What they said: Gippsland

*Please note, some questions do not include responses from all candidates, as not all candidates had announced their nomination when the series began. In some cases candidates have chosen not to respond


Darren Chester | National Party  As a proud Gippslander, I love our region and am focussed on supporting jobs growth while providing the services we need for the future. I have a proven track record of delivering results for Gippsland, but there is much more to be done. The Nationals have a strong economic plan to support small businesses. As a Minister, it is my responsibility to ensure we get our fair share of resources for health, education, aged care, child care and telecommunications services. I remain relentlessly positive and optimistic about our region’s future and I’m confident that I can keep delivering for Gippsland.

Shashi Bhatti | Australian Labor Party I’ve had many opportunities since arriving here in 1989. I’m a passionate, proud Gippslander keen to give back. All Gippslanders should have access to affordable health services. Preserving Medicare is key to this. Only Labor will protect it. Educational opportunities are vital for all people. Only Labor will provide needs-based funding to provide education – for the young to learn, and for adults to re-train. I’ll work with the community to achieve positive outcomes like the NBN, growing local jobs, and fairness in agriculture. Vote Labor – putting people first.

Ian Onley | The Greens The spirit of Gippsland is one of mateship, aspiration, and community. Voting Greens ensures a voice for all of those in our community, showing your support for transparency, compassion and decency in Australian politics. At our core, we stand for the power of community action, for sustainability and for social equality. All Gippslanders are part of one community whose future is hanging in the balance, and now is the time to speak up to ensure our voice is heard on the issues that the major parties would prefer us silent.

Cherie Smith | Independent Gippsland is unique and its diverse needs cannot be boxed into the policies of Liberal/National Party, Labor, the Greens or any other party. I believe in protecting Gippsland from onshore gas mining, ensuring access to quality healthcare and broad tax reform that stops multinationals avoiding their obligations. A vote for me will send a message to the candidates of political parties that Gippsland must be their priority, not the interests of their party. A vote for me is a vote for Gippsland.

Ashleigh Belsar | Australian Christians I aim to be an honest, values-based representative with a heart to truly represent the people of Gippsland. I will always support life, family and true marriage. I will defend our kids against propaganda-fuelled education programs promoting queer gender theory, whilst I will promote genuine anti-bullying programs. I will always support freedom of speech and conscience. I won’t be swayed by trendy bandwagon issues or noisy minorities to the expense of real people and real issues. I will push for a future of healthy families, a clean environment and a flourishing economy. 

Brian Heath | Family First Party I am standing for those who believe families need to come first, not last. In Australia we have political parties that represent unions, big business, the environment, motoring and even the sex industry – but no one other than Family First is committed to giving families a voice in Parliament. Family is the building block of society, recognised in the Constitutions of hundreds of nations across the globe, including ours. Family First represents common sense economic policies and social values that strengthen Australian society by restoring the importance of the family.

Peter Gardner | Renewable Energy Party The Renewable Energy Party wants a transition from coal fired electricity to 100 per cent renewables by 2030. A ‘just transition’ is needed in the Valley. Full employment should be established before any generator closure, then gradually close one at a time – possibly beginning at Hazelwood. To save the Great Barrier Reef our PM would be far better directed to spending his $1 billion in Gippsland. The REP policy of 100 per cent renewables means a massive expansion of renewable energy across Gippsland. Vote 1 REP and tell Canberra you want a ‘just transition’.

Ben Buckley | Liberal Democrats LDP is based on the principles of free markets and limited bureaucratic government. The GST consumer tax should never be more than 10 per cent. Repeal tax exempt status of privileged religious organisations operating commercially. Constitutional recognition of local government, avoid codes of conduct where councillors are expected to keep secrets from the people who elected them. The right to a voluntary vote to avoid expressing an opinion under threat of prosecution. More flood mitigation reservoirs, hydro irrigation and renewable energy schemes. LDP stands for freedom within a reasonable law.

