Timothy Vo, the Liberal Party candidate for Ballarat, deserves credit for his courage. Few people would relish sticking their head above the parapet for the rigours of a Federal Election campaign. Even fewer still would be up for a battle as the main opposition candidate against a seasoned campaigner like Catherine King - a former cabinet minister, as well as the incumbent MP for 18 years.
But 22-year-old Mr Vo, a student at Federation University, has thrown his hat into the ring. He's a relative political ingenue - he tells me he joined the Liberal Party around 18 months ago, although he says his parents were active in the party and that he has campaigned to improve rural education for much longer.
As the only local Liberal member who put his hand up for the task, he has landed the job by default.
His studies are now on ice for six months to concentrate on the campaign. It was a decision he made after seeing first-hand the work involved as an aide to Amy Johnson's campaign for Wendouree in the state elections last year.
My biggest message is that we cannot afford Labor's $386 billion tax grabTimothy Vo, Liberal Candidate for Ballarat
As well as rural education, he is hanging his own campaign squarely on the economy. "My biggest message is that we cannot afford Labor's $386 billion tax grab - we can't afford that," he says when we meet in the lobby of Craig's Hotel in central Ballarat. "That includes about $57 billion of retiree tax taken."
Asked what he would bring to Ballarat if elected, it is again funding that he cites: "It's what I can bring to Ballarat as a member of the Liberal Party - it's what the party can bring to Ballarat. What the party is bringing to Ballarat is record spending in education, in health, in tourism funding."
Mr Vo was part of the Liberal Party announcement guaranteeing $10.1m for Sovereign Hill - a pledge that Ms King swiftly matched. "It's the economics the party brings that helps Ballarat," he says.
He also mentions the lack of available rental properties in the city as a particular concern. "If Labor were to get in and remove the incentive to invest in housing, remove negative gearing, the market would start to collapse... and the availability of rentals is going to decrease."
He is understandably keen to reject any concerns about his lack of experience. "Yes, I am youthful," he says. "But I don't think that really affects my ability to get out and listen to what people need."
And in many ways, Mr Vo is exactly the type of hard-working member the Liberal Party must be keen to attract. He is fresh-faced, and volunteers his time as a trainer and first-aider at Ballan football club. When we talk, he is earnest and courteous, someone you might trust to invite to your grandma's Sunday lunch.
But those qualities aside, is he ready for the cut and thrust of politics, where a thick skin is an essential tool in the armoury? "I like to remain calm in any situation," he says. "The thing that I hate most is spreading misinformation - if I remain calm and try and get the point across as best as I know, I don't think I have too much to fear."
I am not a social media person myself... for me, social media can be stressful. I find it stressful the entire idea of trying to get likes or followers, that's why I don't have too much time for it on a personal level.Timothy Vo
He says he is enjoying the campaign trail. In front of media, however, his body language often tells a different story. It has taken more than a month for The Courier to set an interview up, and Mr Vo still seems visibly ill at ease in front of a camera or dictaphone - and unprepared for the level of scrutiny that comes with being the main opposition candidate .
He appears scrupulously honest but soundbites and off-the-cuff answers that are bread and butter to more experienced politicians clearly do not come naturally.
He hesitates and corrects himself at several points during our interview. When The Courier pushes him on the main issues affecting Ballarat beyond housing and the economy, there is an awkward pause that lasts several seconds.
"Would you mind if I came back to that question?" he says. (He does indeed get back to me: "Some of the other issues I have found people are concerned about are law and order particularly theft, we have had nine burning cars in Ballarat, people are very worried about their own safety," he writes in an email an hour after we talk).
The Courier also asks how he plans to gain traction with relatively few media appearances and a small social media following (Mr Vo has 48 followers on his Twitter account, which is protected, while his Facebook campaign page has around 279 followers).
"I have been out campaigning at a grassroots level for three months now. I've been going to train stations, I've been going to local towns, speaking to businesses, speaking to voters since before I was announced as the candidate."
A good result for me would be if we had a swing towards Liberal, naturally... I couldn't give too many predictions on actual numbers.Timothy Vo, Liberal Party candidate for Ballarat
"I am not a social media person myself... for me, social media can be stressful. I find it stressful the entire idea of trying to get likes or trying to get likes or followers, that's why I don't have too much time for it on a personal level."
Given that avenue is limited, will he be helped much by Liberal Party funding? Has the party that put him forward given him adequate financial backing for a vigorous campaign, The Courier wonders? With scant local advertising spend and few visible posters in the electorate, the coffers appear light.
Mr Vo, however, says it is not an issue. "It takes time to try and organise these things. The campaign has been relatively short. The election was only called last month. It just takes time to organise and mobilise the volunteers," he says.
Fighting an established MP is notoriously difficult - and it was a task that Mr Vo alone volunteered for in his party. So what are his aspirations for election day on May 18? He says he hopes to cut Ms King's margin, although he won't be drawn on how much.
"A good result for me would be if we had a swing towards Liberal, naturally... I couldn't give too many predictions on actual numbers."
"But absolutely I will try my hardest to get that type of result. Take a look at national polls, but things can change. You never know in politics."
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