Geelong: Mohawked ex-mayor takes on Labor


Hot topics among candidates vying for support in the state election, include the possible introduction of safe injecting rooms, after Geelong Mayor Bruce Harwood said he was considering the safe drug-use measure.

Geelong Labor MP Christine Couzens, who has held the seat since 2014 supported the idea last year prior to Mental Health Minister Martin Foley’s declaration that there would never be a safe injecting room in Geelong. The debate comes after the State Government passed legislation last year to establish a two-year trial of a safe injecting room in North Richmond, which has since treated about 8000 people, including 140 non-fatal overdoses.

Ex-Geelong mayor Darryn Lyons, known for his flamboyant outfits and regular mohawk haircut, has long been a vocal critic of Ms Couzens and will run against her as an independent. He has regularly publicly criticised the Labor party and Ms Couzens who, in retaliation has often pointed out that the former paparazzi king and reality TV show contestant, was sacked from his mayoral role, along with the rest of his fellow Geelong councillors, after a bullying investigation.

Another controversial issue facing the electorate is a proposed bike path connecting central Geelong to Waurn Ponds. Ms Couzens has announced her support for the project despite concern among many Geelong constituents, who fear the bike path’s intended route through Belmont’s High Street shopping strip will negatively impact traders. The southern link will be constructed with the help of a $4.7 million grant from the TAC’s Safer Pedestrian and Cyclist Fund, but High Street traders have slammed the proposed route, which will remove some car parking spaces.

The Geelong district, measuring 45 square kilometres, is home to 61,270 people and the median age is 38, 2011 Census data shows. There are 28,951 private dwellings, the weekly median income is $1007, and the median weekly rent is $230. Australia is the country of birth for 81 per cent, or 49,559, of people living in the district, while 1920 were born in England, 649 born in Italy, 548 born in New Zealand, 456 born in India, 419 born in Scotland and 356 born in the Netherlands.

The Australian Labor Party has held the seat of Geelong since 1999 and a win at the November state election would see the party continue its almost 20-year winning streak. The seat is considered fairly safe for the ALP, as it won 56.12 per cent of the two-candidate preferred vote at the 2014 state election. However, the seat has had a tumultuous history, held by the Liberal Party from 1992-99, ALP from 1985-92 and the Liberal and Country Party from 1955-76. Thus, while the ALP has won the last four elections, the seat has not always been staunchly Labor.