The drought, health, aged care and penalty rates were among the pressing issues the public asked candidates for Lyne in the Federal election.
About 30 members of the public attended Wauchope Chamber's 'Meet The Candidates' forum at Wauchope Country Club and seven of the nine candidates running for the seat of Lyne on May 18 attended.
Phil Costa from Labor who lives in Nabiac said he has 30 years experience in public life, working in local government, as a mayor and as NSW Minister for Water, Regional Development and Corrective Services.
"All of us are doing it tough, particularly younger families. We in the Labor Party have tremendous policies; we are about people and trying to build wealth from the bottom. We need good health services, quality education services and jobs," said Mr Costa.
Dr David Gillespie from the Nationals has been member for Lyne since 2013 and before that was a gastroenterologist. He and his wife raised their family locally and have a farm producing beef for export.
"I went into Parliament to get a better deal for regional Australians. I'm very proud of what we have got for Lyne with massive increases in infrastructure, help for aged care and expenditure growth," said Dr Gillespie.
He said fewer people now depend on welfare, and there has been record funding for councils including Port Macquarie-Hastings, plus roads blackspots have been tackled, roads upgraded and bridges built.
Garry Bourke from the United Australia Party is from Alstonville and has been a sub-contractor for the State Government for 30 years. He is planning a development of his land. He wants to reduce tax by 20% and attract high-quality professionals to the regions.
"We need to help the farmers and have more property and land development," said Mr Bourke.
Ryan Goldspring from Fraser Anning's Conservative National Party lives on a 700-acre cattle farm in Dungog. He's also a small business owner and a coal miner. He says his passion is for Australia.
"We need to get our country back on track, and look into the future for our families and our children. If you want common sense, stop selling land to overseas buyers, stop selling our ports and ships, buy back coal mines and power stations, cut power bills, and get coal at a fair price," said Mr Goldspring, adding that the problem of immigration needed to be tackled.
Ed Caruana from the Australian Workers Party is a father, a rural fire captain, a small business owner and a farmer.
"Our vision is to build a better Australia. To do that, we need to put money back in people's pockets. We need to introduce a $75,000 tax-free threshold. We want to tax churches on profits. If they're making a profit, they're running a business and they should be paying tax," said Mr Caruana.
He also wants to remove the fuel excess in regional Australia, and look at issues like the 5G network, fluoridation of water and micro-plastics in our food sources.
Independent Jeremy Miller said Lyne needs new energy and a new way of consultation, and that he doesn't answer to any party.
"All I need is to protect our area in Lyne. People here are worried about climate change and restoring trust in government. We are worried about housing, roads, training and jobs for young people.
"My role would be that whoever is in government, I would work with them when they get it right and oppose them when they get it wrong. I would make sure we have a local voice for Lyne," said Mr Miller.
Stuart Watson for the Greens has lived locally since 1975, and worked for Essential Energy for 25 years. He said his party was the only one working on climate change,.
"I am pleased to be a member of a party that doesn't take donations from fossil fuel companies. Climate change is the most important issue: cast your minds back to the Pappinbarra bushfire, and Lake Cathie is in a despicable state.
"We have had the hottest, driest January on record. Tackling climate change is the major pivotal action. Schemes like the Walcha renewable energy project will create jobs and allow us to move forward and make Lyne a fabulous place to live," said Mr Watson.
Asked how they would provide support for Australian farmers, Stuart Watson said water management needs to be backed by science, and we should move from fossil fuels to renewables.
David Gillespie said the Nationals have a long history of supporting farmers, and there had been massive growth in the agriculture portfolio in the past few years, and they would continue to work with farmers.
"We have addressed the imbalance in the dairy industry and got our dairy code of conduct through. We will appoint a dairy advocate and a new way to market the sale of dairy products," he said.
Jeremy Miller said milk processors shouldn't be allowed to take advantage of their market power and farmers need to be treated as equals.
Ed Caruana said forms for farmers should be easier to fill in, and that more farm gate trading is needed.
Phil Costa said we need to look at drought relief long before there is a drought, that we need to get mental health services available to the people affected, and there needs to be a minimum farm gate milk price.
Ryan Goldspring would like Crown land to be put to hay in dry periods, and to build small dams around the country. Garry Bourke said his party's Australia Fund would help people.
When asked if where they stood on penalty rates, Garry Bourke said his party will look at it, Stuart Watson, Ryan Goldspring, Ed Caruana and Phil Costa said they should be reinstated, Jeremy Miller didn't support any further cuts or bringing them back to what they were, and David Gillespie said he supports penalty rates for the weekend and that the Federal government doesn't set wages, the Fair Work Commission does.
Asked about preference deals, Phil Costa said he preferenced Jeremy Miller as number two and Stuart Watson as number three, mainly because their policies aligned to his beliefs in most instances.
Ed Caruana and Jeremy Miller don't distribute preferences, Ryan Goldspring said the only preference is to put the Greens and Labor last. Stuart Watson put Jeremy Miller second and Labor third.
David Gillespie put the United Australia Party second and the Christian Democrats third, adding that he hopes he is the number one vote. Garry Bourke believes it should be first past the post.
Asked for their views on the sale of land to foreign countries, Ed Caruana, Ryan Goldspring and Garry Bourke were dead against it, Jeremy Miller was in favour of foreign investment but not foreign ownership, Stuart Watson wasn't sure, David Gillespie said foreign investments have to be approved, and Phil Costa said we need to grapple with how much foreign investment there is.
Asked about the government's cancellation of Medicare rebates for natural therapies, David Gillespie said that if there is evidence that they are a proven therapy, they can try to get back on the rebate list and that medicine is based on evidence.
Ryan Goldspring and Ed Caruana said the policy should be reversed, and Jeremy Miller and Phil Costa said they would look into it.
On the subject of aged care, the candidates were asked if any of them would look at how funding is given out. David Gillespie said funding is being reviewed and that the area needs reassessing. Garry Bourke said they would look at revamping the system. Jeremy Miller said GPs were being forced to plough through patient lists too quickly.
Stuart Watson said preventative healthcare is key. Ryan Goldspring called for more funding, and Phil Costa said Labor would review it.