Howard retires and fires starting gun in race for Ballarat

The battle for two of Ballarat’s prized state lower house seats has officially begun with veteran Buninyong MP Geoff Howard announcing he will not recontest at the 2018 election.  

Geoff Howard at his Main Road office. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Geoff Howard at his Main Road office. Picture: Lachlan Bence

The announcement comes just weeks after Wendouree MP Sharon Knight revealed she would not be recontesting her seat.  

For almost two decades Mr Howard has been a stalwart of the Ballarat political landscape, helping to usher in what has been an era of Labor dominance throughout the region. 

The Labor Party has held both Buninyong and Wendouree since claiming the seats in 1999 which were then known as Ballarat East and West respectively. 

Speaking on the vacancies left in the Labor camp, Mr Howard said he wouldn’t have made the call to step aside if he wasn’t confident in the talent coming through the ranks. 

Preselection nominations for the two Labor positions open next week, with a decision on candidates expected to be reached by the end of October. 

“I'm very confident in the Buninyong seat there will be a terrific Labor representative standing at the next election, likewise I’m sure that will happen in Wendouree.”

Picture: Lachlan Bence

Picture: Lachlan Bence

Mr Howard first entered state parliament in the-then seat of Ballarat East in 1999, taking on the role of Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment from 1999-2002 and Agriculture from 2002-2006. 

“I’m really satisfied to see there has been so much infrastructure refurbished and built new...that ranges from sporting facilities, health facilities and other facilities such as new police and fire stations that have clearly improved the electorate,” Mr Howard said.  

“As a former secondary school teacher education has been very important to me so it’s been very satisfying to see the 40 state schools across my electorates have all received major funding upgrades in my time in office.”

Since 2015 he has also been the chairman of the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee, recently coming out in support of both pill testing and safe injecting rooms in contrast to government policy. 

Premier Daniel Andrews thanked Mr Howard for his contribution since claiming the marginal Liberal seat off Barry Traynor. 

“Geoff has been a proud voice for his community, delivering upgrades to Mars Stadium, a second platform for Ballan Station and the new Woowookarung Regional Park,” Mr Andrews said. 

MS Knight also praised her colleague, who has been a constant presence since her election in 2010. 

“He was really very supportive of me when I was so new and Ill always be very thankful for that.  I think he can be proud of the work he’s done.”