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Menzies stays blue despite Labor, Green gains

THE FEDERAL ELECTORATE of Menzies bucked the trend and was retained by the outgoing Liberal government after an otherwise landslide election of the Albanese Labor Government.
A massive 6.1 per cent swing to Labor in Menzies was not enough to take the seat from Liberal hands, so Keith Wolahan has claimed victory in the seat that Kevin Andrews has held since 1991.
Liberal Party retains Menzies Mr Wolahan released a statement following Naomi Oakley conceding the seat almost a week after the polls closed.

“I want to begin by thanking each of the other candidates (Naomi Oakley, Bill Pheasant, Greg Cheesman, Nathan Scaglione, John Hayes, and Sanjeev Sabhlok), their families, and their volunteers.
Thank you to the people of Menzies who have put your trust in me.
My commitment remains the same: I will fight for our community, put the national interest first, and give my all to represent you in our federal parliament.
Thank you to my dedicated party members, volunteers, and supporters for your efforts, your belief in our cause, and your faith in me.
For over 12 months, we have been out in our community, listening to their hopes, aspirations, and concerns.
I never have, and will never, take the people of Menzies for granted. To my party, there is no sugar-coating what happened on May 21.
The loss of Josh Frydenberg, Tim Wilson, Katie Allen, and Gladys Liu is a devastating blow.
As a party, a movement, and a family, we must listen, learn, and regroup.
If we do that work and draw upon our core beliefs, we will come back stronger for it.
Finally, can I thank my family, especially Sarah, Leo, Eva, Mum and Dad.
I wouldn’t be here without you, and I love you.”

Mr Wolahan gave a special mention to the community of Warrandyte, telling the Diary:

“There is nowhere else quite like Warrandyte.
“I could think of no greater honour than to be your voice in our nation’s parliament”.

Labor comes close

While Menzies remains a Liberal seat, it may not be as safe as it once was.
At the Warrandyte booth, with support from Greens preferences, Ms Oakley was the front runner, 878 — 669.
Likewise, in North Warrandyte, Labor won 504 — 272. The newer booths in Menzies, in the Whitehorse Council area that were included after redistribution, also favoured the Labor candidate.
While there was solid support for Mr Wolahan in Wonga Park, Doncaster, Templestowe and Bulleen to tip the Liberals over the line, at one stage, Ms Oakley was within 45 votes of Mr Wolahan in early counting before the margin became unassailable.
She conceded defeat a week after polls were closed, as the gap nudged 2,000 votes.
Ms Oakley sat down with the Diary to discuss the result.

“I really wanted to get it over the line; it was a six per cent swing, which is pretty much unheard of, but it would have been great to get it over the line.
“My dad said to me; it’s going to be a very difficult seat to win.
“I think there was the consensus from some of the oldest parts of the party that we’re never going to win it — it was sort of unwinnable, and of course, when the results started to come through, they were pretty shocked as well,” she said.

She said the redistribution to include Box Hill and Blackburn into the seat added to the unknowns.
“It’s a marginal seat now.”
Being a safe Liberal seat going into the election, her party did not focus its efforts on the seat.

“My energy went into phoning people — because I only had a limited budget, but I also had a limited crew.
“And obviously, they were volunteers — I just did the best I could with what I had.
“And, you know, I think the phoning was a huge part of getting through to people.
“But also, once they started to understand my backstory, it resonated with a lot of the Menzies community.
“The people of Menzies want someone who is grassroots who can relate to the many issues the community faces.”

She said it was rewarding calling people over those six weeks, “I was able to help several family violence survivors by doing that and families struggling with mental health issues as well”.
She said there were several unexpected events during the campaign.

“I had Kevin Andrews turn up to one of the booths, congratulate me, and wish me luck.
“A couple of his supporters voted for me as a protest [at Mr Andrews losing preselection].

Ms Oakley said that despite the loss, she enjoyed the campaign and said this is not the last we will see of her.

