Putting it out there

By Simon Ruppert

Benalla’s Glasshouse was packed on Wednesday night as five of the candidates for the seat of Indi participated in a forum.

The candidates in attendance were Shane Wheatland — United Australia Party; Helen Haines — Independent; Steve Martin — Liberal; Eric Kerr — Labor; and Mark Byatt — Nationals.

The entire forum was live-streamed by The Ensign and is still available to watch on our Facebook page, which we encourage all engaged voters to do.

Before the event The Ensign spoke with each candidate and asked the question — Why are you the best person to represent the people of Indi?

The following is what they had to say:

Shane Wheatland

‘‘I am going to fight for the people of Indi and with the help of the other members of the United Australia Party we’re going to make Australia great.’’

Eric Kerr

‘‘I think that for far too long people have been used to a certain kind of politician, a certain kind of representation, a certain standard of politician in Australia.

‘‘I don’t represent that, I represent a bit more honesty, freshness, youth, fresh blood — something people are crying out for in politics and parliament, and I think I’m the best person to deliver that.’’

Mark Byatt

‘‘I think I bring to the table a pretty lived experience.

‘‘I’ve been in regional development now for 20 to 30 years.

‘‘The opportunity for me to bring the expertise that I have gained over that period both in private industry, the not-for-profit sector, in community development and also in state and local government provides me the opportunity to bring that to Indi.

‘‘(To) use that to not only get out and engage in the community (and) understand priorities, but to also prosecute that case at a federal level.’’

Steve Martin

‘‘Through the campaign I’ve tried to demonstrate to people what sort of local member I will make, and that’s why I started off with the 50 towns in 50 days tour to get to every corner of the electorate.

‘‘Because I’m going to be the local member that’s not sitting in my office waiting for people to come to me, but is out there across our diverse electorate trying to understand what all those local issues are that I can advocate for.

‘‘And since we’ve got through that I’ve started that process and I’ve been in with ministers and the government talking about what the needs of Indi are to try and get results on the ground.

‘‘There’s some exciting things happening already. We’ve seen the stadium funded in Mansfield and I’m anticipating a lot of great outcomes to come from some of that work and demonstrate that I’m going to be the sort of local member that can deliver for the seat of Indi.’’

Helen Haines

‘‘I’ve spent many years living in the region, working as a nurse, a midwife, a health researcher, and I know these communities extremely well.

‘‘I’ve been part of this whole independent movement in Indi and I’ve seen how having an independent candidate can really change the way we do politics.

‘‘An independent candidate is not accountable to the major parties they’re accountable to the communities they serve.

‘‘And I’ve seen great results, I think we’ve seen great improvements in our connectivity with our mobile phone tower coverage now, we’ve seen the train line being taken seriously and we’ve seen local issues being taken all the way to Canberra.

‘‘So I think that as an independent candidate I will continue on the great work that’s been done by Cathy McGowan and do it with great integrity, because that’s something that is really key to being a good representative, to be honest, transparent and accountable to the people, not to a party.’’

Organisers wanted to stress the forum was open to all candidates for the seat and all parties with a nominated candidate did attend.

The format of the evening was that each candidate had a chance to mingle with the public prior to the official start.

Then all five were welcomed on stage where they were give three minutes to introduced themselves, after which host Libby Price asked questions submitted by the audience with each candidate responding.

Organiser Alice Martin said questions were pre-approved and delivered by the host to prevent grandstanding and lengthy statements from the audience.

The pre-approval was designed to ensure questions related to topics relevant to Federal Government.

Organisers had hoped for a good turn out and about 10 minutes before starting were hurriedly putting out extra chairs — which was still not enough and those who turned up late joined the journalists and media representatives standing at the back of the room.

‘‘We were extremely happy with how the event went,’’ organiser Alice Martin said.

‘‘Questions that were important to the electorate were able to be asked in a calm and respectful manner, and all of the candidates felt that they were able to represent themselves well.

‘‘The turnout was exceptional with people travelling from all corners of the electorate, and with 300 seats provided it was standing room only by the start of the event at 7.30.’’

●You can find the full event, which was live-streamed and interviews with each candidate at with links on the Ensign Facebook page.