About 50 members of the community from the state electorate of Ripon gathered at the Ararat RSL on Wednesday evening to hear from candidates for the marginal seat.
Four of the five Ripon candidates were in attendance at the Victorian Farmers Federation organised forum.
Liberal candidate Louise Staley, Labor’s Sarah De Santis, Greens’ Serge Simic and Democratic Labor Party’s Peter Mulcahy were all present, with Animal Justice Party’s Anna Hills an apology for the evening.
The forum was part of a series of events the VFF is running across regional towns throughout Victoria in the lead up to the state election on November 24.
VFF election campaign manager Paula Fitzgerald moderated the forum which ran for nearly three hours.
Read more: Rolling coverage of Ripon candidates forum
Ms Fitzgerald began proceedings before throwing questions to the floor, which resulted in passionate questions being asked of the candidates.
A significant portion of the forum was spent discussing rates strategy and policy for farmers and local councils within Ripon.
Many community members in attendance were disillusioned and frustrated with the current system, seeking immediate change.
Ms Staley referenced the recently announced plan from the Coalition of a rates inquiry should they be elected while Ms De Santis agreed the current situation with rates is “unsustainable”. Both Mr Mulcahy and Mr Simic agreed rate reform is needed.
Sam King asking about topic he has been fighting for months - rates!— Vic Farmers Fed (@VicFarmers) October 31, 2018
Farmers around the state are saying #EnoughIsEnough on this issue! Victoria’s rating system is broken and needs to be rebuilt to ensure a fairer deal for farmers. pic.twitter.com/p2pkr1sQIk
There were plenty of other topics hot on the agenda as well, with roads, transport and decentralisation also proving as key areas for the community members in attendance.
“I thought it was an interesting night. Rates was a dominant topic which was expected but I thought some of the other questions coming up like port fees and mental health helped get a variety of responses,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
“We had more differences of opinion than we had agreement which gave the people here an idea of the policies and values of the people running for their seat.”
VFF president David Jochinke said it was great to see people turn up and show an interest in issues that affect them.
“It was good to see not only did we have some of the key issues brought up but also to see the amount of passionate people here,” he said.
“Every four years we got to choose who has the job of representing our area which is one of the great things about where we live.
“We have the power to change what is happening and try and make an impact and change.”