MOYNE Shire mayor James Purcell has entered the state election race, kick-starting his own political party targeting Western Victoria’s prized fifth upper house seat.
The party called Vote1 Local Jobs aims to hold the balance of power in the upper house and to maintain the south-west’s political presence if the Coalition is beaten at the November election.
Cr Purcell is after a seat held by Nationals MP David O’Brien and will use preference deals with the Country Alliance and Labor parties.
A vacancy has also been created from the retirement of Liberal MP David Koch, who will not be recontesting his Western Victoria seat.
“The main reason I eventually decided to stand is because there are a number of issues I believe are important and if the Napthine government isn’t re-elected we won’t have any representation west of Ballarat or Geelong,” Cr Purcell said.
Councillors from around the south-west are joining the party to launch an assault on lower house seats to support Cr Purcell’s bid, including the seats of Lowan, Polwarth, Ripon, Ballarat and challenging Premier Denis Napthine in South West Coast.
“The candidates standing will vastly be from local government. There will be some ex-mayors and current councillors who will be standing in each of the lower house seats,” Cr Purcell said.
The Port Fairy accountant has challenged federal and state elections as an independent, gaining 4519 (11 per cent) first preference votes in the South West Coast during the 2010 Victorian ballot.
“If I can get 300-400 votes from each (electorate) we’ll get towards 10,000 votes,” he said.
Cr Purcell doubts the Coalition’s chances at the November polls. “It’s OK at the moment. We’ve got the Premier, the Roads Minister (Polwarth MP Terry Mulder) all sitting on our back door. But if they’re in opposition it means we’re not well represented,” he said.
“We need to have representation.”
The Legislative Council (upper house) is divided between 21 seats to the Coalition and 19 to Labor and the Greens.
There are five seats in Western Victoria historically divided between two each for Labor and the Liberals and another taken by minor parties — occupied by David O’Brien since 2010.
“If you take David O’Brien out, it could be 20-19 so you could effectively end up with the balance of power in the upper house,” Cr Purcell said.
Jobs, roads and opposition against foreign ownership of farmland are the main policies put forward by the party so far.
“Using VicRoad’s own data, Western Victoria has the worst roads in Victoria. It would cost $220 million to bring it up to standard,” he said.
“It’s reasonable we should ask for at least as what is good as the rest of the state.”
If the party can claim the spot, one of its first priorities will be to scrap the payroll tax in regional areas, which it argues is holding back job numbers.
“Jobs are critical for the wealth of a region. The first thing I would do is eliminate payroll tax in rural Victoria,” Cr Purcell said.
“Every company that has over eight to 10 people, they pay five per cent to the government of whatever their payroll is.
“It’s a crazy tax because you’re getting penalised for employing people.”
Vote1 Local Jobs still needs 500 party members before it can register with the Victorian Electoral Commission.
Cr Purcell said he was optimistic the party could claim the fifth seat, which was won by the Democratic Labor Party in 2006 and nearly taken by Country Alliance in 2010.
Discussions to secure preferences from the Australian Labor Party and Country Alliance had been “positive”, he said.
He said the party would also safeguard the region’s jumps racing industry with suspicions a future Labor government could move to outlaw it.