Opinion

Forums allow engagement

By Shepparton News

As the Prime Minister and Opposition leader prepared for their final debate of the election last night, six candidates for the seat of Nicholls had their own contest of political ideas at Eastbank.

While elections — this one in particular — can weigh down on the voting public, making us all wish the process was done and dusted, the process itself is a shining indication of our democracy.

Sadly, there were two apologies last night, but with 75 per cent of the candidates attending, voters had the chance to see, hear and question those who seek to represent them.

The incumbent, a professional politician of many years, shared the stage with a former farmer, an engineer, a public servant, a mortgage broker and a small business owner — all vying to represent the people of Nicholls.

Forums and debates have been repeated across our electorate and across the country.

Ministers and their shadows in many portfolios have debated live, covered by the mainstream media and shared and amplified by new and social media.

Independent candidates have been given the opportunity to debate the representatives of major and minor parties, going some way to levelling the playing field and lessening the effect of big spending advertising campaigns and teams of supporting personnel.

We are no longer a nation that subscribes to the notion of ‘‘both sides of politics’’.

Politics is not and never was the contest of two competing sides, but rather the rich complexity of many, many competing ideas and ideologies.

Some lament the erosion of the two-party system. We disagree with that notion.

A single powerful voting block dominating our federal parliament may be a more efficient way to push through legislation, but it also blunts the intention of our constitution and leads to undemocratic outcomes such as elected representatives voting in the interests of their party ahead of the interests of their electorate.

Our democracy is robust enough to handle many voices in parliament. We believe it is improved by it.

Which is why these many election campaign forums are so important. We can only send one representative from Nicholls. Forums and debates and direct engagement with voters raises the chances of us sending our best candidate.