What is your favourite thing about Ballarat?
I think it’s the people. I really do. I’ve moved around prior to settling in Ballarat, particularly in regional Victoria, and I think the biggest difference is the people.
Why did you decide to get into politics?
I had been sitting there for a while thinking that we were getting a raw deal out of the federal government in our region. Talking to a lot of people, they agreed with me. So I decided at the end of the day, somebody had to put their hand up and it was my opportunity to put my hand up and speak out about the things that concern me. Things like the impact the federal government of the last six years has had on the cost of living of families and the pressures it’s placing on business. I think the lack of attention to our region has been a real concern. At the end of the day I’ve decided to put my hand up and try and make some changes there.
What would you do to create more jobs for Ballarat?
"I decided at the end of the day, somebody had to put their hand up"
I think basically it comes down to letting business get on with business. We’ve seen a government that has put a lot of impost on business. My mindset and the Coalition’s mindset is to remove those imposts, so we’ll do the things that are quite easy to do, which is to remove the carbon tax. We’re going to cut the company tax rate, we’re going to create a stable economy and get the budget back under control. These are all the things that foster a strong, healthy economy and that allows business to get on with what they’re doing. We want to reduce regulation red tape to again remove those barriers for businesses to do well and to grow and to invest back into businesses and to invest in their personnel and grow the number of jobs that are out there.
How will you improve Ballarat’s schools and universities?
We’re committed over the next four years to the proposed funding for schools, but what I think’s lacking is, or the key point of difference is, that we don’t need another centralised bureaucracy in Canberra to run education. The states have got the mandate to run education and I think the people best placed to determine how money should be spent in schools, and what schools need is the schools themselves and the communities within those schools. Absolutely we need better investment into education, but we need to allow the schools to determine what it is they need, as opposed to someone in Canberra dictating what it is.
What is the biggest priority for Ballarat in terms of infrastructure?
I think there are a number of priorities for Ballarat in relation to infrastructure. Ballarat is a broad electorate. I think there are issues down around the Bacchus Marsh area in particular with heavy trucks through the main street.
When you look at Ballarat central here, I think we need to be a bit more ambitious in our thinking. I have long been an advocate for an exhibition and entertainment space in Ballarat, 3500 square metres of exhibition and entertainment space that could have a grandstand attached for Eureka Stadium, so I think that’s a project that needs to be put back on the table and looked at very closely. We’ve got sporting facilities that need upgrades. We need to look at inter connectivity with the rest of the areas around Ballarat through rail and road as well.
"I have long been an advocate for an exhibition and entertainment space in Ballarat"
What policies do you have that will be of benefit to the environment?
We’ve committed to, by 2020, reducing emissions by five per cent. We’ll do that through a form of direct action. We’ll set up a $3 billion fund to encourage businesses to invest in clean, new technology to reduce emissions. We’ll look at planting more trees. We’ll look at carbon abatement and carbon capture in the soils, improving our soils as well. We’ve got the green army projects as well. For example, one of the projects I’ve put forward for this area to utilise the green army, which is a 15,000 strong green army across the nation, is the clean-up of Yarrowee River. So we want to look at cleaning up the Yarrowee River, improving the vegetation, having more natural vegetation through that corridor. The off-shoot to that, through the green army project, is that we see young people have the opportunity to get skills and training which will help with future employment as well.
How can Ballarat continue to serve the region’s health and aged care needs?
Can I say, first and foremost, we’ve got an exceptional health service here in Ballarat. A fantastic group of men and women who provide top-notch health facilities here in Ballarat, and I haven’t enjoyed over the last year how that’s been messed with. We’ve seen a government that ripped wholesale money out of that health service mid-way through a financial year in an act that was unprecedented in government funding. So we need to stop messing with health. We need to increase the investment. We’ve seen reduction in investment in health over the last couple of years. We need to ensure that investment continues to grow. As our population here in the region grows, we need to make sure those health services improve and maintain the high standard they’ve already set.
What will you do to make childcare more affordable and accessible?
We need to look at childcare as a whole and not just throw money at it. So one of the things a Coalition government would do is to call very early on for a productivity commission review into childcare. We need to look at all aspects of childcare to make it more affordable and more accessible. One of the other things that I think is important to note is that we’re committed to a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme. So this is ensuring there’s no financial burden on families when making the decision to have children, so that’s an important part of it as well.
What initiatives will you seek to improve the trip to Melbourne by road and rail?
Well we’ve got a pretty good freeway down to Melbourne. One of the things I enjoy about living in Ballarat is the freeway access down to Melbourne. The trains are quite good, I think the work that has been done by the state government so far on the regional rail link has been good. I think in time though, we need to start having the conversation around; is a second line, a dual line to Melbourne, the way to go? And is there going to be the cost-benefit to having that dual line? I think we’ve got quite a good service at the moment (but) we need to continue to look for improvements in those areas.
What would you like Ballarat to look like in 2030?
I love the way Ballarat looks now. I think that we’re still working to get the balance right between growth and new development and retaining our heritage and our look and our feel of our city, the cultural aspect of the city. That balance needs to continue. But, we know Ballarat is going to grow. We know we’ve got above average population growth and that’s going to continue, and that’s going to place pressures. But I hope that we can manage that growth well, that we can provide jobs and employment for people that come into this region to enjoy the lifestyle that we enjoy. So I think we can manage it and continue to have the look and feel of a city that is much like it is now, but, I guess in a bigger version.