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Candidates talk Macnamara

08 May 2019

Candidates talk Macnamara Image

The Southbank Residents’ Association’s (SRA) Meet the Candidates event on April 16 saw more than 100 locals from Southbank, Montague and beyond turn out to question their local candidates ahead of the federal election.

While there are nine candidates contesting the seat of Macnamara on Saturday, May 18, the SRA invited candidates from the three major parties to speak – being Josh Burns (Labor), Kate Ashmor (Liberal) and Steph Hodgins-May (Greens).

Held at South Melbourne Primary School and moderated by councillor and former City of Port Phillip mayor Bernadene Voss, the event was conducted in a very respectful manner with all candidates given clear air to share their vision for the community.

At times the breadth of questioning from the audience was surprising. A wide range of issues was covered, with the very first question from the audience focused on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and freedom of information.

Some of the key issues covered included infrastructure, public transport, live animal exports, indigenous affairs, housing and homelessness, immigration, the economy, climate change, the ABC, equality and mental health.

Locally, issues surrounding Fishermans Bend and the Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM) were given attention early on, with ANVAM director Mark Johnston and Montague Community Alliance convener Trisha Avery asking questions of the candidates.

Holding up a copy of the April edition of Southbank Local News, which featured a front-page story of ANVAM’s push to establish a permanent home at the old repatriation clinic at 320 St Kilda Rd, Mr Johnston asked all candidates whether they supported its proposal.

“It’s a worthy project,” Josh Burns said. “I see the vision and it touches on some of the desperate health challenges that veterans are facing and it does it in a way that is admirable and is worthy of support. I don’t have any announcements to make tonight.”

Steph Hodgins-May said: “The Greens have thrown its support behind this proposal. Mark is a ferocious lobbyist and activist and exactly the kind of advocate you want in your court pushing for a project like this.”

“We, as recently as a couple of weeks ago, wrote to the Federal Government when it looked like it was going to be placed on the open market. It is in a precinct that demands respect and the integrity of this sort of museum.”

Kate Ashmor said: “The work that ANVAM does is extraordinary. These are returned servicemen and women who have served your country, who experienced dreadful trauma the likes of which most of us can’t imagine and it is incumbent on us as a government and as a community to wrap our arms around them and to make sure they’re heard and are cared for. I really support this life-changing organisation.”

While the audience was generally respectful over the night, it did have its moments. Steph Hodgins-May did well in responding to a question about internal fighting within her party, which has been well reported in recent times. A few Greens supporters also made plenty of noise a number of times in support of Steph when she addressed the forum.

Speaking on preferences, Kate Ashmor said she wouldn’t be preferencing any party that held extreme views, right or left. In what appeared to a reference to the Greens, Steph took offence.

“Extreme is trying to open a huge coal mine on the Great Barrier Reef. Extreme is locking up people offshore giving them no hope of a better life. To talk to me about extreme Kate, the Liberal Party is where extreme politics is at,” she said.

Josh Burns and Kate Ashmor also went head to head on a few occasions, such as on the issue of franking credits, which a Labor government has vowed to scrap if elected.

“Government isn’t about making easy decisions,” Josh said. “Since Costello brought in this policy it’s been costing the country $180 million a year. It’s now going up to $6 billion and it’s going up to eight very shortly.”

“That’s way more than we spend on public schools right now. It’s a really hard conversation but I don’t think people are going to be left stranded.”

Kate replied with: “Make no mistake. At this election there are two very clear paths if you’re a self-funded retiree. Over 900,000 Australians who’ve worked hard and followed the rules, done everything right to provide for themselves.”

“Many of them have a partner in aged care that they’ve funded through their franking credits. They’re not drawing a pension, they’re not a burden on the public purse. I’ve met them. Labor has made it very clear that they don’t care about these people.”

The local issue of combustible cladding was also canvassed, with each candidate agreeing that urgent action was required to protect people living in high-rise apartment towers.

“There is a lot of work to be done. Each building has to be assessed individually and there are ones that need to be prioritised,” Josh said.

Steph said: “The Greens have been pushing at a local, state and federal level for an emergency cladding fund with an immediate injection of $50 million to get on top of this issue. We can’t risk the sort of disaster we’ve seen previously.”

Kate said: “The fact that some of us here could be living in a building right now that could go up in flames and you don’t even know about it is disgusting. As a private property owner you have a right to know.”

The other six candidates contesting the seat of Macnamara are Ruby O’Rourke (independent), Steven Armstrong (Sustainable Australia), Chris Wallis (independent), Craig McPherson (Animal Justice Party), Christine Kay (Rise Up Australia Party) and Helen Lucy Paton (United Australia Party).

Nearby local polling booths include the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), South Melbourne Community Centre (1 Ferrars Place), St Peter and Paul’s Church (cnr of Bank and Montague streets) and Deaf Children Australia (597 St Kilda Rd).

Early voting is also open at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) and Deaf Children Australia.

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