FIVE New England byelection contenders got together at Tamworth’s Bicentennial Park for a campaign event that was as grassroots as they come – a meet the candidates barbecue.
While the views of CountryMinded’s Pete Mailler, the Green’s Peter Wills and independents Rob Taber, Jeff Madden and Dean Carter all vary, they’re all united on one front – getting the best deal possible for the electorate.
Here’s what they had to say.
Rob Taber – Independent
The Armidale-based independent said come to the park and talk to whoever wanted to talk to us about the issues that are important to them
“That’s the important thing, we’ve got to find out what the issues are and what people expect of us,” Mr Taber said.
“It’s not about the other candidate being the enemy, we’ve got to work together for the same cause, we’re all here for the same reason – to try and benefit New England.
“Candidates sitting down and talking about issues hasn’t been happening enough in the past, particularly with the major parties.”
He said there was “no doubt” the environment was one of the top issues for locals
“Mental health is another major issues. That’s about funding, and I believe the funding for mental health is being channelled in the wrong directions, and that's something we’ve got to really look at.”
Pete Mailler – CountryMinded
The grassroots event was the perfect opportunity to spread the CountryMinded message and show the party’s commitment to the region, Mr Mailler said.
“We will turn up to any event to talk to people, whether it’s one at a time, or it’s 50 or 500,” he said.
“We’re not afraid to make our point, to stand by it and to justify it.
“There has been a few insults hurtled around that we’re not genuine and we don’t care. I can’t prove it any other way than to turn up.”
Mr Mailler said many of the region’s issues boiled down to the same fundamental problem: “We don’t have an ability politically leverage the seat”.
“Because of the safe nature of these seats we are not getting out fair share of political consideration,” he said.
“What we’re all interested in is the electorate. We’ve got to get it to the point where no one can take the seat for granted, because the best results in politics come from competition.
“When people think they're not going to win the seat next time unless they perform, they start to perform. When people think they are going to the seat no matter what they do, as is currently the case, they don’t try.”
Jeff Madden – Independent
Mr Madden, an Upper Horton-based independent, said the event was a chance to give people something he believes they’ve lost – a voice.
“The number one issue is that the people don’t have a voice, they’re just ignored,” he said.
“That’s what you’ve got to do, you’ve got to get out there and listen to the people.
“I think [the candidates here] are all of the belief that there is no point attacking anyone, because that’s not the job, the job is to get out there and run the country.”
Mr Madden is also concerned about the “levels of transparency and accountability” within the government.
“They just don’t exist,” he said.
“There are a number of federal agencies that need a watchdog – the most notable of that being the child support agency.”
Peter Wills – The Greens
While Nationals candidate and former MP Barnaby Joyce will be staying away from all public debates and forums during the byelection campaign, Mr Wills said this was just one of the many upcoming events he would be attending, including a food bowl rally in Tamworth on Sunday and two education forums on Tuesday (Tamworth) and Wednesday (Armidale).
“This is about finding out what’s on people’s minds,” he said.
“I think there is a bit of a vacuum sucked out of the electorate by Barnaby Joyce removing himself from the election.
“We just need open forums where we can talk to people. It's important we go to these. We need to talk about issues, we need to meet the people.
“We meed to be approachable to be people, so people can come up to us a go ‘so you're the Greens chap’.”
Dean Carter – Independent
Mr Carter said there was a common theme he was getting from voters – “it’s time for a change”.
“They’re disgruntled about how Australia's being run by both Labor and the Coalition to be honest,” he said.
“Everyone is struggling financially with gas and electricity prices, childcare prices. Everyone needs a change.
“My personally agenda is to look after the families and cut the cost of living.
“On top of that, get rid of crime with a tougher stance and a tough stance on doll bludgers.”