Independent challenges Labor in Williamstown
By Bayardo Rodriguez
MELBOURNE — "Our central aim is to highlight the need to reverse the effects of the last decade of federal and state Labor policies on the west. The ALP's policies of privatisation have had their greatest effect on electorates such as Williamstown. They constitute Labor's neglected heartland," said Chris McConville, an independent running in the August 13 by-election for this state seat.
The failure of the state ALP opposition to present an alternative to the Kennett Liberal agenda has provided fertile ground for progressive candidates. In the Coburg by-election in May, Greens candidate Andrea Sharam was able to win 21% of the vote; Labor scarcely improved on its low 1992 result.
McConville's campaign for Williamstown is focussed on local issues in the western suburbs. "Our campaign is highlighting the need to maintain the region's industrial base; the need to maintain a government role in expanding the rail and transport industries, for instance.
"Both major parties maintain that areas like Williamstown will recover as part of some general theoretical recovery in the economy. However, sunrise industries like tourism, will not be enough. We need to focus on maintaining existing industry."
McConville is also campaigning for cheaper water, gas and other services and a reversal of the cuts that have affected the west. This includes improved hospital and ambulance services and the reopening of schools.
"Labor has failed to take responsibility for the people it claims to represent. To allow these policies to persist the party has turned itself into a bureaucratic shell. The only way it has attracted members has been through number crunching."
McConville hopes to present a serious challenge to Labor's candidate, Steve Bracks, who has been given very supportive coverage in the Age.
McConville hopes to establish an alternative political network in the area as part of a national network proposed by federal independent MP Phil Cleary. "Through this we can link up to form a common agenda with similar communities in places such as North Adelaide and Newcastle". McConville's campaign can contacted at 1 Parker Street, Footscray or phone 687 4800.