NSW Farmers hosted a Meet the Candidates Forum at the Yass Soldiers Club ahead of Saturday’s Election Day for the Eden-Monaro electorate.

Candidates in attendance were James Holgate (Sustainable Australia Party), Maxwell Holmes (Liberal Democrats), Kristy McBain (Labor), Greg Butler (Australian Democrats), Darren Garnon (United Australia Party), Jerry Nockles via Zoom (Liberal), Toni McLennan (Informed Medical Options Party), and Andrew Thaler (Independent).

Vivian Harris

Absent were Vivian Harris (Greens) and Boyd Shannon (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation).

James Holgate ran as an independent candidate in Eden-Monaro in the 2019 Federal and 2020 by-election and was the Sustainable Australia Party candidate for NSW seat of Monaro by-election in 2021.

James Holgate

The SAP aims to secure an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable Australia.

“I particularly like the fact [SAP] have a science and evidence-based approach to policy.”

“A central tenant of our ideology is to stop corruption,” he said. “I see, as a previous swinging vote of major parties, my interests are not being represented more than the interests of party donors.”

Janes lives and works in Queanbeyan but was born and raised in Cooma. He said he is happy to work in good faith, pragmatically and constructively with all major parties.

“We have a scientific and evidence-based approach to policy,” he said. “So we’re not corrupted by business interests, we’re an independent community movement.”

The Liberal Democrat candidate for Eden Monaro, Maxwell Holmes, is the youngest standing for the seat at 29.

Maxwell Holmes

Maxwell recently moved to Yass and said he took a pledge before running – “If elected I will never vote for an increase in taxes or a reduction in civil liberties” – which he says is something he holds true to his heart.

“The government needs to be there to help where it should but most of the time it should just get out of the way and let people do what they do best.”

“What we need is a fair tax system for small businesses and individuals so that they can continue to reinvest inside their own businesses,” he said. “The Liberal Democrats have a plan to lower income tax rates and to lower company tax rates for companies that reinvest in their own companies and companies that reinvest in their communities.”

“I’m a small government candidate and I’m going to do my best to get the government out of your life.”

Current Member for Eden-Monaro and Labor candidate Kristy McBain has a high public profile in the Yass Valley and said Eden Monaro has possibly every agricultural pursuit, you can think of on land and in the water.

Kristy McBain

Kristy said since she was elected, she has spoken to numerous farmers and agricultural groups who consistently raised two issues of concern – workforce shortage and climate change.

“Farmers are naturally forward-thinking, they’re hard-working and resilient too often out of necessity,” she said.

Adding that the government needs to assist farmers with workforce planning and Labor wants to address it as soon as possible.

“We want to make sure that we can start paying for those up-front trunk costs to get seasonal workers over here in the first place and we need to start to deal with the issue that is climate change.”

“So many people I’ve spoken to today, they want to know what the research is going to tell them and what farming practices they’re going to be able to do long term,” she said. “So those two issues I think are two that really need good decent and hard work by a government.”

Murrumbateman local Greg Butler is a professional engineer and foundational member of the Australian Democrats and has served his community as an elected shire councillor.

Greg Butler

“I’m contesting this election because I’m disgusted by the fact that we still have 3 million Australians living in poverty, including many farming families, despite being an affluent nation,” Greg said.

“Everyone should have access to nutritious food, clothing, long-term accommodation, appropriate health care and quality education yet successive federal governments have failed to deliver this,” he said. “It’s time for real change – make the major parties minor.”

“Regional Australia is facing many challenges. I plan to address these by infrastructure support for regions that is effective, reliable, timely and responsive to present needs.”

“Streamlining the farmworker system, supporting climate resilience programs and affordable access to green energy.”

“Policies that reverse the trend towards farming conglomerates and encourage family farming to foster, improved telecommunications in regional areas, and ensuring farmland is not lost to regional development.”

The United Australia Party’s Darren Garnon said he has become disenfranchised with the major parties.

Darren Garnon

He said we are facing inflationary pressures in our cost of living and interest rate rises will affect the home mortgage.

“The UAP will freeze interest rates at 3% for five years under the legislative powers of parliament and will make the first $30,000 paid on a home loan tax deductible each year.”

“UAP will enshrine our right to protect our freedom of speech, movement, association and work.”

He said the UAP will abolish student debt, make higher education more affordable, provide tax breaks to residents who live 200km outside of the their state’s capital city, reduce tax on second jobs, and stop provisional tax on small business.

Jerry Nockles apologised over Zoom for his absence as he was in Covid isolation in Jindabyne.

“I was born and bred in country NSW coming from a large farming family,” he said. “I fought all my life, I fought my way through poverty, through adversity.”

“I fought for my country in wartime and I fought for the people of Eden-Monaro for the best part of the decade and I’m ready to fight for our region again.”

“I know the importance of creating and supporting strong local communities and I know the hope that comes from that,” he said.

“Communities that support families and businesses and create opportunities and jobs and that’s why I’m standing to be your local Liberal candidate.”

Jerry joined the Royal Australian Navy while young before gaining a Doctorate in International Relations and working for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

He is passionate about ensuring communities in Eden-Monaro have access to world-class hospitals and healthcare.

Toni McLennan represents the Informed Medical Options Party (IMOP) and is standing for Eden Monaro.

Toni McLennan

A small business owner, Toni said her business was negatively affected by methods put into place by the current government during the pandemic.

Also disenfranchised with the two major parties, Toni said IMOP’s policies provide a positive blueprint for building a better Australia.

IMOP is calling for an investigation into all Australian government responses to the Covid crisis, particularly in regard to the mandates where many Australians lost their jobs and freedoms.

She wrapped up with a pointed statement about the need for more representation in parliament by people from a variety of careers and backgrounds.

Lastly Andrew Thaler, the only independent candidate standing in the electorate and in a brief statement said that he’s standing so that neither the red nor blue team secure another term in Eden-Monaro.

Andrew Thaler

“I’m a changemaker. I bring change. I’m also competitive and I don’t take no for an answer very easily.”

“So in total I’m standing so that I can actually help you knock on the right doors. I’m not going to come and take a photograph with you. You are more than a photo opportunity.”

By Brianna O’Rourke