By Jason Smith
The Candidate's Debate for Durack was held in Geraldton tonight, with questions presented to Shane Van Styn from the Nationals, Melissa Price from Liberal, Daron Keogh for Labor, and Ian James from the Greens.
Who's best for Geraldton?
Of the four, Melissa Price of the Liberal Party was definitely the most eloquent. She spoke well, spoke confidently and at a pace that could be understood by her audience. She did a good job of coming across personable, friendly and yet in control. Whether or not you like her policies is another matter, but it would be hard to imagine people who were on the fence about voting for her being put off by her personality.
Shane Van Styn, former Geraldton councillor and well known local business man, presented a good argument in favor of the Nationals. It's hard to argue that the Nationals don't care about the regions, when in fact it's pretty much all their party is built on. But for all his enthusiasm for the city of Geraldton and the region of Durack, he spoke way too fast for a regular human being to be able to digest all his points. Perhaps he was caught off guard by the time limits on each question, but it certainly felt like he should have been making less points and being clearer for the audience.
Ian James from the Greens did a good job. He too spoke clearly and knew the points he wanted to make. He also answered the questions that were presented to him. Geraldton has never been a strong Greens district, but that didn't stop Ian from giving it all he had. He may not have the profile to match Shane Van Styn or the marketing budget of Melissa Price, but being a farmer himself brought credibility to what he had to say about sustainability and live exports.
Daron Keogh, the Labor candidate, probably performed the weakest of the bunch. Many times at the end of him answering a question the audience was left wondering what his answer actually was. It wasn't that he artfully dodged the question, but more that he didn't really have an answer so just spoke about issues he knew existed. There were some solid points made here and there, but it certainly wasn't a vote winning performance, nor would it have instilled a confidence in the audience that they would be well represented in the party rooms.
What's most surprising about the Labor party is why they think the Liberal party would care more about regional WA than the Nationals. Their recent surprise decision to place Liberal ABOVE the Nationals in their how to vote cards shows either that they genuinely believe that the Nationals are a greater evil than the Liberals, or that they are acknowledging they are at risk of becoming "the third party" in this region.
Looking at the performances tonight and the campaigns as a whole, it certainly comes across as just a matter of "which" coalition party is going to win Durack.
So what were the differences in their policies?
For the most part, the responses were exactly what was expected, candidates trying to address known issues in the region while suggesting their party could fix those problems best. Of course, there was more of a focus from the Greens on the environment, but certainly no-one else was going to say they didn't care about the planet.
But there were two distinct issues where there was a notable difference in the candidate's responses.
The first was that of the carbon tax and the mining tax.
The Liberals and Nationals categorically want them gone. Labor and Greens want them to stay, if not strengthened.
And the other was the question (via Twitter) of same sex marriage.
Each candidate expressed their support for same sex marriage, except Melissa Price of the Liberal party who said it was not the most important issue, but if the matter came before parliament she would canvas her constituents to see what they wanted. (Click here to see our audience's response on Facebook.)