FORMER Bass Coast mayor Brett Tessari is a surprise entrant in the November state election after being selected as the National Party candidate for Bass.
The National Party has never contested the seat before and Bass is certainly not the party’s heartland, but they found it hard to pass up on the popular home-grown councillor and footy club president.
Mr Tessari spent two years as deputy mayor and three as mayor and has a considerable personal following. At the 2020 council election, he secured 6372 primary votes, almost half the ward total in a five-councillor contest.
Aaron Brown, a former deputy mayor of South Gippsland and son of former state Liberal leader Alan Brown, has been selected as the Liberal Party candidate.
Mr Tessari denied that he was standing to improve Mr Brown’s chances of winning the seat, which the Liberal Party held from 2002, when the seat was established, to 2018.
“I made it very clear when I was considering whether to stand that I was not interested in just taking the seat away from Labor,” Mr Tessari said. “I said I would only do this if the National Party shows they are serious about winning the seat.”
The party has already demonstrated its intent, with a surprise visit to Wonthaggi on Sunday by Victorian National Party leader Peter Walsh, who promised that if elected the Coalition would guarantee that 25 per cent of all new State Government infrastructure spending would go to the regions, in line with the population.
But how likely is a National Party win in Bass?
Mr Tessari acknowledged the path to victory would not be an easy one. “I reckon Liberal and Labor both have a 20,000 vote start on me so I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m going to get out into the community and listen to what people are saying.
“The federal election showed a lot of people are dissatisfied with the two major parties. There’s a lot said about the independents. The National Party is providing an alternative to the traditional Labor and Liberal.
“I’m very comfortable with the National Party platform of tackling coastal erosion mitigation, better public transport and roads and looking after our beautiful natural assets.”
On the latter he promises to speak up for permanent protection of the Western Port Woodlands in the face of a surge in sand mining. That would be a vote winner in a community that’s shown strong support for ending sand mining in remnant forest.