Time to de­cide lead­ers

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

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.

Pic­ture: PAUL CAR­RACHER

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.

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