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.
In 2014 Labor MP Nick Staikos managed to just win over the seat of Bentleigh, with a minuscule margin of 0.8 per cent. He represents the third most marginal seat in the state. Historically, the party that wins over the seat of Bentleigh is the one which forms government in Victoria.
His electoral win in the last elections was against the Liberal candidate Elizabeth Miller. On 24 November he will be against three other candidates, the Liberals’ Asher Judah, the Greens’ Sarah Dakiere, Animal Justice Party’s Narren Chellapah and DLP’s Fi Fraser.
Staikos is a born and bred Bentleigh boy who started his political career as councillor for Glen Eira and was first elected to the Victorian parliament in 2014.
Which do you think are the most important issues for your constituents? Good schools is certainly one.
In Bentleigh, we have good schools and that is partly due to the teachers that work in them and the investment of successive Labor governments in schools over many years particularly our government. McKinnon Secondary is very well known and we are not only adding to the existing schools, but we are also building a second campus. We’ve just committed $70 million to that project, which means the school will take more students and I know that McKinnon has lots and lots of Greek families whose children attend.
The other [major issue] is transport and we have been extremely successful removing level crossing, across the state including Bentleigh and I think that people appreciate that and they know that we will keep investing in transport.
Thirdly, health is a big issue. We already expanded health services in the Moorabbin hospital but if we are re-elected, we are also going to put an ambulance station right in East Bentleigh. We’ve already got the best ambulance response times on record and they will be even better in our area with an ambulance station right in the heart of our local community.
We all want to be safe, we all want our families to be safe. And people are safer under a Labor government because, unlike the Liberals, we invested in police. We have funded 3,135 additional police and in Glen Eira, my local community, according to the latest crime statistics, crime had a 13.5 per cent decrease, when under the Coalition government it was always going up.
The increasing cost of living is another important issue. I will mention our solar panel initiative. It is a big bold plan that will save every household, up to $900 annually. We will fund half the cost of installing solar panels and the other half will be funded by a no interest loan from the state government that the people can pay off with the savings that they will make from having the solar panels in their roof. No upfront cost for solar panels and people will save money. It is available to everybody with a house worth less than $3 million and with combined annual income less than $180,000.
What do you offer to the Greek community within your electorate?
Specifically in Bentleigh we have made an investment in St Raphael’s Greek Orthodox church where I was baptised. It’s my local church and we will be supporting it with $32,500 which is money now. It’s not an election commitment. We will also provide a further $40,000 to the church if we are re-elected and that’s for a lot of things that are needed in terms of infrastructure. We chose to support the church because it really is the centre of the Greek community of Bentleigh. Either you go there once a year in Easter or 10 times a year or 100 times a year, it’s the centre of the community.
But I have to add that I am proud to be part of a government that is led by a philhellene premier. Daniel Andrews was the first premier in 20 years to visit Greece. He did fall in love with the country and as a result of that, he committed bringing an exhibition from the Benaki Museum to the Hellenic Museum in Melbourne, he made the announcement about Greek language and kindergartens and the Trade Fair in Thessaloniki. To have a premier who is such a philhellene is very important to the Greek community.
For what reasons do you think the voters should trust you with their vote?
Because I live and breathe Bentleigh and I proved that I will always advocate for my constituents.
Because we have been a government that has gone on with the job, we got things done. No government before us has done as much as we had done, in infrastructure. We are removing now 75 level crossings. You know in the last elections when I was promising people that we will remove level crossings in my electorate, people didn’t quite believe it. Now that we’ve done it they can trust us. Melbourne is the fastest growing city in Australia. People have to decide, who they actually trust to manage that growth with the infrastructure needed. We are building the metro rail tunnel, we are going to build the suburban rail loop which will revolutionise public transport. The Liberals had their chance for four years and they didn’t build anything.
People can now compare four years of the Liberals and four years of the Labor party and it’s a stark comparison.