Page pollies last chance to press the flesh

By ALEX EASTON

VOTERS in the Page electorate will get one more chance to quiz their candidates on Monday as the election campaign moves into its critical final week.

The Northern Rivers Social Development Council and The Northern Star will jointly host a candidates' forum at Mary Gilhooley's, at the corner of Keen and Woodlark streets, Lismore, on Monday from 6pm.

An exclusive Northern Star/Daily Examiner poll, published last weekend, has pointed to a tight race in Page, with a 15 per cent slab of uncommitted voters to decide whether the Nationals' Chris Gulaptis or Labor's Janelle Saffin wins the seat next Saturday.

And the parties know it, each committing billions of dollars to the region through promises on critical local issues such as the Pacific Highway, the Alstonville Bypass and the Lismore radiotherapy unit.

As the parties move into their final week, the Coalition's Federal campaign is continuing to struggle under the yoke of its WorkChoices legislation after Health Minister Tony Abbott was caught on video admitting on Tuesday the package had stripped workers of their protections.

Meanwhile, Labor is still trying to shake off its reputation as a poor economic manager, with polls showing voters still believe Prime Minister John Howard is better at handling the nation's purse-strings than Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd.

At the same time, the Greens face a drop in their own vote and fear a loss of Senators as the party's former voters flock towards a resurgent Labor. The Democrats are battling to ward off the once strong party's Senate annihilation, with the danger that it could lose all its Senators on Saturday.

Northern Rivers Social Development Council chief executive Tony Davies said Labor and the Coalition in the region so far had missed critical points in their announcements on transport, housing affordability, and community services.

Last week's opinion poll in Page showed the electorate's top issues according to the people who will ultimately decide who gets to be the next Member for Page - the voters.

Monday's forum will be a chance for voters to put those issues directly to the candidates and hear their responses first-hand.



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