Four candidates to contest seat for Riverina in Federal election

FUNDING FIGHTS: Michael McCormack (Nationals), Richard Foley (United Australia), Michael Bayles (Greens) and Mark Jeffreson (Labor) draw battle lines over the funding of mental health services in the Riverina.
FUNDING FIGHTS: Michael McCormack (Nationals), Richard Foley (United Australia), Michael Bayles (Greens) and Mark Jeffreson (Labor) draw battle lines over the funding of mental health services in the Riverina.

As of this week four candidates have indicated they will contest the seat of Riverina, which includes Young, at the May 18 Federal election.

Labor has preselected Wagga businessman Mark Jeffreson as its candidate.

Mr Jeffreson runs a financial services firm with this wife and has lived in Wagga since 1987 and was born at Holbrook. The Greens preselected Michael Bayles, a retired food technologist from Wagga.

Mr Bayles grew up on a dairy farm in Tasmania and has lived in the Riverina for the past 30 years. Wagga plastering business owner Richard Foley says he will run to put Australians first and give voters a real alternative.

The Narrandera-born Mr Foley will be the United Australia Party candidate. The final candidate, at this stage is sitting member Michael McCormack.

Mr McCormack has lived and worked in the Riverina all his life. He was raised on family farms at Marrar and Brucedale and went to school at Saint Michael's Regional and Trinity Senior High Schools in Wagga Wagga.

Day two of the election trail on Saturday saw another promise of half a billion dollars, this time earmarked for mental health strategies across the Riverina region. Deputy Prime Minister and Riverina MP Michael McCormack made the announcement on Saturday morning.

Another $5.31 million will be used in the promotion of rural mental health strategies, should the coalition government find favour in the May 18 election.

It follows Friday's announcement of $10 million towards Wagga's PCYC.

The money will go towards setting up a Headspace site in Cowra. It will also be used to promote programs aimed at Indigenous and rural youth mental health.

"Of course we have to do more as far as mental health goes, and particularly, where rural mental health is concerned, we are," said Mr McCormack. This additional funding is expected to be added onto the national $461 million for youth and $114.5 million for Headspace's adult trials that was announced in the federal budget two weeks ago.

While Mr McCormack is confident the funding will begin trickling through "as soon as the election day is over", the candidate for the United Australia Party has criticised the announcement as presumptuous.

"He may hold the seat but what will it mean for the region if we don't have a seat at the table?" Mr Foley said that while he supports any funding for mental health, he would like to see the amount increased to make a difference across the entire region.

Candidate for Labor, Mark Jeffreson also questioned the timing of Mr McCormack's announcement. "It's very clear we're in an election," he said. Michael Bayles, candidate for the Greens, welcomed the amount, but echoed Mr Jeffreson's concerns.