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Liberal MP Tony Pasin responds to his critics at Barker election forum
Seven of the nine candidates for Barker at the 2022 federal election have faced off at Tailem Bend – here’s what they had to say.
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Liberal MP Tony Pasin has attempted to defuse criticism from his independent opponents in the days leading up to this Saturday’s federal election.
At an election forum at Tailem Bend Town Hall on Tuesday night, Mr Pasin took the opportunity to spruik his libertarian credentials in the face of other candidates’ anger about the government’s COVID-19 response.
He had always believed in small government and lower taxes, he said, and was not afraid to go against the party line when he needed.
“The beauty of being a back-bencher is you get to speak your mind,” he said.
Profit-driven enterprise had its limits too, though, he acknowledged – for example, in hindsight, the aged care industry would have been better off run by not-for-profit organisations, he said.
A relatively small crowd gathered for the forum, presented by Murray Bridge News, which almost had to be cancelled at the last minute due to a blackout at Tailem Bend.
Still, given the thick margin by which the Liberal Party has held the electorate of Barker for decades, it gave voters a chance to hold their three-term MP accountable, and candidates an opportunity to promote their ideas.
Here are some of the issues that came up on the night.
Housing and population growth
On the biggest issue of the campaign, Mr Pasin and National candidate Jonathan Pietzsch expressed their support for the Liberals’ recently announced plan to allow young people to take money out of their superannuation accounts to use as a deposit for a home loan.
Independent Maddy Fry agreed that a way needed to be found to reduce the size of the deposits people needed to buy their own homes.
She and Ms Hillam were in favour of a cap on rental prices, too.
If the Greens ended up with the balance of power, Ms Hillam said, they would push for the federal government to build a million new homes for people who needed them.
First home buyers shouldn’t have to pay stamp duty, Australian Federation Party candidate Kym Hanton argued; but Mr Pasin pointed out that was a state tax.
John Illingworth – a National candidate at the recent state election – had originally asked what could be done to reverse rural population decline.
Mr Pannell suggested better promoting farming as a career and a lifestyle was the answer.
Ms Hillam suggested governments needed to do more to attract professionals to regional centres.
Mr Pasin argued that people were already moving from the cities to the country.
COVID-19 vaccination mandates
The biggest outbursts of the night came after Sandra Douglas asked about vaccination mandates.
“F*** ‘em,” Ms Fry said without hesitation.
“They’re wrong,” Mr Hanton said.
Mandates amounted to blackmail, Mr Pannell said.
It was concerning how quickly government messaging during the pandemic had gone from “we’re all in this together” to “us against them”, Mr Pietzsch said – after all, there were people who had suffered adverse reactions to being vaccinated.
Mr Pasin pointed out that he had spoken out against state government mandates in parliament, despite having chosen to get vaccinated himself.
Ms Hillam’s suggestion that vaccination mandates were necessary to protect vulnerable people, and that they still gave workers a choice – get the vaccine or find a new job – was not received well by the other candidates.
More information about vaccines: www.health.gov.au.
More information about vaccine misinformation: theconversation.com/covid-vaccines-dont-violate-the-nuremberg-code-heres-how-to-convince-the-doubters-171217.
Aged and disability care
Val Braendler asked how nursing home operators could be kept accountable for swallowing up so much of their funding in fees and charges, growing their profits at the expense of residents and staff.
Labor’s Mark Braes suggested the aged care system would be better off under not-for-profit operators.
Mr Pasin agreed in theory, but noted that Australia’s system did not operate that way.
Independent Vince Pannell argued that aged care prices had doubled because costs had doubled.
Asked why similar problems had cropped up under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Mr Pasin defended it as one of the best such schemes in the world, but one which had been partly improvised since its creation – “an aeroplane built while it was flying”.
Corruption and transparency
Briefly, Ms Hillam argued that Australia needed an Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Mr Pasin and Mr Pietzsch disagreed, arguing that police were already well positioned to investigate corruption.
The two South Australian state MPs who faced ICAC investigations had both been re-elected with increased margins in March, Mr Pasin pointed out.
Male victims of domestic violence
Candidates agreed that it was a problem that there were no services available for male victims of domestic violence, in response to a question from Melanie Bassham.
Mr Braes, the operator of a family and workplace dispute resolution practice, said he had encountered “many” men who had been victims of violence.
Mr Pasin suggested that, with the utmost respect to the judiciary, there was an “institutional bias” in Australia’s police and courts which assumed men could not be victims.
Women made up a majority of victims, and men a majority of perpetrators; but in instances where both partners had abused each other, men were more likely to be charged, he suggested.
More light needed to be shone on the issue.
Everyone deserved respect, Greens candidate Rosa Hillam pointed out.
Support for farmers
What would the candidates do for farming families who were doing it tough, Nathan McArdle said?
Mr Pasin suggested that not too many farmers were in that position at the moment, as high commodity prices meant there was good money to be made in agriculture.
That was partly due to the free trade agreements the Coalition had signed in recent years, he argued.
Mr Pietzsch, a primary producer himself, said farm management training needed to be made more readily available in South Australia, and that positive stories about agricultural life needed to be shared more widely.
Ms Hillam was in favour of making it easier for farmers who were asset-rich but cash-poor to access income support, particularly when climate change was making rainfall less predictable and increasing risk for growers.
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