CANDIDATES for Lowan and Ripon have been given the chance to discuss their top issues heading into November’s election.
Member for Lowan and Nationals candidate Emma Kealy said her top priority would be getting a “better deal” for the electorate.
“Under the current government, we have rarely seen any money come out of Melbourne,” she said.
“Residents are concerned about the lack of access to health services, public transport and the state of their roads. Access to health specialists is a big issue, with many people having to travel to metropolitan areas to receive care.
“The Nationals know that there needs to be a decentralised plan to encourage people to live in regional areas. When people look to move to an area they want good schools, access to health services, job opportunities and roads to travel on.”
Ms Kealy said returning passenger rail to Horsham was a big focus.
“The Nationals have committed to a $4 million business case study to return passenger rail if elected,” she said.
“Our highest priority will be to catch up on areas that have been neglected by the current government.”
She said it had been an honour to advocate for Lowan residents since being elected.
“When you put up you hand to be a candidate again, you know you’ll be judged for the actions you’ve made over the last four years,” she said.
“Anyone has the opportunity to run and that is what makes democracy truly great. At this time, no other candidate has been selected for Lowan, but I know that will change.
“When they are announced, I hope that debate is held respectfully and with the mindset of providing the best possible outcomes for the people of Lowan. That’s why I put my hand up in the past.
“It has been humbling to be a part of people lives over the last four years and I will continue to work tirelessly to achieve the best outcomes for the people of Lowan up until November 24 and hopefully beyond.”
Member for Ripon and Liberal candidate Louise Staley said she was looking forward to contesting the swing seat.
“Ripon is a large and diverse electorate and residents’ priorities depend to some extend one where people live,” she said.
“I have worked hard since my election in 2014 to represent Ripon in the parliament and to continue to be accessible to all residents across this large electorate.
“As a local from Ararat, I understand personally the challenges and needs of people across the region. I am confident I have worked diligently and hard to the best of my ability to be the representative this electorate needs.”
She said there were a number of issues on t he top of her list that she would like to address.
“It is clear that crime is of great concern to many people because crime rates remain well above when the Andrews Government was elected. The Liberal Nationals recognise personal safety and we have announced a wide range of policies to fix the broken justice system.
“Public transport is a key part of our commitment to decentralise Victoria’s population and to improve the liveability for current residents. Road conditions across Ripon are unacceptable.
“We will re-introduce the Country Roads and Bridges program to deliver additional funds to rural councils to fix local roads. In addition to that program’s re-introduction, I also want to see immediate action to re-start the duplication of the Western Highway from Buangor through to Stawell.
“Nothing has moved on this road for four years and I know personally from living in Ararat how needed this road project is for safety and economic development. See previous comments on public transport.”
Ms Staley said she had big plans if she was re-elected this year.
“If given the privilege of continuing to represent Ripon, this time I hope as part of a Guy Government, my first priority will always be to represent the needs and concerns of the people of Ripon,” she said.
“In government, we will move immediately to implement the necessary planning to deliver passenger rail to Donald, and to add additional rail services to Ararat.
“Necessary remedial work on the botched Murray Basin Rail Project will also commence. Across Victoria, we will legislate to make the changes necessary to the justice system to keep people safe and to lift the current ban on on-shore conventional gas exploration.”
Labor Party member and former candidate for the seat of Mallee Bob Scates said no one had nominated to stand for Labor in the seat of Lowan.
"To my knowledge, they are working on two people," he said.
"It's difficult to attract someone against a strong local member. It's also the biggest electorate in the state.”
Mr Scates said Sarah De Santis – who Labor selected earlier this year as its candidate for the seat of Ripon – was a strong nominee. Ms Santis did not respond by deadline.
A Greens spokesperson said the party had not pre-selected candidates for either seat.