What are the top three issues facing Melbourne residents and how would you address them?
1) Improving public transport
Band-Aids such as extra trams and trains are not solutions to a transport system, much of which is still structurally Victorian. We need to seek partnerships with the federal government and developers to redevelop the entire network.
2) Public assets are the wealth of the people. They can be developed in partnership, but not sold.
3) Education is the only means by which a small country can remain a world leader into the 21st century. We must support and expand education. Proper funding and no more TAFE cuts!
What is your vision to help the homeless, mentally ill and dispossessed?
For the past 20 years I have been closely involved with grassroots communities, in particular the poor and dispossessed. I have helped personally and found funding for community programs and workers. We need more funding directed to workers, within these communities, who will always be vastly more effective than top-down externally administered programs.
Public housing funding has been cut and maintenance has been falling in real terms for many years – this needs to be restored. Also we need to make available education and training programs that are truly accessible and affordable to diverse communities.
What will you do about Melbourne’s population growth and high-rise development?
There is a vision for a low-rise, medium density city along London lines, supported both by business and corporate-funded entities such as the Committee for Melbourne, and also by grassroots community and environment groups. In other words, it works for everyone. I do not support the development of satellite areas on the urban fringe. These do not have adequate employment or access to facilities or transport. Instead we need to find existing population centres where there is capacity to expand housing, services, and to ensure that an expansion of transport services provides direct links to areas of employment.
Is heritage being protected adequately in the Melbourne electorate? Will you fix what is broken in heritage protection?
Generally heritage protection is not bad. However, there is too much emphasis on facades, as if historic interiors were not important, too. Also developers can be allowed to neglect maintenance to the point where the building can be unsalvable. In many cases, facilities such as libraries, art and community centres could be moved from soulless modern structures to renovated historic buildings. People are happier using and working in a building with genuine life than a drab, bland space, even if that is purpose-built.
If elected, which party would you vote with in state parliament? Would you cross the floor if you believed your chosen party’s position was not in Melbourne’s interests? Conversely, would you vote against the interests of the Melbourne electorate for the greater benefit of Victoria?
I am an independent and will vote for or against measures as I see they serve the people. However, the present administration was elected by the people and I will not support no-confidence motions designed to change the governing party. Although my vision must always encompass the good of the whole of Victoria, the welfare of all the people of the state is arrived at by the collective decisions of individual representatives, and larger areas by the Legislative Council. I am elected to represent the people of the seat of Melbourne, and that must be my main perspective.
What shape should the East-West road link project take? Should it be built at all?
I would rather see this money go into public transport, where the same funding could accomplish a great deal more. This plan may have merit, but not if it further congests the inner metropolitan area with private traffic. We cannot put more cars into the inner city indefinitely: sooner or later we must reach a limit. The fact is that the most liveable and cleanest cities in the world are the ones that have planned in this way.
Will you support Moonee Valley Council’s plans for a bike lane on Mt Alexander Road, at the expense of a car lane, even if it results in increased traffic congestion?
Although in general bike transport should be encouraged, we also have to be aware of the safety of riders and consider each case separately. In the case of Mt Alexander Road, forcing traffic into a narrower space will create blackspots that are dangerous for riders. I don’t consider this particular case well-suited for cycle transport.
How would you fix traffic congestion at Flemington Showgrounds and racecourse during major events?
There’s an extent to which any major event, at the MCG or in other places, will cause congestion for limited periods and we have to live with that. In addition, congestion during the last three years was caused by rail failures, which have hopefully been prevented by recent upgrades. The main existing problem is that there are places, especially on Racecourse Road, where private transport snarls and blocks public transport, especially trams. We need to ensure that tram lines are clear to trams and perhaps also buses, so that these services can run efficiently.
If elected would you lobby for the reunification of Carlton (returning Princes Hill/Carlton North to Melbourne City Council)?
No. These areas are culturally a part of the artistic and musical inner-suburban life that makes Melbourne so rich. In terms of architecture and business, they are linked with the suburbs alongside them more than with the CBD. I think it makes sense that all this remains within the City of Yarra, so that planning can address the cultural and demographic makeup of the area in a unified way.
What steps if any will you take to restore public confidence and ensure that Melbourne City Council is open and transparent?
I have always been known for integrity, transparency and in particular an open-door policy that encourages genuine consultation, with any of my constituents able to reach and talk to me. I consider that this real consultation and real contact is what distinguishes me from the representatives of the major parties, bound by top-down policy. If problems arise within councils, the government has the duty to oversee the activities of councils and order changes. It is the government’s responsibility to be aware of public feedback and to use this where needed.