INDEPENDENT candidate Katrina Rainsford and Country Alliance candidate Steve Price have challenged their opposing Lowan candidates to a public debate.
Dr Rainsford said she hoped there would be moderated public forums in Horsham and Hamilton to give the public a chance to question candidates.
‘‘We’ve got a once in a generation opportunity to have the people’s choice on the next representative for Lowan and who to trust their future with,’’ she said.
‘‘We haven’t confirmed a date – we’ve left it up to the candidates to come to a mutually acceptable date.’’
Dr Rainsford criticised Nationals candidate Emma Kealy for not committing to take part.
‘‘The written response from Emma Kealy is that she’s too busy to attend,’’ she said.
‘‘To respond that you’re unavailable without trying to fit it in is disappointing.’’
Dr Rainsford said she and Mr Price would write to Ms Kealy again to encourage her to be involved.
‘‘Steve and myself both feel that the Nationals candidate has not been exposed to enough opportunities for people to get to know her and to answer questions from the people.’’
Ms Kealy said a request she received last Friday to take part in a forum this week did not provide enough notice.
‘‘Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend a proposed forum for this week because I will be busy meeting with people living in the Lowan electorate, including communities and businesses, and listening to their stories first-hand,’’ she said.
She rejected claims that she had not been tested in a public forum, pointing to discussions she had with community organisations.
‘‘I am certainly approachable through many forums and I have encouraged anybody in the community to contact me,’’ she said.
Ms Kealy said she was covering hundreds of kilometres every week. She attended a Victorian Farmers Federation Lowan candidates forum in Casterton yesterday.
She said if she had been given adequate notice or provided with other details she would have been happy to attend.
Dr Rainsford welcomed support from Business Horsham or any other community group in organising the Horsham forum.
Greens candidate Nkandu Beltz said she had received an email on Tuesday which asked her to participate, but was unsure of the specifics.
‘‘I think it’s something that would be nice to do – having people around and asking questions,’’ she said.
‘‘I would love to do it, but at this stage I have a lot of other commitments.’’
Labor candidate Bob Scates said he was keen to be involved, but acknowledged agreeing on a time might be difficult as all candidates were busy with fewer than three weeks to the November 29 poll.
‘‘I hope all five candidates can make it and keep decency alive,’’ he said.
Mr Price said it was important Ms Kealy was tested alongside the other candidates.
‘‘It will be an open forum. We can take questions to really let some of the candidates step up on their own two feet,’’ he said.
Mr Price said many people were unaware of what electorate they were in, let alone who the candidates were.
‘‘People need to meet the people who are going to represent them in parliament,’’ he said.