Time to decide leaders
The build-up to this weekend’s state election for a large percentage of western Victoria has been a tale of two similar but politically different lowerhouse electorates.
Neighbouring Lowan and Ripon districts collectively make a geographically massive area, where communities share similar socio-economic circumstances, cultural values and ways of life.
Yet subtle historical differences have meant the districts are politically worlds apart. Ripon voters have consistently showed a propensity to swing to either side of the political spectrum while their counterparts to the west have shored up Lowan as a conservative stronghold.
In any competition people, especially powerbrokers, are generally more interested in the players, conditions, form and potential to move forward if there is a chance it will be close.
Expectations are that the battle for Ripon, held by the Liberals’ Louise Staley, will be close affair. The seat has attracted a healthy collection of candidates with a broad cross-section of interests and motivations.
We’ve also seen a seemingly unending series of community-service funding announcements from Labor – which obviously believes it is well in the hunt to win Ripon through candidate Sarah De Santis.
The latest haymaker designed to put Labor in Ripon voters’ good books came on cue late last week as voters started to make the most of early-voting opportunities.
Premier Daniel Andrews joined Ms De Santis and Health Minister Jill Hennessey to announce a major funding promise for East Grampians Health Group’s Ararat Hospital.
Mr Andrews arrived in Ararat to announce Labor would provide $3.9-million for the health service to refurbish pathology and radiology departments.
The pledge would represent a mighty shot in the arm for what the health service could provide to its regional patients.
The motivation to make a political impression in Ripon is obvious and it is no surprise Mr Andrews made the trip. Win Ripon and you have greater power and influence in Spring Street to either govern or make a government work hard.
The story for Lowan is different, although both Labor and Coalition forces have been busy timing their announcements or talking up proposals.
Lowan voters are savvy enough to realise they are caught in an awkward political dilemma.
Few like the idea of being in a safe seat, which they claim puts them at a significant project-leverage disadvantage.
But they are also wary of who they back and whether candidates, other than the people they know and understand, can adequately represent them.
The Nationals’ Emma Kealy holds Lowan and rarely goes a week without publicly having something to say about her district or its circumstances.
Her main rivals this weekend are Labor’s Maurice Billi, who despite living in Ripon and coming into the election race late, is familiar with and respected across the region, and Barry Shea, who is trying to tap into the idea of creating an independent voice for the electorate.
The big-ticket issue for Lowan this election is a community desire to win back everyday passenger-rail services.
Labor’s commitment to the idea seems to stop at Ararat, in Ripon, and Kealy has won a Coalition promise to return services to Horsham, in Lowan, if it wins government.
There is also industry, health, education, telecommunications, security, environment, culture and so on, all to consider. And let’s not forget issues surrounding population.
At The Weekly Advertiser we encourage voters, if they haven’t done so already, to think hard about where they will place their votes.
RIPON PLEDGE: Left from centre, Health Minister Jill Hennessy, Catherine Andrews, Premier Daniel Andrews and Ripon Labor candidate Sarah De Santis, share a light-hearted moment with South Korean Australian Catholic University third-year nursing student Claire Lee during photographs at Ararat Hospital. Mr Andrews was at the hospital to announce $3.9-million for the refurbishment of pathology and radiology departments.