Corangamite Candidates Forum


Sleepy times in the Corangamite candidates’ forum (Photo: Anna Sublet)

A labourer, a politician, a councillor and a lawyer walked into a room in the Corangamite electorate. With these ingredients, you might expect to see some dirt being thrown around, but not at this forum held on Friday 12th of April night in Point Lonsdale.

Passionate environmentalists, health workers, disability advocates, surf lovers and residents showed a keen interest in hearing from four candidates in the upcoming federal election.

All four candidates are clearly passionate supporters of the area. All spoke of their links to history, talking of former associations through grandparents and extended family, community groups and their beach memories.

Sitting MP, Sarah Henderson.. on her feet with a fight ahead of her. (Photo: Anna Sublet)

Local tradie Darren Cole, 32, an independent in this election, has swapped tools for this fight. Less accustomed to the stage, he says he wants to get his hands dirty working for the community. Though he had worked for the mining industry in the past, he says he has ‘seen the light’, and is now studying environmental science. He is determined to work to save humanity. ‘We are not separate from our environment,’ he told the forum, adding that ‘We are in a climate emergency.’ From his lobbying efforts with Paddle out for The Bight to his volunteer work with an association for disabled surfers, he brought an idealism and endeavour to the meeting which may have been a little unpolished, but did not lack sincerity. ‘You’ve got my vote,’ an older lady told him.

Greens candidate Simon Northeast has served on Surf Coast Shire Council, and works as a lawyer. ‘I don’t mind paying taxes. Taxes civilise society.’ This opening line drew loud applause. He delivered strong words about cleaning up politics and calling the banks to account after the findings of the Royal Commission, and received more applause when he mentioned reintroducing a price on carbon. He spoke of the lack of action of this government on climate change and the need to keep young indigenous kids out of prison, and cheers followed for his commitment to protect the independence of the ABC and SBS.

Labor candidate, Libby Coker, a long term Councillor of Surf Coast and twice a mayor, was talking up the capacity of democracy to deliver kindergartens, schools, health care, sports fields, cancer care and a pool. She made commitments to solar panel subsidies, to funding increased kindergarten hours and to funding extra TAFE places for training and apprenticeships. ‘Education is not a cost, it’s an investment,’ she said. The biggest cheers she received were for her commitment to stop live sheep export, to make 50% of energy renewable by 2030 and to reintroduce weekend penalty rates.

Sarah Henderson, as sitting MP for Corangamite, was able to speak to the projects the current government has funded and the work she had done in lobbying for roads, infrastructure and local services. She mentioned rail investment, funding for Headspace and support for Surf Clubs. She spoke about supporting small business, and driving down the cost of living. ‘We have a plan’, she told the forum, to which one audience member commented, ‘You’ve had two terms to deliver’.

Questions came from a health centre CEO, an environmental campaigner, a mental health worker, an advocate for indigenous legal services, as well as a person who was concerned about politicians accepting political funding from fossil fuel companies, and a carer affected by what they claimed was the poor delivery of the NDIS. 

Not one resident in the audience mentioned taxes. No one mentioned franking credits. There was no talk of negative gearing and how it might affect peoples’ investment properties. It seemed that what mattered to voters was climate change, the environment, renewable energy, caring for those less fortunate, caring properly for the aged and the disabled, less posturing from MPs, less corruption from corporations, more assistance for those on low incomes, more compassion and more heart.

Corangamite is the most marginal seat in the country. It is currently held by Henderson, but a redistribution has made it a nominal Labor seat, albeit with a margin of only 0.03%. Henderson will have to work hard to stop it slipping from her hands. In Corangamite, the taste for the LNP government may well turn out to be bitter and salty.

The electorate of Corangamite is named after ‘Lake Corangamite…(which) takes its name from the Colijon word koraiyn, meaning bitter or salty.’ Bruce Pascoe.

Outside the Point Lonsdale Primary School Hall, campaigners warn of a climate emergency (Photo: Anna Sublet).


By Anna Sublet