JOHN Cobb won’t debate Labor candidate Jess Jennings one-on-one, although he will front up to forums featuring all nine Calare candidates.
But with no events scheduled for Orange, voters will have to travel to Bathurst for a Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA) meeting next week if they want to hear from the federal government hopefuls.
It appears the only chance Orange residents had to meet the candidates was at a stopover on the NSW Business Chamber’s Too Big to Ignore campaign in the Ophir Road car park on Monday, but the seat’s main contenders Mr Cobb and Dr Jennings did not attend.
A spokeswoman for Mr Cobb said he didn’t attend because he was unaware he would have a chance to speak.
Mr Cobb was in Sydney working on the Coalition’s agricultural policy and was unavailable for interview yesterday.
Five candidates did show including the Democratic Labor Party’s Anthony Craig, Palmer United Party’s Brian Cain, the Greens’ David Mallard, Katter’s Australia Party’s Billie Kirkland and the Christian Democratic Party’s Ian Lyons.
Dr Jennings attended the business chamber’s events in Bathurst and Forbes and slammed Mr Cobb for dodging the meet and greets, saying all candidates were told they would be given time to speak.
He and Mr Cobb attended the Lithgow Business Association candidates’ forum on August 5 and Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) candidates’ forum on August 13 in Bathurst.
In a statement, Mr Cobb said he would attend all “genuine candidate forums” including the CPSA forum in Bathurst.
Mr Cobb has repeatedly said he would engage with constituents during the campaign rather than debate candidates one-on-one, but he admitted he had been away from Calare while balancing his role as opposition spokesman for agriculture and spent “a couple of days” in Perth and Queensland.
“I have, however, spent the majority of the campaign in the electorate and I look forward to seeing many people during the last nine days of the campaign,” he said.
Mr Cobb defended his decision to knock back Dr Jennings’s requests for a debate, saying if he debated one candidate individually he would have to debate them all individually.
“I don’t believe this achieves anything for the people of Calare,” he said.
“It is not all about the Labor candidate, any debating forum should include all candidates.”
But Dr Jennings said it was the “lamest excuse” he had ever heard and all-in candidate forums didn’t give voters enough detail.
“We’re the only serious contenders for the seat,” he said.
“He’s the one who is incumbent and people deserve to know what he stands for.”
Orange Business Chamber president Tony Healey said it was disappointing Orange was missing out on chance to hear from the candidates, but attempts to organise a meet and greet similar to an event for last year’s council election had failed.
“We put the feelers out but there was too much activity with the candidates running around everywhere,” he said.
The CPSA forum will be held at 10am on Thursday, September 5 at the Bathurst City Community Club.