Candidate Canvass: Mandy Kirsopp – Labor candidate for Lowan
What would be the single most pressing issue in your electorate?
Meaningful, secure employment provides the basis for much of what we regard as being important in life.
In our workplaces we develop connections with others, develop much of our sense of self-worth, and experience the enjoyment of helping others. The formation of groups and teams and the cooperative and collaborative behaviours we develop for effective teams are also important.
Secure employment also provides the opportunity to take risks – purchase a house, invest in a small business, travel overseas. Secure employment positively impacts on community cohesion because, in my experience, strong businesses foster community engagement through sponsorship, corporate challenges and work placement options.
Meaningful employment is just that – where our skills are developed and there is personal and professional growth to meet the evolving needs of the task.
In our regional and rural towns, (the larger towns of Horsham and Hamilton) and the smaller towns throughout the electorate, job creation, job security and the potential to change jobs as skills develop, is critical. Different employment options create and are created by people moving into the regions, and this in turn, contributes to cultural change. Our expectations change as we are exposed to new people, new ideas and new possibilities.
This may seem to be an oblique response to your question but I am convinced that secure, meaningful employment is a basic human need. I am also proud to be a member of a Party that recognises the importance of meaningful employment – both to the individual and to the economy. When we read headlines that state ‘100,000 jobs created in Victoria’ (in 12 months) we collectively celebrate because this is not only good for the economy, but is vital for the individual.
What would you hope to achieve for your electorate in the coming term?
In the short term, my goal would be to work in partnership with others to change the way many people throughout the electorate describe their communities and their relationship with government. It has become common practice to compare our region with Melbourne and to focus on regional deficits. This is unhelpful. Rather, I would be encouraging our communities to identify existing skills and infrastructure, identify possibilities and then work together, to obtain additional resources to achieve regional goals.
A glass ‘half full’ is more likely to attract investors and people wishing to move to the region; whereas a ‘glass half empty’ is to be avoided.
I believe I live in a region that is filled with skilled people and opportunities. Our Brumby Labor Government has made massive investments throughout regional Victoria (education, health, transport options) and has a support infrastructure in place to encourage regional vitality. I would be an advocate for regional possibilities.
What would you hope to contribute to Victoria as a parliamentarian?
Respect and honesty are personal values that underpin my life. I would hope to be able to demonstrate these values through clear communication with individuals and communities throughout the electorate. This means, explaining why decisions have been made, explaining a staged approach to project implementation, explaining hold ups (if they occur), and being responsive to questions and criticism.
Key goals for me can be summarised as working with others to create:
1. Economically strong communities
Job creation, business vitality, access to life-long education and training
2. Connected communities
Social cohesion and inclusion, a vibrant arts and recreation sector, a welcoming of different skills, interests and lifestyles
3. Healthy communities
Supported by being connected, but also through preventative health measures and responsive, integrated health measures through life stages
4. Sustainable communities
Controlled development that is sensitive to our ‘footprint’; our energy use and consumption of water. Change that is carefully managed to preserve our natural environment and the things that make our country towns so special.
Do you believe in anthropogenic climate change and should we act on it?
History has shown that climate changes throughout the ages, but I don’t think there can be any doubt that humankind is having a profound impact on the rate and type of change we are currently experiencing.
Yes, we should act to mitigate climate change. This involves a range of measures including:
Education so individuals and communities become aware of the impact of individual decisions (water and energy saving) with further information to contribute to behaviour change (reduce, re-use etc);
Support and incentives so individuals and communities can adapt or purchase energy saving devices, install solar technology, or retrofit their home. Support and incentives so that Local Governments can change to energy efficient street lighting (for example), install grey water systems, and can work with communities to adopt lower energy use. Support, incentives and security for large investments to build the infrastructure associated with wind turbines, solar plants and geothermal operations etc;
Legislation to establish targets (reduce carbon emissions by at least 20% by 2020) and systems to manage the process of change, operational decisions such as the staged closure of Hazelwood;
Leading by example, where Government buildings are designed or are retrofitted to minimise energy and water use;
Research and development to identify alternative ways of working, new technologies, new sources of energy.
There are many more things that can be and are happening throughout Victoria to respond to, mitigate and reduce the impact of climate change.
What are your thoughts on Victoria’s water security?
There are still some people who believe we should ‘build more dams.’ This option assumes that we will continue to receive significant rainfall in traditional areas (and that rainfall volume and distribution patterns are not changing).
The piping of water creates water efficiency on a scale still being imagined. Water is not lost through evaporation or seepage, and can be moved throughout the region. Water quality is greatly improved, contributing to efficiencies in farming, (water is less salty and so stock drink less) manufacturing (water quality is improved and business costs are reduced) and other water use (air conditioning and water heating devices experience less mineral damage because of improved water quality).
I understand concerns regarding the energy consumption of desalination plants but believe the benefits (water security) outweigh the concerns and that improved technologies, particularly solar, wind and geothermal, will be used to offset or mitigate the energy use.
Food security is vital and I’m aware of plans to minimise water usage through improved farm practices. Our farming community is hard working and innovative and ready to adapt to changes that will support them to get on with their business.
There is more to be done, with education important at the individual level, ongoing research and development vital, and long term investment security essential.
What are the public transport needs in your electorate?
The electorate is 34,500 square kilometres and between towns, car usage is a primary source of transport. Many people throughout the electorate receive less than the average income and so the costs of car usage can be prohibitive.
Within the larger towns, a bus service is a primary source of public transport.
Bus services and improved transport connections provide a cost efficient and flexible transport option for many people. Subsidising the cost of public transport is important so that economic barriers are removed and incentives are provided to make the change from vehicle to public transport.
Buses are still not suitable for all passengers and may present challenges for young families, (with prams) older people and people who have mobility concerns. More work needs to be done in this area so that local buses have flat floor/easy access for users.
I am a strong advocate for the return of passenger rail between larger towns and Melbourne but I am also aware of the costs of implementing this decision. Recently, additional seats have been purchased for travel on the Overland train. This means that more train places are available at a subsidised rate for people in the northern part of the electorate. This is not a perfect solution, but it part of a staged response to public demand. As the demand for rail travel increases (already at something like 12 million VLine trips in 12 months) the possibility for new services will also increase.
Public transport also involves the concept of connectivity, of being connected when it matters, (such as communicating through this medium). Fast, reliable, broadband technology is important, so that people can work in country towns and rural communities without being required to travel to or live in the larger cities or overseas.
Broadband technology will change the way we study, are employed and communicate. It does not negate the need for efficient public transport options but it does add another dimension to our need to use public transport.
For example, telemedicine (use of video conferencing technology) will mean that individuals can access medical specialists from the convenience of a local hospital, rather than be required to travel to the larger metropolitan centres.
Do you support gay marriage?
The Australian Labor Party supports the accepted definition that marriage is between a man and a woman. In Victoria, considerable legislative reform has occurred so that civil unions between same sex couples can be registered and recognised. This has removed instances of discrimination where same sex couples did not have legal authority in land, health and family matters.
The Labor Party is comprised of an incredibly diverse community. Ideas and opinions are debated at Branch level, in policy committees and at State and Federal conferences. I am looking forward to participating in the various debates as we discuss and work through this issue.
What do you feel has been your greatest achievement in life (family not included)?
For much of my life I have chosen to work beside or behind others, helping other people develop the skills and confidence to make decisions and be responsible for positive change.
I have been described as a ‘wonderful leader’ when in fact I have tried to be a wonderful support person.
I am proud of the skills and pathways that other people have developed. In some small way I hope I have been able to support them to gain confidence to take risks, make mistakes and make decisions.