“It was great to be a part of it — and it is great that it is not unwinnable anymore.
“My political career is probably not over; I’m going to try and see if I can run for the State election; I think I’m going to give it a crack because I think there is an opportunity there for me [to be a local voice] — and I think people would like that.
“I think there’s definitely room for more women — that’s coming through loud and clear.
“I put everything on hold to run — to do my best.
“I’m happy with how I went here, it would have been great to get the prize, but that didn’t happen.
“Dad ran for Deakin under Gough Whitlam, and he missed out by 400 votes.
“Dad’s been amazing support just as a mentor — as well as Sonja Terpstra.
“To have that support of people who have been there or are doing that.
“And hopefully, Keith can actually deliver on his promises, like Five Ways.”

Greens make headway

Garnering a 3.5 per cent swing, Warrandyte resident and Green’s Candidate Bill Pheasant made a creditable showing in the polls, earning 13.7 per cent of the primary vote.
With most Green preferences flowing to Labor, it was a significant factor in almost delivering the seat to Labor. Bill Pheasant told the Dairy:

“I am pleased to have run for the first time as a Greens candidate, helping make Menzies a marginal seat — one that will now benefit from increased attention.
As a Warrandyte resident, I wanted to push for more decisive action to protect this incredible ecosystem that sustains us and reimagine politics as a profoundly important activity: where facts are important, where everyone in the community matters where incompetence is not rewarded.
I congratulate Keith Wolahan as the new representative for Menzies.
It was great to spend time with all the candidates — well done all for giving many voices a chance to be heard.”

Other candidates on the Menzies ballot could not breach the 4 per cent threshold, with the Liberal Democrats Greg Cheesman and United Australia Party’s Nathan Scaglione each taking 3.5 per cent of primary votes. One Nation’s mystery candidate, John Hayes, took 2.2 per cent of the vote, while Federation Party’s Sanjeev Sabhlok received 0.9 per cent.

Labor promises to spend big on public transport

‘TIS THE SEASON for election promises, and the Andrew’s Labor Party has brought out a doozy, the Suburban Rail Loop, which will form an outer ring around Melbourne, and importantly for the area, provide a station at Doncaster, finally linking Manningham into the rail network.

This is not the Doncaster Rail that has long been called for, but combined with the Bus Rapid Transit service that has been proposed to run along the promised Eastern Freeway upgrade incorporated with the North East Link, this could be good news for Warrandyte commuters.

It is unusual in recent times for governments to commit to such a long-term project, as the four-year election cycle does not often reward such far-sighted policy.

Premier Andrews says that the Suburban Rail Loop project will transform Victoria’s public transport system, providing an underground rail connection between Melbourne’s major employment, health services, education and activity precincts outside the central business district.

There is also promised to be a connection to the airport, providing a direct link for travellers without having to tackle the roads or transit via the CBD, the rail journey from Box Hill or Doncaster taking only around 30 minutes.

Presently, using public transport to travel between Warrandyte and the airport can take around two hours, if travellers want to avoid travelling into the CBD to take SkyBus.

“Trains on some sections of this new suburban rail loop will travel at up to 130 kilometres an hour and will be able to deliver very fast services,” Mr Andrews said at a recent press conference.

Greens’ candidate for Warrandyte in the upcoming election, Ben Ramcharan told the Diary that the Suburban Rail Loop will be a much-needed addition to our public transport system, but without upgrades to existing rail lines, he fears overcrowding will continue.

“I’m personally very excited to see plans for a train station in Doncaster as part of the Suburban Rail Loop.

“This will bring rail services even closer to our community in Warrandyte and is something that the Greens have been pushing for for a long time,” he said.

Undoubtedly, the planned project will fundamentally change public transport around Melbourne, moving from a “spoke and wheel” system to a “web”, directly connecting suburbs without the need to travel via the CBD and reducing reliance on the radial transport and road networks.

It will not happen overnight, the project is expected to be completed in stages over multiple decades, with the nal completion projected out to 2050.

The first stages are planned to commence construction in 2022, beginning with the south-east section from Cheltenham to Box hill and the Airport link to Sunshine.

