A funny thing happened on the way to the forum… ah, but which forum? That is the question. There have been so many since forum season started in Mildura an eternity ago, or so it seems. Since then there have been forums throughout the length and breadth of the electorate.
Last Thursday was Horsham’s turn and after an afternoon of steady rain with the promise of more to come — the autumn break without doubt — 161 voters turned up to the old, flat-floored auditorium to see 12 of the 13 candidates make their case. The sole absentee was the Rise Up Australia candidate.
Heckling in Mildura
The previous night it had been the second such forum in Mildura and watching it online two things stood out: the vocal crowd and the performance of Ray Kingston The Independent for Mallee. You might expect me to say that given I’m part of his campaign team — and I’m always wary of my bias — but this confirmed my gut reaction.
I was as a little surprised to find the Mayor of Mildura and former National Party president in Mallee Glenn Milne calling out a section of the crowd for heckling both Ray Kingston and the Nat candidate Anne Webster. It emerged the hecklers were supporters of another Independent Jason Modica who is/was — it’s not entirely clear — the deputy mayor of Mildura. All politics truly are local.
This is the comment taken from The Sunraysia Daily.
Thursday was much more sedate. It seems to me Wimmera crowds are at times overly polite and respectful. All candidates were applauded politely and without great vigour, so it was difficult to judge if there was a clear favourite. Each of the candidates made their pitch, some giving word-for-word the speech they had delivered the night before in Mildura. Most stuck to the same talking points but modified them for the venue.
In end it’s probably fair to say that it was a score draw for the main contenders. None of the questions posed particular problems and the answers — 30 seconds per candidate — were largely heard in silence. However, it has to be said that for people vying to represent Mallee in Canberra, a few of them struggled with the concept of 30 seconds with a bell at 20 seconds to warn them about wrapping up.
One thing of interest which I hadn’t heard before: we can all expect a United Australia Party how-to-vote card in the mail as well as at the polling place. Clive’s pockets, apparently, really are bottomless.
I had an unanswered question at the end of the night: how do you tell if a candidate who gets something wrong is doing so in ignorance, misspeaking or lying.
As you can see from the photo below, the Nats are claiming there’s $1 billion to be delivered to the Mallee, and the first item is $500m for the Ballarat to Stawell Western Highway duplication.
But here’s the thing:-
- Stawell was in Mallee when the announcement was made.
- Stawell is no longer in Mallee.
- When Stawell was in Mallee, only 15 kilometres of the 120km plus project was going to be in Mallee, and it seemed a bit of a stretch to pile the whole federal government contribution into the last 15kms.
In Horsham, Anne Webster the Nationals candidate twice said they had allocated $500m to duplicating the Western Highway to the South Australian border. The first time she said it I made a note. The second time the issue came up I got video of her repeating the claim.
So I’m confused: was she not across the issue, nervous and fluffing her lines? Or was she dangling something for those who believe everything the Nats say?
The night finished as usual with candidates and audience mingling, and the very next morning they were at it again 95kms to the east of Horsham at Saint Arnaud. Emphasising the size of the Mallee electorate, it was broadcast on four separate ABC regional stations.
Regional forum etiquette
1: Remember you’re out. If you are like me someone who likes his politics with a bit of froth and bubble then hold yourself in check. Both in Horsham and Nhill the crowds were achingly polite. On one hand it showed respect and ensured everyone’s arguments were treated the same; on the other hand it doesn’t hurt to support your ‘team’, surely?
2: If it’s been raining steadily all day, and this is the break farmers have been waiting for to get the crops away, check your rain gauge before leaving home. Failure to do so will result in social exclusion when you can’t answer what will almost certainly be the first question: “How much have you had?”
3. Make sure you leave sufficient dry food out for the cats, you do not want to return home to this look.
4. Be home in time for Archie the orphan lamb’s regular feed. I’ve held off introducing Archie because it can be touch-and-go with orphans, but he’s drinking heartily now so I think he’ll make it. Giselle the surrogate mum Gorilla has successfully raised three lambs, the best $5 I reckon I’ve ever spent.
Less than a week to go in the campaign and the noise level will steadily rise in the frantic rush to capture as much as possible of the diminishing voter pool. Wish us luck.