19 January 2022

Major party candidates set for upcoming Bega by-election

| Max O'Driscoll
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Aerial view of Bega

The major party candidates have been announced for the upcoming Bega by-election. Photo: File.

After 17 years of Andrew Constance being the Member for Bega, the electorate on the NSW South Coast is preparing for a changing of the guard at the upcoming by-election, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, 12 February, 2022.

Former Eden-Monaro candidate Dr Fiona Kotvojs is the Liberal candidate looking to replace the outgoing Mr Constance. Well-known local obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Michael Holland has been selected as the Labor candidate, while local cafe owner Peter Haggar has been chosen to run for the Greens.

Dr Kotvojs lives on the family truffle farm where she grew up in Dignams Creek with her husband, Alan. She wants to continue the work of Mr Constance, who she says has delivered so much for the community.

The Liberal candidate mentioned upgrades to local roads and funding for Eurobodalla Hospital and Bega TAFE as key focuses should she be elected.

“The bushfires, COVID-19 pandemic and now floods have taken a significant toll on our local businesses, communities and so many individuals,” said Dr Kotvojs.

“We need to continue delivering support that is helping us to recover and come back stronger.

“Beyond the pandemic, I want to make sure we get the services, local infrastructure, financial support and opportunities our communities deserve.

“I will continue Andrew’s hard work as a strong and effective voice in the Perrottet government. Bega Valley and Eurobodalla recovery needs a strong, stable and experienced government, and voting for anyone else puts that at risk.”

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Dr Kotvojs has eight years in the Army Reserve, more than 15 years as a volunteer with Cobargo Rural Fire Service, is a director of Oxfam, runs three businesses, has a Doctorate in Education and a Master’s in Business. She believes she is uniquely equipped to help the community.

“I want to apply my diverse experience to helping solve the challenges currently facing this community,” she said.

“Assessing and improving delivery of government programs in health, education and tourism has been part of my job, and I want to apply this experience to programs affecting local businesses and people.”

Dr Michael Holland is well known across the NSW South Coast for his work in women’s health. He sensationally departed his role in November 2021, citing the state of his relationship with NSW Health as a central reason for his departure.

Health and delivering level-four services as part of the new Eurobodalla Hospital are priorities for Dr Holland, but housing, education, employment and the environment are also considered a focus.

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The Greens recently announced Peter Haggar as its candidate. He runs local small business Cafe Evolve, which is renowned for its focus on waste reduction, use of compostable packaging, and support for local suppliers.

He has been involved locally in Greens politics for more than a decade, and running for election has always been something that’s interested him, particularly after the Black Summer bushfires.

“They [the fires] were a climate change event,” said Mr Haggar.

“There are ongoing NSW coronial inquests into the fires, and there was the royal commission into the fires last year that keeps showing evidence there’s a link between current forestry practices and increased intensity and frequency of bushfire events.”

The Greens candidate acknowledges a low likelihood of victory, but stressed the importance of impacting the vote and ensuring whoever eventually is elected is willing to use evidence-based approaches.

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“The current COVID-19 crisis is an example of that,” said Mr Haggar.

“I’m trying to run a small business when my staff have to be off six days if they need a PCR test when we can’t find rapid antigen tests.

“All of that is because of a lack of leadership and a lack of ability to respond due to the ideological idea that you can put the economy first when an economy is what humans do inside an ecological system.”

On the topic of an evidence-based approach to politics, Mr Haggar took aim at Dr Kotvojs, who he argues has a history of avoiding evidence.

“She’s on record saying they don’t think that there’s more action required on climate,” he said. “The evidence doesn’t support that position.

“The Liberal candidate is on record saying there is no link between forestry and the Black Summer bushfires. The evidence doesn’t support that.”

The NSW electorates of Monaro, Strathfield and Willoughby will also hold by-elections in the near future. While the date is expected to be set for 12 February, that is awaiting confirmation from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

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Stephen Mills10:10 pm 20 Jan 22

Inadequate coverage of Dr Michael Holland- I would have been interested to read more of his views.

Perhaps Mr Haggar can explain how atmospheric CO2 levels effect the Indian Ocean Dipole and the Southern Annular Mode in 2019, both of which were at the extremes that cause rainfall deficits in South-east Australia.
Or how forestry effected National Park Estate that burnt in NSW between the Queensland and Victorian borders.
Meanwhile I’ll enjoy the wettest year we have had for fifty years here on the Monaro which I believe should not have happened under the AGW theory.

Fiona “I am entitled to a Seat in Parliament, any, Parliament will do, because I want it” Kotjovis, will just encouraging the NSW LNP Government to wreak more havoc on the State with there let it rip attitude to Covid.

Jeanette Waters5:10 pm 19 Jan 22

We have had enough of “more Andrew”. If Fiona Kotvojs wants to be like him I will not vote for her. It’s time we had a person who will get us the right hospital, with the right clinical services, and Dr Michael Holland is so committed to this that the government will provide it just to keep him quiet.
I will vote for the one who is a medical doctor, not one who has a doctorate of education.
Let’s have change in Bega Valley so we can make sure our voice is heard loudly and the housing, education and health services we need, we get. We need to have a person who is experienced in public speaking and who will listen carefully what people are saying what the needs of their community are. Vote 1 Michael Holland.

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