LAST night New South Wales Farmers held an agriculture-focused forum at the Scone RSL Club, with nine of the thirteen Upper Hunter by-election candidates in attendance.
Chris Kemp, Executive Councillor of New South Wales Farmers wanted to know how candidates would assist landholders in dealing with the crippling mouse plague, a hot discussion topic between the organisation and parliamentarians this week.
However, at the conclusion of the forum Mr Kemp said a lot of the candidates missed the beat when it came to understanding the key issues affecting the agricultural community.
“I was pretty disappointed in some of the answers, it just shows they don’t have a good enough grip of agriculture in the Upper Hunter,” Mr Kemp said.
“I think nearly all of the candidates entirely missed how they were going to create [agricultural] jobs and how they were going to get money back to where it’s needed,” he said.
“The other thing brought up was the Merriwa MR358 . . . we want it open and as they said if it was in Sydney, it would be open by now. All those candidates didn’t really give a definite ‘we’re going to get the road open because it’s costing the community a fortune.’ We didn’t get that commitment from any of them,” he said.
“I’ve been to two of these [forums] now, I think there’s probably a couple of candidates there that will push the point. I don’t think they were strong enough about the power line thing, I know it’s a single issue but it’s about all issues that might crop up,” said Mr Kemp.
Mr Kemp said although there are strong candidates in the by-election line-up, not have a full grasp on politics.
“NSW Farmers is part of the political system because we’re apolitical and we push agricultural views to the ministers at parliament . . . some of the candidates actual understanding of how the political system works, they’re going to have a steep learning curve when they get there,” Mr Kemp said.
“As a politician, being strong enough to push the issue in parliament up against the other parliamentarians, especially if the Independent’s get in, they have to be strong enough to move against that party machine,” he said.
“The seat has been held by the National Party for a long time . . . there’s certainly some very strong candidates in all political parties and Independents have all been running at that line with them. I think the Nationals are really going to struggle,” said Mr Kemp.
The nine candidates fielded questions on the following topics:
- The ceaseless mouse plague and it’s financial and mental affects on landholders;
- Water trading;
- The sale of Scone TAFE;
- Protecting prime agricultural land;
- The balance of power in a potential minority government;
- The proposed property tax;
- The Merriwa-Willow Tree Road closure and alternative route improvements;
- How to encourage young farmers to stay or enter the dairy industry and overall agriculture industry;
- The increase in Council farmers rates and who should be paying the Emergency Services levy;
- How to protect jobs in the agricultural sector.
Scone.com.au will be releasing stories covering all topics discussed and what candidates had to say about them. More to follow.
Calum Blair, Sustainable Australia Party candidate, Michael Dello-Jocavo, Animal Justice Party candidate, Kate Fraser, Independent candidate and Eva Pears, Liberal Democrats candidate were all absent from the forum.