The power of independents in regional seats

Making the South-West Coast marginal by voting independent is our region’s best change of getting the funding and political attention it deserves, says Western Victoria MP and South-West Coast candidate James Purcell.

Mr Purcell says his last four years in the Western Victoria seat of the legislative council have proven the benefits of being "proudly independent".

"I've managed to secure over $150 million in project funding for the south-west over the past four years through my upper house seat," said Mr Purcell.

"I've used my crossbench position to negotiate funding for many small community and major local developments over the last four years, as well as having the deciding vote in several pieces of legislation and instigating legislative changes that bring priceless benefits to the south-west."

Mr Purcell said he was encouraged to run for the South-West Coast seat by the results of independent MP Suzanna Sheed in Shepparton.

"Suzanna has achieved a massive $600 million in regional infrastructure - $356 million for the train line, $170 million for the hospital, $21.5 million for a Shepparton education plan and $30.2 million for roads, just to name a few of her successes.

"You can't deny that independents hold unique power in parliament and are exceptionally strong advocates for their electorates.

"There are no party politics games to play, we just get on and do our jobs."

Some of the funded projects that Mr Purcell has been directly responsible for include:

  • $7 million for the Reid Oval upgrades;
  • $400,000 for netball facilities at the Koroit Netball Football Club;
  • $288,000 for new lighting at Portland's Hanlon Park;
  • $14.6 million for the Warrnambool Special Development School;
  • $7 million for South West Healthcare;
  • $4.2 million for the Moyne Health upgrades;
  • $114 million for Melbourne to Warrnambool train line upgrades
  • $2 million for Port Fairy Bowls Club.

"It's great to see so much money flowing into improvements across the south-west and to see the long term benefits to jobs and infrastructure that will bring more jobs and economic benefits in the future," he said.

""We banned fracking; we won funding for suicide prevention programs; and we raised stamp duty exemption levels for first home buyers in regional areas to make it easier for young farmers to buy land."

Mr Purcell's campaign to bring government attention to Deakin University’s decision to pull out of its Warrnambool campus was instrumental in keeping the university in the town and his motion to review VicRoads management of regional roads has already led to the establishment of a Ballarat based Regional Roads Victoria to manage country roads.

"Sometimes it's little things that make the biggest difference, such as the work we did with the Sports Minister to intervene to remove proposed caps on junior football numbers and adding minimum local content requirements to our renewable energy targets to save jobs in Portland, which will provide ongoing opportunities across the region," he said.

This four year term had proved the power of independents in state politics and Mr Purcell said it was in the south-west's interest to break with tradition and vote independent in the next election.

"At best, we get an independent seat in the lower house where we can negotiate for the benefit of our community. At worst, we break the "safe" seat culture for our region and make the major parties work for our attention.

"We've set the stage for change and growth and I sincerely hope we'll be able to do more in the next parliament," said Mr Purcell.