Local businesswoman Angie Thorpe would not be fazed if Goulburn became a swinging state seat.
As she chatted to candidates on Wednesday night, Ms Thorpe told The Post that some, including the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers' Party nominee, Andy Wood, "would shake things up."
"If the seat becomes a swinging one, I'm all for that variety (of candidates)," the Goulburn Storage King store manager said.
Ms Thorpe was one of 45 people attending the Chamber of Commerce's candidates forum at Harvest Cafe on Wednesday night.
It was a chance for members and guests to quiz the political aspirants on their policies ahead of the March 23 election.
Candidates Wendy Tuckerman (Liberal), Dr Ursula Stephens (Labor), Dean McCrae (Liberal Democrats), Mr Wood and Tracey Keenan (Animal Justice Party) turned up, while The Greens' Dr Saan Ecker and One Nation's Richard Orchard were apologies.
They came in for scrutiny on infrastructure funding, TAFE training, electricity prices, energy policies and arts and culture support, among other topics.
Mr McCrae drew questions following his declaration there should be a 20 per cent flat tax on everyone and that a raft of other government taxes and regulations should be abolished. He described the Liberal Democrats as "the party of freedom," representing less government and less "red tape."
Southern Tablelands Arts executive director Susan Conroy asked how he expected councils and government to fund vital infrastructure and the arts if taxes were to be cut. Mr McCrae replied that private enterprise did a "better job" of running facilities.
"Everything needs to stand on its own merit. I'm not about shutting hospitals and things down but I think they can be run better," he said.
But Mr Wood said the profit motive was "unspeakable."
"If you want to have an active arts community you cannot make every aspect run on a profit. I can't even fathom that," he said.
Hume Coal adviser Ian Whisken took Ms Tuckerman to task on the Liberals' "opposition" to its underground coal mine at Berrima and whether the party was prepared to support 300 jobs paying three times Goulburn's median wage, just 40 minutes away.
Ms Tuckerman said she did support good paying employment but in this case there had to be a balance and adherence to a planning framework. The Planning Assessment Commission is yet to decide the project.
Dr Stephens earlier told the crowd it was important to diversify Goulburn's economy and prepare for life after the Coles Distribution Centre's closure, which would be "a $25 million hit" through the loss of 250 jobs.
"So what can we do to attract business, new ideas and investment?" she asked.
"Hospitality jobs are great but they are not the jobs that allow people to have a decent living. We need to find ways to diversify employment to have long-term jobs."
Dr Stephens said Labor's policy for 5000 more teachers, more nurses and fee-free TAFE places would help achieve this.
Separately, she defended Workpace 2580, which she helped initiate, against Liberal Party president Grant Pearce's claim that ratepayers would now "pick up the debt" from the Clinton Street building it leased fromthe council.
Dr Stephens said while Workspace had a rent deficit it had also undertaken $75,000 worth of maintenance on the building and the council now acknowledged there was no debt.
"I hope that satisfies you at last, Grant, because you've been asking that question so often," she said.
Keeping it local
Chamber member and Ray White Real Estate principal Justin Gay asked candidates how they intended to represent the electorate.
Ms Keenan said she lived in the community, working in aged care, with children and farmers.
Ms Tuckerman, who lives on a Boorowa property, told the crowd if elected, the electorate office would stay in Goulburn and employ local people.
"It's the biggest centre of population and it's important to maintain. I'll look to spend a lot of time here," she said.
Mr McCrae said although he had numerous restaurants and cafes, he would establish an office in Goulburn and perhaps even an eatery.
But Mr Gay replied that representing the seat was a fulltime role and did not expect Mr McCrae would have time for a cafe.
"I'm not in this to become a career politician but to establish the status quo," Mr McCrae countered.
Dr Stephens declared she had been living and working here for a long time and she wasn't planning on going anywhere.
The same applied to Mr Wood, who has eight children.
Earlier in the evening, Mr Wood said he wanted government to give more incentive to rural areas to stop businesses like Coles DC disappearing.
He also strongly advocated restoration of the TAFE system.
MC and Chamber president Mark Bradbury said he was happy with the evening and the quality of questions asked.
The Chamber will hold a federal candidates forum at Harvest on April 3.
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