The Greens party has announced its federal candidate for the seat of McEwen will again be Neil Barker.
He will go up against sitting member, Labor’s Rob Mitchell, and Liberal candidate Richard Welch at next year’s federal election.
McEwen is considered a safe Labor seat, but Mr Barker is hoping to build on his eight per cent primary vote from the last election as he says more constituents want to see climate action.
“The biggest issue is climate change,” Mr Barker said.
“None of [the other issues] matter if we can’t get climate change under control.”
Having lived in Romsey for 28 years, Mr Barker said climate change had become one of the most pressing issues for McEwen residents as they see more frequent and more severe bushfires, storms and hotter summers.
“People are starting to realise this is a real issue and the idea that we can do nothing until someone else does, which is the view of the current government, it’s just not the Australian way,” he said.
“We don’t stand back and wait for other people to do the work.”
Mr Barker comes from a farming family, and attributes free university and a lower cost of living when he was young to his successful career within the Australian grain industry.
But he said his children, now in their 30s and 40s, have never had the same opportunities as he did.
“I came off a family farm and there was no way my family could afford to send me to university, that was no on the cards. Then free university came along and I jumped at the chance and studied an agricultural science degree with honours and went on to have a very successful career, with no HECS debt when I bought a house,” he said.
When Mr Barker married and bought his first house in his early 20s, the price of the house was four times his salary.
Today the average house price in the Mitchell Shire is nine times the average wage, and more than 10 times the average young person’s wage. In Melbourne average housing prices are more than double the shire.
“Everything has changed,” he said.
“For young people the opportunities in life are far more limited than what they were before.
“Our children … have been suffering stagnant wages for more than a decade and are struggling to cover out-of-pocket expenses for the health and education of their children.”
Mr Barker will be running on a platform of progressive tax system that takes the burden off young people and middle-income earners and onto the country’s wealthiest, as well as pushing for better Medicare and more affordable healthcare for the region.
“As an elderly person now I’m finding that out-of-pocket expenses for health, diagnostic testing is getting out of hand. I can see people in our electorate that are waiting for elective surgery, having to wait extraordinarily long times,” he said.
He will also support an independent federal corruption commission, saying the numerous scandals that have plagued the current government, including pork-barrelling, the sports rorts affair and the Robodebt scheme have been ‘breathtaking’.
“The things I’m going to be pushing hardest are to act now on climate change, to be a world leader not a laggard; to have an independent commission against corruption; and to have a more progressive taxation system,” Mr Barker said.
“They’re the things that are going to be a good springboard to launch the country into a better future.”