The Queensland state election is looming; on Saturday 31 October Queenslanders will head to the ballot box to cast their vote.

For those who like voting early, pre-poll is available from 19 October to election day, and for those who would prefer to vote from the comfort of their home, postal votes are available from their local Member of Parliament until 16 October.

This year’s election is one like no other because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Never has health been such an important issue for voters as it is now, even more so for Greek Australians.

Charis Mullen (nee Naoumis), Member for Jordan – a seat on the outskirts of Brisbane city – is only the second person of Greek heritage elected to the Queensland parliament, and she tells Neos Kosmos that she is incredibly proud of this fact.

“I am proud of Queensland Labor’s achievements when it comes to multiculturalism and inclusivity. I know that Labor has been a dear friend to Greek communities when many weren’t.”

Because of the global pandemic, Ms Mullen said it was more important than ever to choose parties that are inclusive.

“COVID-19 has meant that a lot of us have been isolated from our families and friends, which is why it’s more important than ever to make sure we stay on the road to recovery, and continue to press ahead with our economic recovery plan”.

Greek Australians have seen what happens to communities when health is in jeopardy. Queenslanders look to Victoria, and the rest of the world, to see the economic devastation that a second and third wave can bring. Now it’s up to Queenslanders to decide who they want to lead them through the recovery phase.

READ MORE: 53 Greek-Australian candidates in local elections to be held in October

Eminence Archbishop Makarios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia at a special Parliamentary Reception in Queensland. Photo from left to right: Jess Pugh MP, Charis Mullen MP, Hon Stirling Hinchliffe (Minister for Multicultural Affairs) and the Archbishop. Photo: Supplied

What will determine the vote?

Greek Australian communities will be voting to keep their families healthy, their clubs and churches gathering and businesses open.

Queensland’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has more runs on the board with this with her strong health response to COVID-19 that has kept Queensland safe, and the Queensland economy ticking over.

The LNP leader Deb Frecklington and Premier Palaszczuk have markedly different views on whether the borders should be open to other states. The LNP leader called for borders to be opened 64 times risking the health and safety of the Greek Australians in the Sunshine State – a community that is more vulnerable and at risk from this virus.

The pandemic is far from over and this election is a unique opportunity for voters to decide what kind of Premier they want to lead Queensland out of the COVID-19 pandemic and through the recovery.

For many, it will also be about what kind of recovery they want to see.

READ MORE: Four reasons worth knowing Greek-Syrian Joseph Haweil, candidate in the local elections

Labor has made some big commitments on health and education because these are key issues for many Queenslanders. Labor announced $1 billion in funding for school projects, something Kevin Rudd also did to get Australia through the Global Financial Crisis and it worked. It’s a win-win because students have the facilities to support their learning, and the projects provide a lot of construction work which supports jobs.

Economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 is what is dominating the election. Tradies will be set to benefit. In addition to all the infrastructure announcements, Premier Palaszczuk announced around $200 million in a Building Acceleration Fund and around $220 million for housing construction.

Community infrastructure, local services, and home improvements will keep people busy and working but will also need to promote inclusion to keep our communities thriving. Part of Queensland’s Economic Recovery Plan to build community resilience includes ensuring that residential neighbourhoods are walkable and that local parks and open spaces are accessible. This is important to Greek-Australians who need to be able to walk to the Greek club, their church or their relatives’ homes.

Despite being one of the most active and social communities in Australia, Greek Australians have stayed the course, and have come up with ingenious solutions to staying connected.

This year, we saw as many from our community celebrated Greek Easter online, and are still attending services online too. But in Queensland, other cultural celebrations has gone online too – and it was Queensland’s Greek festival that went online for the first time while the rest of Australia looked on to see if it could.

Paniyiri Festival in South Brisbane went online this year and was one of the first festivals to do so. This was a huge feat for the community and a success all things considered. It did so having the much needed support of local member for South Brisbane Jackie Trad.

West End resident and prominent member of the Greek community, Chris Kazonis has said that Ms Trad has been a great supporter of the Greek community.

“She is a very good local member that always supports our community, attends our events and has done so much for the local area, including delivering two new local schools and supporting our small businesses.”

Mr Kazonis says, “Jackie’s migrant background means she really understands the importance of our culture and community”.

West End has always had close ties with the Greek community, since they started migrating to the inner city Brisbane suburb in the 1920s. By 1975 approximately 80 per cent of the Brisbane Greek community lived in West End.

Queensland Greek Australians have put in the hard yards when it comes to keeping our communities safe and because we have done that, the state is now well and truly on the road recovery.

Queenslanders have spent so much time in our own homes this year, so it is good to see jobs for tradies and home improvements. There has been a lot of talk about jobs and the two major parties have been fighting about how many there will be, especially on the frontline.

Deb Frecklington has locked the LNP into delivering a budget surplus. She hasn’t said how she will achieve this, so the Labor Party has claimed that job cuts are the only option.

Labor MPs have challenged the LNP to “come clean” about what jobs they will be cutting to pay for their $24 billion in “unfunded election commitments”.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick has been saying that at a time when the Palaszczuk Government is supporting Queenslanders into work, supporting new infrastructure and keeping small businesses open, now is not the time for more LNP cuts to jobs and frontline health services.

Many people are talking about the last time the LNP were in government in Queensland because Deb Frecklington was Campbell Newman’s Assistant Minister when they cut 4,440 health staff.

While health is a big issue this election, the wellbeing of our communities is often about more than just healthcare.
Greek-Australian communities need to be assured by politicians that their policies are inclusive – that they are talking to Greek communities when they make promises to Queenslanders.

In these uncertain times some might say it’s important to keep on keeping on, but that will depend on what Queenslanders’ want and whether they want to stay the course to recovery or risk that with the instability of an LNP led government.