Results of the unChain Questionnaire for candidates in the 2013 election for the seat of Melbourne Ports

The Federal election will raise many national and international issues. But the voters in Melbourne Ports will also be interested in the position of the candidates on ‘local’ issues. Indeed there may be many people who are disillusioned with all the major parties and want more information on the individual candidates, their positions on local issues and their strengths and weaknesses.

Therefore unChain decided to survey the candidates on ‘local’ issues. Our questionnaire consisted of 14 questions on issues drawn from the policy that unChain took to the Council elections in 2012 and the unChain submission on the Melbourne metropolitan planning strategy. These documents can be found here.

The candidates from the three major parties are Ann Birrell (Greens), Michael Danby (Labor) and Kevin Ekendahl (Liberals). There are six other candidates from the minor parties. The candidates’ responses have been uploaded onto our website in full so that unChain members or interested outsiders can make their own assessment of the position of each candidate on local issues in Melbourne Ports.

The good news is that the executive of unChain believes that the three candidates from the major parties would all be acceptable representatives for us in Melbourne Ports. On many issues the candidates had similar positions that were consistent with the policies that unChain has developed.

Ultimately, we believe Ann Birrell (Greens) is the best candidate for Melbourne Ports on local issues. Ann Birrell had a different approach on issues like population and infrastructure funding. On these two issues there is no ‘right’ answer but it was still useful to ask the candidates for their position on these two fundamental issues. Ann Birrell’s responses were closer to the unChain position on Fishermans Bend, the St Kilda Triangle, Webb dock, the Grand Prix, same sex marriage, funding for local Councils and problem gambling.

It should be emphasized that the unChain questionnaire and our assessment only covered local issues. Many unChain members and supporters will make their decision on broad national and international issues that this survey does not cover. For example some unChain supporters may vote for the Greens because of their policy on refugees. Others may vote against the Greens because of their economic policies.

It was difficult to separate the Labor and Liberal candidates on local issues. Our analysis took into account both their personal positions and their parties’ positions. Michael Danby (Labor) gave more specific answers than Kevin Ekendahl (Liberal). However this is only to be expected given his experience in office and the taxpayer-funded resources available to an incumbent candidate. The two had similar positions on issues like population, funding, schools and affordable housing. Michael Danby was closer to unChain policy on public transport and the Grand Prix. Kevin Ekendahl was closer to unChain policy on the St Kilda Triangle, same sex marriage and funding for Councils.

There were two extraneous considerations that unChain took into account in deciding whether to prefer Michael Danby or Kevin Ekendahl. One was whether Michael Danby had done enough on our local issues as our representative since 1998. As one member said “please ask Danby why we only hear from him or see him on election time”.

The second consideration was more important. It is likely that a recommendation to prefer Kevin Ekendahl will contribute to changing Melbourne Ports into a marginal seat. This would force both federal and state governments to take more account of local feelings and interests in local issues like the Yarra Trams proposals for Acland and Fitzroy Streets, flooding in Elwood, the Master Plan for Fishermans Bend, the St Kilda Triangle and the Port Melbourne foreshore.

Our conclusion is to recommend to voters concerned about local issues to place Ann Birrell (Greens) first and Kevin Ekendahl (Liberals) second and Michael Danby (Labor) third, with the candidates from the minor parties after them.

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