It's about a three hour drive to Wodonga from my place, according to Google Maps. A trip to Wangaratta takes slightly less time, clocking in at about 2 hours twenty minutes.
In this technological age that we live in, distances shouldn't matter as the Internet has allowed instant information, instant access to people, instant community discussion, if we choose to participate. And yet the 225 km required to travel to meet Sophie, may as well be 2,000 km.
Wodonga has a population of about 31,000. Wangaratta, 17,000. Benalla, 9,500. So it makes sense that politicians and would be politicians will spend the majority of their time in these centres, rather than in the arse end of Indi, where the entire Kinglake Ranges could provide you with a total population of about 3,000 - 3,500. The Kinglake township might get you 1,500.
So, the potential communication and interaction with the candidates down here will be in the form of:
1) flyers and pamphlets
2) one off visits (bad luck if you are busy that afternoon)
3) social media such as Twitter or Facebook.
4) local media announcements
In Kinglake, our local media is Mountain Monthly. As its name suggests, it is a monthly publication that covers the news and events of the Kinglake Ranges. It comes out on the first of the month and I picked up my copy from the local store today.
Page 22 of this month's publication has the title What Our Pollies Say. The editor sent out requests to answer two questions from the the candidates of Indi. There are 11 candidates. There are 7 responses. Because Robert Dudly (Rise Up Australia), Cathy McGowan (Independent)(bad miss there from you Cathy), Rick Leeworthy (Family First) and Robert Murphy (Palmer United Party) didn't respond, or respond in time for their answers to be published, I can't say whether their policies and views resonate with me in Kinglake. And bearing in mind I am only using the information provided by them to our wonderful publication, these are my thoughts on those that did respond:
Helma Aschenbrenner (The Sex Party)
It's fair to say that this is not a local issues party. Helma provided the shortest response of those that responded, and I think the key sentence for her is "The Australian Sex Party is primarily a civil liberties party and we will focus on protecting your liberties". The rest of her 100 or so words feel as though they could have been written for any other rural electorate, without providing any detail on the issues of the electorate nor how her party's policies impact on those issues.
William Hayes (Bullet Train for Australia Party)
Talk about a one issue party. It's all about a high speed rail line from Sydney to Melbourne. That's it. I'm not sure if he is advocating having that train line run up to Kinglake. I think maybe not.
Sophie Mirabella (Liberal Party)
Credit where credit is due. Sophie uses the work Kinglake once in her answer. Unfortunately it is connected to two other words; bushfires and Marysville. Deduct points there, I think.
In reading through the formal response from Sophie, it appears that these are the issues she believes will resonate with us:
- Developing a plan to reduce mobile phone black spots
- Pressuring the Vic Government about launching an enquiry about the Harrietville Bushfires
- Anti dumping policies to protect farmers and small businesses.
- Additional funding for local hospitals and roads (not sure if any of that is for our area)
Jenny O'Connor (Greens Party)
Jenny believes that the big issues are the lack of health services, including mental health and dental care, as well as poor public school facilities and lack of transport options.
Whilst these have been identified as issues, no explanation has been provided about how these issues will be tackled, apart from taking mining companies.
Jennifer Podesta (Independent)
Probably the most coherent response provided by the 7 candidates. She cites mental health issues, pathways for young people, domestic violence, aging population and declining townships.
She doesn't provide answers as to how to fix these problems. She does look to working with anyone and everyone to find a way forward with these issues. I must admit though, as a sociologist who seems to understand these issues more than most, I was probably hoping for a little but more than 'these are tough issues'. Still, it is difficult for an independent, with little or no resources, to have answers.
Phillip Rourke (Katter's Australian Party)
It is hard to not think that a vote for Rourke is a vote for a back to the 1950's. The policies of his party seem to advocate a more protectionist stance on everything, sort of like an economic Nanny-state. A lot of what he is advocating (stop selling off farmland, reducing the value of the dollar, breaking the supermarket duopoly) is really government intervening in areas that they left, decades ago. This may appeal to some, but it feels like a vain attempt at holding back the tide from this party. They do get points however, as the only candidate that invites you to view their policies on their website.
Robyn Walsh (Australian Labor Party)
Her first line - "Jobs and the economy are the main issues for people living on The Mountain" At least she has tried to localise her response.
Two thirds into her response "Kinglake West will be one of the first communities in Murrindindi to receive superfast NBN fibre to the home". Brilliant.
The rest of the response is more along party lines, What Labor has done, and will do, that is good. What the Liberals will do that is bad. But I don't care. The rest of the response was a blur.
WIIFM = What's In It For Me. Which is mostly what decides elections.
So WIIFM? If I had the casting vote, NBN to my home is the winner. Seeing a deterioration in ADSL speeds at home (which is where I work, and I need a good internet service) NBN will allow me to be more efficient in my business, meaning more time to spend time with my family, and be involved in my community.
The rest is just a blur.