By Lisa Kremmer @LisaKremmer

26 August 2013

On Wednesday 21st August I attended a candidates forum organised by a local Murdoch newspaper.  Most candidates for the Macarthur and Werriwa electorates were present.  It was an eye opener, that’s for sure.

I came away with great dismay over what I had witnessed.  It wasn’t just the answers to questions of policy that was disturbing, but the manner in which they were delivered.  Unfortunately, there were no magic moments where I felt ah ha, that’s the clincher of a response from a candidate I’ll be voting for!  What the forum did demonstrate to me however is that there is one candidate who will not get my vote under any circumstances.

Some candidates Mick Williams running for Katter’s Australian Party did not need a script or notes to be articulate party’s policies and why he was standing at the election. He said he was unashamedly protectionist.  I suppose Katter has tapped into issues of importance for some people, but he is not serious contender.

The Greens’ Patrick Darley-Jones spoke in response to questions around CSG wells – Camden is littered with them.  He did credit to the Greens, speaking passionately about the environment and often referring to research and other evidence to support his party’s policies.  I was blown away by his arguments.

The Palmer United Party candidate Robert Grosche did a reasonable job as well.

Naturally there were only two sitting members in the room – Laurie Ferguson (ALP, Werriwa) and Russell Matheson (Lib, Macarthur).  Their familiarity of party policies and politics garnered from being in the current Parliament was obvious, but not in the ways I had expected.  Both had the knowledge and experience to detail what their respective political party’s stood for. They didn’t need to refer to notes and Russell Matheson in particular held firm to the opposition campaign scripts – the word ‘trust’ was used many times!

Werriwa’s spick-and-span Liberal candidate Kent Johns did a reasonable job considering he’s new to federal politics. However, Johns is the current Mayor of Sutherland Council and previously served as a Labor Councillor on Rockdale Council.  While he deferred some questions to Russell Matheson, the one question only he could answer he sadly avoided. When asked when he would move from Sutherland, if elected, to live within Werriwa, he stalled and evaded answering the question.  You might remember a photo from Claymore (a suburb in the Werriwa electorate) in my last post – worlds away from where Kent Johns chooses to reside.  That he feels he can represent the electorate from the Shire says more to me about his personal ambitions than his desire to represent the people of Werriwa.

Ian Fulton, the Labor candidate for Macarthur, was a creditable speaker.  While Ian needed to refer to his notes on occasion,,what he had to say was well put and believable.  Ian came across as a nice bloke.

However the same cannot be said for the sitting member. I was appalled and distressed at the aggression and arrogance I felt Russell Matheson displayed.  It was disheartening for so many reasons – a policy debate in front of constituents, not in the bear pit of parliament, doesn’t need to deteriorate into an attack on political opponents; it doesn’t need to discredit the Teachers’ union for “telling lies”; it doesn’t need to denigrate the ALP candidate for ‘conveniently’ supporting a second airport at Badgerys Creek.  Sound policy should be defensible on its own merits.

On filling my husband in on what he had missed, he wasn’t surprised.  Apparently, the sitting member was widely known as Boxer.  The words of the Simon and Garfunkel song come to mind …..

I am just a poor boy
Though my story’s seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest
More Macarthur stories