Battle for Melbourne Ports

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By Daniel Wilson

This election is beige – boring and shallow on substance. Who really cares which party forms government? New York City cab drivers are still going to ask you why Australia is torturing refugees and letting them burn alive, because that is our message to the world right now. That – and some dude who fought off a crocodile – that is what makes international news.

The outcome of this election is not going to change that. We are still going to fight off crocodiles, wreck the Great Barrier Reef, and hold refugees in cruel and humiliating off-shore detention centres.

danby1Many of us Melbourne Ports voters live in a progressive bubble full of lofty ideals that never quite find expression in the political process. You can sit at the end of Princess Pier, where almost half of all post World War II refugees arrived, and if you look east you will spot Fitzroy Street, where the LGBTIQ community marches with pride each year. From where you sit you will not be able to explain how in the last election Australia voted for a religious fundamentalist Prime Minister whose greatest achievement in office was eating a raw onion.

We all know what happened to Tony Abbott, so his successor Malcolm Turnbull decided to go full on beige with this election. “Jobs and Growth” is a farcical un-substantive slogan straight out of the pre-Google 90s when hollow messages still held sway. His opponent Bill Shorten was born beige.

When the major centrist parties run out of ideas, you get what is happening in the US and Europe. In the US the contest of ideas is between the quasi-fascist Trump and the quasi-communist Sanders. In Austria, Norbert Hofer lost the presidential election last month by less than 1%. He proudly wears a blue cornflower on his lapel, the symbol of the Austrian Nazi Party of the 1930s.

Michael-Danby-MP-at-Monarch-Cakes-in-Acland-St-Photo-by-Vidi-ChandraThis is what happens when the centre goes beige. The flanks open up. While the Liberal Party still seem to have the far right vote locked in, Labor does not have a Bernie Sanders in their ranks. And the Australian Greens Party leader Richard Di Natale is no Bernie Sanders either. He is also pretty beige.

The Greens only hold one lower house seat in federal parliament – the seat of Melbourne was successfully defended by Adam Bandt in the last election. But Di Natale announced at the start of this election campaign that they have a good chance to add four more in Victoria, and one is the progressive bubble we inhabit, the electorate this paper is based in.

Melbourne Ports is a three horse race and our electorate could be the seat that decides who forms government. Will we give the seat back to the incumbent Labor MP Michael Danby? Will the Greens manage to grab another lower house seat with Steph Hodgins-May? Will the Liberal candidate Owen Guest manage to wrestle this seat off Labor? You will decide on July 2.

Danby_May16-015What will you get for your vote?

Same-sex marriage:

The Federal Government has committed to a plebiscite on same-sex marriage sometime after the election. It is an expensive opinion poll. Moreover the religious right is going to take this opportunity to degrade, humiliate and dehumanise the LGBTIQ community.

At the behest of Michael Danby, South Australian Labor heavyweight Penny Wong came to our electorate for a town hall meeting on same-sex marriage. She spoke of the hate speech from religious fundamentalists that she has experienced.

Lovers of hate speech pressured Abbott into a plebiscite, despite overwhelming popular support for same-sex marriage, and it will go ahead under Turnbull who is being held hostage by the conservative faction of his party.

If you vote for Owen Guest you are voting to spend $525 million on an opinion poll. That includes at least $20 million in mental health costs of Australians impacted by tax payer funded hate speech. That is what accounting firm PwC Australia estimates.

If Labor forms government they will have a parliamentary conscience vote within the first 100 days instead of a plebiscite, meaning we will save a lot of money and avert a vicious public debate on something that the public wants.

Steph Hodgins-May assures us that if a parliamentary vote were held, every sitting member of the Australian Greens Party would vote in favour of same-sex marriage. Incidentally, last year the Greens introduced a bill in the Senate that would legalise same-sex marriage, but no vote took place.


On refugees Labor has a similar stance to the Liberals: Boat arrivals are bad and off-shore detention deters boats and decreases deaths at sea. To be fair, Labor has committed to doubling the refugee intake from about 14,000 to 28,000.

Michael Danby can quote the number of deaths at sea off the top of his head. There were many: 1,200 including hundreds of children under the Rudd-Gillard Government. It is an issue he takes seriously. Danby’s father escaped the Holocaust and came to Australia in 1939 as a refugee. Danby is a strong proponent of increasing funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which processes the claims of asylum seekers closer to their point of origin. He is adamant that under Labor the processing of refugees will happen much quicker and they will not have to languish in cruel and humiliating conditions.

Owen Guest argues Labor has a disastrous record on “boat people”. He can also rattle off numbers, 50,000 arrivals by sea, at least 1,200 deaths, and 2000 children in detention – those are the outcomes of a Labor policy.

While Guest claims to be sympathetic to the plight of asylum seekers, he tows the party line: “They may well be refugees, but they don’t get to choose which country they ultimately arrive in”. He argues the number of refugees that do get to settle in Australia is limited not by good will, but by the infrastructure required to successfully integrate them into Australia. It is hard to discern any good will when his Liberal colleague, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, said that refugees are illiterate welfare-recipients who take Australian jobs.

Owen_Guest_Donna_Killeen_32082_WEBThe Greens have totally capitalised on this issue. Their policy is to increase Australia’s refugee intake to 50,000 annually. They are running ads on social media asking for donations if you care about refugees. The Greens claim they can offer a safe, legal and humane alternative to dangerous boats – instead of just more cruelty.

Steph Hodgins-May explains that Australia spends more on off-shore detention centres than the entire annual budget of the UNHCR. The UNHCR does not have the recourses to process asylum seekers. It announced recently the average time a person is displaced is now nearly 20 years. So asylum seekers opt for people smuggles instead of remaining in immanent risk.