Peter Dorian | Rise Up Australia Party If you vote for Rise Up Australia Party, then put all the majors last. The result is; Labor will realise they shouldn’t call Australians homophobes, they shouldn’t remove our right to vote. The Greens might try to stop destroying small and major business, and start to consider people instead of trees. When Australians preferenced RUA last election, the then-prime minister asked RUA why? That’s when he removed the title multicultural from our minister of immigration and since then there has been 98 per cent reduction in death at seas.

Dr Christine Sindt | Independent As an Independent, I am responsible to the Gippsland community, and not any political party. I will advocate for improved transport and more Gippsland jobs in manufacturing, defence and aerospace; also greater housing affordability, lower energy costs and removal of the water tax. I propose a revised system of parity pricing for the dairy industry and agricultural products so that family farmers can retain their respect and dignity in a world of fluctuating commodity prices. I support the family unit and our Marriage Act. Please put me first when you vote.


Cherie Smith | Independent Increased access to support services such as crisis centres and mental health services are two ways we can address domestic violence in Gippsland. However, it is important to remember that domestic violence is a community issue and as such, an educated community is an essential tool in addressing domestic violence. Education surrounding domestic violence must provide us with the ability to identify domestic violence, which may not always be physical, as well as break down common assumptions about who may encounter domestic violence in their relationship.

Peter Dorian | Rise Up Australia Party It is easy to demonstrate that the problem began to double then triple when we as a society lengthened our alcohol distribution hours of sale. The lowest statistics on domestic violence were when pubs would shut at 6pm. Then men would be forced home as they had no were else to go. So if we reduced the hours of pubs, statistics would eventually reduce again. The other spike in domestic violence grew when we in Victoria brought in the pokie machine venues. Prior to that NSW had pokies and gambling venues and there statistics on domestic violence were greater.

Dr Christine Sindt | Independent Family violence has been described by the Premier of Victoria as the “most urgent law and order emergency occurring in our state and the most unspeakable crime unfolding across our nation”.  I affirm and commend the findings of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence which was released on 30 March 2016. Along with White Ribbon Australia, I fully support investment in initiatives to implement the 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission.  Key changes include an individualised approach with specialised responses, and greater flexibility in the way services are delivered.

Ben Buckley | Liberal Democrats To address domestic violence requires good governance. Together we Act. Early intervention with childhood and beyond, education, promoting healthy relationships and cultivating respect. Empowering individuals with skills creates cohesion within society. Social isolation, along with financial, physical, sexual, psychological abuse upon men and women requires action. A collective consciousness helps strengthen social structures,  implementing strategies such as: prevention, inter personal development, consistent penalties, increased funding for support services, including correction of substance abuse, family court reform. Our duty is accountability, I encourage you to speak out against violence.

Peter Gardner | Renewable Energy Party The Renewable Energy Party’s ‘Just Transition’ will quickly provide full employment in the Valley. This will considerably reduce stress on the family budget as a cause of conflict. Although a single issue climate party the REP constitution upholds ‘a right to liberty’ and ‘security of person’. When this is translated into action it means they would support all practical measures to reduce violence both in the home and outside it.

Darren Chester | National Party As a White Ribbon Day Ambassador, I have worked with the government and community to develop a national response to domestic violence and have provided local leadership in campaigns to support vulnerable families.The Coalition is providing an extra $100 million over three years for front-line services, in addition to a $101.2 million Women’s Safety Package. This will include targeted help for Indigenous and culturally diverse women and their children.I have zero tolerance for violence against men, women and children, and all levels of government must continue to work with the community to reduce family violence and protect victims.

Shashi Bhatti | Australian Labor Party The nightmare of family violence is a reality for far too many Australian women and the data across the nation and in Gippsland in particular is truly awful.  I stand by Labor’s frontline plan, developed in consultation with experts, academics and advocates like Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty. The plan includes $70 million of targeted funding to ensure those suffering from family violence can access critical services when they need them, $50 million to frontline legal services, to ensure women suffering from family violence get legal support and $15 million in Safe at Home grants to help people affected by family violence stay safe in their own home.

