THE seven local candidates in the federal election could face off in a public debate before the country goes to the polls.
Democratic Labor Party contender Paul Funnell is “screaming for a debate” in an attempt to convince residents the electorate needs a change in representation.
His fellow campaigners have given their support to the proposition, agreeing to be part of any contest in the lead-up to the September 7 election.
“I’m basically screaming for a debate because people deserve the right to see there is an alternative,” Mr Funnell said.
“The status quo is not working and, if we don’t have a debate, people will have the same concerns they have now in three, six, nine years’ time.
“I challenge the people of the Riverina to go to that uncomfortable place and ask the difficult questions. It is the people who will decide what happens next, not the politicians.”
Mr Funnell said he had been disappointed by responses from National Party leader Warren Truss and the man dubbed the next agriculture minister, John Cobb, when he asked them about the future of the region on their recent trips to Griffith.
“It seems to me they’re going to do absolutely nothing to help us,” Mr Funnell said.
The National Party has held the seat of Riverina since Noel Hicks won it from Labor in 1980.
Mr Hicks was succeeded by Kay Hull in 1998 and current member Michael McCormack in 2010.
Mr McCormack said he was willing to speak to anyone in his electorate at any time – on either a formal or informal level.
“I am more than happy to turn up on any given night or day to talk about my position, the party’s position and our plans for the region,” Mr McCormack said.
“A debate does give all candidates an opportunity to speak their mind and give a clear outline to the people who choose to turn up. However, while they may be moderated, the audience is often somewhat skewed.”
Five of the candidates have already come face-to-face at a forum in Wagga last month, where locals asked questions about unionisation, workplace conditions, collective bargaining and workers’ entitlements.
Labor candidate Tim Kurylowicz, Mr Funnell, the Greens’ Ros Prangnell, Australia First’s Lorraine Sharp and Palmer United Party’s Lex Stewart attended the event but Mr McCormack had work commitments and Rise Up Australia Party’s Kim Heath was overseas.
Mr Stewart said he “loved” debating and thought there should be more of it, while Mrs Prangnell said she would be a willing participant.