BY FARRAH TOMAZIN
FRED Tucker has lived in Mount Waverley for almost 50 years, so he knows a thing or two about what makes the area tick. He’s seen the mortgage-belters come and go, drawn to Melbourne’s east by the quality of homes, the schools, and the peaceful amenity of middle suburbia.
Asked what issues will shape his vote when he heads to the ballot box on November 27, the former detective’s answer is simple: ”For starters, give us back all the police we had. We used to have a 24-hour police station here, with foot police who’d know all the shopkeepers, all the larrikins – and they’d send all the trouble home. Now you’re lucky if you can find any police around on the streets.”
Mr Tucker admits he’s always been a traditionally conservative voter, drawn by policies that get tough on crime and governments that are less inclined to fund infrastructure by going into debt. But a few kilometres away, former business executive Noel Denton has been less decided on who to vote for.
Advertisement: Story continues below Mr Denton, too, has lived in the area for many years, and likes to regard regards himself ”not as a swinging voter, but a thinking voter”. Asked how he’s likely to vote this month, Mr Denton replies: ”I’ve decided that this time around, given Labor’s track record on planning, water, and transport, I won’t be voting for them.”
Mr Tucker and Mr Denton are two out of 36,909 eligible voters in the state seat of Mount Waverley, a 23-square-kilometre district that has the dubious honour of being the most marginal seat in Victoria. Held by Labor Children’s Minister Maxine Morand, Mount Waverley was created only eight years ago from parts of the abolished seats of Bennettswood and Glen Waverley – both of which were Liberal Party territory.
At the last state election in 2006, Ms Morand beat the Liberal candidate, Michael Gidley, by a mere 206 votes, and now only needs a swing of 0.3 per cent against her to lose.
Ms Morand, 51, admits the next three weeks are going to be tough, particularly given that Mr Gidley, a 34-year-old chartered accountant and former president of the Liberals’ Scoresby branch, came so close to victory last time around.
The electorate takes in the suburbs of Syndal and parts of Glen Waverley and Mount Waverley.
Almost 40 per cent of residents are aged between 25 and 54. Some are drawn to the area to buy homes and raise families or because of the reputation of the schools.
But almost a third are aged 55 or over, their votes shaped by issues such as the delivery of health and services, community safety, and the cost of living.
Ms Morand says her campaign will centre on Labor’s traditional strengths – the government’s massive investment in hospitals and nurses, its modernisation of all Victorian schools and improvements in early childhood, and its strong economic credentials.
Mr Gidley, meanwhile, will seek to gain momentum in law and order, exploit the fact that trains on the Glen Waverley line are often cancelled or overcrowded, and highlight the fact that residents are struggling to cope with soaring bills.
”People don’t understand why they’re having to pay more for services but not see the government delivering. After 11 years of John Brumby’s government, Mount Waverley can’t afford another four years, ” says Mr Gidley.
Ms Morand has heard the argument before, but says the opposition ”can’t be trusted to deliver” its promises.