Home turf for Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs

Jon Gaul of the Sapphire Coast Branch of the Liberal Party, Senator Jim Molan and Liberal candidate for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro Fiona Kotvojs.
Jon Gaul of the Sapphire Coast Branch of the Liberal Party, Senator Jim Molan and Liberal candidate for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro Fiona Kotvojs.

She’s a beef and truffle farmer with a passion for sustainability but her experience goes far beyond the boundaries of the paddock.

Fiona Kotvojs is the Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro and if successful will be the first female member to capture the seat since its formation as a federation seat in 1901.

So it is appropriate to ask what Ms Kotvojs thinks of the current representation of women in the Liberal party.

“Yes we do need more women in politics,” she said avoiding a direct reference to the Liberal’s own problems, “but as a constituent I want the best representation possible, whether its male or female.

“I believe strongly in merit based selection.”

Only recently Julia Gillard pointed out that if merit is equally distributed between the sexes (and there’s no reason to think it isn’t) and women make up half the population then clearly there are women of merit who should have been selected but in fact, have not.

Yes we do need more women in politics but as a constituent I want the best representation possible, whether its male or female.

Fiona Kotvojs, Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro

It is at this point that Jon Gaul, of the Sapphire Coast Branch of the Liberals, leans in to reveal that there was no pressure to select a woman and that Ms Kotvojs had been selected purely on merit, picking up 50 votes out of a possible 70.

It would have been surprising to see any other result; Ms Kotvojs has a long history with the party – she joined in 1983 – and a strong local attachment. She joined the Narooma Branch in 2012 and now lives in a sustainable off-grid home on the 380-acre family farm between Narooma and Bega. She was born in Bega and raised in Dignams Creek.

“I grew up here, this is my home but when I was at school most people had to leave the area for work. Young people leave our area for work or study and don’t return, and we can change this by reducing red tape and creating better incentives to attract and grow businesses across our region.”

She wants communities to become sustainable so that kids don’t have to leave the electorate to find a job and believes that having the right infrastructure, access to training and access to technology are critical elements.

Brown Mountain is not reliable. We need to look at how to get reliable access down here.

Fiona Kotvojs Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro

“Brown Mountain is not reliable. We need to look at how to get reliable access down here, we need to sort out the mobile black spots and make sure the NBN is accessible,” Ms Kotvojs said.

Asked where TAFE fits in, Ms Kotvojs said the reality was TAFE only worked when state and federal governments work together.

“The reduction started in 2012 and it hasn’t been fixed yet. We need to make sure that the courses offered meet the needs.”

She views the construction industry as not having enough trainees and wants to lift the number of apprentices.

The reduction (in TAFE) started in 2012 and it hasn’t been fixed yet. We need to make sure that the courses offered meet the needs.

Fiona Kotvojs Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro

“We’ve lost the timber and fishing industries and we need other things to boost the local economy.”

Asked about the diary industry, Ms Kotvojs maintains that producers should be paid a fair price but says primary producers are “price takers not price setters”. She has a meeting organised with the Bega Co-op.

True to her belief in the importance of technology, once the internet was sufficiently reliable she returned to the electorate and set up a small business. She designs and evaluates aid programs for the Australia and New Zealand and is involved in international development programs in the PNG region targeting health, education, law and justice, agriculture and fishing. She is also a director of Oxfam, a voluntary position.

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