A federal election is imminent and a state election is scheduled for November. 2022 feels like it is the year of the MP.
Those in power are beginning to ramp up their public profile and those seeking parliamentary seats are also searching for opportunities to press their credentials.
The state's Health Minister Martin Foley made a rare, yet welcomed, flying visit to the south-west this week. For a man who has carried the heavy burden of the health portfolio during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was heartwarming to have such a senior minister in the region.
The future of Portland District Health and the city's hospital was the main reason for his visit. Timely too because residents have been rallying for weeks now wanting an audience with him.
The hospital has temporarily suspended birthing services with mums-to-be forced to travel to Warrnambool to welcome their bundles of joy into the world, seen its only eye surgeon quit and there are fears the hospital will be downgraded.
Mr Foley toured the hospital, met with the acting CEO and board chair, two of the seven doctors who signed an open letter with concerns about the service, faced the media and then headed off.
Campaigners, who had personally invited Mr Foley to the city, waited outside. They weren't invited to his visit, nor did they get a chance to speak with him about their concerns.
Was this a missed opportunity?
Mr Foley isn't the first and he certainly won't be the last MP who flies in and flies out and fails to meet the most basic public expectation - representing communities.
Mr Foley's visit should have been a PR victory - the minister who gave up precious minutes during the state's biggest health crisis in a century to listen to citizens. Instead, he angered a community, which wanted and deserved answers. He has also muddied the political waters in a city with a strong Labor following.
The state seat of South West Coast, conservative heartland, became a marginal seat at the last election. And after his government funded major developments, including Warrnambool's hospital redevelopment, it had runs on the board to launch a major assault on the seat..
Could this fly-in, fly-out visit have bigger ramifications?
Mr Foley, MPs and wannabe-politicians need to understand voters want substance. It's not negotiable these days, voters are too discerning, fed up with political point scoring, meaningless photo opportunities and self-preservation policies at both state and federal level in recent decades.
Mr Foley, MPs and wannabe-politicians are always welcome in the south-west. Generally we don't ask for much - a genuine ear, an understanding of the issues that matter to us. Mr Foley and Premier Dan Andrews, through the Warrnambool hospital upgrade, hopefully the funding of a much-needed alcohol and drug residential rehab facility at Dennington, and a host of other health and mental health initiatives will leave lasting legacies on our region.
Let's hope the events of this week can be addressed quickly.
Respect goes two ways, if you want to get it, you've got to give it.
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