A number of candidates who are contesting the seat of Orange in the upcoming State election travelled to Forbes on Tuesday night to meet local constituents.
The candidates at the forum included Garry McMahon (Conservatives), Kate Hazelton (Nationals), Maurice Davey (Christian Democrats), Terri Ann Baxter (Independent), Luke Sanger (Country Labor), Stephen Nugent (Greens) and Phil Donato (Shooters, Fishers, Farmers).
The forum provided a chance for the candidates to introduce themselves and what they would do if they got elected.
There was fairly significant community interest in the event, both in person and watching online via the Forbes Advocate's Facebook page.
What they had to say
Gary McMahon lives in Orange and decided to stand for the seat of Orange as a member of the Australian Conservatives last year.
He said that he believes that it is important to have a relationships with local people and what matters most to them.
Mr McMahon touched on issues including the accessibility of healthcare in smaller communities, water management and more policing.
Kate Hazelton, who has trained as a nurse in Orange, and has worked in aged care in Molong, working on her family farm near Cudal and acting as a carer for several family members.
Mrs Hazelton said speaking up for those who have little voice and trying to make their life better has always been something that drives her.
"I believe it's time we send a clear message to Sydney that politics should be about service and duty to community."
Maurice Davey is a fourth generation farmer at Alectown who is standing for Christian Democrats and is looking at what the foundational principles should be for the electorate.
Mr Davey said the drought is on top of the list of policies for him, with continued waiving of appropriate taxes for farmers, making grants available as well as helping associated agribusiness and communities.
Along with drought support, Mr Davey said he will be focused on roads and transport, particularly in improving regional access.
Terri Ann Baxter
Terri Ann Baxter is running as an Independent and said the was running to support the electorate and those who are missing out.
Mrs Baxter said she would fight an increase in housing in the region as well as poverty, an overhaul of the palliative care system and school safety.
"I believe each and every child deserves the respect and courtesy of not being bullied."
Luke Sanger is running for the Country Labor Party and said the drought and TAFE are two of areas he would want to focus on.
Mr Sanger said what helped prompt him to run in the election was his passion for fighting for people's rights.
"We are all here to listen to you, we are all here to speak up for you," he said.
Stephen Nugent has been involved in the Orange community for several years, working for community services organisation OCTEC and on the Orange City Council.
Mr Nugent said that as the Greens candidate he said he will talk about climate change, renewable energy, recycling and other issues which haven't had a lot of air time.
Mr Nugent said a way to address climate change is the Greens policy of aiming for NSW to be using 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Phil Donato is running for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and said that they want to see someone who can fight for the electorate in Parliament.
With the possibility of a hung parliament, Mr Donato said that he would use the influence that being on the crossbench gave him to fight for the local community.
He outlined some of his wins as Member for Orange over the past two years.
Not in attendance were Stephen Bisgrove, who is a candidate for the Liberal Democrats, and David O'Brien from Keep Sydney Open.
Mr Bisgrove is a Sydney-based business consultant who lives in Orange. He says he's running for the seat as, "I love solving problems on behalf of people and feel that I have a unique ability to seek what this electorate requires in improving day-to-day life and ensuring the facilities match the growth of the region."
David O'Brien is a 25-year-old marketing manager who told the Central Western Daily he is running for the seat of Orange, "to stand up and give our area a voice. I’m sick of seeing the same old dinosaurs with the same old promises they never fulfil."
We have detailed below the candidates responses to several questions put to them on the night below.
What are you going to do to get nurses to work in new and refurbished hospitals in the Central West?
Mrs Hazelton said they need to get more young people in nursing, but they need to keep the training programs going for nursing.
"We already have training programs at TAFE and they have to be continued for EN's and AIN's. RN's are being trained through the universities."
Mrs Hazelton said that the Central West will be getting an en extra 365 nurses in the next year.
Mr Sanger said that Labor has stated that they will back nurses and have been supporting the Nursing and Midwifes Association on ratios since 2010.
Mr Sanger said they agree that there is a need for more nurses in regional areas.
Mr Nugent said that we need to be training more nurses in regional areas.
"I think we need to be training the nurses as close to where we hope that they will be working if possible … I think it's the regional areas is where the need is greatest."
Mr Donato said that they need to encourage more nurses into the profession and to provide those educational facilities and placements for them.