The idea that off-shore detention centres are saving lives simply does not hold water. It is telling them to go die elsewhere. According to the UNHCR, an estimated 350,000 took to the seas in search of asylum in 2014, of which more than 4000 individuals – including hundreds of children – did not survive the journey. That was Abbott’s first year on office, when he “stopped the boats” – 4000 dead.

Steph Hodgins-May sais “two people setting themselves on fire is a national disgrace, I think we will see a national apology similar to that of victims of sex abuse because we are creating a generation of damaged people.”


The Australia Institute estimates that 28% of residents in Melbourne Ports earn more than $80,000. They will be receiving a tax break according the budget released recently. Those earning below that threshold will not. Melbourne Ports is the highest per-capita income seat held by Labor anywhere in the country, and if you own an investment property you will want to be voting for Owen Guest.

A clear point of difference between the two major parties is negative gearing. Labor intends to mostly dismantle it, but the Liberals want to keep it in place. If you have an investment property that depreciates in value the government will subsidise that depreciation with tax breaks that cost at least $2 billion per year. That is a whopping $2 billion the government does not have to spend on those who are facing actual hardship.

The Liberal Party accepts donations from property developers who sell those apartments that immediately depreciate. Steph Hodgins-May does not mince words: “The Liberal and Labor parties have so many vested interests they have to listen to ahead of the people … I think they are open for rent.”

20160205_115214 - CopyInfrastructure:

The Melbourne Metro project will see an underground train station at Domain Interchange. The cost is about $11 billion, and the Victorian State Government is about $4 billion short. Anthony Albanese and Michael Danby held a press conference at Domain Interchange lamenting the fact that Malcolm Turnbull loves riding on public transport when he is in Melbourne, but does not want to cough up the dough for it.

The Turnbull Government has pledged $857 million toward the Melbourne Metro project, well short of what is needed. Instead they have pledged $3 billion toward the East-West Link, the freeway project that had already begun but was shelved at a cost of over $1 billion by Daniel Andrews when he formed government in Victoria. He believed he had a mandate to do so, but it still hurts to think that not doing something cost $1 billion.

ANDREWS-SHORTEN-DANBY-PrideMarch-1The Liberals seem to hold a grudge over this, and now a Labor State Government is at loggerheads with a Liberal Federal Government. Playing politics with expensive major infrastructure projects seems to be a sport at all levels of government in Australia. Every time there is a change of government money is spent to change or scrap a project, from the National Broadband Network to the St Kilda Triangle. The route of the Melbourne Metro project changes every time there is a change of government in Victoria, all the while Melbournians have been battling overcrowded trams and congested roads for years. It begs the question, where are the grownups?

When asked about Melbourne Metro, Owen Guest immediately suggested a change to the project, which was to add another underground station at South Yarra. That sounds a lot like the proposed route under the last Liberal State Government. When asked why it is so hard to find bipartisan agreement on major projects he blamed Labor: “It comes down to money, and your ability to implement an infrastructure project. It’s sad but true. Labor’s record in actually rolling out programs within budget is appalling – it’s atrocious, both at a state level and at a federal level.”

Owen_Guest_Donna_Killeen_3249_WEBHe probably has a point. Guest after all has a doctorate in economics and finance, and he runs a successful financial trading company. But Michael Danby points to the fact that the Melbourne Metro project as it is currently envisaged, was proposed by the independent body, Infrastructure Australia as the most cost effective spend of public money. And Danby assures us that Federal Labor will make up the shortfall and will help make the Melbourne Metro project happen if elected.

Steph Hodgins-May is supportive of the business case as outlines by Infrastructure Australia, but her Victorian Greens colleague Sam Hibbins has also been calling for an underground station at South Yarra. The two of them were on St Kilda Road last month calling for a separated bike path. St Kilda News has previously reported that St Kilda Road is the worst location in Victoria for car doorings, and Port Phillip Council has been campaigning for a separated bike path for some time now. The bike path as envisaged by Council would measure 5.9 kilometres and would come at an estimated cost of $12 million.

Stephanie_HM_Donna_Killeen_3129_WEBClimate change:

Sea levels will rise if temperatures rise and Melbourne Ports is at significant risk of inundation over the next 40 to 100 years. Environmentalism is the historic cornerstone of the Greens Party, and of course Steph Hodgins-May totally owns it.

She wasted no time rubbishing the major parties on their efforts: “The Labor Party and the Liberal Party are in lock step on a huge new Adani coalmine in Queensland. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s most treasured asset, and to think we are willing to sell that off for a coalmine that is out-dated and unnecessary is extraordinary.”

Owen Guest does not accept the criticism. He is adamant, when it comes to the environment “we’re on board”. He just does not agree with the methodology. “The Greens don’t have a mortgage on the environmental issue. We care. We just want to do things in a sensible way, in a balanced way that takes into account everything, and not just say we don’t approve of coal.”

Stephanie_HM_Donna_Killeen_3156_WEBWhile Labor has committed $500 million over four years to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the Liberals have made no such overt promises. The Liberal Party is committed to emissions reduction targets set at the Paris climate change conference this year. Australia will reduce emissions to 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

When it comes to renewable energy targets, the Liberals are less ambitious than the opposition. Under the current Renewable Energy Target, more than 23% of Australia’s electricity will come from renewable energy by 2020. Labor and the Greens say this does not go far enough. Labor has committed to 50% renewable energy by 2030. The Greens are committed to 90% renewable energy by 2030.


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