Ian Onley | The Greens Domestic violence is a serious and growing problem in our society requiring behavioural change on many levels. The Greens have a bold plan to increase investment in front line services with a ten-year, $5 billion commitment. The Greens would create National Partnership Agreement on Domestic Violence and Violence against women and invest $2.2 billion in front line services in first four years. This includes creating a national peak body for specialist domestic violence services that protect the young and providing behaviour change programs and early intervention.

Ashleigh Belsar | Australian Christians As a child I grew up in a housing commission area in Latrobe Valley.  Despite the vast majority of really good people in the area, issues associated with family violence surrounded my childhood.  Problems like this need to be tackled from the root source.  There is more than enough good evidence showing pornography, drug and alcohol abuse and unemployment being major contributors.  I see no good reason why the Federal Government bans the sale of pornography in indigenous communities to protect their kids, but assumes it has no effect here.

Brian Heath | Family First Party Pornography is a tragic addiction that breeds a culture of violence against women. The largest consumers are boys 12 to 17. Material depicting rape and torture of women is readily available online. We need filters at an ISP level to protect households, as in the UK. This was opposed by the Greens and the Coalition in Australia. We need $4 billion for intervention services nationally, as recommended by the Royal Commission. Funding in this year’s Federal Budget was only $100 million and didn’t provide ongoing funding for first-on-call service providers.


Shashi Bhatti | Australian Labor Party I believe everyone should be able to access healthcare when and where they need it. Labor gave Australians Medicare and I will always fight to protect it. The Labor Party has consistently fought against the Nationals raising payments when you go to see the Doctor and the cost hikes on medicines and pathology. I will strive to have Gippsland health issues addressed; in particular, inequalities in rural health access, health and ageing, Aboriginal health and services around mental health. I believe Gippsland’s hospitals, community health services and GPs deserve better support.

Darren Chester | National Party We are privileged to have medical staff providing world-class health care locally, but the demand for services continues to increase.The only way to provide the quality care we expect is through a strong economy. On top of increased funding for Medicare and other health services, the Coalition contributed $2.7 million for a new dental prosthetics lab and university training clinic in Churchill; $2.8 million for drug rehabilitation services targeting ‘ice’; and funding for Gippsland Cancer Care Centre. Our total investment in health, aged care and sport will increase each year, reaching $89.5 billion in 2016–17.

Ian Onley | The Greens The Greens see health as an investment, not a cost. We would unfreeze Medicare indexation to support smaller communities with one doctor, struggling with frontline health services.  Funding formula protected by legislation to stop reckless cuts and cost shifting. Certainty allows efficiency.  Private Health Insurance subsidy is wasting $6 billion from our health system per year. We would put that money back into our public health system. The Greens achieved Medicare funded dental for children and we would extend this to adults. Poor oral health can lead to heart disease and stroke, efficiency in early intervention.

Ben Buckley | Liberal Democrats As a Liberal Democrat I will press the Commonwealth to increase funding to the states out of GST revenues in relation to health matters, as it is their responsibility under Section 51 paragraph XX111 (a) of the Australian Constitution. I will also push to increase education in healthy dietary and exercise practices and avoidance of substance abuse, particularly with younger people, without overemphasising the fear factor. Personally, as an older person, I have found the health services where I live quite satisfactory.

Peter Dorian | Rise Up Australia Party The Medicare system does appear unaffordable at the moment. But if we adopt some measures that get the funding to the patient, then we can streamline the system. A customer recovery bonus system would  prevent the mentality of some doctors creating drug dependant people so they get return business. It may appear to be more spending but the result will be more informed clients. The long term effect is less patients. In regards to the short supply of Doctors we have to import.

Brian Heath | Family First Party  Gippsland needs more funding for after hours general practitioners to take the load off emergency departments and improvements in nursing ratios. We need to subsidise more medical students and interns to come to the country, including ongoing funding for the East Gippsland Community based internship. The government made a mistake when it scrapped the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program in 2015, which attracted young GPs to regional areas. Nationally, we need a reversal of the Medicare freeze otherwise it will increase the cost of seeing a doctor and discourage bulk billing.

