LAST year I invited all political parties in the Victorian State Parliament to nominate for the Western Port Strategic Management Plan Group 1 Handicap to be run on Saturday, November 26.
Prize: The satisfaction that comes from helping the people of Victoria safeguard Western Port and its bioregion.
The acceptance requirements are:
- an election policy plank presenting a visionary concept for Western Port and its region;
- an ecosystem-based business plan that sets goals, objectives, implementation and measurement strategies that will assist the four councils bordering Western Port and their communities achieve a sustainable and equitable future; and
- a willingness to engage with the Western Port Conservation group lobbying to protect Western Port, its environs and French Island.
To help you assess the field, here’s a guide to the current form:
Fiona Patten’s Reason Party
1 Legislative Council seat. Electorate: Northern Metropolitan.
Made a promising start and looked into what would be required to develop a Western Port Strategic Management Plan (WPSMP). If the matter comes before the Legislative Council, in principle the party would support it.
They have shown in previous races a determination to take on all contenders – on a firm track, could take up the front running.
Animal Justice Party:
1 Legislative Council seat. Electorate: Western Victoria.
No response – better suited to a maiden event for the time being.
Liberal Nationals Coalition
21 Liberal Party and 6 Nationals Legislative Assembly seats and 10 Liberal Party and 1 Nationals Legislative Council seats.
Following the leadership challenge, only one member of the party has expressed interest and the new leader has not responded despite heralding the Liberal Nationals “Recover and Rebuild” strategy. There is no mention of the Western Port region in this policy.
The Nationals are silent from the top down, despite holding an upper house seat that takes in the Western Port region.
Probably needs another run or two to build up stamina. Removing the blinkers may help their chances.
Transport Matters Party
1 Legislative Council seat. Electorate: Eastern Metropolitan.
I doubt they will be ready in time for acceptance.
Sustainable Australia Party
1 Legislative Council seat. Electorate: Southern Metropolitan.
In a lead up event In the Legislative Council, set the pace and extracted three answers from the government related to the WPSMP. The parliamentary representative is waiting on instructions from the Party to see how a WPSMP will dovetail into their broad environment policy.
Has best form so far, but may not be able to run the full distance.
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party
2 Legislative Council seats. Electorates: Western Victoria and Northern Victoria.
Showed interest and a willingness to discuss the matter but their policies are primarily centred on justice-related issues.
Is an honest performer and the trainer may yet reconsider their chances.
Australian Labor Party
55 Legislative Assembly and 16 Legislative Council seats.
Has been racing over a long period and must be due for a spell soon – may be able to handle one more race. Carries a heavy weight: three separate management plans predominantly about protecting the coastal fringes and the marine environment. So far, has not taken a holistic approach to the issues confronting Western Port and its region.
Good pedigree and resources but can be distracted by the crowd.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Victoria
1 Legislative Council seat. Electorate: Eastern Victoria. This seat takes in the Western Port region.
No response but Vote 1 video clip says: “We champion the underdog. Fight for our outdoor recreation and stand up for rural communities.”
On paper this looks impressive, but probably not yet ready to step up to a Group 1 event.
3 Legislative Assembly seats and 1 Legislative Council seat.
Early form showed promise. They have since supported the idea of this plan but developing a strategic regional plan may be beyond their resources as they do not have an MP in this region who could work with the community to develop a policy. If able to gain the balance of power, may be more inclined to help the government of the day achieve the objective.
Watch closer to race day, particularly if the matter becomes a ‘green issue’ and the race tightens up.
2 Legislative Council seats. Electorates: South Eastern Metropolitan and Northern Victoria.
The South Eastern Metropolitan takes in the some of the Western Port region. Slow to respond but settling into racing and showing good form. One of the connections said, “It does seem like the current planning approach is not as effective as it could be in both protecting the environment and providing clarity and guidance for business.”
Shows promise, worth watching.
Locally, one seat of interest is Nepean, currently held by the Labor Party. It holds the seat with a slender majority and perhaps its fate will come down to who can present the best WPSMP.
The Liberals are keen to win back this seat, but still have a lot of work to do if they are going to formulate a WPSMP and line up at the barrier.
Missing, so far, is an Independent nominee. Independents with a clear vision of what is required, and who are prepared to work with the community, can pip the others on the post. There is still time for a nominee like this to enter.
On race day, think carefully about your choice. As Greta Thunberg once said, “You must take action. You must do the impossible. Because giving up is never an option.”