Albert Park – Labor: Martin Foley

Albert Park - Labor: Martin Foley

Martin Foley, the Labor member for Albert Park, points to the new South Melbourne Primary School as a good example of the “planning mess” he inherited from Matthew Guy.  

“We had to, for instance, buy at an enormous cost over $20 million for a small piece of land so that the school could have a park for both the community and the kids,” Mr Foley said.

“If the plan had been done properly, we could have spent $5 or $6 million which would have been a fair price. So, fixing up the mess has been both a planning journey and hugely costly process.

“We had tackled the major issues that we inherited as problems from our predecessor. The most significant of those being Matthew Guy’s Fishermans Bend planning mess which we untangled.”  

Albert Park hosts Australia’s biggest urban renewal area, Fishermans Bend, that is expected to accommodate 80,000 residents and provide an almost equal number of jobs to Melburnians. The 30-year project aims to expand the Melbourne CBD by 4.8 square kilometres.

“Matthew Guy, without the consultation as, then, the Minister for Planning, rezoned the entire area 3 times the size of Melbourne CBD grid into the capital city zone,” he said.

“We committed to fix it in a way that would sustain the project for the future. In the way that Matthew Guy is incapable of doing.”

The Labor government has recently put on hold new applications for development in Fishermans Bend. “We consulted widely with local government, with the community, with the community sector, with the existing businesses and with developers and we have changed the planning scheme proposals.

“We couldn’t allow those developments to proceed in the context of the new rules. That meant we had to take a pause, slow things down to get them right.”

Real estate agent Michael Taylor is positive about the growth of the new suburb. “Fishermans Bend will host many new residents,” he said. In comparison to Docklands, it was “a much more sophisticated project spread to a much larger area. It won’t fail.”

Shopkeeper Tony Bisbas was born and raised in Albert Park. He took over his father’s hardware shop in 1989 after graduating from Albert Park High School. “My father started Bisbas Hardware in ’78, we have been here for 40 years,” Bisbas said.

He was also positive about Fishermans Bend. “It is part of the city now. It will bring more people.”

He believes that around 50,000 of the new residents of Fishermans Bend will have at least one child. “Have they planned their school needs?” According to Bisbas, the biggest problem in Albert Park was schooling.

Mr Foley said Labor would ensure that it had “the right mix of residential, commercial, public transport and different amenities open space in place from the start”.

Martin Foley has been representing Albert Part for almost a decade. He has a diverse portfolio in the Andrews Ministry, covering housing, disability and aged-care, equality, mental health and creative industries. 

After working for the Australian Services Union for more than 15 years, he became the Chief of Staff to the Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Police respectively from 2003 to 2006. He won Albert Park in 2007 in a byelection and was re-elected in 2010. Until Labor’s success in 2014 state election, he held parliamentary positions covering a diverse portfolio including water, arts, youth affairs and equality.

The Labor Government recently passed the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill 2018 that included more than 130 reforms. According to Foley, the recent changes would make renting fairer for renters. “We have one of the highest numbers of renters in the State in this electorate,” he said.

He also highlighted the voluntary assisted dying legislation, which  comes into effect next year and the changes to the Adoption Act to allow same-sex adoption. “Our progressive agenda of social and community policy resonate deeply with this community,” he said.

Albert Park has a shifting population due to a large proportion of tenants and short-term residents. It has become one of the marginal seats in the inner suburbs of Melbourne that consists of Southbank, Middle Park, Port Melbourne, St Kilda and South Melbourne. Although it has been represented by Labor for the past 60 years, the margin in 2014 was only 2.9 per cent.

“The district of Albert Park is really a collection of different vibrant villages,” Mr Foley said. “You’ve got a fast growing group of the older senior Victorians, you’ve got a growing population of younger professionals many of them, renters.”

Mr Foley’s success was heavily dependent on Greens voters’ preferences in 2014. He gained 32.3 per cent of the primary vote, meaning he needed preferences from the Greens candidate David Collis, who had a first preference vote of 16.8 per cent. The Liberal candidate, Shannon Eeles, in the first preference count, gained 41.5 per cent and attracted more than half of the votes in Southbank, Port Melbourne and Middle Park. After preferences were distributed, Mr Foley won with a two-party preferred vote of 53 per cent.

“The electorate has been changing and has been continuing to change for its entire period of history,” he said. “I don’t take any votes or any political opponents for granted.”