Peter Gardner | Renewable Energy Party Climate change is a direct threat to all Gippslanders and is already affecting our health in many ways including heat exhaustion from heatwaves, injuries from floods and bushfires, longer term affects from smoke inhalation and pollution and the expansion of mosquito born virus such as Ross River Fever. Our policy – quickly phasing out coal fired generation – will improve the health of those in the valley and reduce the poisonous contaminants going into the Gippsland lakes. A massive boost to emergency and health services will be required.

Dr Christine Sindt | Independent Good health starts with the early years and good nutrition.  I support increased funding towards infant and maternal welfare nursing, with incentives to encourage mothers to breastfeed for at least the first six months of their children’s lives.  I seek to raise community awareness of the importance of good nutrition, fresh air, rest and exercise, and technology-free weekends. I encourage and support the role of community service clubs, scouts and guides, and the sharing of meals with family, friends and neighbours.  A drug rehabilitation facility is desperately needed in Gippsland.

Cherie Smith | Independent Improving the health of Gippslanders needs multiple approaches, including comprehensive tax reform to pay for the things we need. We need to ensure general health in the area does not go backwards by limiting the out-of-pocket cost of seeing a GP. We need access to preventative health tools without having to go to Melbourne. We need greater access to consistent mental health support, which includes the availability of a Medicare rebate for video consultations. We need to ensure the future physical, and mental health of Gippslanders by banning onshore gas mining.

Ashleigh Belsar | Australian Christians Australian Christians affirms all Australians, irrespective of their income or location, should have access to essential health services.  However, the increasing cost of health services to the public purse requires that individuals do what they reasonably can to care for and maintain their own health. I would support the promotion of healthy diets and lifestyles recognising the role responsible parenting has in fostering this. Studies are increasingly showing the benefits of time spent in the outdoors. Gippsland is blessed with a variety of beautiful locations to promote for healthy living.


Dr Christine Sindt | Independent The three key drivers of innovation for the future are connectivity of mobile devices, cloud technology and advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.  Access to all of these is useful for problem solving; however, computers will not fix education. In Australia, 42 per cent of students do not meet national numeracy standards at year 8.  We have great teachers in Gippsland who require more administrative support, more training and more upskilling in mathematics, so that they can teach for understanding, rather than for memory. Federation University will play a key role.

Darren Chester | National Party I talk to hundreds of students at local schools every year and remind them of the opportunity to work hard and achieve their full potential in their chosen field. Education is not purely the responsibility of teachers. As parents, we have a key role in building self-esteem by encouraging young people to aim high and learn new skills. Federal education funding has increased every year under the Coalition Government but I believe there’s more work to be done to support students who are required to move away from home for university or trade training. Some improvements have been made to the Youth Allowance system but I’m working to secure further support for country students and their families.

Ian Onley | The Greens The Greens’ education policy is guided by the principle that education is for public good and prosperity. That the wealth of a child’s parents should not affect the quality of education available and all levels of public education should be free. Funding to private and public schools should be on a basis of need and equity with emphasis on creative thinking, innovation and problem solving. We reject corporate sponsorship and privatisation of education, aiming to have the best publicly funded education system in the world, with reliably funded VET and TAFE delivering quality courses.

Shashi Bhatti | Australian Labor Party I am very passionate about education and I strongly believe every child should have excess to decent education at minimum cost. This will only be possible if school receive adequate funding from the Federal Government. Only the Australian Labor Party has an education policy which will deliver funding to each school on a needs basis. Labor will endorse fully funding Gonski and I will make sure in my electorate schools and TAFE colleges being neglected under the Coalition government to get adequate funding to be able to deliver quality education to all children regardless of their background. 

Peter Gardner | Renewable Energy Party Although the Renewable Energy Party is a single-issue climate party, climate change affects all policies. Basic science education – in the general population and amongst our leaders – is a dismal failure. That our government can make laws not only in ignorance of physics but in contradiction to them is appalling. The greenhouse effect – humans burning fossil fuel increases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and leads to a warming planet. Send our politicians back to school to learn this. A massive upgrade in science education is required.

