Sparks fly at Farrer election forum

By Riverine Herald

SPARKS flew at C4EM’s Pollies in the Pub forum in Moama on Monday night, with six Farrer candidates locking horns over hot topics including aged care, education, preferencing, the GST carve up — and, of course, water.

And while there was plenty of repartee, there was one point the candidates present agreed on: without rain, the government will struggle to provide water to desperate farmers.

Predictably, the debate kicked off with water.

And while UAP’s Mike Rose argued the Murray Darling Basin Plan could not legally be paused but had to be scrapped, Independent Kevin Mack disagreed, saying ‘‘anything is achievable if we wish to achieve it’’.

In addition to pausing the plan, he pledged to provide emergency water to dairy farmers and sustainable water to irrigators, also calling for a Federal Royal Commission into the basin plan.

While Liberal incumbent Sussan Ley said throwing out the plan was ‘‘tempting’’, she argued a Royal Commission would be supported by all the ‘‘environmental Green group South Australians’’ and, in the end, would not support the terms of reference locals wanted.

But she added if the 450GL upwater was touched, that would be a line in the sand.

‘‘I will go straight to NSW and say it’s time to exit the basin plan,’’ she said.

Greens candidate Dean Moss said climate change needed to be built into the MDBP to ensure a sustainable agricultural future and said his party was committed to providing $100 million for drought-affected farmers.

While Sustainable Australia’s Ross Hamilton called for $500 million of earthworks for Lake Victoria which he said could save up to 200GL of water a year for upstream use.

With 30 per cent of Campaspe’s population set to be 65 years or older by 2029, locals were also keen to hear how candidates would support retirees to thrive.

Mr Rose promised reduced power bills and an increased aged pension while Mr Moss called for increased chronic and mental illness care and a boost in the nursing ratio for aged care facilities.

When it came to assessing homecare packages, Mr Mack said the government needed to step on the gas.

‘‘We also need more support for submissions to the Royal Commission into Aged Care ... and to work to attract people to work as state registered nurses in local aged care facilities,’’ he said.

Asked which party he would support over the franking credit fiasco, Mr Mack said he wouldn’t support Labor’s stance to limit the refunding of franking credits.

‘‘But if it became inevitable you’d need to introduce it I’d argue you would need to phase it in slightly, not all of a sudden because it would have an impact on retirees’ money,’’ he said.

But Ms Ley argued Labor’s policy was exactly that — to phase in slowly.

‘‘Our policy is that it shouldn’t happen at all. So if, Kevin, you think it should be phased in slowly, that is Labor’s policy,’’ she fired back.

When asked about preferencing, UAP’s Mike Rose said he would preference the Liberal Party second.

Greens’ Mr Moss said he would put Sustainable Australia second, Kevin Mack third and ALP fourth, adding pointedly ‘‘and we expect the vote to exhaust there because I don’t think it’s going to go to Sussan this time’’.

Mr Mack and Mr Hamilton will not preference, Independent Brian Mills will preference Mr Mack, while Ms Ley said she would preference UAP first, Christian Democrats second and Mr Mack third because ‘‘his concerns on water are my concerns on water’’.