!The Meet The Candidates forum started with a song to Jesus sung by a serious young woman with a guitar. Then there was a prayer by Pastor Kari Tanttari asking God for wisdom.
Just when I was about to resume my seat in the Richmond Room in Ballina it was time for a rousing rendition of the national anthem For those whove come across the seas, Weve boundless plains to share.... This was followed by a joke about two terrorists at the Pearly Gates told by forum facilitator Carolyn Cormack from the Australian Christian Lobbys Queensland office.
The candidates for the Ballina Electorate are incumbent MP Don Page (The Nationals), Ben Smith (Democrats), Flora Boyd (Australians Against Further Immigration), Melanie Doriean (Labor) and John Bailey (The Greens).
All were present except Flora who was apparently uncontactable. Probably out of the country. Hope she gets back in.
Questions to the candidates from the audience of about 60 had to be written on a piece of paper and then read out by the facilitator.
We dont want to annoy the candidates with repetition and annoying questions, said Carolyn. We want them to have a fair go.
After an introductory spiel from each candidate, the questions started flowing from the firm but ever-smiling Carolyn. (Shes been doing this gig here and there for nine years.)
John Bailey was asked why the Greens promoted the legalisation of the drug ice. Don Page was asked what he would do for small business in the region if elected.
All candidates seemed comfortable with proceedings except Ben Smith who, though looking resplendent in a green and yellow suit combo, seemed to have little knowledge of Democrat policy. He was impressed with everyone elses policies though...
There was talk of Muslims accepting Australian values, the coal industry causing drought, gay couples remaining de facto, family values curtailing the sex industry, and industrial relations laws prompting teenage male suicide, prostitution and euthanasia.
Whew. Got that sorted then.
After another prayer from another pastor acknowledging that God was in control (Is that democratic?) it was time for a cup of tea and a Monte Carlo.
Well done, I said to Carolyn as I left.
I didnt read them all, she said, a twinkle in her eye. There were so many.