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Case of a missing MP

Jennifer Podesta addresses the meet-the-candidates forum at St Stephen’s Church. Picture: JOHN RUSSELLWHERE in the world is Bill Tilley?
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That seemed to be question voters most wanted answers to at a meet-the-candidates forum in Wodonga last night.

Despite three of the seat’s four candidates attending the UnitingCare Wodonga forum at St Stephen’s Church, it was the absence of the Liberal MP that got the most attention.

Mr Tilley had previously said he was unable to attend due to a prior commitment.

Last night, the forum’s organisers were drilled by an audience of about 30 as to what that commitment was and why he hadn’t sent a proxy.

He did, however, provide a lengthy written response to the question on notice all candidates were given 10 minutes to answer: what is your party’s vision for the future of Australia as an egalitarian society?

But the audience was frustrated with the statement, which referred broadly to Coalition policy on education, health and unemployment, with little specific comment on Benambra.

ALP candidate Jennifer Podesta was met with cheers from the large number of her supporters present; she too largely spoke in broad terms, though pointed to the party’s rural and regional jobs plan and announced her intention to hold a youth jobs forum in Wodonga next year.

Australian Country Alliance candidate Phil Rourke — supported by his Ovens Valley counterpart Julian Fidge — encouraged voters to not vote blindly for the major parties.

The Greens’ Dick Wellard spoke of the need for affordable, safe housing and the introduction of two years of free early childhood education.

In the question-and-answer session, almost all questions came from people with their own political agendas.

Rights to privacy campaigner Pieter Mourik asked how each would vote on a woman’s right to choose, based on the issue of anti-abortion campaigners outside the Englehardt Street clinic.

Ms Podesta and Mr Wellard were pro-choice and spoke loosely in favour of an exclusion zone, while Mr Rourke said he would need to study the issue further but was pro-choice on the face of it.

Greens upper house candidate Jenny O’Connor raised the same-sex marriage question, which Ms Podesta and Mr Wellard supported and Mr Rourke opposed.

Mr Fidge put Ms Podesta on the spot over the ALP’s closure of tech schools, while all three expressed opposition to coal seam gas exploration — though Ms Podesta was more guarded, in line with ALP policy that it would be allowed if it could be proven there were no major environmental impacts.

On cattle grazing, Ms Podesta and Mr Wellard were against and Mr Rourke for, providing it was well managed.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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