BUSINESS Horsham has quizzed the Mallee's Liberal, Nationals and Labor candidates on the electorate's main issues.
It released the candidates' responses to issues including roads, health, childcare, Horsham College and the economy, to about 100 members yesterday.
Each candidate said they would push for the Western Highway to be duplicated to Stawell and for Horsham College to be rebuilt.
Nationals candidate Andrew Broad said his party wanted a dedicated regional health minister, while Coalition counterpart Chris Crewther said the Liberal Party would improve the region's health system by expanding consultation rooms and teaching space for medical students.
Labor candidate Lydia Senior said her party would invest $1.8 billion in the Medicare Local network to boost allied health services.
Business Horsham vice-chairman Brian Watts said the survey aimed to provide a snapshot of party promises.
"We are raising awareness for the business community and interested persons who are perhaps undecided," he said.
Full candidate responses to Business Horsham's eight questions:
1. What, if anything, does your party propose in respect to expenditure on rural road, including the Western Highway?
Andrew Broad: The Nationals introduced the roads to recovery funding that delivered good outcomes for local roads. The Nationals want to introduce a ‘Bridges to Recovery’ to help repair and improve country roads. I will work to extend the duplication of the Western Highway.
Chris Crewther: The Liberal Party understands the many benefits of providing an efficient and reliable integrated transport network across the Mallee electorate. I will work closely with the community to identify roads projects that are priorities in the Mallee and present these projects to my colleagues in Canberra, particularly with respect to the duplication of the Western Highway to Stawell and beyond.
Lydia Senior: This is a difficult one for candidates to answer as we do not have access to all of the financials and budgets. However, I understand how critical it is to get this project underway as soon as possible and I will be pushing for this to happen.
2. Decentralisation of government departments to rural and provincial centres such as Horsham would inject vital expenditure into rural communities, and in turn create employment opportunities. What does your party propose in respect to this?
Andrew Broad: Decentralisation has its place, but growing private businesses in regional towns is the best way to grow and create employment.
Chris Crewther: Creating and maintaining local jobs is such an important issue. Sometimes this can be done through locating government offices in regional areas. If the opportunity arises, I would make a strong case for our regional centres to benefit from any similar move.
Lydia Senior: I oppose centralisation of government departments especially at the expense of regional areas, as local offices have their finger on the pulse of local needs and priorities and work hand in hand with the community. I was all for the referendum on local government before the goal posts changed. ‘Local solutions to local problems’ is my motto.
3. What is the nature of your party’s commitment to rebuilding significant parts of Horsham College, in light of the recent reduction of facilities with the special school being incorporated into the Baillie Street site, but also, the ‘run down’ nature of some of the wings?
Andrew Broad: I will work with the state Nationals member Hugh Delehunty to speed up the rebuilding and refurbishment of Horsham College.
Chris Crewther: I grew up in Horsham and I have been vocal during my campaign about Horsham College. I will work with my state and federal colleagues to find a solution to this problem to redevelop Horsham College.
Lydia Senior: This problem is really a state issue, however, the Better Schools Programs has finally been signed off meaning the college will receive significant increases in funding for each child. However, this funding does not include infrastructure funding. I have visited many schools throughout the region and I can say they are all very much in poor state of repair. I will therefore, be calling for a state wide commitment to fund schools infrastructure as a matter of urgency.
4. The provision of more day care centres for working families could create a more productive (potential) labour force? What, if anything, does your party propose in respect to this matter?
Andrew Broad: The Nationals will ensure day care and short stay day care funding models work in regional towns.
Chris Crewther: The Liberals will immediately task the Productivity Commission to undertake a Review into child care to ensure parents have access to more accessible and more affordable childcare. The Coalition has already released proposed terms of reference for a review.
Lydia Senior: Labor has proposed funding of $450 million to provide before and after school childcare and this amount is in the forward estimates. I agree to bring productivity up we need to provide adequate and affordable childcare. I will continue to monitor the impact of this additional funding to ensure arrangements are effective and fair.
