Transport is a major issue in Lalor. Photo supplied.
Joanne Ryan, a former teacher and school principal, was nominated as the Labor candidate for Lalor when the incumbent member, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, quit politics after being defeated in the 2013 ALP leadership spill. The change of PM and Lalor candidate took place just a month before the last election.
Despite a major negative swing, 18%, in the 2013 election, Lalor is still a safe Labor electorate. The ALP has held the seat since 1969, a total of 47 years. Lalor's main industries are manufacturing, farming and tourism.
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Take a short drive from the CBD to Melbourne’s west and you are greeted by paddocks and empty fields stretching for miles ... and an army of housing estates on the march.
Welcome to Lalor.
Held by Labor since 1969, the seat includes suburbs such as Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, Point Cook, Laverton and Williams Landing. It has been held by a non-Labor member for just one term, from 1966-69. Former Prime Minster Julia Gillard held the seat until she left politics in 2013.
Candidates for the seat in the upcoming election include the current member Joanne Ryan (Labor), Gayle Murphy (Liberal) and Daniel Sova (Greens).
Lalor is home to many housing estates. This has significantly increased the population of the area. Based on census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, between 2006 to 2011 the number of people living in Lalor increased by 72.7%.
This growth has fuelled concerns about the lack of public transport in the area and the failure of the government to update freeways that lead to and from the city.
Currently, the Victorian Government is working with Transurban to create the Western Distributor. Transurban own the Citylink toll road in Melbourne and many of Sydney’s toll roads. This relies on Commonwealth approval, which is yet to be granted. Recently, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull discussed the proposed Western Distributor project in announcements about future federal funding for roads in Victoria.
Mr Turnbull suggested he would like the see the project “decoupled” to keep upgrades to the Monash freeway separate from the Western Distributor. This and some of Mr Turnbull’s other suggestions in relation to funding angered many Victorians, especially in the Lalor electorate as voters feel Victoria is being short-changed in funding for roads projects.
In response to a comment posted on Ms Ryan’s Facebook page, Ms Ryan says “Turnbull is playing politics with Victorian infrastructure.”
Local resident Pierre Nunns said “… until recently, governments followed Infrastructure Australia’s recommendations – in a bipartisan way – and now all we are seeing is toxic politics.”
Gayle Murphy, the Liberal candidate for Lalor, supports the current federal Liberal government’s plans for upgrades to Victorian roads. The plans include spending $350 million to upgrade the Western Ring Road and $75 million to “tackle urban congestion”.
While details of how congestion will be tackled have not yet been revealed, Prime Minister Turnbull did recommit $3 billion in funding to any government that chooses to see through the East West Link project.
In the meantime, residents in the Lalor electorate have seen the opening of two new train stations as part of the Regional Rail Link project completed in June 2015.
On a state level, the most recent Victorian budget outlined a new technical school in Werribee and primary school in Tarneit West. These projects are a reflection of the rapid growth in the area. Funding for existing schools in the electorate were also announced.
Although these are state issues, in recent years it has become clear state issues can affect elections. Overall, it seems the state budget was received well by many Victorians.
Some local residents have raised internet connection as a major issue for the electorate. Belinda Nikolovski said, “it concerns me deeply that in Australia in the year 2016 a basic home cannot secure any internet connection”.
Ms Nikolovski wrote in a post to Ms Ryan’s Facebook page that the NBN is yet to be rolled out in the area and in the meantime no internet service provider is able to connect her home to the internet due to a lack of ports being available at the exchange.
Education is also a major issue in Lalor. With the increase in population and new suburbs being built, there is an overwhelming lack of schools in the area.
Ms Murphy wrote on her Facebook page “I will work hard to ensure new schools are built in the South Western suburbs of Melbourne, including Williams Landing, Point Cook and Tarneit.”