GAME ON: Cowper candidates Michael Gough, incumbent Luke Hartsuyker and Carol Vernon spoke on a range of key issues at the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce candidates forum.
GAME ON: Cowper candidates Michael Gough, incumbent Luke Hartsuyker and Carol Vernon spoke on a range of key issues at the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce candidates forum. Claudia Jambor

Federal candidates go head-to-head on policy issues

JOBS and growth were among the first words out of Federal Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker's mouth at this morning's Cowper candidates forum at the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce Breakfast.

Employment issues was the first of six policy questions asked by the chamber of Mr Hartsuyker and fellow Cowper candidates, Michael Gough of the Citizens Electoral Council and Carol Vernon, of the Greens.

Tax breaks for small businesses and the Pacific Highway upgrade were among a range of reforms planned by Mr Hartsuyker to assist businesses in creating and maintaining jobs in the region.

"Jobs and growth is the centre piece of the coalition's election campaign that's why we abolished the carbon tax. There is no electorate in the country that is receiving federal funding than Cowper and Page," Mr Hartsuyker said.

"There would hardly be a small business or a large business in our region that isn't benefiting from the hwy upgrade," Mr Hartsuyker said.

Mrs Vernon acknowledged the Gumbaynggirr people before she entered the debate, where she emphasised the importance of a renewable future consistantly.

"A move to renewable energy will create more and linked businesses will create regional jobs," she said.

"We want what 80% of Australians want, sorry Luke, that is restore a price on pollution to combat climate change and stop using our taxes to buy off pollution."

Mr Hartsuyker and Mrs Vernon mutually agreed on issues including careful consideration in constructing a port of Coffs Harbour as well as an allied health building at Southern Cross university.

"I'm finding myself agreeing a lot with Luke this morning," Mrs Vernon joked.

Mr Gough kicked off the banter among the group, asking the Coffs community 'to be kind' to him being from rival regional city, Port Macquarie.

Throughout the line of questioning, Mr Gough frequently referred to the independent party's main policy of establishing a government-managed bank.

"The system is dying and is on life support. Our main policy is a government owned credit bank, along the lines of the old Commonwealth Bank which creates public credit as opposed to provide credit," he said.

"A government-run bank could create nation building infrastructure projects all over Australia along the lines of fast trains, bring into line productive industries, going back to the way it was."

During the Q&A session, the audience fired questions mostly at Mr Hartsuyker in relation to holding employment agencies to account as well as uni the deregulation of university fees.

Labor candidate, Damian Wood was a no show at today's forum as noted by chamber president, George Cecato who said Mr Wood was 'missing in action'.

The comments triggered a Labor supporter to shout out across the room that Mr Wood had sent his apologies and calling for an impartial debate.

Speaking to the Advocate earlier this morning, Mr Wood, who works for Essential Energy cited work commitments as the reason for is absence.

He sent his apologies.

Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce president, George Cecato said he was surprised and disappointed.

"You would think a Federal candidate would have time organised to to come to the Chamber of Commerce candidate forum of which he committed to come."

Mr Cecato said the forum enabled each candidate to clearly voice their policy direction on key issues.

"Overall, the forum gave a true representation of each candidate."