While the campaign circuses Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his rival Anthony Albanese have covered much of Australia, Ararat earned its first taste of federal politics this week.
The Greater Ararat Business Network hosted six of the eight candidates for the federal division of Wannon, attracting more than 100 constituents who packed the Ararat RSL function room on Tuesday night.
Hosted by ABC Ballarat's Steve Martin and live streamed by the Ararat Advertiser, the 90-minute forum gave candidates - Dan Tehan (Liberal Party), Hillary McAllister (Greens Party), Alex Dyson (Independent), Craige Kensen (United Australia Party), Amanda Mead (Liberal Democrats) and Gilbert Wilson (Labor Party) - the chance to speak directly with a myriad of voters.
Mr Tehan, the incumbent Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment of Australia, touted the Coalition government's economic record as reason to keep the seat in the Liberal party's hands.
"The contribution that business makes to this region is substantial. Business provides the employment that we need to make sure that we grow a strong economy and to ensure that we have a strong future," Mr Tehan said.
"...I'm standing here before you tonight because we've (The Coalition government) been able to do a lot but now as we come out of the pandemic, we need to do a lot more."
Mr Tehan cited major funding projects, such as the $300 million Western Highway duplication and $200 Maryborough-Ararat rail upgrade.
Ms McAllister said she was running because the major parties aren't taking climate action seriously.
"As a teenager, I experienced the devastation and stress of the Millennium drought and the impacts and unreal while the water supply international markets and the changing climate had on my family," she said.
"I believe Greens policies which advocate for people and planet over profit will ensure our primary producers, small business owners and industry continues to improve and continue to provide for their families. The climate crisis affects farming and rural communities before it affects anyone in Canberra."
Mr Dyson said every vote he receives is a conscious vote against the major parties.
"I think what we're lacking in a leader all around Australia, is a person who was simply there as a conduit for you to talk to me and tell the people in Canberra what is on your mind," he said.
"I don't want to tell you what I'm focusing. I want to hear from you and from my conversations around Ararat is something that wasn't focused on: housing. We need to make sure the housing is there so towns like Ararat can thrives."
Mr Kensen, a former paramedic who lives in Casterton, said his whole family lost their jobs due to COVID-19 mandates.
"I've been in the health industry mandolins for over nine years, as you can see at the moment, and they're calling out for people to be able to come back to work, but they're not allowed to because they have to be mandated. " he said.
"The government has no decision to be able to tell us what to do when it comes to our body.
Ms Mead, a small business owner from Lake Bolac, said her party is about less government interference, low taxes and free market capitalism.
"We are the party that will always fight for your individual liberties," she said.
"I decided to run for federal politics because I noticed we are being ignored. Everything that is decided for Wannon is made by someone who works in an office in Canberra."
Finally, Mr Wilson, a Glenelg Shire councillor from Portland, said it was time to put Labor back in power.
"If elected, I promise to work to the best of my ability to restore and defend our cornerstones of the Australian way of life, that has supported us well until recent times," he said.
"Labor government has given Australian a number of social safety nets that have been eroded by consecutive Liberal governments."
The Australian federal election is Saturday, May 21.
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