THE seat of Chaffey incorporates the Riverland and Mallee and has been held by Liberal Tim Whetstone since 2010.
Also contesting the seat are business owner Sab Feleppa from One Nation; The Greens' Trevor Schloithe, who works as a horticulturalist; shearer and small business owner Damien Buijs from The Nationals; Family First's Mathew Francis, who works in the demolition sector, and Labor's Joanne Sutton.
Stock Journal asked candidates the following questions:
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing Chaffey?
WHETSTONE: The River Murray is the economic lifeblood of our region and I will continue to fight on behalf of my electorate for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be delivered. I want to focus on reliable health services, education facilities and housing in rural areas to accommodate population growth and to attract and retain a skilled workforce. It's more important than ever that job opportunities are improved and new job opportunities are created in the region. Skilled employees are also crucial to the future of the Riverland and Mallee. Since 2018, we have delivered 52,000 apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship and traineeship commencements through incentives which address some of the barriers faced by regional employers. More recently, we've announced we will remove payroll tax for trainee and apprentices for two years if re-elected, saving millions of dollars for our businesses.
BUIJS: Rural healthcare, particularly mental health care and drug rehabilitation centres. One in 5 people suffer from a mental health condition and there is simply not enough in the ground practical help for these people. While the matrix program was brought to the Riverland to tackle the scourge of ice addiction in the electorate only to scraped shortly after despite showing promising response, leaving people suffering from drug addiction with no where to go.
FELEPPA: Water security. Water in the River Murray drives everything from real estate prices to population levels. We must ensure any further water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin does not take another drop from irrigators or river communities in SA.
FRANCIS: My commute between Adelaide and the Riverland fortnightly has allowed me to understand and experience the challenges of living in regional SA - one of the biggest being the black spots in the Riverland, especially on my property in Markaranka. My motivation to run at this year's state election was when I was confronted by some extreme bills being passed in SA parliament that don't represent the best for our families, which the incumbent member for Chaffey voted in favour for.
What do you see as the major issue affecting SA agriculture? How would you rectify this?
WHETSTONE: I'll be working to ensure we support agricultural technology and research, and a robust biosecurity regime to increase farmgate returns and create greater market access. We must continue to address telecommunications black spots that affect business productivity, and we've already established a $10-million Mobile Phone Black Spot Fund to address the backlog of over 500 black spots. Water security is of paramount importance to a sustainable irrigation sector and fighting to ensure the plan is delivered on time and in full is critical. Our farmers need to have the tools in the toolbox to boost the agriculture industry as they battle a variable climate. A carbon future will also play an important part of the future landscape.
BUIJS: Input costs would have to be the biggest issue facing agriculture at the moment. With price of chemical and fertiliser sky rocketing we need to be supporting research into increasing efficiency of farm enterprises. The ag sector has been a first mover in the past 20 years when it comes to the uptake of technology and we need to keep backing the sector. A classic example of this is precision spraying technology reducing the amount of chemical needed for the same outcome in a paddock. We also need to be supporting the manufacturer of fertiliser such as urea here in South Australia, meaning we're not relying on overseas imports to supply the majority of our chemical and fertiliser.
FELEPPA: Market access has been highlighted as a major issue by China's weaponising of our trade relationship, which hit several signature SA commodities like wine, seafood and barley. We need fairer trade agreements, and policies which diversify our trade to help farmers better manage the risks. I'd also advocate reform in water trading, ensuring water is traded only by people who have a use for it.
FRANCIS: I see a huge need for skilled workers in the regions. We have an opportunity to train our youth with the skill sets to match the requirements in the regions, which will in turn tackle youth unemployment and the skills shortages in the regions.
Do you think enough funding is being directed to regional infrastructure, eg roads and health facilities?
WHETSTONE: The Marshall-Liberal government has delivered a record $1.1 billion to the state's regional road programs, including $87.5m for the Sturt Highway, $15m to upgrade the Browns Well Highway and planning well underway on the $202m Truro Bypass. We have committed $188m in regional SA in the next two years to help attract and retain GP services and ensure continuity of high-quality rural hospital services. I am proud to have delivered the $4m MRI in the Riverland General Hospital and we invested $6.9m for additional chemotherapy service, doubling the number of medium complexity country chemotherapy units in Berri. We've seen the $17.8m transformation of what is now known as the Berri Regional Secondary College and more than $10m combined has been delivered to the Renmark and Loxton High Schools for capital works upgrades. The state's first-ever Regional Development Strategy is focusing on regional priorities for population growth, including access to services and infrastructure. However, there is still much more to be done and my priority is making sure my electorate receives more than its fair share.
BUIJS: Definitely not. One thing I hear over and over again is that Chaffey's roads are neglected and they will continue to be neglected as long as the Liberals consider Chaffey a safe seat. We need to be spending more money on roads and less on city stadiums because at the end of the day, its roads that support our economy. The Nationals believe we need structural change in how regional services are funded, it's a problem that every time a state election comes around we are looking at the same issues being raised. We need long term solutions to the servicing of regional communities, not band-aid fixes.
FELEPPA: Frankly no. There's a substantial backlog in regional road maintenance across the state, which is only going to get worse now that rail networks in the Mallee and Eyre Peninsula have been closed, and we've all seen local health services and country hospitals closed down. There are still plenty of mobile black spots in Chaffey too. We need a dedicated regional infrastructure fund with a lot more money than what the Liberals put into theirs.
FRANCIS: Youth mental health and hospital services require a huge boost in the regions and I want to see real action and change for our regional community. Given agriculture and primary industries are one of the biggest contributors to the economy in the state, I hope to bring my skill set from my business background in trade.
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