ON Friday, the Bendigo Advertiser spoke with the candidates for Bendigo in the upcoming federal election using questions submitted by our readers.
Labor MP Lisa Chesters, Liberal candidate Megan Purcell and Greens candidate Rosemary Glaisher answered questions live. Click here to watch the full video.
They answered questions on:
- The NBN
- Refugee policy
- Youth unemployment
- The economy
- Same-sex marriage
You can read excerpts of their responses below:
National Broadband Network
What will you do to ensure Bendigo gets world-class fibre internet?
Lisa Chesters (ALP): Labor has said loudly and clearly that we will prioritise fibre to the premises. What we will do when coming into government is to see where the contracts are at, and where possible, roll out more fibre to the premises.
We’re looking at the map to see where we’re at, and we will be coming up with a statement, so street-by-street people in Bendigo will know what Labor will deliver.
Our ultimate goal is fibre to the premises, so every household, every business, it may be a two stage process where people already have fibre to the node, but for the rest of them, fibre to the premises.
Megan Purcell (Liberal Party): I think we have made some progress, but it’s not enough. I’m more than happy to say that.
We had last week an announcement that the Sky Muster satellite is now operational, which has the capacity for 4000 homes here in Bendigo to now connect to the NBN.
That is a step in the right direction, but we do need to do more. I have been speaking with the Minister for Communications on this issue because we need it . Our small businesses, our homes, our families, our kids and schools, they need the NBN.
Mitch Fifield, our minister in that area, will be coming to Bendigo and I will certainly be having strong conversations with him about where are we going, what can you tell us, and how can we make sure that we get the best for here in Bendigo.
Rosemary Glaisher (The Greens): It’s the 21st century, we need high-speed internet. The Greens certainly support fibre to the premises. It will be expensive, but it’s the 21st century. It is more expensive to roll out in regional areas, but the city’s populations will just have to subsidise that.
What is your party’s view on indefinitely detaining human beings without trial?
Lisa Chesters: Labor’s policy has changed.
We are vehemently opposed to indefinite detention and that is what is occurring on Nauru and Manus Island. Our policy is to have people processed within 90 days.
Our policy is to fund UNHCR by $450 million, to help fund the UNHCR to process people in the country of transit of the country of origin, so there are less people standing on the shores of Indonesia, working out how they can get to Australia to claim asylum.
We need to go back to the UN, engage the UN and work with partners in our region. New Zealand has offered to take asylum seekers. Australia, Canada, the US has the capacity to take these asylum seekers.
Labor has also agreed to double the refugee intake.
Megan Purcell: Australia should be proud that we do have a strong history of accepting refugees, and having them live strong and successful lives.
It is important to say that we have stopped the boats. We have stopped the drownings. That’s 1200 lives that were lost through that avenue, that have now not been lost due to the Coalition’s policies. That’s something we need to be proud of, because that was a tragedy and a travesty.
We want to definitely be able to support those people who are in struggling situations. We want them to be flown here, we do not want them getting on boats.
At the same time, we have gone from something like 1700 children in detention, to a situation where we’re looking at none under a Coalition government.
Rosemary Glaisher: We do have a plan, which in fact saves money. At the moment, we’re spending $1 billion a year keeping those people in detention. These are people who have not been through any court, have not been found guilty of anything. At least 90 per cent of them are assessed as refugees.
We need to close those camps. With that billion dollars in our pocket we can help fund the UN refugee centres in Indonesia and Malaysia. The people who are assessed as being eligible, will be flown to Australia. They don’t need to get on a boat, and because the UN centres are properly funded, they don’t have to wait decades, which is the case now.
That incentive (to come by boat) will be completely removed.
We also want to increase the refugee intake to 50,000, which is still a pretty small proportion but overall immigration intake, and 10,000 of those would be skilled.
What will you do to help young people get a start, even if they do not have job experience?
Lisa Chesters: (The Coalition’s internship program) is a shocking program, and the government has been called out for it.
A young person on the dole can apply for the job vacancy. All that does it take away the job vacancy from another young person. For a place like Coles, rather than employing the next young person… (it will) now be a work for the dole person.
We need to work together to make sure we have those jobs and job opportunities. A billion dollars cut from skills has gutted our apprenticeships scheme. We need to re-invest in apprenticeships and apprenticeship schemes.
We also need to re-invest in education to make sure people have the skills going forward. We also need to look at the backpackers visa.
Megan Purcell: We actually just announced a new policy in the budget. This is $750 million to target young people, to help them get a job through an internship.
Young people will continue to receive their unemployment benefits, and on top of that get $200 a week in exchange for completing an internship, which involves real work in a real job with a real employer.
It’s a great pathway to employment. People might say $200 a week is not a lot, but if I had the option of being on the dole, or being on the dole and getting an extra $200 a week, and getting experience, I know which one I would pick.
