Liberals look to the youth in an effort to recapture red Ballarat

The Liberal Party’s Ballarat branch is hoping an injection of youth will be the recipe for success at November’s state election in a city which for two decades has been painted red. 

Youthful approach: Former 3BA radio journalist Andrew Kilmartin has been pre-selected as the Liberal candidate for the seat of Buninyong.  Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Youthful approach: Former 3BA radio journalist Andrew Kilmartin has been pre-selected as the Liberal candidate for the seat of Buninyong. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

On Wednesday the party finally selected its candidate to take a tilt at the seat of Buninyong, an electorate it hasn’t held in any of its forms since 1999. 

After months of speculation former 3BA radio journalist Andrew Kilmartin was elected unopposed to run for the diverse seat which spreads all the way from the Ballarat CBD to Lethbridge and Ballan. 

The 31-year-old grew up in Haddon just outside of Ballarat and attended Ballarat and Clarendon College.  In recent years he has worked as a staffer for Ripon MP Louise Staley. 

Mr Kilmartin said “we’ve had 19 years of Labor in Ballarat and it’s time for change”. 

“Politics has been a lifelong interest of mine.  I was practicing speeches in the bathroom as a kid,” Mr Kilmartin said.

“Buninyong’s my community; it’s the place I live and where I’ve worked and it’s the place I want the best for.” 

Wendouree candidate Amy Johnson is among the Liberal Party's crop of fresh faces. Picture: Ashleigh McMillan

Wendouree candidate Amy Johnson is among the Liberal Party's crop of fresh faces. Picture: Ashleigh McMillan

Among the major issues Mr Kilmartin will campaign on is the state of regional and rural roads throughout the electorate, as well as rising electricity prices.

“Local families are being forced to disconnect (heating) in winter, which is terrible.” 

He also plans to champion the Liberal Party’s tough on crime stance, which has been a feature so far in the Matthew Guy-led campaign. 

On the Coalition’s decentralisation push, Mr Kilmartin said “millions of people are pouring into Melbourne and the regions need a slice”. 

He also said he hoped to see the relocation of VicRoads to Ballarat on top of the 600 new jobs already pledged by the Andrews Labor government. 

The selection represents a changing of the guard for Ballarat’s Liberal Party, after 30-year-old North Ward councillor Amy Johnson was selected to contest the seat of Wendouree. 

Andrew Kilmartin will take on Labor's candidate Michaela Settle for the seat of Buninyong, which has been held by Geoff Howard since 1999. Picture: Kate Healy

Andrew Kilmartin will take on Labor's candidate Michaela Settle for the seat of Buninyong, which has been held by Geoff Howard since 1999. Picture: Kate Healy

Ms Johnson was also uncontested in the pre-selection race.

“It shows (the party is) prepared to head to a new generation that’s coming through,” Mr Kilmartin said of the pre-selection choices. 

His main opposition will come from Labor candidate Michaela Settle after incumbent MP Geoff Howard announced he would not recontest the seat he has held since 1999.