LABOR Party candidates for the three state seats on the Mornington Peninsula have made no election promises while their Liberal opponents, by last Wednesday, had pledged $370 million.
The ability of the candidates to make their promises come true will depend on the election fortunes of the Matthew Guy-led Liberals forming government after the poll on Saturday 26 November.
The numbers in the current state lower house are 55 Labor, 27 Liberal-Nationals coalition, three Greens and three independents.
Labor’s Chris Brayne (Nepean) is the only sitting MP seeking re-election. He is being opposed by Liberal Sam Groth, the Greens Esthner Gleixner, and independents Elizabeth Woolcock and Charelle Ainslie.
Former Liberal Party member Woolcock says her preferences will flow to Groth (“Liberal turns independent” The News 13/9/22).
Of the two Liberal held seats, David Morris (Mornington) has been passed over by his party in favour of former federal MP for Dunkley Chris Crewther, who lost to Labor in 2019, while Hastings MP Neale Burgess did not to seek party endorsement.
Briony Hutton is now standing for the Liberals in Hastings against Labor’s Paul Mercurio, a Mornington Peninsula Shire councillor, and the Greens Paul Saunders.
Kate Lardner, a doctor at Frankston Hospital, is standing as a teal candidate for Mornington and Harry Sinclair is the Greens candidate (“Independent bid for Mornington” The News 30/8/22).
Labor on Sunday announced its candidate as Georgia Fowler, a nurse.
Mornington appears the safest Liberal seat on the peninsula with a nearly 10 per cent two-party preferred majority, with Brayne holding Nepean for Labor with a slim 1.1 per cent.
Hastings, won by Burgess in 2018 with a 2.1 per cent majority, is now regarded as being marginally Labor since a redistribution of boundaries.
Each candidate is asking voters to put them into a four-year job with a starting salary of $192,115 a year, plus electorate allowances of $42,155.
The MPs can also claim, if eligible, accommodation while parliament is sitting, $26,609; motor vehicles, $22,353; $5000 commercial vehicle allowance and $10,080 for international travel.
Groth, the Liberals Nepean candidate, tops the list of campaign promises with $351.3m ($340m for Rosebud Hospital), followed closely by Crewther, $11m and Hutton $7.7m.
Hutton caused some confusion last week with a pledge of $3m for Somerville Sporting Precinct, which does not exist under that name.
When Hutton was asked several times by The News to clarify where Somerville Sporting Precinct was, her campaign manager, Simone Clencie, accused this writer of “being belligerent, rude and unprofessional” and said the Liberal Hastings office “will not deal with the [Mornington Peninsula News Group] on any level”.
Clencie was twice asked to provide examples of our belligerence, rudeness and unprofessionalism, but did not respond. She also failed to respond to questions about Hutton’s reported links to church groups, opinions on abortion and assisted dying and an alleged “turf war” between Liberal Party factions on the peninsula (“Turf war splits peninsula Liberals” The News 24/8/22).
In an email to an advertising representative from The News Clencie, after claiming there was an “ongoing fractious relationship between the Victorian Liberal Party”, stated: “… it would not be appropriate for our Liberal candidates to engage and support the paper in the face of blatant bias”.
Seemingly unaware of Clencie’s threat (or was that a promise) Liberal Party headquarters continues to regularly send news releases to The News.
Mornington Peninsula Shire added the promise of $3 million to the non-existent Somerville Sporting Precinct by Hutton and Liberal sports spokesperson, sitting MP Cindy McLeish, to its online pledge tracker.
The pledge tracker includes a link to the Liberals’ announcement along with a disclaimer: “Please note: all pledges are conditional and depend on the outcome of the election and future party budgets. The shire has published these pledges in good faith, based on the formal commitments made by election candidates.”
However, the shire also states that candidates’ promises: “Be sufficiently detailed so that we can ascertain what is being funded.”
The shire’s advocacy, communication and engagement manager Randal Mathieson agreed The News was making a “fair point” to say a candidate or political party could avoid honouring a $3 million promise to a non-existent entity.
“They’ve wrapped up the football, netball and cricket clubs under the banner of Somerville Sporting Precinct – but let’s see what they come back with,” Mathieson said.
“If the Liberal government gets elected we will be expecting a 3M investment in these facilities.”
What Clencie, Hutton, McLeish or even Mathieson would not state, is that the sporting clubs being mentioned are based at Somerville Recreation Reserve.
Changing the name of a publicly owned reserve involves a set procedure and cannot be made at the whim of a sporting group, a political candidate or a political party.
In Mornington, McLeish and Crewther have promised $2.5m to Mornington Soccer Club.
They said the money would go “towards a major facilities and pavilion redevelopment – the first since its construction in 1977”. A function centre was also be included.
Mornington Peninsula shire councillor and Liberal Party member Steve Holland said the shire’s plans for the soccer club “are not even at the concept stage”. “The cost will be three times what they’re [Crewther and McLeish] offering.”