The dates for Victoria’s State election have been issued 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.

Steve Dimopoulos is allowed to feel right at home in Eaton Mall; everybody in the most Greek strip of land in Melbourne knows the sitting member for Oakleigh in Victoria’s state parliament, who will recontest the seat as the Labor candidate in the state elections on Saturday 24 November.

In 2014, Dimopoulos managed to secure Oakleigh with a safe margin of 16 points (after the distribution of preferences) a fact that is indicative of his close and long-standing relationship with this electorate.

This margin justifiably gives him the frontrunner’s position in the contest. However, the decision of the Andrews government to abolish taxi licenses, compensating their owners not for all but only three for each owner, has infuriated some voters in Oakleigh and it remains to be seen how this will affect Labor’s prospects in the upcoming election. Nevertheless, it remains very difficult for the Liberal Party to win this seat, considering that Labor’s influence in Oakleigh has “sank” only twice in the history of the seat, in 1992 and 1996, when Labor suffered the largest election defeat in its history in state elections in Victoria.

As with the other Greek candidates, Steve Dimopoulos was given the opportunity to present his case to the voters of Oakleigh.

Which do you think are the most important issues for your constituents?
The key ones is the cost of living, population growth and congestion. Life has become harder for people generally over the last twelve years. There has been wage stagnation nationally. Everybody from the Reserve Bank to the Business Council of Australia recognises that. As we cannot impact on personal income tax, Centrelink payments or GST, we are making sure that families and individuals have good public services. We can take the burden away of having to pay for private services if they do not choose to.

So good public schools in every community, free TAFE, almost free three year old and four year old kinder, are policies that contribute to good quality of life, including the best ambulance response times Victoria has ever seen. That is not by accident, this is because of our government’s investment.

The electricity prices and power prices in general are very high. We made a whole bunch of decisions last year to bring them down though. Apart from the $50 incentive to get on that energy compare website which is proven to lower prices because you compare with the market, if we are re-elected we will abolish standing offers. So in every single occasion the customers will get the best deal because they will be informed. Also we are expanding the supply of energy, by making a whole bunch of investments in wind and solar and other renewable energy policies.

We are trying to create a society and a community where families and individuals are supported through excellent public services that people should rely on, from schools, to ambulance, to community spaces, to public transport.

By improving public transport you also impact on congestion and quality of life. People see the pressures of population growth. We should have started getting ready decades ago, as governments generally. We didn’t. The Andrews government though, is actually working on relieving people’s pressure. Ιt won’t happen immediately. People talk about the governments not having long term commitments. We do and we’ve proven that. The busiest train corridor is in my electorate, the Cranbourne line, busiest in the whole of Victoria. We are putting high capacity trains on this line as of April next year, we had a lot of crossings removed and we are upgrading the signalling. We are going to get 11,000 more people on the train between 7-9 in the morning peak and also in the evening peak.

What do you offer to the Greek community within your electorate?
Labor supports the Greek community through supporting building projects in individual communities in my electorate and elsewhere, including churches, community halls, including the Greek Community of Melbourne building. We have increased Greek festival funding, funding for the teaching of the Greek language here in Victoria and introduced bi-lingual Greek English kindergarten programs. We funded Greek aged care facilities and much more. That’s a fact and some of these funds have already being distributed.

But I would also like to comment on the issue of the taxi license owners and recent attacks from the opposition’s shadow minister for Public Transport, David Davies.

If David Davies actually wanted to do something for the taxi licenses holders, rather than actually playing them in a political sense, which is a disgusting attribute that he has and he has done it with other groups in the past, he would have done two things.

He would not have opposed the $2 levy on every ride that we put up to raise the money for the compensation scheme.

Secondly, he had the power in the Upper House, the Liberal and the National party have more MPs in the Upper House than the Labor Government has. We did not control the Upper House. He could have made an arrangement with the crossbenchers to have increased the compensation scheme that he says now is inadequate. I read his speech; it was 2,300 words on the Commercial Passenger Vehicle bill. 2,300 words! He didn’t add the eight words that counted, ‘I move an amendment to the compensation scheme’; yet he is out there on the streets, outside my office and in many other venues with vulnerable Greek and Turkish and other taxi license holders saying ‘you have not got enough money and it is not fair, and I will fix it’ while he has had the opportunity in the parliament of Victoria in the Upper House to fix it. So when he says about a review, I not only don’t believe him, I find it galling and objectionable given his history on this very issue.

For what reasons do you think the voters should give you their vote?
I believe people should vote for me for two reasons: I represent a party that has not wasted one day in office, working hard to improve the lives of working people, families and pensioners. We have improved the public health system, ambulances, hospitals, schools, public transport, we have recruited more police and we have built the strongest economy in Australia including creating 400,000 additional jobs.

I am not only the member of parliament for the Greek centre of Melbourne, I live here and I was raised here. I worked in Oakleigh for many years both for a former politician, as a councillor and Mayor for the City of Monash and as a small business owner in Oakleigh. I know and love the Greek community of Oakleigh and it’s been part of my life for my whole life. I listen to people, I work hard and I have an ambition to keep working to improve the lives of people who have worked so hard for so long to help build the incredible success story that is modern Australia.