This is a reflection written shortly after a meet the candidates forum in Ballina:
Three clear themes, more or less distinct to each candidate, emerged from the rhetoric used. For the Greens, according to Ms. Smith's logic, the greatest asset to our electorate is its marginality. Although this would suggest anything that comes our way in terms of government assistance has extremely little to do with Ms Smith's own abilities and more so the simple fact Ballina is a tight race which the government wants back. What this means for her if the seat becomes safe is a tough question to answer. There is a noticeable lack of policy mentioned in the first half of the speech considered here. Mr. Pugh, seemingly in hostile territory given the audience reactions, spoke primarily of policy, history, skillset and his personal story as to why he is running.
I was quite surprised at the silence on camera after the serious pledge to local Indigenous peoples by Labor to establish a $100 million cultural centre. Is that something not even the Greens care about anymore? Mr. Franklin spoke extremely well on all issues and there seemed genuine earnest in what he was saying. The greatest cloud over his head is the National Party and the skepticism and cynicism it raises when combined with his history as being the only dedicated career politician on the ballot. This could work for him if people value his charm, which seems to rank incredibly high on people's list of desires for a parliamentary representative, or go against him if he is seen as another party hack who has come through the exact machine that has now created historic lows in our trust of political institutions.
Charm and money, of which Mr Franklin has plenty, is a dangerous mixture for an electable politician. From this editor's point of view, Mr Franklin represents the Nationals' greatest hope of all their candidates. This would explain the blatant pork-barreling that has been undertaken in the last six months after years of neglect (okay, admittedly the odd bit of funding which Mr Franklin has always ensured is marketed with a strong association to himself and Ms Smith also takes credit for). A great example was the roads announcement by Mr Franklin. While topping Labor's announcement by $9m at $26m, it is a one-off, ad-hoc payment to the Ballina electorate alone. Labor's funding is part of a state-wide project to repair the worst roads. The Greens have pledged $70 million to Byron Shire roads alone but this doesn't warrant discussion given they will not be in a position to deliver and, as such, can be regarded as no more than a political stunt. The stark contrast in the allocation of funds demonstrates the extent to which the Ballina electorate is trying to be bought by the Nationals. After losing it at the last election after Mr Don Page holding it for so long, this is a stronghold they are desperate to regain.