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Election eve in Albert Park

It is late afternoon on Friday 25 November. Election Day tomorrow.

The result may already have been decided after a record number of early and postal votes were recorded by the Victorian Electoral Commission. In Albert Park, at close of business on 24 November, 14,250 early votes and 3,743 postal votes had been cast out of a total of 48,788 enrolled voters.

Daniel Andrews has said over and over again in the final weeks of the campaign that ‘the election will be decided by a handful of votes in a handful of seats’.

It’s not easy to read the mood in Port. There are fewer posters around for all political parties than there were footy colours before the Grand Final. It’s high stakes for some, indifference to others. There is a sense that two elections in one year, as well as the range of challenges people face, has led to less interest in the election.

One thing is certain, and that is that the future representative for Albert Park will be a woman. All the serious contenders are women. As per the order on the ballot paper, they are

Georgina Dragwidge (independent)

Nina Taylor (Labor)

Kim Samiotis (Green)

Lauren Sherson (Liberal)

Early voting was available from the 14th November. It was a demanding two weeks for candidates and their volunteer supporters. Rain swept in and cold winds rushed up Albert Rd. The mood at early voting at 102 Albert Rd was collegiate, with respect for the democratic process. Courtesy and a sense of common purpose was the order of the day. Although the early voting centre itself was accessible, getting to it was not, with sewer upgrade and building works underway. A voter said “could they make it any more difficult?” as another burst of rain swept in.

Early voting at 102 Albert Road.

Yesterday, Martin Foley left his office in Rouse St, Port Melbourne. He looked relaxed and happy.

image courtesy of the office of Martin Foley

In his first speech to the Victorian parliament in 2007, Martin Foley spoke about his intention to build the public education sector in the electorate. “The real challenge locally is to rebuild the former Albert Park Secondary College into an academically excellent and community based school that will make it the kind of place parents will be lining up to get their children into”.

On Friday 3 December 2021, Albert Park College was named government Secondary School of the Year and also received the overall award for Australian School of the Year1.

The Albert Park College community creates identity and energy in Port Melbourne and Albert park.

A new secondary school was built and opened in Fishermans Bend in less than the four years of the last term of government, and is well on the way to establishing a great reputation under the leadership of principal Anne Stout.

Martin Foley was much loved and deeply respected in the electorate. At the same time, succession and renewal is deeply important, as Foley himself has often emphasised. Nina Taylor, who is seeking to replace Martin Foley in the seat, is, of course, a different character, a different person, with different attributes.

Nina is conscientious, diligent and intelligent. She has been in the Legislative Council for four years. She was the Government Whip for two years, and has valuable experience working with minor parties in achieving the passage of some of the Andrews government’s signature reforms.

The Labor Party has made many promises, both for the state and for the District of Albert Park.

Important as these are:

a new primary school in Fishermans Bend, a community battery in Port Phillip

Exciting as these are:

the delivery of the Melbourne Arts Precinct which will tie together all the arts organisations from Federation Square to the new NGV Contemporary with fabulous open space connections

It is the values infrastructure built here in Victoria: the work towards Treaty with Victoria’s First Nations people and the unwavering commitment to equality, led by Victoria’s first Equality Minister, Martin Foley, that is most important to me.

I remember the occupation of the Westgate Bridge by anti-lockdown protestors in September 2021, and the brief appearance of that imagery in support of the Liberal campaign, and shudder.

There is indifference, and there is what Rebecca Solnit describes as ‘naive cynicism’ “which reduces the motivation to participate in public life, public discourse, and even public conversation that distinguishes shades of gray, ambiguities and ambivalences, uncertainties, unknows and opportunities”.2

It’s time to nail the colours to the mast.

1 Australian Education Awards

2 Rebecca Solnit Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) pp52,52

Janet Bolitho is a member of the Australian Labor Party

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