Brian Heath | Family First Party  Better assist country kids who want to pursue university but can’t afford to move away from home to study. Allow principals and the school community to make decisions about what is best for their schools, not centralised governments. Scrap overly sexualised programs that override parental consent, such as Safe Schools, and replace with a genuine anti-bullying program. Secure funding for private schools so parents continue to have choice. Increase integration aid funding to help more students. Secure the future of chaplaincy and wellbeing services.

Ben Buckley | Liberal Democrats The Liberal Democrats consider that parents want their children to receive a good education. It would be seriously unjust for children to miss out on education because their family lacked the means to provide it. We would remove barriers to open new schools, introduce external literacy and numeracy testing of students, provide incentives to upgrade the teaching profession through improved training, reward good teachers and sack bad ones, allow failed schools to close or be taken over by better performing schools, except of course in regional and remote areas, where extra consideration would apply.


Ian Onley | The Greens Transitioning our economy to renewable energy creates jobs in building base load solar thermal power stations, installing roof top solar and rehabilitating mines. Building battery storage, decommissioning power stations, research and development, all directly applying to Gippsland. Our trades are directly applicable to renewable energy construction, so the opportunity to train apprentices locally and rebuild our engineering capacity will grow and evolve. This will also enable manufacturing of high quality renewable and energy efficient components locally. Jobs have been disappearing in the coal industry for years, we need action and leadership from Government.

Darren Chester | National Party I will continue to promote shopping locally to support small businesses in the Latrobe Valley which are critical to creating job and training opportunities. At the same time, I will support our traditional industries such as paper production, power generation, timber and agriculture, which provide economic strength for our region. The Federal Government must give the business community the confidence and certainty it needs to hire more staff and I support our apprenticeship and training policies which are an investment in our greatest asset; our young people.

Ben Buckley | Liberal Democrats The Liberal Democrats would press whatever party that is able to form government to reduce restrictions on private enterprise, particularly in the manufacture of solar, wind, tidal and batteries and other things that will replace people’s dependence on non-renewables. It is inevitable that our reliance on non-renewable, coal fossil fuel will diminish. A government should do all that is reasonable within their power to help people do what they can for themselves. Gippsland Aeronautics is an example of this.

Shashi Bhatti | Australian Labor Party In the short term if all the customers shop locally that will protect local jobs and help the businesses to invest more into their business hopefully employ more people. If a Labor government win the election, Bill Shorten is going to properly fund local TAFE colleges and other skills and training providers in local areas such as VCAL. So if the school leavers don’t want to go to university they can have job training and be ready for work. In the medium to long term Labor will invest more into renewal energy to take some pressure of coal-fired power stations in the Valley. If elected, I will make sure there is more investment in Gippsland and a manufacturing plant to make solar panels and windmill turbines and get full employment in Gippsland.

Dr Christine Sindt | Independent I will advocate for an employment transition plan for Latrobe-Gippsland in conjunction with Local and State Governments. As a former Women-In-Engineering Coordinator, my focus is to build on Gippsland’s engineering expertise in mechatronics, robotics and 3D printing to take up manufacturing opportunities in defence and aerospace.  I will advocate for all of Federation University’s engineering disciplines to be transferred to Latrobe-Gippsland, the Engineering Capital of Australia.  I will strongly support the development of new job opportunities in conjunction with our Regional Fast Rail (Bairnsdale to Southern Cross), RAAF East Sale Base, Mahindra Aerospace and Defence Materials Technology Centre. 

Peter Gardner | Renewable Energy Party The Renewable Energy Party will boost jobs in the Valley as the beginning of the ‘just transition’ in a number of ways. By placing an order for Earthworker heatpumps to be installed in government buildings over time, conditional on shifting the manufacturing to Morwell quickly and with a large apprenticeship program. By doing likewise with a massive expansion of solar, energy storage and efficiency with the contracts going to locals. Subsidising the manufacture of renewable energy parts such as wind generators or solar thermal mirrors in Morwell. Renewables means jobs.


