Whilst the Wirrega WAB’s Meet the Candidates forum at the Bordertown Civic Centre was billed as a non-partisan civil discussion, there was no love lost between certain parties.
The Border Chronicle reports, bearing the brunt of the attacks by the assembled candidates – (pictured) Liberal Nick McBride, Independent Jon Ey and Australian Conservatives’ Richard Bateman – was the Labor government, with their city-centric thinking and bloated bureaucracy frequently coming under fire.
When the Labor candidate, Hilary Wigg, decides to participate in future forums, she’s going to have a battle on her hands from the local politicos. Let’s hope that she’s quick on her feet.
Also absent was Donella Peters from The Greens and Tracy Hill from SA Best. Whilst The Greens were largely ignored, Nick Xenophon and SA Best were the elephant in the room.
It was clear to all candidates that this election may result in a shaky balance of power, and so every minute counted to get their message across.
Richard Bateman, took a gloves-off approach to Labor, stating that the city took the country for granted as a “cash cow”, and also questioning why it was necessary to spend millions on a Norwood tram when rural areas were fighting for basic amenities.
“I don’t want to be a politician, but I do want to be your representative,” stated Bateman.
Mr Bateman also said his party would halt “the decay in country health” adding that the Australian Conservatives acknowledged that country hospitals needed strategic funding.
But it was Mr Ey who caused a slight restlessness among the other candidates and the crowd, by stating that as an Independent, if he were to get in, or if others such as SA Best were to get in, they would be holding the government to account on matters of health.
It did however also leave an opening for Mr Bateman to make a jab at the SA Best candidate’s absence, which let the air out of the room by causing some giggles.
The question of the state’s accumulating debt also allowed the candidates to loosen up and become more aggressive, with all three accusing Labor of reckless spending, and taking affront at their candidate’s absence.
Mr Bateman said that he was against euthanasia, stating “most people believe life is life”, and that he and Robert Brokenshire would be focusing on higher standards of palliative care.
Mr Bateman also criticised the Weatherill government and public servants, by stating that their wages should be frozen until the budget is brought back to surplus.
“It’s our money,” he said. “We need to bring them to account.”
Agricultural and environmental discussions dominated the last moments of the forum, as Mr Bateman explained that his party would be bringing back a ‘stock squad’ to deal with sheep and cattle thieves.
Mr Bateman was also grilled by some audience members about his party’s stance on mining, with Mr Bateman reiterating that the Australian Conservatives were committed to banning large-scale mining on arable and farming land.
There was also a small stoush between Mr Bateman and Mr Ey over nuclear energy, with Mr Bateman being pro-nuclear and Mr Ey not being against nuclear, but more interested in renewable energy.