By Colin MacGillivray
New Member for Northern Metropolitan Region Evan Mulholland believes the Liberal Party’s path to government ‘runs through the northern suburbs’, vowing to advocate for jobs, housing and roads.
Mr Mulholland was elected to Victoria’s upper house in November as one of five representatives for the Northern Metropolitan Region, which stretches from the Melbourne Central Business District to Wallan, incorporating Beveridge, Kalkallo, Mickleham and Wollert.
He said the outer suburban areas of his electorate, including the southern fringes of Mitchell Shire, would be a priority for the Liberal Party during the current term of government.
Mr Mulholland said the fact new opposition leader John Pesutto’s first press conference outside of Parliament was at Donnybrook showed commitment to the region.
“As someone who has lived in the northern suburbs my entire life, I recognise the need for strong local advocacy on issues, particularly roads and public transport,” he said.
“We’ve seen a lot of neglect on those issues and often it’s because of a lack of advocacy.
“I’m keen to fight for locals for a greater share of funding. We’re taxpayers as well in the outer suburbs, but under the current State Government we’re seeing a lot of money spent in the eastern suburbs and not a lot in the outer north.”
Mr Mulholland said he would advocate for cheaper housing, the extension of Melbourne’s electrified rail network to Wallan and plans for a Beveridge Interstate Freight Terminal, BIFT.
He said he would also push the government to keep its pledge to complete a diamond interchange on the Hume Freeway at Watson Street in Wallan’s east.
“We’re seeing the State Government being too slow to the mark on road and traffic issues when people move in,” he said.
“People are left waiting, sometimes for hours, in their cars, particularly around Kalkallo, because of a lack of planning by the State Government.”
The State Government has voiced its intention to build a Western Interstate Freight Terminal, WIFT, in Truganina before the BIFT, citing the preference of industry leaders to construct the WIFT first.
But Mr Mulholland said he viewed the move as a mistake.
“You can do both [WIFT and BIFT] and the government has clearly prioritised the western suburbs over the northern suburbs,” he said.
“I worry about employment in this region. Labor considers themselves the party of the worker and they’ve turned around and abandoned employment opportunities in the north.
“There’s a big priority in housing economics about having one job per household, and I worry there won’t be enough jobs for the amount of growth that’s happening here. Not everyone wants to go into inner Melbourne to find a job.”
Mr Mulholland said that, along with lower house Nationals Member for Euroa Annabelle Cleeland, the opposition had two fresh faces that it hoped would appeal to a younger demographic of voters.
He said double-digit swings towards the Coalition in seats including Yan Yean at the state election showed many northern suburbs electorates could no longer be taken for granted by Labor.
“Wallan has been considered a one-party town and what has this area got to show for it? When there is a genuine two-party political contest, that’s when you’ll often see outcomes for the community,” he said.
“The electoral map has changed in Victoria. The pathway to government for the Liberal Party is not through the eastern suburbs – that’s clearly a priority for the Labor Party – but through the northern suburbs.”