Darren Chester | National Party My position on same sex marriage has been public for almost 12 months. I supported a conscious vote for all MPs and would have voted in favour of same sex marriage given the opportunity. However, I believe the plebiscite is the best way forward to allow all Australians to have their say on this contentious issue. I intend to participate in the debate in a respectful and moderate manner, and urge all others to do the same.

Ian Onley | The Greens I support marriage equality, everyone should have the right to marry the person they love. Changes to the marriage act should be decided by a parliamentary vote. A plebiscite would be needlessly expensive and divisive.  I believe it should be done as soon as possible to allow people to get on with their lives. We already know the majority of Australians support marriage equality.

Dr Christine Sindt | Independent Historically and theologically, marriage is for procreation, companionship, and to ensure the stability of the family unit.  The key is the protection of the natural children of that union, and the children’s right to have their parents who produced them.  Therefore, marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and for same-sex couples the word “marriage” is a misnomer. I do not support changes to the Marriage Act.  However, a plebiscite could uphold the rights of same-sex couples and offer them legal protection through a Civil Partnership Act. 

Peter Gardner | Renewable Energy Party I am standing for the Renewable Energy Party which is seriously concerned about climate change. Climate change threatens us all regardless of age, race, gender or economic status and therefore should be a concern for us all. With regards to the same sex marriage question I believe it should have been put to a vote in the previous parliament and should be decided by the next elected body. The plebiscite was a ploy by the prime minister to satisfy an extreme rump in his party – usually the same who are climate change deniers and prevented any action on climate in the last parliament. The proposed plebiscite is a waste of taxpayers money.

Ben Buckley | Liberal Democrats Same-sex marriage should be recognised as a human equal rights issue as it gives access to legal, social, emotional, financial and spiritual agreements. The act of marriage creates normal and legal obligations between individuals providing stable family environments. Section 51 (XXI) of the Australian Constitution clearly states hat the Parliament has the power to amend the marriage act, so there is no need for costly, unnecessary, compulsory referendum or voluntary plebiscite. Yes to same-sex marriage.


Daren Chester | National Party I will continue to fight to keep the jobs we already have in our traditional industries – including the power sector – while working with the community and all levels of government to attract new opportunities. The Nationals have announced new measures to encourage jobs growth for small businesses, which are a major source of employment in the Latrobe Valley. By government partnering with industry, we can retain and expand our agriculture, engineering and manufacturing businesses, especially food, plantation timber and paper. Further investment in the health sector is also critical for jobs growth.

Ian Onley | The Greens Our Renew Australia plan proposes a government authority to plan and drive orderly transition to a new economy, levering $5 billion of investment in renewable energy over four years. A pollution cap that will see the worst polluters phased out as new generation comes online. Moving from centralised generation to distributed generation, battery storage can take many forms and our location positions us well for service to distributed renewable generation. Research and development, rebuilding our engineering capacity, bringing great Australian ideas to fruition to manufacture high quality renewable components that the world needs. 

Dr Christine Sindt | Independent There is no quick fix to transition to new jobs in Latrobe City and I don’t want to make empty promises.  For too long, this part of Gippsland has been ignored, despite providing 85 per cent of the electricity to the rest of Victoria.  When elected, I will ensure that there is open communication and dialogue between myself and Latrobe City Councillors.  Most of all, I want to revive and encourage our engineering and manufacturing expertise which was built up through the State Electricity Commission of Victoria under General Sir John Monash.

Ben Buckley | Liberal Democrats Constitutional recognition of local government so the Commonwealth can influence the reduction of rate tax for commercial enterprises to encourage start-up businesses, employ people from the wind-down of the coal-fired power industry to avoid situations like when the Kiwi shoe polish manufacturer left Traralgon before the SEC restructure. Gippsland Aeronautics is an example of a successful venture. The Liberal Democrats policy is less restriction in reasonable fields of endeavour and governments should only do for people what they can’t do for themselves, i.e. less taxation.