The booths down in Bendigo


Bendigo town hall

To understand who the people of the Bendigo area are going to be voting for this election, I spoke to each candidate for the seat about the current issues and what they plan for progression in the Bendigo area. Labor holds the seat by 8.9 percent, and is considered significant for regional Victoria because of its central location and large population.

The candidates I spoke to were Cate Sinclair for the Greens, Elijah Suares for the United Australia Party, Ben Mihail for the One Nation party and the current seat holder, Lisa Chesters for Labor. Since writing this article, two more candidates have been announced Darin Schade of the Liberal Party and Matthew Bansemer for the Liberal Democrats. The Bendigo electorate includes the Greater Bendigo City, Mount Alexander, Macedon Ranges and Mitchell.

Lisa Chesters, the Labor party’s candidate, has held the seat for the past nine years. She is focused on bringing a Bendigo voice to Canberra.

“Politics shouldn’t be a dirty word; it should be an opportunity to have a contest of priorities and ideas about what we want our federal government to focus on,” Ms Chesters said.

 Ms Chesters describes the current housing crisis in Bendigo as “a perfect storm” with a lack of rental properties on the market, little space to build further housing and prices continuing to rise. Chesters wants to create more local options in terms of materials for building homes through expanding local steel operations and planting more timber.

 Ms Chesters aims to have community batteries built in Bendigo to make renewable energy more accessible and affordable.

Chesters is hoping for a “kind election” and the Bendigo people will vote for whomever they believe will uphold their values and will improve their town.

“Regardless of the candidates who put their hands up for the seat, it’s about the people of Bendigo, it’s about putting forward good ideas, it’s about contest of priorities for our federal government,” she said.

Greens candidate, Cate Sinclair, said she believes voters deserve to know who is giving political parties money, how much is being spent and wants to stop donations from swaying political decisions.

The Greens have an anti-corruption commission which aims to ensure donations more than $1500 are declared. The Greens party says it does not accept donations from corporate entities or people do not align with their values.

Ms Sinclair spent more than 30 years as an occupational therapist and says her move into politics is an extension of her work to help people reduce their pain.

Housing in Bendigo is under pressure with more than 2500 people on the public housing waiting list. The cost of housing in the Bendigo area has gone up about 24 percent in the last few years. The rental market in Bendigo is very small, discouraging people to make the move to regional Victoria, especially Bendigo. The Greens aim to build 1 million homes across Australia.

“My job is to make sure those homes are built in regions and built in Bendigo,” Ms Sinclair said.

Ms Sinclair said she is focused on creating an “investment in the future”, wanting to make health care more accessible, childcare and housing more affordable and making further education free.

Ben Mihial, the One Nation party’s candidate, grew up in Bendigo and is passionate about making sure “the people must come first”.

“Today’s politicians are so out of touch with little, to no, actual life experience. People feel very disconnected from them,” Mr Mihial said.

He plans on having an open-door policy with the Bendigo constituents and spending as much time out in the community as possible.

“After all, the people of the Bendigo electorate are who I am answerable to,” Mihial said.

He said he believes his background in working with large private organisations and government bodies gives him an understanding of “what is required to fight for what is right, and in the best interests of those I represent, even if I have to stand alone whilst doing it.”

Elijah Suares, the United Australian Party’s candidate, is focused on upgrading the terminals at Bendigo airport, and says he will bring in money from the federal budget to assist in the upgrade.

Mr Suares says by upgrading the airport they will open Bendigo nationally and bring in $23 million per year of revenue from tourism.

As someone who grew up in social housing, Mr Suares understands the importance of having those homes upgraded to a liveable standard, which would be the first upgrade to these homes in “20 to 30 years”.

Mr Suares plans on rebuilding social housing in apartment blocks to both save land space and create more housing options.

Mr Suares wants to see a change in how aged care facilities are run in Bendigo, and Australia in general.  He said he would like to increase the aged care and pension payments, salaries for aged care workers, and change the nurse-to-patient ratio.

He said it is important the Bendigo candidate be selected for the Bendigo seat to have a better understanding of the local issues.