The Victorian Coalition government faces an uphill battle to win a second term in the November state elections. Its commitment to building the controversial East West Link toll road and the impact of the federal budget cuts has made the Coalition very unpopular.
Socialist Alliance candidate for Pascoe Vale Sean Brocklehurst said the East West Link is “a huge handout to big corporations.
“If we let the government get away with building the expensive East West Link, there will be no money to seriously expand public transport, and the health and education budgets are likely to be robbed to pay for it.”
Brocklehurst said parts of the Pascoe Vale electorate, which covers the suburbs of Coburg, Pascoe Vale, Oak Park, Hadfield and part of Glenroy, have very little or no easy access to public transport.
“If we are to stop Melbourne becoming gridlocked in 10 to 20 years' time, we need to stop funding huge road projects like the East West Link and spend the money on expanding public transport in regional areas, as well as shifting freight from road to rail.”
Sarah Hathway is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Geelong. Hathway said the government needs to reintroduce passenger rail services between Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong. She said public transport in regional areas is inadequate.
“Bad public transport plus unemployment from all of the factory closures in Geelong is a bad mix,” Hathway said. “How are people meant to look for work if they can’t afford to put petrol in their cars and there is hardly any public transport?”
Pascoe Vale and Geelong are affected by the impending closure of the Ford car factories and other manufacturing plants. Many residents of Coburg and Hadfield work in Ford’s Broadmeadows plant. Many people are still unemployed as a result of the last round of job cuts at Ford.
Instead of spending billions of dollars on the East West Link and training schemes that do little to help people move into employment, Brocklehurst and Hathway are calling for the money to be spent on providing real jobs.
Brocklehurst said: “We need the money to be spent on staffing all train stations, bringing back tram and train conductors, expanding public transport, health and education, and building more public housing.
“The Ford car plants in Geelong and Broadmeadows could even be taken over by the government to produce buses, trams and train carriages.”
Hathway opposes the state government’s plan to “create jobs” by expanding the prison system and employing more prison officers. As a TAFE student activist, Hathway was involved in the campaign to stop the government stripping $300 million out of the TAFE system, while the government was spending a similar amount on building a new prison at Ararat.
“The current state government is doing everything to hasten climate change,” said Hathway. “It has put lots of barriers in the way of wind farm projects. It plans to begin exporting brown coal. It has a privatised electricity industry that runs off ancient coal-fired power stations. And it is still promoting coal seam gas. It’s putting the profits of the fossil fuel companies before the interests of people.
“The situation is urgent. Hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people die in the extreme heat waves. We need to address climate change now.
“We need to abandon the fossil fuel industry, bring the energy industry back into public hands and begin the transition to an industry that runs on renewable energy. That would be putting people and the planet before profit.
Brocklehurst will also campaign on the housing crisis. “House prices and rents have skyrocketed,” he said. “Cities like Melbourne are some of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. People are living in people's backyard sheds and people have even been living in the Fawkner cemetery.
“We need a program of building new public housing and we need legislation to cap private rents.
“The expensive housing is a result of a system where private developers speculate on land in order to drive up land prices.”
“We need a system based on community need, not corporate greed.”