TO shamelessly borrow Josh Wilson’s analogy about Fremantle, it is a place built on “change.”
It was clear to see the Freo candidates for this month’s federal election exemplify the variety of calls for change this election.
On Tuesday night, 7 of the 10 candidates met to pitch themselves to about 80 voters at the annual candidates forum at Notre Dame University’s Tannock Hall.
Attending candidates included the mentioned sitting member Josh Wilson (ALP), Sam Wainwright (Socialist Alliance), Stella Jinman (UAP), Felicity Townsend (Greens), Yan Loh (Liberal Democrats), Janetia Knapp (Western Australia Party) and Bill Edgar (One Nation).
When asked about the one thing they’d do for the community if elected, it was possible to discern the similarities but also different policy approaches for each candidate.
Mr Wilson answered with climate action: “It will be the biggest challenge this community will face,” he said adding he would “devote most of his energy to it.”
Throughout the evening Mr Wilson was successful in linking headline policies, like funding for energy storage, electric vehicle rollouts and more housing, to their application in the electorate.
Sam Wainwright cut through with energy and obvious confidence of a community campaigner.
He called climate change an “existential threat”, calling for an end to new fossil fuel projects and having a permanent end to any form of Roe 8, earning him a rousing cheer from the audience.
His experience as a public campaigner was clear and while acknowledging he may not win, he vowed he wouldn’t go away. “Vote Socialist and I’ll see you on the campaign trail.”
Felicity Townsend, self admittedly nervous for the night, stood out by her honesty.
As the night progressed, her confidence began to show more openly, especially when discussing a further need for housing “fit for families, fit for children,” culminating in a loud concluding statement of “tax the billionaires,” to much applause.
Stella Jinman’s presentation style and delivery highlighted her experience as a teacher. Her promises to the audience included the UAP policies of ending lockdowns, introducing a bill of rights and “not giving away our resources.”
What was unique was her desire to see further investment in education and innovation as solutions for climate change and to work to improve the assistance for Indigenous and disabled kids.
“Protection for our children and equality for all.”
The Liberal Democrat’s Yan Loh differed the most from the other candidates, instead stating the importance for less spending and to address the budget deficit as the “party who will make tough choices,” to the groans of many in the audience.
In many ways, Yan entered the lion’s den and should be respected for sticking to his parties’ beliefs even to a fairly hostile audience.
The conspicuous and noticed absence of the Liberal Party candidate in this QnA gave Yan and the Liberal Democrats more of a chance to stand out.
The WA Parties’ Janetia Knapp gave a very important perspective on climate change, cost of living pressures and housing for the Indigenous community. As a member of the Stolen Generation, she held the audience and the attention of the other candidates on issues of incarceration. “We cannot keep failing our kids.”
When a trans audience member asked how the candidates would support them, Janetia’s answer was blunt and poignant. “First, I’d treat them as human beings.”
Bill Edgar demonstrated his extensive knowledge about the Fremantle community, especially in his many roles over a long period as a ferry operator and his concerns for his family’s future. His pitch hoped to bring back elements from that past that could benefit the community.
His expressed particular concern about the movement of the Fremantle Port. “We cannot abide the destruction of Cockburn Sound.”
The QnA was a great example of diverse candidates and viewpoints being expressed in a civil yet animated and lively manner, the best that could be expected of local involvement in democracy.
While the absence of a major party candidate and the heavy focus on Fremantle could potentially be detrimental to the concerns of residence in other parts of the electorate.
by LUKE COMMINS