With Daniel Andrews declaring no deals with “toxic” Greens on the front page of The Age newspaper on Monday 19th November 2018, the stage appears set for a hung parliament after the election where independents could hold the balance of power.
Independent candidate for Gippsland East, George Neophytou, while acknowledging that it will be difficult to unseat incumbent Tim Bull, sees this as a potential replay of the 1999 election that saw Craig Ingram become one of three independents to hold the balance of power. This led to the return of the train to Bairnsdale, after years of Liberal National Coalition neglect, along with the roll out of natural gas to Bairnsdale and Paynesville and a flood of funding for important projects across communities in the electorate.
George has already started on his wish list including funding for Bairnsdale Secondary College, rapid completion of Stratford Rail Bridge over the Avon River and line improvements to Bairnsdale along with new trains. He will also ask for over $20 million for country roads and bridges in East Gippsland and Wellington Shires to be provided in 2018, in advance of the works and without needing to be matched in any way by the two Shires.
As an independent he will seek funding promised by both Labor and Coalition but seek enhancements in exchange for his support.
While commending Labor on the solar power subsidy initiatives he would go further:
* Increasing the Labor Party’s solar panel funding by $500 to $2,750 to compensate for higher installation costs;
* Extend Labor’s solar panel funding to small and medium businesses within the electorate as a pilot program to battle the high electricity costs for businesses;
* Fully fund the installation of solar panels on farms up to $5,500 to reduce electricity costs. “This will provide a longer lasting benefit than subsidising feed” he says;
* Provide funding to East Gippsland Water to replace pressure reduction valves with microgenerators to feed into the electricity grid.
On a policy level, Mr Neophytou would oppose the Proposed Fingerboards Mineral Sands Mining Project at Glenaladale and the Stockman Project resumption that will mine copper and zinc east of Benambra as a result of concerns about predicted impacts on residents, agriculture and the environment.
While George is a strong supporter for protecting the Gippsland Lakes and our National Parks, he has vowed to oppose the creation of the Great Forest National Park near Melbourne. “Not only would the conversion of what is currently State Forest to National Park create a major fire hazard for the area” he said, “but it would also starve Gippsland Timber mills of the timber they need to remain viable, affect complimentary industries and throw hundreds of people out of work”.
Gippsland East has been taken for granted for too long. Vote independent George Neophytou and put Labor and the Nationals at the end of the ballot paper.