By Shane Scanlan
If you live in the CBD, you may not have noticed that there is a state election on November 24.
The urban renewal areas of the Melbourne electorate, CBD and Docklands, have become a virtual no-go zone for candidates who are more at home in the traditional inner-city suburbs to our north.
Despite booming residential populations, our densely-populated towers contain relatively few enrolled voters who can’t be easily “door-knocked” or even “pamphleted”.
Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) figures show that about a quarter (26.3 per cent) of the CBD’s residential population are enrolled to vote (based on 2016 census figures showing 33,203 20-years-plus residents of a total 37,975). As of September 5, only 8750 locals were enrolled to vote.
And, given the transitory nature of our residents, the actual number of voters still living here is likely to be significantly less.
So, the disinterest from political candidates is partly our fault. As a cohort, we don’t enrol, are not listed in the “phone book”, we live behind locked doors, have private mail-boxes and don’t even hang around for very long in our apartments.
But, even if this was not the case, it is doubtful whether the politicians would be interested in connecting.
Sitting member Ellen Sandell holds the seat of Melbourne by only 2.4 per cent, having won it for The Greens from the ALP’s Jennifer Kanis at the 2014 election.
So you might reasonably expect the Labor Party to be revved up about trying to win it back. This does not appear to be so.
Ms Kanis has more recently been doing the things that the party might expect a candidate to do – speaking to a community group here, meeting commuters at a railway station there – but seems to have not really broken into a canter or raised a sweat.
From outward appearances, the ALP has conceded the seat to The Greens.
And the Liberal Party hasn’t even given Melbourne voters the respect of fielding a candidate.
Adding insult from the Liberals is Matthew Guy’s pledge to tear up Planning Scheme Amendment 270.
The former planning minister told the Property Council on October 19: “There’s a market, a strong market and Melbourne’s growing and Melbourne’s changing. People want to live in downtown Melbourne. Why we would put in place every rule you can and constrict that or stop that?”
What all this means for local residents is that our specific high-rise, strata-related issues will not be taken up by the major parties.
However, if The Greens win enough seats to hold the balance of power in the new Parliament, locals can expect attention to issues such as short-stay renting in residential towers, who pays to replace non-compliant cladding or West Gate Tunnel-generated inner-city traffic chaos.
The Liberals are clearly not interested in our specific issues and neither is the ALP, which has had the past four years to perform but has been found wanting.
Ms Kanis should be embarrassed by her pre-2014 pledge on short-stays. On November 5 in Docklands, she committed the Labor Party to retrospective legislation to ban short-stay accommodation. Obviously, this hasn’t happened and could explain her reluctance to speak with CBD News.
Early in October, CBD News asked Ms Kanis (via Twitter) for her phone number so we could speak with her. She replied: “Thanks for the tweet. This is the campaign email address and here are the details of my campaign manager.” Campaign manager Matt Dawson also refused to reveal Ms Kanis’s phone number.
A look at her campaign Facebook page shows a slow build-up of activities – activities that focus on familiar and friendly territory of Kensington, North Melbourne, Carlton, Flemington and the like.
An amusing post from October 6 shows Ms Kanis and a band of supporters sitting in a West Melbourne pub “calling into the Docklands” by phone.
“Progressive” politicians, by and large, have a snobby distain of high-rise and, by extension, those who choose to live in them. Conservative politicians simply couldn’t be bothered.
The CBD is a political desert – a wasteland of unrepresented people abandoned by the parties who are pledging billions of dollars for railways, roads, hospitals and schools in electorates that matter.