Federal election candidates for Paterson have gone head-to-head for the first time in front of Maitland’s business leaders.
Education, youth unemployment and the National Broadband Network were among the hot topics that candidates discussed at a Maitland Business Chamber forum on Thursday.
Of the seven candidates vying for the seat on July 2, only four took the opportunity to sell themselves and their policies – but the prominent parties were all accounted for.
Greens candidate John Brown spoke of the need to diversify the region’s economy and move away from mining as the Hunter’s major economic driver. He also said his party wanted action on climate change.
Citizens Electoral Council candidate Peter Davis said he wanted a ring road built around Australia, as well as the introduction of high speed rail and shipping to boost the export market.
Liberal candidate Karen Howard and Labor candidate Meryl Swanson traded blows several times on the merits and drawbacks of the differing Labor and Liberal plans for the NBN roll-out.
“Under this government, the roll-out is on track and on budget,” Ms Howard said.
“The facts are that Labor has already tried and failed to deliver the NBN. Under the Coalition, the entire network will be connected by 2020, six to eight years sooner than Labor’s plan and about $30 billion less cost.”
But Ms Swanson said Labor’s fibre to the premises plan was superior to the Coalition’s fibre to the node roll-out.
“I think the NBN is inferior in its current form,” she said. “We won’t deliver NBN at double the cost or double the time frame. We know that the economy of the 21st century is going to be completely reliant on a good National Broadband Network.”
They also locked horns on education funding.
Ms Swanson argued that more education funding was needed, particularly for TAFE. But Ms Howard said needs-based education funding would serve the sector better than throwing money at it “willy nilly”.
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