Mr McMahon said that one of the big issues that he's seen over time is the lack of adequate numbers of registered nurses in hospitals and aged care facilities.
Mr McMahon said they would like to have adequate staff in aged care facilities and 24/7 coverage without increasing costs for consumers.
What is your opinion on pill testing at music festivals?
"My experience is that harm minimisation does not work when it comes to drugs and kids using them at music festivals," He said, "There has to be a system in place to try and eradicate drugs."
Mrs Hazelton said she agrees with Mr McMahon about illegal drugs being eradicated.
Mr Davey said he has zero tolerance on drug taking, particularly during music festivals.
"[The] Government has to be seen leading the way and not condoning that sort of activity at these sort of events."
Terri Ann Baxter:
Mrs Baxter said she addresses her position on drugs in her policy and plans on tackling it full on if she is elected.
Mr Sanger said he does agree with pill testing as a trial and that it has yielded results around the world.
"Pill testing is not just about giving the drug back to the person saying it is safe to take … It's actually about counselling the person before they take the drug."
Mr Nugent said the Greens are on the record about supporting pill testing.
Mr Nugent said the aim of pill testing is harm minimisation and making sure people are safe.
Mr Donato said he does not support pill testing.
"It doesn't matter what is tested, you can't guarantee it's safe. The single message is: no pill is a safe pill."
How will you support public education in this electorate and for regional, rural and remote NSW students?
Mr Sanger said Labor are planning to fund the full Gonski report after the election to the tune of $2.7billion.
"With the extra teachers, 5000 teachers, I believe 70 per cent of those are for regional or rural areas as well."
"We are really focusing on public education in this election … as well as having free TAFE for 600,000 positions in skills shortages areas."
Mr Nugent said Greens have supported that all of the public funding for education should go to public schools as well as secondary schools and revitalising TAFE.
"We would want to reinvigorate TAFE and secondary schools with appropriate levels of funding that hasn't been there in recent times."
Mr Donato said that future governments should ensure, particularly in regional areas, that we have levels of education and incentives to attract and retain good teachers.
"Education is the cornerstone of our foundation."
Terri Ann Baxter:
On the school counsellor side of education, Mrs Baxter said that to help ease the pressures on students in the region is to help resolve the concerns about the drought.
"Kids are suffering just as much as parents are."
Mrs Baxter said she also wants to remove the NAPLAN test as it is not a good indicator of ability.
"Children should all go through and not fall through the cracks."
Mrs Hazelton said she is very passionate about public education and that it is something we can do more about.
A big concern for Mrs Hazelton is how to get young teachers out to the regions and work here.
Mr McMahon said that he would like to look at education across education across both public and private schools.
The bigger issue is resourcing the smaller schools and schools in the rural communities, according to Mr McMahon.
He said providing employment opportunities for students after they leave school falls under this issue as well.
Mr McMahon said that to look at this issue, he would want to launch an inquiry to find out how schools in the area could be better resourced.
Roads and Transport
Flood proofing the Newell Highway:
Mr Donato said it needs to be done and there has been stages and developments going on to help flood proof the road.
Mr Nugent said that flood proofing is needed to ensure that people can move along the highway.
What are you going to do that young people in regional areas have access to public transport?
Terri Ann Baxter:
Mrs Baxter said she will be fighting very hard for public transport in isolated areas in this electorate.
Mr Nugent said the role of the local reprentative is to represent the whole electorate and if there is a gap in a particular service the representative should lobby to try and fill the gap.
Mr Nugent said that funding issues will always be a problem, but public transport is something that the Greens have been very supportive of.
Mr Donato said there should be that linkage and transport option available to people.
"This is one of the things where, unfortunately in the bush, we have been neglected. We haven't had the service provided. We needed to ensure that the governments don't have these cut backs to people in the bush."
Mrs Hazelton said the Nationals have recently issued a seniors card which is aimed to make up for the $250 worth of Opal card payments that seniors in the city receive.
She said it will be hard to look at which organisations that can provide this coach line service in regional areas and what it would look like.
Mrs Hazelton said it will be something that they will have to look into.
"I think everyone agrees that there needs to be good, fast linkages between the towns we mentioned today," he said.
Mr McMahon said that it is worth bringing up to whoever gets elected and put forward what your needs are.