Project delivery

Exact project staging, timing, route and construction methodology has not yet been released, but Mr Andrews says it will be con rmed as part of the full business case for the project.

Cheltenham to Box Hill (south-east)

  • Fully underground rail to minimise impacts.
  • Further technical assessment required to determine precise station locations, staging and construction timeline as part of the full business case.
  • Target work to commence by end- 2022.

Box Hill to Melbourne Airport (north-east)

  • Fully underground rail to minimise impacts.
  • Further technical assessment required to determine precise station locations, staging and construction timeline as part of the full business case.

Melbourne Airport to Sunshine (north-west, Airport Rail Link)

  • Potential sections of underground and surface rail.
  • Technical assessment being undertaken as part of the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.
  • Target work to commence in 2022.

Sunshine to the Werribee line (south-west)

  • Potential sections of underground and surface rail.
  • Further technical assessment required for this stage as part of the full business case.
  • To be constructed in sections over a period of decades.

With a headline budget of $50 billion, the actual costings are yet to be released, but the Government has said that the combined Suburban Rail Loop south-east and north-east sections are expected to cost in the order of $30–50 billion, and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link section is expected to cost $8–13 billion.

Local Liberal member, Ryan Smith said that while the Liberal Party supports road and rail infrastructure, he is concerned that the election promise has been developed outside Infrastructure Victoria.

“The devil is in the detail, which is why this idea needs to be sent to Infrastructure Victoria for proper assessment, costing and planning,” he said.

“The Andrews Government set up Infrastructure Victoria in the first place, to allegedly ‘take the politics out of infrastructure’, yet this proposal is not one that has been assessed by that agency, nor did it feature in Infrastructure Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure plan,” he said.

The Government have not yet outlined the funding arrangements for the project, however the project’s Strategic Assessment states “opportunities to o set capital costs and capture value will be considered in the full business case”.

“This includes direct commercial arrangements or developments at stations together with broader value capture mechanisms”.

Mr Smith said he thinks this project will hit Victorians in the hip pocket.

“Worryingly, Daniel Andrews won’t rule out new taxes to fund this project,” he said.

Mr Smith says Governments must plan for the future, “however Melbourne’s commuters are sitting in traffic and standing in crowded trains today — they need a plan for today, not one that will only reduce growing congestion in 30 years’ time.”

Meanwhile the Liberal Party, so far, have more modest promises for Victoria’s rail network,

Liberals’ current promises are:

  • $487 million to extend the Cranbourne line to Clyde, adding both Cranbourne East and Clyde railway stations.
  • $450 million to extend the Frankston line with an electri ed, twin track to Baxter.
  • $300 million to duplicate the Hurstbridge line between Greensborough and Eltham, rebuild Montmorency station and add carparks at Greensborough, Montmorency and Eltham stations. $77 million to increase services and improve track conditions to Shepparton.

However, Mr Smith says “there will be others as the next three months progress”.

Both major parties have promises of massive infrastructure plans for eastern Melbourne, with the Liberals promising to construct an East West Link before they consider developing their own plans for a North East Link.

Labor is continuing its focus on public transport improvements alongside a North East Link and improved Eastern Freeway.

 

Times are changing

‘There’s never been a more exciting time….’ is an oft-repeated quote by the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. With a double dissolution election looming and a very long election campaign ahead, perhaps not many would agree with him.

While much can be put down to hindsight and history, for me the most exciting time of change was back in the 1970s. The ‘60s had seen major shifts in attitudes overseas and it seemed by 1970 that Australia too, with its increased prosperity and changes in migration, was on the cusp of a transformation.

Think 1970. Warrandyte was a small rural township out on the north eastern edge of Melbourne. The suburbs had not yet reached out to encircle our village and it was surrounded by orchards and open space. The Warrandyte Diary had commenced with a four page black and white edition, Potters Cottage had opened its new restaurant to complement its pottery gallery, a State Park was proposed but not formalised, the Warrandyte Environment League was active, and the post office still operated from the old post office in Yarra Street.

