Eden-Monaro votes: Bega election candidates forum covers wide variety of issues | Video, Photos

CANDIDATES: James Holgate, David Sheldon, Sophie Wade, Mike Kelly, Chandra Singh, Pat McGinlay and Fiona Kotvojs.
CANDIDATES: James Holgate, David Sheldon, Sophie Wade, Mike Kelly, Chandra Singh, Pat McGinlay and Fiona Kotvojs.

A simple message rounded out the election candidates forum in Bega on Tuesday night.

Think. Vote. Thanks.

That was how independent James Holgate summed up his pitch to Eden-Monaro voters after a public forum that heard from seven of the electorate's eight standing candidates.

While the environment dominated proceedings during the public Q&A session, despite several targeted forums on that topic already held in recent months, questions ranged over a variety of issues from the small but engaged crowd.

From nuclear power potential to regional fast rail, from "death tax" to health concerns with 5G telecommunications, from the future of forestry to tackling fireweed, questions from the, mainly older generation, audience were on point.

For the most part so were the responses from the candidates.

MEET YOUR CANDIDATES: Eden-Monaro candidate profiles

The only exception was a concern the rollout of 5G has health impacts that aren't being discussed at a government level.

Until the question was asked by Deb Rozzoli, all candidates said it was a topic about which they knew very little about and that it had not been raised with them directly - although they were all happy to read further.

Much of the grumbling and heckling from the small audience was reserved for the two major party representatives, Fiona Kotvojs of the Liberals and sitting Labor MP Mike Kelly.

There was an audible "boo" from one person when United Australia Party candidate Chandra Singh said the Clive Palmer-led group would build a nuclear power station in South Australia to utilise existing uranium deposits in that state.

However, independent David Sheldon said the "boo boo" was that nuclear was a "a dirty word".

"It may not be the end result, but it should be part of the discussion," he said about transitioning away from coal and fossil fuels.

Dr Kelly said to establish nuclear capacity would take 20 years "and by 2039 we should be 100 per cent renewable anyway".

Dr Kotvojs countered by saying Labor's push for renewable energy targets would put further strain on those people already struggling to foot rising power bills.

Greens candidate Pat McGinlay said nuclear was "hideously expensive in relation to other renewables" and any transition away from coal would see increased employment opportunities.

"Around 80,000 job in coal and mining would be lost, but double that would be created in setting up and developing renewable alternatives," he said.

Dr Kotvojs appeared to cause insult to her Coalition colleague Sophie Wade of the Nationals - and by association Ms Wade's fellow farmers of the Yass Valley - when she said farmers there were now seeing invasive African lovegrass but "don't know know what it is".

Ms Wade was quick to grab the microphone to retort and the animosity appeared to continue after the forum concluded and the candidates gathered for a photo.

For Bega beef and sheep farmer Noel Watson, all he wanted was a commitment of $250,000 to finish off a long-running program of research into biological controls to the invasive fireweed.

Mr Watson is the convenor of the Bega Valley Fireweed Association which has been battling the toxic weed, and petitioning governments for funding, for more than a decade.

With election campaign periods bringing spending promises of the highest order, that sounded like a small drop in the budget ocean and everyone said they were happy to look into it.

Some of the most insightful commentary came from the independent and minor party candidates - understandable given they don't have to toe a party line.

For Mr Sheldon, government has "for too long represented the party platform, not the people" and Mr Holgate said "politics should be a very honourable vocation" but instead there is a lack of confidence in government and its antics.

"We're not mugs, we can make up our own minds," he said.

In discussing company tax and dividend imputations, Mr Singh took issue with those trying to get out of paying tax.

"Taxes have to be paid to be able to provide you with services - you can't have it both ways.

"And if someone has a good idea, agree with it - don't just argue because you're in opposition."

(Editor's note: Apologies to James Holgate whose summary missed the video cut when this reporter's phone ran out of space...)

This story Three simple words round off wide-ranging election candidates forum first appeared on Bega District News.