A researcher and writer Mathew Hilakari has put his hand up to fill the role of the outgoing Labor MP and former Victorian Attorney General and Health Minister Jill Hennessy. Due to population boom in the areas the electoral boundaries have changed. With the electorate of Altona undergoing redistribution, new electorates of Laverton and Point Cook have been created. And Mathew Hilakari is the Labor candidate to represent the people of Point Cook.
Why would a researcher and writer be interested in politics?
“I’m interested in politics to make a better community, a better society” he told Dinesh Malhotra of Bharat Times in an exclusive chat at a local café on October 31.
Yes, on October 31, during the Melbourne Cup long weekend when everyone was taking a break, (even the local café originally the venue for the interview was closed) Mathew took time off his door knocking schedule to talk to Bharat Times.
Why did he choose Labor?
“It was a pretty easy choice to choose Labor, because they are interested in improving the lives of everyone in our community and leaving no one behind”, Mathew Hilakari said.
For any formative influences on him, Mathew names Gough Whitlam although Mathew is also very pleased with the Victorian Labor party pool of talented people led by Daniel Andrews.
The ‘outsider’ tag
Pre-selection in any party is a complicated process and without fail there are murmurs about each and everyone of them about the domicile of the candidate pre-selected. This has been a phenomenon only in the last 10-15 years when, with the influx of international students from 2006 onward many new Australians including significant number of Indians started to get ambitious and get involved.
In the past, choosing candidates from outside the electorates (now called ‘parachuting’) was quite the norm for both major parties.
There was hardly a voice of dissent back then. Not anymore. The aspirational, locally living potential candidates want to put their hand up at every opportunity and there is nothing wrong with that. Thus, unsurprisingly, most vocal critics of the pre-selection process are also from the same lot of people who participate in the political process locally day-in, day-out.
The question about Mathew Hilakari not being from Point Cook was naturally raised, soon as the pre-selection process was completed.
To silence them all, soon after his pre-selection, Mathew and his young family moved into the area to start living locally.
The question was put to him by Dinesh Malhotra.
You have moved into the area only last year. So obviously, your opponents and independents will probably claim that you are an outsider technically speaking, compared to other potential candidates who have been here much longer. How do you respond to that?
“I think it’s important for candidates, (members of) parliament to deliver for their community. I think people would like to see candidates live in the community, but it’s far more important to actually deliver for the community. So of course, I’ve lived here. I’ve been here since late last year”.
How is his campaign going?
I’ve knocked on one in seven doors across the community. I’ll keep door knocking between now and the election, of course… the community are giving me the feedback about things that can be improved.
Can you list three most important issues in this electorate that you think you will have to deliver on?
Yes, certainly. Very first one and the standout one is point cook road. It is your long standing traffic issue several decades long. And it’s a result of some poor planning initially. And in a suburb, that’s really grown. What the Labour Party is doing about that is we’re making it safe first, and then we’ll get on with the job and making it more efficient to get. So at the end of Sneydes Road and intersection of Point Cook road we are putting in a set of traffic lights, it’s budgeted more than $a5 million project, it is budgeted and it’ll be done by the middle of next year (2023).
The second project we’re doing on Point Cook road is the intersection of Central Avenue, which is a really diffcult roundabout to navigate or set of roundabouts to navigate in reality, we’re turning that into traffic lights, and then we’re doubling the road along central avenue to where there’s an existing four lane road. That’s really important for safety. And that’s the priority.
The Point Cook road – Central Avenue Road traffic lights project will be delivered in 2025.
Both these (Sneydes Rd and Central Ave) will be music to the ears of thousands of people in his electorate who navigate the road to and from city every single day.
Opposition’s Pledge to widen Point Cook Road for $149 million
The state Opposition has also promised $149 million for a project to widen the Point Cook road. According to Mathew Hilakari, that is just a promise. He also believes the money allocated is pittance compared to what it would actually take to widen the whole of Point Cook road.
Mathew also told Bharat Times that a re-elected Labor government will double the Emergency capacity at the Werribee Mercy hospital and it will be done by 2025. That will allow the hospital to see 25,000 extra patients each year.
“We’re doubling the emergency capacity 25,000 Extra patients will be seen in here (Werribee hospital). And that will get one of the urgent care clinics, which is effectively a GP clinic” Mathew added.
Also read: Andrews promises $10 million for Indian Community infrastructure
The third requirement, according to Mathew Hilakari, for his community in the electorate of Point Cook is community facilities, new, additional and/or upgrading what is there,
“It’s one of those things that you probably haven’t got as much as much as the community desires. We put 1.4 million commitment into point cook Football Club. Now, that’s for a 300 person, capacity venue That’s not just going to be used by Football Club, of course can be used by all of the community. So that’s a great example of how we’re moving on infrastructure, moving on community infrastructure..”.
Full credit to Mathew Hilakari and his party that Dainel Andrews has already announced $2.5 million for an Indian community center in the West.
When asked about his earlier politics, Mathew says he has been active in politics for almost 17 years.
“I’ve been involved in the Labour Party for probably close to about 17 years now. I’ve been involved in all parts of the Labor party”, Mathew Hilakari told Bharat Times.
He is passionate about dental hygiene.
“I’ve got involved in university I guess, you know, the things that I’m most proud of my involvement in the party is progressing policy, one that was really important to me is dental care. And we’ve just seen a progressive step by step improvement on our way of how Labor party views dental care and what we’re doing about it. The last state election, I was really proud to say that dental care vans are back in schools across the state. At a personal level, I think that’s really important because poor dental hygiene, means poor overall health, really, really significant problem. And it means that people have poor economic circumstances, people with poor teeth, end up finding difficult to get work, more difficult than people who have, nice, shiny, you know, non-crooked teeth. So to it’s an economic justice issue with me, as well as a health issue for me. I’m really proud that Labor’s moved on that Victoria. And of course, inside the Labour Party, I’ll be pushing to say more action on that at a federal level as well.
Mathew Hilakari is beginning his political career with a safe seat. He is tipped to win the seat on November 26.
Many pundits feel MPs from safe seats do not get to deliver much because the leaders are more focused on winning the marginal seats (at the next election) and thus many government programs can go to those electorates.
That may, of itself be a fair assumption to make.
But if Mathew Hilakari is able to deliver solutions to address the daily ordeal of commuting the Point Cook road, (as outlined in this interview), according to my editor Dinesh Malhotra, he will have a long future as the Point Cook MP.
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