The warmth of democracy was on display as Wendouree candidates and voters exchanged views in Victorias equal most marginal seat, at a forum on Wednesday night, organised by the Australian Christian Lobby and Ballarat churches.
Sitting member Sharon Knight MP along with Craig Coltman (Liberal),Alice Barnes(The Greens) and Liam Hastie (ASP) engaged in discussion with a lively audience on issues from healthcare to the East West tunnel.
Sharon Knight spoke of the importance of advancing education and healthcare in Ballarat and the need to address youth unemployment.
Liam Hastie said he was a "regular guy" who was passionate about the separation of church and state and was not supportive of the chaplaincy program.
Alice Barns addressed asylum seekers and climate change. She also expressed support for $1 gambling limits and stated that outdoor advertising should be suitable for children.
Craig Coltman said that it was a priority of the Liberal government to defend religious freedom.
He spoke of the ALP's proposal to limit faith based schools and organisations rights to employ on the basis of faith by applying an "inherent requirement of the role" test as having the effect that faith based schools could be forced to hire people who disagree with their objectives.
The spirited question and answer session involved a question by a uniformed paramedic about ambulance ramping times and a question by a doctor asking why it is that a doctor who conscientiously objects to abortion has to refer a patient seeking one to a doctor who will perform it.
Points of difference abounded. All candidates said that they supported Victoria's abortion laws except Craig Coltman who said that he had concerns about late term abortion and the restrictions currently placed on a doctors conscience.
Taking a question about the rights of faith based schools to employ according to their faith and ethos, Sharon Knight stated that a person in the school having a role in the sharing of the faith could be employed on the basis of their faith but not the administration staff, cleaner or gardiner. Craig Coltman recounted his experience at school of being positively influenced by administrative and other staff who were vital in his formation and supported the right of faith based schools to recruit all staff according to the faith and ethos of the school.
All candidates responded to additional questions about productivity, balanced budgets and support for carers and welfare programs.
Dan Flynn, The Victorian director of the Australian Christian Lobby, stated to the audience that there is no separation between churchgoers and politics as the audience heads to the polls on November 29.
Rev. Stephen Parish of Wendouree Baptist Church concluded the evening by praying for the Victorian election and the candidates.