November 25, 2014 – 12:25PM
By Keryn Reynolds
Mr Ben Taylor, the Liberal candidate for the marginal seat of Buninyong, is clearly a busy man.
Last week he was on the run from media over comments he made concerning ‘rolling back abortion laws’ and now his party has also reportedly ‘muzzled’ him.
For over two months, Mr Taylor has refused repeated requests for an interview by UniPollWatch to discuss his background, experiences and vision for Buninyong.
Sadly, the real losers are the voters of Buninyong, who can only continue to guess about the character of the man who so keenly wants to represent them, unless of course they have met him face to face.
But between an Internet search, his Facebook page, media and UniPollWatch reports, it’s possible to build a picture around the elusive Mr Taylor.
He was educated in Ballarat, although details are lacking, and has spent the ‘vast majority’ of his life living and working in Ballarat.
He does not seem to have any tertiary qualifications.
He has a ‘background in computer systems and business management’ and works for a local IT company. UniPollWatch understands he is a salesman at the IT company.
He and his wife, Christine, are raising their young four children ‘locally’, which suggests he may live in the Buninyong electorate.
Apparently, he likes The Beatles, doesn’t have a favourite TV show and loves roast lamb with veggies on a Sunday afternoon.
He first ran for Parliament as the Liberal candidate for Ballarat East in 2010, narrowly losing to Labor’s Geoff Howard by less than 1100 votes. At the time it was only Green preferences that got Mr Howard over the line.
Back in 2010, he entered state politics because he was disappointed in what he was seeing during his four-year term on council, saying ‘The council just bypassed the local member and went straight to Melbourne. I felt Ballarat East needed better representation.’
He is a former Ballarat councilor and deputy mayor on what many consider a Liberal dominated council.
This year he says he’s running in the state election because he ‘strongly believes in community’ and is passionate ‘about people and making sure we get what we deserve in the electorate.’
He has run a relatively sledge-free campaign, although his media releases regularly accuse the sitting MP, Mr Howard, of falling ‘asleep at the wheel’, of not ‘fighting for our local community’ and ‘failing to represent’ the electorate.
In October he called on Mr Howard to apologise for ‘running a tired and old scare campaign causing unnecessary stress and fear’ to local Buninyong residents about changes to residential zones.
But the government had changed most of Buninyong from a neighbourhood residential zone to a general residential zone, effectively allowing most 800 square meters home blocks to be subdivided into 300 square meters.
In September when the Liberal Planning Minister, Mr Matthew Guy, went against Ballarat Council recommendations and made the changes, Mr Taylor welcomed the announcement saying local residents ‘deserve to have certainty about the type of development they can expect in their area.’ Read UniPollWatch’s story on this here.
Last week at a Christian organised candidate forum in Ballarat he was recorded saying ‘… we’ve probably gone a little bit too far when you start talking about post-20-week abortions through to birth… when you hear statistics and see what it is, it’s pretty horrific… I look at a moral issue, when you look at a room in Ballarat that you’re saving a baby’s life that’s premature and then another room in Ballarat you’re terminating that life, I think that’s very questionable.’
The Liberal Party subsequently was reported to have muzzled him from making further media comments on the issue.
His comments so worried his coalition partner, Ms Sonia Smith, that she announced she could not in good conscience preference Mr Taylor second, going against her party’s wishes.
Instead Ms Smith has printed up her own how to vote cards, asking voters to put her first, and make their own decisions on preferences.
On abortion and same sex marriage, Mr Taylor’s media adviser responded to UniPollWatch email questions, confirming that Mr Taylor did say at a forum last week that, ‘life begins in the womb at conception’ and ‘marriage is between a man and a woman’.
He appears to have developed his views around same-sex marriage from five months ago. Back then he said, ‘For me, I haven’t really thought or talked too much about that issue. In my environment I look at where I live with my kids and what affects me, for other people it affects them as well. Should it be legal? I am not really stressed too much about it.’
He’s made a number of pledges on road safety improvements across the electorate in the last months, including installing flashing speed signs in Meredith, and a planned safety upgrade in Sebastopol. Read UniPollWatch’s story on this here.
Mr Taylor hasn’t supported the creation of a state park in Mount Clear, unlike his coalition partner, Ms Smith. Mr Taylor did however, ‘have a look’ at the forest with ‘the Minister, but at the moment we have to follow a process for state parks and there is a native title issue.’ Read UniPollWatch’s story on this here.
Mr Taylor supports the East West Link saying he expects local people ‘will also gain direct and indirect employment as a result of the project.’
When he was a Ballarat councillor, Mr Taylor defended council’s decision not to take a stand against the State Governments TAFE cuts, saying although they would have an impact in Ballarat, making a political statement was not appropriate.
On other matters, Mr Taylor has pledged $27,362 to the Ballarat East Men’s Shed to refurbish the workspace; $530,000 to upgrade the Marty Busch Reserve in Sebastopol; $60,000 for the building of a new Men’s Shed in Sebastopol, and $350,000 for the Buninyong Recreation Reserve.
The coalition has also made other pledges related to Buninyong.
If re-elected, the coalition pledges to move VicRoads headquarters to Ballarat creating 600 new jobs, although current staff will also retain their jobs; allocate $178 million to improve the frequency of long distance train travel across the state including an additional 50 trips each week between Melbourne and Ballarat; give $15 million for a new indoor basketball/netball stadium for Ballarat; boost funds for emergency services and the CFA; give $83 million in investment for Ballarat health services; give $5-8 million to develop the Federation University Technical Park Central; allocate $400,000 towards the Buninyong town square; give $2 million for a new kinder garden at Canadian; fund for new tennis courts at Gordon and spend $46.4 million on an upgrade to the Ballarat Base Hospital.
Keryn Reynolds is a Master of Journalism student at the University of Melbourne