Some proposed subdivisions were proving controversial but more houses were being built and young families were moving into the town. Think Australia still involved in the Vietnam War with large demonstrations held in opposition to the war and conscription. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer was published in 1970. The emergence of the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Women’s Electoral Lobby meant the role and treatment of women in Australia was coming under increasing debate. For many women this was heady stuff.

At that time Australia had been governed by a Liberal Government for 23 years, firstly with Sir Robert Menzies for 16 years from 1944-1966, then with Harold Holt, John Gorton and Billy McMahon in quick succession. Meanwhile, Victoria had been ruled by Sir Henry Bolte’s Liberals for 15 years. However, views were shifting in Australia and there was a mood afoot for political, economic and social change in both areas of government.

Forward to 1972 and the It’s Time Labor campaign. Labor opposition leader Gough Whitlam put forward a socially progressive program of measures. The campaign was borne along with Gough’s much vaunted oratory as well as the advertisements and It’s Time jingle. Celebrities of the day singing in the advert included Bert Newton, Graham Kennedy, Bobby Limb, Jackie Weaver and Little Pattie. It proved to be a winner; it didn’t mention Labor or Gough Whitlam but suited the mood of the moment.

There was a real fizz and buzz around the campaign.

Warrandyte was, at that time, included in the Federal seat of Casey held by the Liberals. It was the most marginal in the country so received a great deal of attention being considered a real litmus test for the election. Unlike today’s broad-based media political campaigns and social media, then it was local meetings and face-to-face contact to ensure voters met the candidates.

Warrandyte had an active branch of the Labor Party with Fred Davis (who later stood (unsuccessfully) as a Labour candidate in the state election of 1976) encouraging locals to attend some meetings.

Gough Whitlam received a rock star welcome at a Ringwood meeting and it was an exhilarating experience. Artist Clifton Pugh was an active Labor supporter and held a meeting in his house at Cottlesbridge where his pet wombat provided an entertaining diversion rubbing his back against one of the pew seats.

At the election in December 1972, the Whitlam Labor Government was swept into power with its reformist agenda. The pace of change was amazing and its many achievements included ending conscription, supporting a wide range of women’s issues, introducing universal health care and free university education and many more.

It has often been said it tried to do too much too quickly. It ran foul of a hostile Senate and eventually in 1974 called a double dissolution election, which it won. But it was plagued by a number of scandals and a deteriorating economy and following further hostile Senate action was dismissed by the Governor-General in November 1975 and then subsequently defeated at the next election.

There can, however, be little doubt that it changed the face of Australia at the time.

Meantime, also in 1972 in Victoria, the long Liberal government of Sir Henry Bolte drew to a close with his retirement. He was replaced by Rupert Hamer (later Sir) who won the state election in 1973 with the slogan ‘Hamer Makes it Happen’ and a socially progressive agenda to modernise and liberalise government in Victoria. It was another rewarding and productive time. He was the first premier to establish an Arts ministry.

His commitment to the environment led to the declaration of Warrandyte State Park, protection of the Yarra River and the Green Wedge concept. His government strengthened environmental protection laws, abolished the death penalty, decriminalised abortion and homosexuality, and introduced anti-discrimination laws amongst many others. He was personally both environmentally aware and supportive of the arts and remained in power until 1981. His legacy remains today through many of his environmental and art initiatives.

It is hard to encapsulate the profound transformation these two governments, one Labor and one Liberal, achieved, and the effect they had on Warrandyte as well as on individuals. For me at the time, the protection of the environment and the changes to women’s roles were the most important personally. Since then, though, it has become apparent just how transformative the changes were, and how following governments and the community generally have continued to benefit from those achievements. Of course everyone will have a different take on ‘there’s never been a more exciting time…..’ However, Australia does appear once again to be standing on the brink of change with a looming Federal double dis- solution election and two ‘newbies’ who have not yet faced an election as leaders.

They face enormous challenges such as climate change, increasing refugee numbers and greater globalization, and in an ever-changing world. It is to be hoped that perhaps someone in 40 years time will look back at this election as one of those that became a transforming force for good. But then history and hindsight can be a wonderful thing …