We're now well into 2019, and the first sitting week of the 59th Victorian State Parliament has come and gone.
After a prolonged 10 days of preference counting to decide the Victorian election outcome for Benambra, there's much interest in what will happen in State Parliament for our community.
The result here pushed one of Victoria’s safest Liberal seats into marginal territory. Benambra, alongside Mildura, joins Ripon and Morwell among the most marginal seats in Victoria. I am very proud of this result. It has brought on strong community conversation and interest from afar.
During the campaign I travelled throughout Benambra, listening to the issues that matter to the community. In street walks, visits to local businesses, meet and greet events, community events and speaking to locals, community organisations, councils and industries, I heard about the opportunities and challenges we all face.
I heard all about the important issues that are impacting people’s lives including health services, education, transport, renewable energy and business, plus animal management for primary producers and farming communities.
Throughout the campaign, I heard how much the members of our community really care about politics, and that they want to be a part of the conversation. People here understand what works for them and what doesn’t, and they directly feel the impact of policy decisions on their daily lives. There is a sense of disillusionment and dissatisfaction when the needs of the people get lost and washed out by a political party voice. I also heard there was some hesitation by voters to get political, with a fear of the division it may create.
But I also learnt that our community is smart, informed and knows what good representation looks like. I know I’m not alone in noting the funding commitments and statements made by the member for Benambra pending a Liberal-Nationals election win.
The community still expects action on these promises.
They include funding for grassroots sporting clubs, upgrading education facilities, incentives to grow regional businesses, investment in country roads, North East rail infrastructure, upgrades to local community halls, solar panel and battery storage initiatives, affordable electricity, payroll tax cuts, outreach services for youth mental health organisation headspace and funding for Corryong’s recreational reserve. There was also serious discussion around a strategy for deer management in the region.
Although the Coalition remains in Opposition, I expect the local member to work hard on our behalf to develop a plan to deliver for Benambra and to bring the community along on that journey.
There is certainly no “white noise” about what happened in Benambra.
As Parliament resumed, the first item of business for the local member was a speech to the house on the lack of funding for Albury-Wodonga Health, an action inspired by the public stand our medical professionals took during the state election to advocate for our community’s health infrastructure and services.
Following the election, I have had time for reflection. I want to thank all who shared their stories, concerns and issues with me. I have taken these on board and will continue to engage and work with our community. I encourage you all to contact our state member of parliament and keep the issues that matter to you on the radar. Accountability matters.
I am looking forward to following how these important issues are advanced.
Benambra deserves a state member who is a champion for our community in State Parliament beyond the election.
- Jacqui Hawkins