We’ve also got an $88 million project to support our young entrepreneurs to help them start their own businesses. That’s something I think we’ve seen in Bendigo, our young people doing a great job of.
Rosemary Glaisher: The first thing is to restore the billions of dollars that have been pulled out of education funding, so that there are adequate TAFE and VET courses that are well resourced, and free to students.
We would be supporting small business. We have long supported better competition laws so that small businesses can’t be pushed out by the big companies abusing their market power.
My renewable energy hub, if we can get that set up, then the jobs in Bendigo are going to be many.
How can the ALP be trusted when your figures in the budget reply were found to not add up properly?
Lisa Chesters: What we found on budget night, that the government’s big business tax plan will cost the budget $50 billion. That money we are arguing, should be spent on health and education.
Labor does support a tax cut for our small businesses that have a turnover of less than $2 million, but above that, once you become a business of $1 billion turnover, you should not receive a tax cut.
The good news about generating less reveune because of the tobacco tax, the health assumption is that more people will give up smoking, and that’s a good thing.
(Ms Chesters also disputed the premise of the question, stating assumptions from the budget office regarding the tobacco tax had changed and Labor has adjusted its costings accordingly).
Megan Purcell: The economy is not just debt and deficit, it’s about jobs and growth. Debt and deficit is really important as well. We will be better at managing the economy, that’s what I firmly believe over the long run and in every circumstances.
As a Coaltion government, we are focused on how we can get the best growth for our economy. One of the things that the experts say, is that our tax cuts are a cheaper way of actually providing that growth for our economy
One of the things that we’ve seen in Bendigo – that a lot of people talk to me about – is that we have people who are highly skilled, great talents, but if we can’t get them a job then that’s no good for them. We’re really focused on that, and how we can make sure that people can grow their own wealth by getting off unemployment benefits and into jobs
Rosemary Glaisher: Interest rates are at a record low. Now isn’t a bad time to be borrowing money. We borrow money to invest in a new, modern clean economy.
We’re still propping up a 19th century ‘dig it up, ship it out’ economy. Coal is in structural decline. Adani has been approved, but it may not go ahead because they cannot get the finance for it.
I don’t think our debt is a huge issue at the moment, given the way our interest rates are at the moment. We have a revenue problem though. One of the things we can do, is to stop subsiding the fossil fuel industry. That’s tens of billions of dollars we would save right there.
The Greens would like to make the deficit levy permanent, so that only effects the top end of town. There’s a lot of taxing we could do to the top end of town, that won’t do any harm to the economy.
Can the government increase funding for specialist programs supporting children with dyslexia?
Lisa Chesters: Labor’s committed to fully fund the Gonski reforms, so that’s an extra $24 million for Bendigo and central Victorian schools in 2018/19
Right now our schools don’t have enough resources. Schools like Huntly are making the tough choice between watering the garden and having a teaching aid, and that just needs to end.
Part of the reason why our outcomes haven’t improved, is because we haven’t had needs-based funding. The current model of funding that was introduced under the Howard government was unfair. It meant the public schools and smaller Catholic schools missed out on critical funding.
Needs-based funding, the Gonski reforms, address that inequity and that is why funding into schools is so critical.
Megan Purcell: Our education policy is focused on outcomes. It’s very interesting to see that in the last 15 years we’ve had education funding that has more than doubled in real terms yet our outcomes have gone backwards.
In recent days, we’ve seen examples of other nations that are getting much more bang for their buck in terms of what they spend.
I’m a really big supporter of the Coalition’s focus that we get the best education outcomes for our kids, that we have the best teachers delivering the best lessons, making sure that is something that is accessible for everyone
We need to achieve that in a realistic lens of what we’re achieving, what we’re spending our money on, and getting it right.
Rosemary Glaisher: The Greens believe everyone has the right to achieve their full potential in education, no matter any disabilities they may have.
The Greens are the only party who would put in the extra billion dollars that has been identified as being needed to properly fund people with disabilities in schools.
Do you think marriage is only between a man and a woman?
Lisa Chesters: It is the role of the federal parliament to make the decision around the Marriage Act. That is why holding the plebiscite is a very expensive opinion poll. It is ultimately 150 people in the lower house and their counterparts in the Senate to make the decision about marriage.
It is about equity before the law. I support marriage equality.
This is an issue that I’m really sad didn’t get resolved by the 44th parliament because the community is there.
Megan Purcell: I have said that, as a candidate, this is absolutely something that I will represent the community’s views on. The Coalition government has committed to a plebiscite, so I will reflect the community’s view.
My personal view is that I am not opposed to same-sex marriage, however I believe that this is not the Megan show. I have said firmly that if I am standing for this position, then I will represent the community and not my own views.
Rosemary Glaisher: No, and it wasn’t even legally until 2004, when the law was changed.
It’s a question of equality. The LGBTIQ community have just as much right to marry as anybody else. The majority of Australians, according to the polls, share that view.