Election: Gippsland gears up

ACCORDING to Gippsland Labor candidate Jeff McNeil, “it is on,” now that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called a September 7 election.

Mr McNeill said he was looking forward to this year’s federal election and his chance to emphasise quality of life and standard of living, a statement echoed by Gippsland MHR Darren Chester, who hopes this year’s campaign will take a more positive approach.

“It’s time to get the nation back on track,” Mr Chester said, expressing a desire to focus on the need to restore community confidence, create new job opportunities in the region and secure a fairer share of government funding for local infrastructure and services.

“Regional areas like Gippsland already make an enormous contribution to the wealth of our nation and we need to receive a fairer share of government funding for key services like roads, public transport, health, education, child care, aged care and the disability sector,” he added.

Mr McNeill said Gippslanders would stand a better chance of receiving improved transport services if Gippsland was to become a marginal seat.

Mr McNeill said Tony Abbott, should the Coalition win the election, would spend a large part of the country’s infrastructure budget on the east-west link, an 18 kilometre cross-city road connection extending across Melbourne from the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring Road.

He said this money would be better spent on creating a second train line and railway tunnel in Gippsland, which he said was desperately needed for the region.

“This is just a further indicator the Coalition is not looking after the east side of Melbourne, into Gippsland and east Gippsland,” Mr McNeill said.

Under Tony Abbott, Mr McNeill said the Coalition would slash $70 billion to services under the guise of good economic management, something Mr Chester believes the election could be won or lost on.

“This election will provide Gippslanders with a choice to decide who they trust to deliver strong economic management, jobs growth, border protection and national prosperity after six years of the Rudd-Gillard governments,” Mr Chester said.

“The Labor Party has broken the trust of the Australian people as well as recklessly wasting taxpayers’ money and accumulating record national debt and budget deficits.”

For independent candidate Peter Gardner, the biggest problem facing Australians was the issue of climate change, which he described as being in a state of emergency.

Mr Gardner wants Australia to make the shift away from fossil fuel generated electricity to renewable energy, specifically solar.

“The man-made climate change which is occurring is far worse than either the media or the politicians would have us believe,” Mr Gardner said.

“Climate change means extreme weather events are becoming more dangerous and frequent, including droughts, floods, storms, heat waves and related bush fires,” Mr Gardner said.

“The major parties need to develop serious bipartisan polices on climate change instead of bickering and trying to gain political advantage.”

To some extent, Mr McNeill agrees with this sentiment, saying the only way to get an Emissions Trading Scheme and carbon price was to vote Labor.

Mr McNeill said he believed the Bill would be passed because, should Tony Abbott lose the election for a second time, the Coalition would reinstate Malcolm Turnbull as Liberal leader, and he supported such a scheme.

Mr McNeill believes this would be the best thing for the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland.

“I have yet to meet someone from Gippsland who has said they look forward to a Tony Abbott leadership,” Mr McNeill said.

Mr Chester believes the issue of job creation and security were more important to Gippslanders.

“Over the past five years, I’ve worked hard to promote local businesses and supported local jobs by successfully fighting against bad government policies, like the plan to shut down Latrobe Valley power stations and unnecessary taxes and regulations,” Mr Chester said.

“I want every Gippslander to have the chance to share in the prosperity of our nation with a decent job and educational opportunities to achieve their full potential,” Mr Chester said.

So far there are seven candidates vying for the seat of Gippsland including, Mr Chester (the Nationals), Mr McNeill (Australian Labor Party), Mr Gardner (Independent), Scott Campbell-Smith (Greens), William Tomlinson (Palmer United Australia), Douglas Leitch (Australian Sex Party) and Ben Buckley (Liberal Democrats).

Declaration of candidate nominations will close at midday Friday, August 16.