Federal election Nicholls candidates forum tonight

By Myles Peterson

The region’s voters will get to judge the candidates for Nicholls unscripted and unplugged tonight at a forum at Shepparton’s Eastbank Centre.

Co-hosted by the Committee for Greater Shepparton and The News, the forum will seek to give voters a better understanding of the men and women vying to represent them in federal parliament.

Every candidate will be present except One Nation’s Rikkie-Lee Tyrrell, who made her apologies due to family illness.

Moderated by Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive Sam Birrell, the forum will be light on scripted talking points and heavy on questions that attempt to cut to the heart of candidates’ policies.

‘‘The aim is not to make it a snooze. It’s going to be an entertaining forum. There won’t be stump speeches and the introductions will be short,’’ he said.

An experienced moderator, Mr Birrell oversaw last November’s Victorian-based candidates forum.

‘‘The Committee for Greater Shepparton sees itself as an honest broker and an independent arbiter, so we’re in a good position to host these forums given we’re an apolitical organisation,’’ he said.

‘‘(Last time), we tried to really hone in on the issues, and through the moderator ask candidates questions that we think the voters have a right to know, the explanation as to why they hold those views.

‘‘Where incumbents made controversial decisions, such as Suzanna Sheed’s vote on the CFA, we asked her about that.’’

Mr Birrell said the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and infrastructure funding, such as the Shepparton Bypass, were expected to feature heavily, but no topic will be off-limits.

‘‘I think those two themes point to a broader conversation about what Shepparton’s role is, and we see Shepparton’s role as being a regional centre that helps population balance, but that’s got to be supported by industry,’’ he said.

Mr Birrell encouraged any interested voters to attend to judge the candidates for themselves.

‘‘It’s a bit of a job interview as well. Being a representative for all of us in Canberra is a big job. You’ve got to be able to speak. You’ve got to be able to announce your values — we like to put candidates through their paces,’’ he said.

News editor Cameron Whiteley said the forum was an ideal opportunity for voters to hear directly from the candidates about their position on key issues in the region.

‘‘The public will have the opportunity to ask questions of the candidates and further inform themselves before they vote,’’ he said.

Doors open at Eastbank on Welsford St at 6.15pm, tonight for a 6.30pm start.