FREMANTLE federal Liberal candidate Pierrette Kelly says an ill daughter led to her pulling out of a candidates election forum on Tuesday.
Ms Kelly says she only found out on Friday that an appointment with a specialist would clash with the talkfest, but concedes Liberal HQ wasn’t keen on her going anyway.
“There’s a national policy from Canberra that federal candidates shouldn’t speak at these events,” she says.
“I wanted to attend and had fully prepared for it; but because of my daughter I was unable to. It was a case of family first.”
Notre Dame politics lecturer Martin Drum, who helped organise the event, said it was “very disappointing” Ms Kelly had been unable to attend.
More than 250 people crammed into Notre Dame’s lecture hall to hear federal candidates Josh Wilson (Labor), Kate Davis (Greens), Chris Jenkins (Socialist Alliance), and Mick Connolly (Mature Australia Party) talk shop.
With three of the candidates being left of centre, and Mr Connolly talking largely from personal experience, there was little debate and contention.
After introductions, candidates fielded questions from the audience on a diverse range of issue, including the Perth Freight Link, overseas aid, fracking and refugee policy.
Mr Jenkins, 26, was the most passionate and witty speaker of the night, while Mr Connolly, a 57-year-old truck driver with an old-school charm, won support for his opposition to the PFL.
The Greens and Labor clashed briefly on the issue of preferences and the emissions trading scheme, but aside from that, the night had all the tension of a sleeping pill.
Midway through the forum moderator Paul Murray, former editor of the West Australian, made the wise decision to halve candidates’ response times to one minute, resulting in a brisker pace.
The most entertaining part of the forum was the twitter feed for #freodebate, projected onto a huge screen behind the candidates, where many of the audience posted satirical comments.
Mr Drum said at the start of the night Labor had held Fremantle since 1934 — and the forum had the feel of a battle whose outcome was already decided.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK