The seat of Bayswater in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs has been held by Liberal incumbent and minister, Heidi Victoria, for eight years. Ms Victoria obtained a swing to her of 11.8% at the last state election. However, the recent re-distribution leaves Bayswater with a notional 6.8% margin in favour of the the sitting member.
Sophie Boyd and Sarah Maunder from RMIT University spoke to the three major contenders for Bayswater from the Liberal, Labor and Greens parties.
Unfortunately, the original podcast was marred by technical problems. This is a transcript of that podcast.
BAYSWATER ELECTORATE PROFILE PODCAST
SOPHIE BOYD: Hullo and welcome to the Bayswater electorate podcast in partnership with UNIPOLLWATCH. I’m Sophie Boyd.
SARAH MAUNDER: And I’m Sarah Maunder. The Victorian election will be held on 29 November and the entire state will be given the chance to choose their political representation for the next four years.
SOPHIE BOYD: We will be taking an in-depth look at the seat of Bayswater by introducing you to the candidates and the major issues in the area. The Bayswater electorate encompasses an area of almost forty square kilometres in the outer eastern suburbs – including the suburbs of Boronia, Heathmont and Bayswater.
SARAH MAUNDER: There are over thirty-four thousand voters who live in the electorate and the seat is held by Liberal MP, Heidi Victoria. The last election saw a swing of 11.8% towards Liberal and Ms Victoria’s retaining the seat she has held since 2006.
SOPHIE BOYD: There are two other major candidates contesting Ms Victoria’s seat: James Tennant from the Greens and the Labor representative, Tony Dib. We sat down with each candidate to discuss their political and personal motivations as well as their views on Bayswater issues.
SARAH MAUNDER: Liberal member, Heidi Victoria, decided to enter politics after she moved to Bayswater and went to enrol her daughter in a local school with a world-famous bi-lingual program. However, (according to Ms Victoria), the principal admitted the language program had just been axed after twenty-four years and Ms Victoria didn’t feel the local MP was doing enough.
HEIDI VICTORIA: I don’t think they’re trying really hard. They actually don’t want this really successful program to survive and if they’re not standing up for our kids and education, what else are we missing out on? So, I said to the principal, “Are you happy for me to fight, I believe in saving this program” and she said, “If you think you can make a difference, go for it”. And that’s what lead me into parliament. I hated the fact that the Labor Party, at that time, were taking away services from our children.
SARAH MAUNDER: The program has now been running for thirty-two years. Last year, Ms Victoria was made a member of the coalition cabinet taking on the portfolios of arts, consumer affairs and women’s affairs. Before politics, Ms Victoria owned and operated a photography business and has been involved with charities for over thirty years. She prides herself on her involvement in the Bayswater electorate.
HEIDI VICTORIA: I can’t tell you what an honour it is to represent the people of Bayswater knowing that they’re just like me. They want to work hard for their families, they want to get ahead, you know, live an honest life.
SOPHIE BOYD: Local business man and two- time mayor of the Maroondah City Council, Tony Dib, was drawn into politics after feeling issues close to home weren’t being addressed.
TONY DIB: The reason I stood for Council is that the issue that concerns me, my children and my grandchildren wasn’t addressed by the Council back then. And that issue, not just, like, an extra rate increase. That’s not what’s the main issue. The issue that concerns sports clubs and local roads and footpaths and stuff like that.
SOPHIE BOYD: Over coffee in the heart of Bayswater, the Labor candidate told us he believes the people of Bayswater deserve more.
TONY DIB: I know what they deserve and they’re not getting it from this government. That’s why I’m standing for parliament and if I’m lucky enough to win and Labor wins government to deliver those essential services to the people in the electorate of Bayswater.
SARAH MAUNDER: This will be the third election attempt for Greens candidate, James Tennant, who strongly believes in a diversity of views despite the uphill battle he faces to win the seat.
JAMES TENNANT: So even though you know you’re not going to win, which sounds pretty negative from a politician, or a part-time politician as I say, but that’s the reality. But, if we can get the balance of power and also just to raise Green issues because people need a choice and I feel really, at the moment, there is very little vote at a state or federal level to differentiate between the two major parties.
SARAH MAUNDER: Mr Tennant was a teacher for fifteen years and now runs a company called Easy Guides that produces picture-based, educational books to assist and train people with low-level English literacy. In addition, he also volunteered as an educator for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, and because of this, a major issue he stands against is the cuts to TAFE education.
JAMES TENNANT: By cutting TAFEs, we’ve really cut that opportunity for people to gain skills and, I mean, Australia keeps saying we need skilled people and TAFE was doing a really good job of that.
SARAH MAUNDER: He’s seen first-hand the impact, he claims, this has had on the electorate.
JAMES TENNANT: Look, the closest TAFE would probably be Lilydale, which was closed altogether and a lot of people were relying on that and it’s an outer suburban area and with Lilydale (TAFE) gone, you know, there’s really nothing else at all. I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone who thinks to cut TAFEs was a good thing.
SOPHIE BOYD: While the overall crime-rate in Bayswater has risen 17%, the rate of domestic violence has sky-rocketed 30%. Some of this can be attributed to an increase in reporting. But it is still a staggering figure and a major concern to the electorate. We asked the (major) Bayswater candidates what they thought of the figures and how this can be addressed.
HEIDI VICTORIA: Well, domestic violence I think is something we have to stand very tall on and say, it will not be tolerated anywhere, anytime, any place: it’s just not on. So, we’ve done all sorts of fabulous programs, including new partnerships with, for example, the Municipal Association of Victoria, where we’re actually promoting council engagement in preventing violence against women, but it’s not just about women, it’s also about making sure that men understand. So lots of good educational programs would be for men but also providing that back-up for women: places where they can go if they’re not feeling safe or if they’re in in a domestic violence situation.
JAMES TENNANT: You know, violence towards women just isn’t on and. you know, what is the source of that violence and really changing the way people are educated on this issue and that can be done at a school level, both primary and secondary,. They say knowledge is is power so I think as people become much more aware of those issues, it becomes much harder for people to offend because people know that this isn’t right.
TONY DIB: I think every single one of us should be there to help, not just the governments, and the governments should provide also. And especially single mothers because it’s no fault of theirs at all believing that guy is a prince to love and cherish them forever. My youngest daughter thought that and then he happened to be a very bad man. And she left him. She’s got kids. But she got me. But if I wasn’t in a position to help out, where would she live?
SARAH MAUNDER: A local issue of great contention among residents and politicians alike is the removal of two level-crossings at Mountain Highway and Scoresby Road. Labor’s Tony Dib voiced the concerns of some residents that the promise to remove the crossings within Ms Victoria’s term in office has been unfulfilled.
TONY DIB: The level crossing, it’s a disaster. come 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock. They turn their back on that. Canterbury Road – as a council we’ve been lobbying to get … somebody going to get killed opposite in the shopping centre or Armstrong Road. So all this stuff that really matters to every one of us. I make an announcement now, if Labor wins and I win Bayswater, and this one here it doesn’t get done, I’ll sign the document now and a letter of resignation from Parliament.
SARAH MAUNDER: Ms Victoria explained the issue is not that simple.
HEIDI VICTORIA: Yes, I have said I’d really like these level-crossings removed and the government is committed to that process and we’ve already started, I think we’ve spent … off the top of my head … I think it’s about two and a half million dollars. That was for the community consultation, for the engineering plan. So this is all stuff that people can’t see I guess. But a lot of people remember the consultations. We had to make sure that local businesses would not be affected when we do this. And we also needed to make sure it was going to work with traffic flow because these are notorious crossings.
JAMES TENNANT: So, if you can have fifty spots around the state where the railway line is lowered and boom-gates are removed then that helps the traffic flow, it means more trains can be put onto the line and that would help places like Bayswater
SOPHIE BOYD: Thank you for listening to the UNIPOLLWATCH’S Bayswater podcast with Sophie Boyd and Sarah Maunder.
SARAH MAUNDER: Before we leave you, here’s the final message from the three candidates to their voters.
JAMES TENNANT: If people have a strong sense of social justice then they’re going to vote for a party like the Greens. And another thing I think is probably worth saying is a lot of people – not a lot of people but not everyone understands the preferential system and they think, why should I vote for the Greens, you know, they’re not going to get into government. Well the two reasons I’d say are that they can get the balance of power in the upper house in Victoria. That’s one reason. And you can always vote 1 Green and give your second vote to whatever political party you want and if the Green candidate doesn’t get in, then, with the preferential system, they then look at your second choice and see if your second choice with preferences has enough to get in. If the second person doesn’t get in, the preferences flow to the third person so, really, if someone’s a Labor or Liberal voter, or anything else for that matter, they can vote Green 1 and for the other party too and if the Green candidate doesn’t get in, they’re effectively voting for their Labor or Liberal or independent or whatever other choice they’ve got. So, yeah, a vote for the Greens is definitely not wasted.
TONY DIB: This government has given us basically hardly anything except the last few months because the election is around the corner. Whether it’s sports grounds or youth services, whatever, we’ve basically got nothing. And that really upsets me.
HEIDI VICTORIA: I stood for parliament for all the right reasons. I stood because I hate inequity. I hate social injustice. And I wanted to make a difference. I’ve recently compiled a list of some of the things we’ve managed to achieve and I say “we” because it’s very much a team effort – my staff here are fantastic as well. And what we’ve achieved over the last eight years and certainly what we’ve achieved as a government in the last four years, and I sat back and I thought, “I’m really proud of this”.