The Oakleigh contest

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram The Oakleigh seat is set to be contested by two Greek Australians on opposite spectrums. Cr Steve Dimopoulos, the pre-selection candidate for the Labor Party, and Cr Theo Zographos, pre-selection candidate for the Liberal Party, are to contest the marginal seat on the November 29 election. For Cr Dimopoulos, who has lived in the Oakleigh area for 40 years, this election campaign is about the Victorian Government taking a more activist approach to supporting the interests of the State. He told Neos Kosmos that he is hoping that his special bond with the Oakleigh area, along with support from the Greek community, will propel him to victory in November. “I think I’ve got a really strong connection with Oakleigh, not only do I live there, grew up there, went to schools there … but I also had a business in Oakleigh. I worked for the local MP, so I got to hear constituent problems for a period of eight years and really understand and get an insight into people’s lives. So I’ve got a personal and professional connection with Oakleigh that is unique,” he said. And he reiterated the fact that he is someone who ran a business, has been involved with politics for 11 years on the local council, worked for a local federal member of parliament and who “does a good role in terms of advocacy and someone who has represented his city as mayor”. But he acknowledges that contesting a seat which his party holds by a 5.1 per cent margin is something that he will not take for granted. Having opened a cafe in 2002, he was given the opportunity to hear firsthand the issues propagated by the locals and, for him, it was the proposed closure of a local pool which propelled him to a life in the public sector. “It was really the galvanising influence, taking away a pretty significant piece of infrastructure for me that got me involved and on the representative side of politics rather than the backroom,” he said. And the Greek community plays a big part in his life and in his party’s politics. “I think it’s easy to take the Greek support (for the Labor Party) for granted. It means a lot (the Greek community to Labor). It’s not just relying on a vote that goes back to Whitlam and before, it’s actually, if you look at some of the biggest contributors in the Victorian party and even federally, but particularly in the Victorian party, over the last 20 years they’ve been of Greek heritage. “I think we’ve got the biggest cohort of pre-selected candidates of Greek heritage ever contesting this election, so I see that as the party recognising the Greek community in a very genuine way,” he said. He has prioritised job increases, education, health and transport as relevant factors for not only his constituency, but Victoria on a whole. “They’re pretty standard bread and butter issues, but I think they’re materially more significant now when you’ve got a federal government that’s torn out some of the core funding for these services.” “There’s a whole range of needs in relation to capital needs in schools. Health, so hospitals, and that links in with the ramping rates of ambulances having to wait outside the Monash Medical centre to unload patients. “Public transport is always a Labor staple, it has particular relevance for the Oakleigh electorate because we’ve got four level crossings, all of which will be under the party’s policy to remove in two terms. “So for me it’s those issues, but particularly jobs, that’s why I named it first, because if you don’t have a job you’re far more likely to be living under the poverty line or under financial stress and there’s a whole range of companies, as we’ve seen over the last two years, exiting Victoria.” He believes that personally endorsing and meeting his constituents is a vital element to him being elected. He said getting in touch with the issues faced by the people of Oakleigh is what drives him. “My focus is meeting people one on one and trying to get a sense of two things; the first is hopefully them getting a sense of who I am as a human being and someone of a particular value set and someone of a particular energy and activism, but also me understanding, because I think I’ve got a really strong connection with Oakleigh,” he said. Cr Dimopoulos is contesting the seat for Labor, with current Oakleigh Labor MP Ann Barker retiring at the end of this term.Neos Kosmos will feature Cr Theo Zographos, the Liberal candidate for the seat of Oakleigh, in this Saturday’s English edition.last_img