5. To better assist Wimmera working women in particular, what priority does your party place on providing more day care centres, as opposed to the provision of paid parental leave? Has your party considered the merits of these competing priorities and if so, what are the conclusions?
Andrew Broad: The Nationals understand the need for good day care facilities. Paid parental leave does have a place, but it needs to be affordable for the country and equitable to regionally based parents.
Chris Crewther: The Liberals will immediately task the Productivity Commission to undertake a review into child care to ensure parents have access to more accessible and more affordable childcare. We will also provide women with 26 weeks paid parental leave based on their real wage, make superannuation contribution to women and provide flexibility for fathers to take two weeks paid parental leave at their current wage.
Lydia Senior: I agree that paid parental leave is NOT the priority here, it is the long term provision of adequate childcare facilities that matters most to young families. I will be a strong advocate for this option.
6. Rural health is a major issue. Investment in infrastructure, as well attracting specialist and trained staff to rural communities is a major factor when seeking to attract other qualified professionals to businesses and organisations in Horsham. What, if anything, does your party propose in respect to this matter?
Andrew Broad: The Nationals prioritise regional health. The Nationals are pushing for a dedicated minister for regional health to ensure health care in regionals areas stays in the mind of Government. The health delivery within the Wimmera Mallee has been good and the staff who work within health services are fantastic. I will work hard to see further improvements.
Chris Crewther: The Liberals will invest more into existing general practices to expand their facilities, provide additional consultation rooms and space for teaching medical students as well as supervising general practice registrars. This investment will be targeted to rural and remote locations. Providing more opportunities for medical students to experience rural and remote practice will encourage students to pursue careers outside of metropolitan after graduation and will help address the need for more local health care workers.
Lydia Senior: Labor has invested a record $19.6 billion into hospital infrastructure (2008/15) we now have 11,000 more general practitioners and 26,000 more nurses than we did in 2007. We will invest $1.8 billion in Medicare Locals to ensure local communities have access to allied health and specialists services. I will ensure a health workforce plan for the region is a first term priority in consultation with key stakeholders.
7. The much reported ‘two speed’ economy has seen greater employment and higher income opportunities for residents of Western Australia and Queensland. The extremely high exchange rate of the Australian dollar, relative to the US dollar in recent years, has seen many traditional industries, including our farming sector, suffer with lower incomes. What, if any thing, does your party have in mind to redress this disadvantage to the non- mining states?
Andrew Broad: Running fiscally responsible budgets, will reduce offshore borrowings and place downward pressure on the US/Australian dollar exchange rate. This will increase the competitiveness of many of the food products grown in the Wimmera. Reducing costs like carbon tax and freight to market costs will also assist.
Chris Crewther: I am committed to working with local communities and key stakeholders in all of these areas to make sure that the Mallee electorate gets the support we need.
Lydia Senior: I hear what you are saying but I am not sure what the answer is. It is a fairness and equity issue that should be on our agenda when the parliament resumes. It would be great to see our schools infrastructure funded through a share of this income.
8. The mining tax is a contentious issue. What reasons underlie your party’s policy in respect to a ‘mining tax’, that either supports or rejects the notion that the benefits of the current ’mining boom’ should or should not be shared by the broader Australian community, particularly in light of the harmful effect the ‘mining boom’ has had on tourism, manufacturing as well as farming communities such as the Wimmera?
Andrew Broad: I reject the premise that the mining industry has been negative to the economy. Australia has benefited from mining since 1850, and will continue to do so. Many businesses in the Wimmera Mallee provide services to the mining industry. Mineral wealth still affords Australians the opportunity to diversify and invest in other areas of the economy, if we have a capable government to manage the country.
Chris Crewther: The Mining tax has raised $40 billion less than originally forecast and the package of spending measures has left the Budget at least $18 billion worse off. We will abolish the Mining Tax and most of the associated spending measures. This will leave the Budget in a significantly better fiscal position.
Lydia Senior: As in a question above, I hear what you are saying but I am not sure what the answer is. It is a fairness and equity issue that should be on our agenda when the parliament resumes. It would be great to see our schools infrastructure funded through a share of this income.