Still wondering how you'll vote this Saturday? Final word from the candidates

Mark Jeffreson, Michael McCormack, Richard Foley and Michael Bayles.
Mark Jeffreson, Michael McCormack, Richard Foley and Michael Bayles.

As Australian voters get ready for the poll on May 18, four candidates have put their hands up for the seat of Riverina which includes the Forbes shire.

They are Michael McCormack, Michael Bayles, Mark Jeffreson and Richard Foley.

Australian Community Media sat down and asked each of them a few questions. Here they are, in the order they will appear on this Saturday's ballot paper.

The Nationals

Michael McCormack

This is your first campaign as The Nationals leader, rather than simply the Member for Riverina, how's it been?

Yeah good. I was assistant minister for defence in 2016, so that also required a bit of additional travel. But being a minister, certainly the Deputy Prime Minister, does also enable the Riverina to have a voice around the Cabinet table.

It enables the Riverina to have a voice at the very top of government.

The fact is, I just get on an do my job.

I never forget that Riverina people are the ones that I'm there to serve first, and that is why I have been to every one of my local government areas during the election campaign. I speak to the mayors every week, I speak to local people every week.

Going back a bit, why did you decide to run for The Nationals back in 2010?

I'd been a member of The National for many years before I became the Member for Riverina. I joined The Nationals in 2003, obviously I wasn't a member of a political party when I was at the newspaper.

I chose The Nationals because they were the party representative wholly and solely of regional Australia, in the national interest. When the regions are strong, so too is our nation.

Obviously we are in a coalition with the Liberal Party and I do very much have great faith in Scott Morrison and what the Liberal Party have to offer this nation, but for the benefit of regional people, The Nationals have always delivered. We've been going for 100 years.

There has been been a lot of talk that minor parties are trying to replace The Nationals. What would you say to them?

There's been many people who have tried to do that over many years. We're still there. So people can have faith us, they can trust us to deliver. You only have to look around the Riverina to see the sorts of the things that I've delivered for the Riverina. Having that voice in Cabinet gives me an even greater say in how regional delivery occurs.

Speaking of regional areas, what's the first thing you would make a priority for the Riverina if you're re-elected?

Again, it's providing that better infrastructure, it's making sure we continue with the Inland Rail, it's making sure we continue to look at good projects under the next rounds of the building better regions fund, which at the moment I oversee.

We can do that through those really good community infrastructure grants, whether they're sports stadiums or whether they're investing in cultural events. It makes such a difference to the arts and culture of a region and I want to make sure the Riverina is a place where people can live, work, enjoy, invest in and make it even more attractive to move to.

What would be your first federal priority?

The National Water Grid is something I have established, something I want to carry through and make sure we get it granted and make sure that we actually raise a dam wall, make sure we build a new dam, make sure we put down that infrastructure.

Of course, the Inland Rail. I haven't actually been able to get the Queensland Government to sign up to the intergovernmental agreement on the Inland Rail, and I'm hoping to get that smoothed away.

The Greens

Michael Bayles

Tell us about yourself.

I have a degree in agricultural science from Tasmanian University and I did a graduate diploma in food technology and then worked for 36 years in the food industry.

I started off working in Tassie, then moved and was with a company in Sydney and then moved to Sunrice in Leeton. I was at Sunrice for 27 years.

My biggest achievement at Sunrice was actually developing their 92nd rice. Then they moved the R&D to Thailand, so I retired and moved to Wagga.

What I did in Wagga when I first moved here was become involved with a group in mental health called Grow and I was a volunteer worker for a few years, up until the end of last year.

I joined The Greens in about 2011. I mainly joined because my values system fits in with their four pillars which are ecological sustainability, grassroots participatory democracy, social justice, and peace and non-violence.

So were you interested in politics before, or did joining The Greens spark the political interest?

I've sort of always been active politically. When I lived in Tassie, I joined a political party called United Tasmania Group. When The Greens first formed, I think that was one of the parties that went on to be amalgamated in The Greens.

Can you see a time when The Greens could win a seat like Riverina?

It's going to be a long, hard battle. When I was at the candidates' forum last week in Forbes - which is National Party heartland - I got lovely feedback from somebody who was in the audience.

The sad thing is, there's a lot of people who will vote for us, but they are too scared to put their hand up in the community and say that's how they vote.

What are people telling you the issues are?

I'm getting lots and lots of correspondence and everyone is really concerned about Adani. People are asking what it's effect will be on the Great Barrier Reef.

Having come from a rural background - I was brought up on a dairy farm - I talk about the effect climate change is having in rural communities and about Adani.

