The dates for Victoria’s State election were issued last week and the rival parties have already taken it to the road, selling their policies and trying to win over the voters. Neos Kosmos, keeping up with tradition, will cover this contest from all aspects, seeking through to the Greek heritage candidates and communicating their pleas to the voters. They will have the chance to express in their own words what they represent and offer to their constituents and the wider community of Victoria.
Andrew Katos is currently serving his second term in the Victorian Parliament, having represented the South Barwon electorate in the Victorian Legislative Assembly since 2010. In November, he’s defending his seat against Darren Cheeseman (Labor), Marian Smedley (Greens), David Ball (Socialists), Damien Cole (Independent) and Peter Oseckas (Animal Justice). A proud member of the long-standing Greek community of Geelong, he believes he’s better equipped to represent the area, due to his long experience in small business.
Which do you think are the most important issues for your constituents? Good schools is certainly one.
I think the most important issue in South Barwon is that it doesn’t have a lot of growth areas, but it also has areas that need protection from growth. Armstrong Creek is a growth area and growth is encouraged there, while Torquay has too much growth and, we need to slow down growth in Torquay.
When you have a growth area it’s been planned, like Armstrong Creek. If you overdevelop, it gets to a stage where the very thing that people move to a town for, that made the town attractive, starts to be diminished.
So it becomes too urbanised. That’s the balancing act around the whole state, not peculiar to my electorate.
We have Melbourne that is bursting at the seams, we do want to see decentralisation and moving population to our biggest cities, but there is also other areas that need protection that don’t want a lot of growth either. I see Torquay and the Great Ocean Road corridor out through to Lorne and part of the Ballarat peninsula are much like that. You’ve seen recently changes up to the Macedon Ranges, for instance. It’s the same situation here where it’s enough growth and we risk spoiling what is beautiful about Torquay and the Great Ocean Road if it’s overdeveloped.
It’s that balance between growth and tourism. We need to encourage tourism but we don’t want to overdevelop it either. And it’s about putting people in the right places. In my electorate, we have Armstrong Creek, it’s the big growth area. You got to make sure the infrastructure is correct. If you have a growth area and want to encourage people to not go to Melbourne, and go to Geelong or to Ballarat or other regional cities that we have to provide the infrastructure and the services to cater for those people. If we don’t we’d be simply moving Melbourne’s problems elsewhere. And that’s what we don’t want to do.
The main infrastructure priority is a real mixture – roads, particularly Barwon Heads Road which is a single lane road currently coming under increasing pressure. So we’ve made a commitment to duplicate that road.
We’ve also made a lot of school commitments. We’ve commited to fire stations and ambulance stations and also railway connections to Melbourne are important. Because one thing that is important is that although we have local jobs in Geelong, a lot of people might like the lifestyle of living in Geelong, in a smaller city, that has a more relaxed atmosphere and very good education and health system that is very attractive, but someone’s job may be in Melbourne. That’s why we are heaviliy investing in rail and getting the connections right. We’ve committed to do a 32-minute service from Geelong Station to Southern Cross, we think that it’s critical. We’ve modeled that on the intercity trains that run in England. To do that we need to have the trains running at approximately 200km/hour and that express tracks will be put on the regional railway. We feel that by opening up the rail and moving people quickly and efficiently, that will be very good for Geelong and will encourage people to come and live in Geelong.
What do you offer to the Greek community within your electorate? Are there any Greek-specific issues that you’d want to address?
I wouldn’t say so. My electorate has a very small Greek population. It is very much, Australian-born, white Anglo, we have an Indian and Chinese community emerging here as well. A lot of new Australians coming now are more settling in the cities. But obviously Greeks have a very well established community in Geelong. I’m on the committee of the local Greek community. My father came here from Lefkada in 1949, I think he’s the oldest Greek in Geelong from that era who is still with us. After WWII, Lefkada was predominantly communist, but at the southern end, where my father’s village, Dragano is, was the nationalist area. They used to call those villages at the bottom end ‘the United States of Lefkada’. So he was a nationalist, he saw a side of communism he didn’t like, he came to Australia, so that sort of influenced me. We were also in small business as a family, we ran a fresh fish business for years. So I’m influenced by my father’s experience and from going into small business myself, that I got to become a Liberal politician.
Running a small business can be very rewarding but it’s hard work. You can imagine that if every small business put on one employee around Australia, then you would see the unemployment drop massively. So it is important to keep protecting small business. One of the [reasons that our decentralisation] policy is important is that we’ve announced one per cent payroll tax for regional Victoria, so I think that it is very important to get employment in small business. The threshold for payrol tax is $650,000 so that’s not a big payroll, you don’t have to be a very big business. That is an important job-creation measure and we need more things like that to encourage businesses to come out of Melbourne as well; don’t set up in Collins St, set up in Moorabool St instead, come to our CBD.
One advantage that small businesses will always have is the customer service. It’s always going to have better customer service, with all respect to some bigger businesses. They are more caring because they want you to come back.
You’re serving your second term in the Parliament; What is the achievement that you’re most proud of? For what reasons do you think the voters should trust you with their vote again?
I’ve got a lot of unfinished business. The infrastructure is important in this area, it’s been lacking. Labor has opened up growth in the area over the years, but they have not provided the necessary infrastructure that is needed, whether it be roads, schools or community facilities. I think there’s been problems there. If you open up areas and don’t provide that, you are creating a lot of issues. The Andrews government is more focused in Melbourne. There is no focus on major cities on regional cities outside of Melbourne and we need to change that. We need to become a state of cities, not a city state around Melbourne. Obviously, being in opposition, you don’t control things, but I think that I’m very proud that we built a secondary college in Torquay and at the time the Labor party actually opposed the construction. I’m now seeing that the college is full – it’s 900 students. I’m very proud that I fought hard for that. We have also created the Waurn Ponds police station here in Geelong; it’s the first Police station south of the Barwon river in many years and I’m proud of that.
I’ve lived in South Barwon electorate my whole life, I was educated here in the electorate, I attended public school, I went to Deakin university, and run a small business in the Geelong area for 20 years. I live in the area, I have four children, I’m raising my family here, I know the area very well. I’ve lived among the people I represent for my whole life. I’m best placed to know the needs and what the community is looking for. That is why I think that people should vote for me.