Crunch time looms

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WITH just two days remaining before Latrobe Valley voters take to the polls, McMillan and Gippsland’s major party candidates are hoping final policy pitches will help their election prospects – or reduce ‘safe’ margins in both electorates.

Yesterday Australian Labor Party candidates Jeff McNeill, in Gippsland, and Anthony Naus, in McMilllan, took aim at sitting Members of Parliament Darren Chester and Russell Broadbent in a final effort to convince voters a local change was in their interests, while retaining a Labor Government federally was vital to maintaining a safety net for those who needed it.

The Coalition MPs insisted “regaining control of the budget” was crucial to providing a stable economy which, in turn, would generate the sort of jobs needed to overcome rises in ‘under-employment’.

Monash political researcher Veronica Sheen told The Express casual and part-time jobs had risen in place of more secure, full-time positions, adding broader employment figures failed to account for the trend which was hitting regional areas the hardest.

All candidates recognised ‘under-employment’ was a problem, as were cost-of-living pressures, but proposed different measures to ease both.

Mr Chester said it was “critical” government retained jobs in traditional industries, including power generation, while supporting investment in emerging areas like tourism and event hosting.

Mr McNeill pushed for infrastructure spending with a high labour component to boost jobs and confidence and said constant Coalition talk of repealing the carbon tax had led to uncertainty and stagnated investment in this region.

Mr Chester backed his party’s policy to abolish the carbon tax while Mr McNeill vowed, if the ALP lost government, it would oppose the move as the World Bank had declared an Emissions Trading Scheme, proposed by his party, was “the only way to go”.

Income support

One point all candidates agreed on was that the ALP’s move to shift sole parents to the Newstart allowance once their youngest child turned eight should be revised.

The ALP has been widely condemned over the decision and Latrobe Valley’s single parent families told The Express it had caused significant hardship for them – many of whom were also ‘underemployed’ but working.

Mr McNeill and Mr Naus supported comments by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd this week that, when the budget allowed it, this decision would be reversed.

Mr Broadbent took particular aim, labelling the decision a “disgrace” which applied a tougher approach to sole parents than it did to nuclear families