9 March 2023

Wagga's contenders to go head-to-head in NSW election debate

| Chris Roe
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election candidates montage

NSW election candidates: decision time is 25 March. Image: Region.

With less than three weeks to go until the 25 March NSW state election, the Committee 4 Wagga, About Regional, Region Riverina and the Streaming Guys are preparing to bring the candidates together for a public Q&A at the Wagga RSL tomorrow (10 March).

The current member for Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr, Nationals Andrianna Benjamin, Labor’s Keryn Foley, the Greens’ Ray Goodlass and the latest contender, Liberal Party candidate Julia Ham, will all take part.

C4W Secretary Sam Beresford said it was a great opportunity to hear directly from the candidates.

“It’s important that we run a really well-informed opportunity for our members and the community to be able to ask questions and actually get to know our candidates we lead into the election,” she said.

“Regional issues are different to what might be seen in metropolitan areas.”

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The discussion will be facilitated by Region’s Genevieve Jacobs and focus on local issues like the Gobba Bridge duplication, regional health, and the squeeze on housing and workers.

“There’ll be a window at the start to be able to give their elevator pitch and say who they are and then we’ll move into the facilitated part of the session, and then open to a Q&A from the floor,” said Ms Beresford.

C4W CEO Scott Sanbrook said he expected a lot of local interest in the forum to be held just two weeks out from the election.

“You’re encouraged to RSVP. It’s not compulsory to purchase a ticket, but it helps to get an idea of numbers for people that want to attend.”

For those unable to be there in person the whole event will be professionally live-streamed to About Regional’s Facebook page thanks to The Streaming Guys.

C4W Launch

C4W Secretary Sam Beresford and C4W CEO Scott Sanbrook say the forum will tackle local issues. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

It will be Dr McGirr’s third time at the polls since ending the Liberal Party’s 60-year dominance in the seat in 2018.

He consolidated his position in 2019 with 44.63 per cent of the primary vote, defeating Nationals candidate McKenna Powell by a margin of more than 30 per cent on preferences.

Following the recent leaders’ debate between Premier Dominic Perrottet and Labor’s Chris Minns, Dr McGirr said it was important to speak up for regional issues.

“I think there is a real risk with the parties the way they are at the moment that they’re just going to be focused on winning this election and that means that they’re going to be focused on Sydney,” he said.

“We need to call that out because I think we have real issues around regional and rural health, we have real issues around regional and rural housing, roads and, of course, cost of living is a challenge right across the state.”

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Health is likely to be a major focus of this election, with three of the five candidates having a background in the health sector.

Labor’s Keryn Foley outlined her party’s promise to double the funding for women’s health and has already taken aim at Dr McGirr over his voting record on the decriminalisation of abortion.

“I believe in the empowerment of women to make decisions about what is best for them,” she said, adding that Labor will support those who are doing it tough.

“If you are disadvantaged, you will do much better under a Labor government that will actually put in place policies that will lift people from poverty,” she said.

Nationals’ Andrianna Benjamin has been busy since her pre-selection in December, accompanying a procession of Coalition ministers making funding announcements across the electorate. She cited cost of living pressures as a top priority.

“I’m hearing it all the time that it’s becoming really tough to get on with life with our expenses going up,”

“Roads are also an issue in the Wagga Wagga electorate and it’s really great to see that the Nats have put in money towards the road repairs from the recent weather that we’ve had.

“And for me, health is also really important. We’ve delivered some fantastic hospitals and infrastructure over the last few years, but where we really need to work really hard is on our workforce.”

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Veteran Greens campaigner Ray Goodlass launched the start of his campaign in Wagga today and says he also wants to see a better deal for frontline public servants.

He’s encouraging voters to cast their ballot for someone serious about making a difference on climate change, gambling reform, Indigenous recognition and investing in infrastructure like the Gobba Bridge duplication.

“I want people to think about more than just tinkering around the edges because that’s what tends to happen with the major parties, they just make minor adjustments without really addressing the issue,” he said.

Finally, the last to join the race, Julia Ham, said she’s hoping to drum up some noise around local issues.

“I wanted to get out there and just beat the drum on some of the major issues like the Gobba Bridge,” she said.

“There’s not even a feasibility study for it, there’s not even a date.”

To hear more from the five contenders for the seat of Wagga Wagga, register to attend the forum at the RSL from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on 10 March.

While it is not essential to RSVP, it is encouraged. Visit C4W or call 6921 2490.

Original Article published by Chris Roe on Region Riverina.

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