.
Where would your office be situated? All three candidates answered that they would have their electorate office in New Norfolk.
Please note: By law, comments relating to the election must include the given name, surname and locality of the writer. Anonymous comments cannot be published during the election period.