The New England Candidate forum at Murrurundi was a big hit.
The newly formed group Concerened Women of the Upper Hunter hosted the forum, the only one for the Upper Hunter region for the New England seat.
Nearly 60 people packed into the CWA Hall from many parts of the Upper Hunter and Liverpool Plains, including Scone, Quirindi and Aberdeen to hear six of the eight candidates speak and answer questions on the need for covered coal trains, on drilling and fracking, the Adani mine in Queensland, water security, the effectiveness of independents, balancing economic development with environment management and the lack of trust and accountability within the current political system.
The candidates overwhelmingly supported a move to renewables and a transition to clean energy with clear targets.
Independent Candidate, Adam Blakester called for a National Commission for water to investigate “ghost water”, while Julie Collins, from the Christian Democratic Party said that the electorate needed policies to “survive in a warmer world” and in a “hotter and drier” Australia.
Governance was another hot issue with questions on the current political climate of mistrust with candidates calling for culture change, an “upgrade in democracy” and an audit of elected officials. The need for a Federal ICAC and a code of conduct for politicians that addresses both finances and behaviour was endorsed.
The candidates that comprised Independents - Adam Blakester, Natasha Ledger and Ron Taber; Labor’s Yvonne Langenberg; Green’s Tony Lonergan and Christian Democrats’ Julie Collins were high in their praise for the Forum and, in particular, the “robust questions that had made them think.”
Blakester said that the Murrurundi Forum had yielded “the best set of questions we've had so far, the best attended (outside of Tamworth Chamber of Commerce), and the best hospitality.”
The current member for New England, Barnaby Joyce had been repeatedly invited to the Forum and declined.
“We were disappointed Mr Joyce was unable to attend," said spokesperson for Concerned Women of the Upper Hunter Pammie Seccombe.
“Our community wanted to have their voice heard by all candidates.”
Cindy Duncan, the candidate for the United Australia party had accepted the invitation to attend, but had to drop out at the last minute.
Pammie Seccombe who convened the forum, said that the newly formed group was “delighted” with the attendance and the support from the local community.
“For a group that is weeks old, we’re thrilled with the support and the calibre of questions we received.”
Image credit: Lesle Wand