What are some of the other issues? It's a big electorate, isn't it?

One of the things that we have in common is the cutting back on public services. I'm getting reports from various people who are finding they are not getting the same services out in the bush as they are in the cities. It's something we'll address.

If you were elected, what would be your biggest priority?

The biggest priority goes back to climate change. We've actually got a plan to develop a renewable economy, stop coal mining and stuff like that.

People that believe the science - and can see the science - can see what climate change is doing, and so that would be the biggest thing, to start implementing our policies so that we can start making a difference in climate change.

What's the one thing above everything else you would say to voters?

I'd say to voters to take The Greens seriously. Look at our policies. It's what I've been saying all along.

Look at what we're going to do as far as putting money back into public services, look at our policies on climate change, look at our policies on a renewable economy.


Mark Jeffreson

So, tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Holbrook. I came in to Lavington with my parents when I was probably three or four.

I was in Albury until 1987. I had spent 14 months in Canberra. I was on my way to Sydney. I was going to live in Sydney for a couple of years to see what that was like, but Canberra was enough. I hightailed it back to Albury again.

I stayed there, met my wife Kylie there. We have three children. We came here in 1987. We both work in a financial planning practice.

You're running as the Labor candidate. What came first, the Labor interest or politics?

I've always watched politics fairly closely. I've only been a member of the Labor party for probably three or four years, or something like that.

Probably over the last five years or so, I've started to get in intensely interested in it because as I've watched it over a long period of time, starting with Paul Keating's government, we've been in a period of economic growth.

I'm a capitalist, but I do think we have an obligation to distribute the wealth we generate according to what people are putting into the economy.

When I started work, I went into a full-time job. The only people who had casual or part-time jobs were the people who wanted one.

There's all sorts of reasons people are in the workforce part-time, but if you want to work full-time, you should be able to work full-time and that's become decreasingly likely for younger people, and that's not fair.

Can you see a time Labor will claim Riverina?

Yes. My light on the hill is John Howard in Bennelong back in 2007. He has said there is no such thing as a safe seat in Australia.

That's my mantra: There's no such thing as a safe seat.

I've been around the electorate quite a bit. The main criticism I have heard is that he is not seen in the place very often and that's a concern through the electorate.

What are the issues? What are people telling you?

They are telling me that the services are no good.

People don't always make the connection between where they've got the lowest tax rates in history, we've never put more money into schools and hospitals, all those sorts of things that you hear all the time.

Taxes have to be as low as they can possibly be because you don't want too much of people's incentive being taken away by being burdened by taxes.

The government has stated over the last five or six years that when you cut taxes people work a bit harder. I don't think that's true. I think people work hard because people work hard.

If you were elected, what is the first thing that needs to change?

Our first order of business as an incoming government is to get the money back into schools and hospitals.

Our infrastructure program is probably our most ambitious program. Infrastructure is critical, especially for the regions.

What's the one thing you would say to voters, about all else, going into the election?

An economy should serve the people who put into it.

They should be able to get something out of it other than an occasion job, other than part-time work, other than a job that they can't use to get into their own home and have trouble paying rent. It's not fair that you put into an economy and don't get enough out of it to live reasonably.

United Australia Party

Richard Foley

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Narrandera and spent most of my formative years in Wagga. I spent 11 years in Melbourne and three or four overseas, living in parts of Europe.

Then I did some farming Ganmain, mostly during the millennial drought. I'm a tradesman, a plasterer, and highly interested in politics.

Where does in the political interest come from?

I remember sitting on the wooden floor of a house in Mount Austin as a boy watching Gough Whitlam being dismissed. It stuck in my mind.

I didn't realise it was a major political moment in history, but it's something I always remember.

You've got a big electorate to cover. What are people telling you the issues are?

A lot of people are saying they are sick of the current MP entirely, others are saying the cost of living is really bad.

You've got the pensioners coming in and they are just really battling. They are really, really suffering and the government insults them with $75 for the year.

That's why we are saying we need to lift them - just slightly above the poverty line - with $150 a week, as that's how far behind they are.

What would you change, if elected, in Riverina?

What needs to change is more connection with the member. I would like to have regular - let's say once a month - go down not just in Wagga, but in other areas Forbes, Parkes, Cowra and all these other places.

We want to set up a sovereign wealth fund to start putting Australia's superannuation into productive agriculture and infrastructure that we own.

We also are obviously still supportive of coal.


Voting is open 8am to 6pm this Saturday, May 18. For your vote to count, number one to four in your order of preference for these candidates on the small ballot paper.