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Political wasteland

01 Nov 2018

Political wasteland Image

By Shane Scanlan

Docklanders may not have noticed that there is a state election on November 24.

The urban renewal areas of the Melbourne electorate, CBD and Docklands, have become a virtual no-go zone for candidates who are more at home in the traditional inner-city suburbs to our north.

Despite booming residential populations, our densely-populated towers contain relatively few enrolled voters who can’t be easily “door-knocked” or even “pamphleted”.

Less than half of the adults living here are enrolled to vote. Excluding 1457 Albert Park voters at Yarra’s Edge, only 3369 Docklanders are enrolled to vote in Melbourne.

This represents some 43 per cent of the adult population and, given the transitory nature of our residents, the actual number of voters still living here is probably significantly less.

So, the disinterest from political candidates is partly our fault. As a cohort, we don’t enrol, are not listed in the “phone book”, we live behind locked doors, have private mail-boxes and don’t even hang around.

But, even if this was not the case, it is doubtful whether the politicians would be interested in connecting.

Sitting member Ellen Sandell holds the seat of Melbourne by only 2.4 per cent, having won it for The Greens from the ALP’s Jennifer Kanis at the 2014 election.

So you might reasonably expect the Labor Party to be revved up about trying to win it back.  This does not appear to be so.

Ms Kanis has more recently been doing the things that the party might expect a candidate to do – speaking to a community group here, meeting commuters at a railway station there – and she did attend a “meet the candidates” night here on October 24. But she has left it very late to get moving.

She also refuses to give out her phone number, something Docklands News has not experienced before from someone seeking public office during an election campaign.

Also curiously, Ms Kanis did not mention the provision of a primary school at the October 24 forum. The state government itself has also been remarkably quiet about the school, leading some to speculate that the school may not, in fact, happen.

A recent comment from Robyn Morrison on Ms Kanis’s campaign Facebook page said: “Have heard dreadful talk that the school maybe a non-starter? Why the delay?” Ms Kanis did not reply.

The state government allocated $19.8 million towards Docklands Primary in its May budget. It took possession of the site at 259 Footscray Rd on August 31. But, despite consistent questioning, it has released no further details.

An Education Department spokesperson told Docklands News: “The Department of Education is finalising the appointment of a builder, with the expectation that construction will begin shortly.”

Pressed for further detail, the spokesperson pledged to come back with answers, but did not.

From outward appearances, the ALP has conceded the seat to The Greens.

And the Liberal Party hasn’t even given us the respect of fielding a candidate. 

What this means for locals is that, unless The Greens win the balance of power, our specific high-rise, strata-related issues will not be taken up by the major parties.

The Liberals are clearly not interested in our specific issues and neither is the ALP, which has had the past four years to perform but has been found wanting.

A look at Ms Kanis’s campaign Facebook page shows a slow build-up of activities – activities that focus on familiar and friendly territory of Kensington, North Melbourne, Carlton, Flemington, etc.

An amusing post from October 6 shows Ms Kanis and a band of supporters sitting in a West Melbourne pub “calling into the Docklands” by phone.

“Progressive” politicians, by and large, have a snobby distain of high-rise and, by extension, those who choose to live in them.  Conservative politicians simply couldn’t be bothered.

Docklands is a political desert – a wasteland of unrepresented people abandoned by parties which are pledging billions for railways, roads, hospitals and schools in places that matter.

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