Peter Allan, the lead candidate of the Group N Independents in the Northern Metropolitan Region asks if I am “Tired of Melbourne’s North being ignored in State politics”. Oh, I am, Peter, I am! Apparently, I should therefore vote above the line for Peter Allan. Which is a losing argument, because as you all know by now, I never, ever, vote above the line for anyone…
Mr Allan calls himself a ‘Community Independent’, and a brief look at his online presence suggests that he is pretty media-savvy – and particularly strong on social media. Not only does he have a Facebook page and Twitter account, you can even get Peter Allan Twibbons to show your support on Twitter (I find this mildly hilarious). He took part in the recent Candidates’ Forum in Brunswick and has been interviewed on 774 FM. I’ll be using this interview and his main website to write this article.
According to his biography, Mr Allan has lived all his life in Melbourne’s North, and has ‘a strong record of community action across social justice, educational and environmental issues’. Sounds like my kind of candidate. He is apparently one of Australia’s foremost authorities on recycling and sustainable resource management (and we’ll be hearing more about that later), and was recently recognised as Moreland’s Citizen of the Year. His track record is an impressive one if you live on the left-side of politics. Projects he has been involved in have included getting cigarette advertising banned, phasing out leaded petrol, expanding solar installations (and payments), and introducing household recycling. There’s a lot of good stuff here.
His motivation to become a state parliamentarian is based on his energetic commitment to social justice and environmental protection, his concern about the current state of corruption in Victorian politics, and a desire to be a strong voice for services in the often neglected North.
An excellent start, I think.
A brief note before we get on with the preferences. While there are three un-grouped Independents on this ticket, it is very much the Peter Allan ticket. I can’t find information about his running mates anywhere, so I’m guessing that they are largely here so that he can have an above-the-line presence on the ballot. I’m not sure why he needs two people for this (the minimum for an above-the-line group is 2, and he has three), nor am I aware of the significance of them both being named Nicole/Nicola. But I am positive there is some!
The Group N preferences go largely left to right across the political spectrum, though Allan has, alas, preferenced several of the dottier parties high on his list. At the top of his ticket, we find the Animal Justice Party, People Power (oh, Peter, why?), Voice for the West, the Sex Party, the Basics Rock and Roll, the Greens, and the Cyclists. Labor can be found in the middle of the ticket, and at the foot we have the Country Alliance, Family First, Australian Christians, the Liberal Party, Palmer United, the Liberal Democrats, the Shooters and Fishers, and last of all, Rise Up Australia.
Mr Allan sees himself as a man with big ideas, but who can be practical about working with people across the political spectrum. He feels that the standard for government policy ought to be community benefit.
As Mr Allan’s policies are in dot point form, and there are a lot of dots, I’m going to divide them into categories.
Environment, Energy and Recycling
Mr Allan is evidently passionate about the environment and about recycling. Indeed, at one point, the interviewer asked him why he didn’t just join the Greens (he likes the Greens, but prefers his independence). He has worked in the recycling industry for 25 years, and one of his big-ticket policies is to turn the car assembly plants that are being shut down into disassembly plants to recycle not just the metal from cars, but the plastic, rubber, glass, and so forth. This would be good for the environment, but also for employment, and he would like to see Victoria becoming the recycling capital of Australia. This is something where the government would need to lead the way, by doing feasibility studies and the like.
Speaking of recycling, he would also like to create a national recycling hub in the north of Melbourne, including a battery recycling facility, food waste processing, and an appliance re-use and recycling program.
Mr Allan is also enthusiastic about solar energy and renewable energy generally. He would like to fund a large-scale solar system roll-out to help low-income households lower their bills, and he would also like to create solar parks in new housing projects, with all new housing to be 5 star with solar. Appliances need to be more energy efficient, and he wants to reinstate the energy efficiency target ad feed-in tariffs. Unsurprisingly, he wants to close down and ‘rehabilitate’ existing coal-fired power stations.
Another of Mr Allan’s big policies is the creation of the Great Forest National Park, which we have heard about from a few parties now. He wants to protect national parks from grazing, mining and sale, and increase funding for their upkeep.
Mr Allan’s transport policy is, in a nutshell, trains not cars. He wants to expand public transport, including putting more rail crossings underground, extending and connecting tram routes, and extending and constructing train lines in Doncaster, Rowville, Upfield and Whittlesea. He also wants to subsidise annual Myki cards for the public sector, which sounds like a great idea, and wants fast, free connector mini-buses to stations.
