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Inside Pitt Town’s Hawkesbury Candidates Forum

By Josh Kerwick

With just over two weeks until the State Election, the campaign trail is heating up for candidates statewide. In the Hawkesbury, the race this year is highly competitive – eight candidates are now on the ballot for the Lower House on March 25th.

On Wednesday night, the Pitt Town Progress Association hosted a panel where residents were able to hear from and meet some of their candidates for the Hawkesbury seat across an hour and thirty minutes.

Candidates in attendance for the meeting.
From left to right: Eddie Dogramaci (Small Business Party), Shane Djuric (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ Party), Angela Maguire (Independent), Danielle Wheeler (The Greens), Tony Pettitt (Independent), Robyn Preston (Liberal), Amanda Kotlash (Labor)
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]The six candidates for the Lower House that attended were Eddie Dogramaci (Small Business Party), Amanda Kotlash (Labor), Tony Pettitt (Independent), Robyn Preston (Liberal, Current MP), Danielle Wheeler (Greens) and Angela Maguire (Independent). Shane Djuric (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party), who is running for the Upper House, was also on the panel.

Each speaker was given eight minutes maximum to deliver a speech outlining their platform, followed by a thirty minute Q&A session that allowed community members present to ask questions of the candidates.

Eddie Dogramaci was the first to give his speech, stating that if elected he would not be a ‘politician’ but a representative for the people of the Hawkesbury. He promised that he would personally liaise with the community and heavily criticised both Liberal and Labor parties.

Eddie singled out issues such as rising prices and the source of money funding the Hawkesbury, and promised to fight for the community: “I will do whatever is possible just to give you a fair go.”

Second to speak was Amanda Kotlash, outlining Labor’s policy plans for the state. These included substantially rebuilding TAFE, “a lot of money” committed to a plan that prepares roads and bridges for evacuation, an emergency road repair fund and cost of living relief including a $60 weekly cap on Tolls.

Amanda also stressed there would be no more energy privatization under a Labor government, and that the party is committed to building the long-proposed Rouse Hill Hospital with an emergency department.

Next up was Tony Pettitt, who was open about his grievances with the governance of the Hawkesbury. Describing Liberal and Labor as “changing horses”, he pointed to rising prices as a major issue and poor road planning, including the $500m North Richmond bridge.

A firm believer in the importance of Citizen Initiated Referendums and grassroots organizations, Tony said that people should get what they want “unless there’s a really good reason you can’t get what you want.”

Current MP Robyn Preston took the podium afterwards, beginning with a reflection on her term since 2019 which has included floods, bushfires, droughts and the pandemic.

“My role has been to work with you all and find solutions, whatever they are,” Robyn stated, then discussed a number of works completed by the Liberal government since 2011. She ensured more Active and Creative Kids Vouchers would be on the way, as well as $11.4m to repair potholes and $9.8m for evacuation routes.

Danielle Wheeler delivered the next speech. Her talk was one that stressed the necessity for significant change in the Hawkesbury. She openly discussed issues facing the area and was critical of the current local government’s approach to roads and the public transport network.

Commenting “We’ve got four cars at my house, and I’m the Greens representative,” Danielle was able to provoke some laughs from the audience. She also advocated for value capture taxes on developers, the slowing of urban sprawl and banning development on the flood plains.

Angela Maguire was the last of the Lower House candidates to speak and only made one promise: that she would move her office to a Hawkesbury CBD so that she is amongst the community she is representing.

Angela stated her only affiliation is to the people of the Hawkesbury, and by operating as an independent she believes she can deliver meaningful change to the community. She is building her platform on the core tenants of integrity, representation and the necessity of a stronger community.

Upper House candidate Shane Djuric then outlined his plans to represent Hawkesbury as part of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ Party.

A third generation beekeeper, Shane emphasised his longstanding place in the community and stated that a local member from a small party would be vital in the coming years as the region faces several changes and challenges, including a projected 70% population increase on the other side of the river.

During question time, residents brought up key concerns such as spending of council money, sewage systems, the status of the new Richmond bridge and where each candidate prints their flyers.

The state election is on Saturday the 25th of March, 2023. Click here to see our page with information about the candidates (including the full audio of each speech from this event) and your voting region.

Photos of candidates appear below in speaking order
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