He is against the East-West tollway. Nobody is surprised. Mr Allan is, however, in favour of a lot more bicycle infrastrucutre (hooray!), as well as full third-party insurance coverage for cycling, a Vulnerable Road Users Charter for cyclists and pedestrians, and an enforced clearance when passing cyclists of 1-1.5 metres. He also wants to integrate cycling into all transport planning. He would also like to link vehicle registration to efficiency, and move the public sector vehicle fleet to hybrid cars.
Mr Allan wants to increase funding for health and educational services and create jobs. So far, the only people I’ve seen who don’t want to do that are the Liberal Democrats. He wants to address gambling addiction, and does not feel that gambling facilities should be self-regulating or being involved in harm-reduction strategy development, since their interests are not precisely aligned with this. He also wants to reduce the number of poker machines in Victoria, and ban incentives and enticements for gambling.
In health, he would like to fund 24-hour GP clinics, to ease the load on emergency departments. This is not a bad idea at all. He would also like to expand public emergency hospital beds. Mr Allan supports voluntary euthanasia, and is also pro-choice. He also wants to reduce the requirement for doctors certificates when taking sick leave, which sounds like an excellent plan to me – sometimes, one just needs to stay in bed with one’s cold, rather than go out and share it with a whole waiting-room full of people while you wait two hours for your appointment…
He wants better funding for schools, more TAFE funding, and better teacher training, with greater support for education expenses for low-income houses. He also wants fewer casual teaching appointments, and to ensure that all schools are covered by equal opportunity and non-discrimination legislation. It took me two tries to work out what that was about, but basically, I suspect it’s a rebuttal to the Religious Right and their right for religious schools to discriminate by hiring teachers whose morals match their own.
Mr Allan wants to increase funding for community sport and recreation, as well as for elite female sports. He also wants to encourage street closures and street-based recreation. (I’m actually really liking all these policies, but somehow, this whole thing has a nostalgically retro, 1980s feel to me. The cricket-in-the-street image that comes to mind here is just one example of this – perhaps it’s because I’m just the right age to remember the end of cigarette advertising, and worrying about CFCs, and many of the other other campaigns Mr Allan was involved in back then?)
Mr Allan also wants to increase funding to social housing, remove negative gearing, and require new residential developments to have a social housing component. If he’s talking about supported accommodation or public housing, he’s going to have a fight on his hands there, though I think it’s one worth fighting. The ghettoising of our poorest citizens into council flats in which the only other tenants are also disadvantaged is a definite problem, and makes it very hard for people to break out of the cycle of poverty.
(I can think of at least one school, for example, where parents who work where I do will not send their children, because virtually all the students there are from council flats, have quite significant social and learning issues, and the teachers really have to focus on their needs to the detriment of other students. If one distributes the population of disadvantaged families more evenly through the community, this effect is lessened, and both disadvantaged children and children from easier backgrounds can benefit from a better education.)
Mr Allan is quite strong on animal welfare, which is not surprising given that he preferences the Animal Justice Party first on his ticket. He wants to end duck hunting, jumps racing and the sale of caged eggs, ban animals in circuses, and require humane slaughter of animals. Interestingly, he does not – quite – say he will ban live exports:
- Require that all animals be stunned prior to slaughter here and in foreign destinations
- Ensure all livestock exports include an independent veterinarian for the full voyage and a public report
Politics and Government
Peter Allan tells us that he is sick of the current direction of politics, and wants to clean it up. He feels that the Democratic Process has been hijacked by corporations, and that community interests are not getting the proper weight. Like many other Independents and small parties, he wants an Independent Commission Against Corruption, and he wants to ban corporate political donations and cap individual donations at $1000. He wants to introduce an independent speaker to parliament, and expand freedom of information to encourage government transparency.
On the subject of budgets and spending, he does not like the current government’s tack on health spending, and he opposes the introduction of a GST on education and fresh food – but he does support GST on online purchases. This is an interesting one, and is probably a reference to local businesses complaining that they are undercut by online businesses overseas who can charge a lower price because they don’t have to pass on a GST to their customers. He also wants money brought in by fines on things like waste levies, traffic offenses, and gambling and tobacco taxes to be used to address these issues.
Law and order
Unsurprisingly, Mr Allan is in favour of discretion in sentencing, and against private prisons. Interestingly, he wants more autonomy for police to decide their resource allocations, and he wants to fund education and diversion programs for Ice.
And that’s about it for Mr Allan for now. It’s a nice raft of policies, I think, and while I will not be taking his advice to vote above the line (evidently he does not know me!), he certainly looks like someone who will appear in my top five parties on Election Day.