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Maurice Billi a new Labor voice for Lowan

Labor candidate for Lowan Maurice Billi.

Labor candidate for Lowan Maurice Billi.

Victorian Labor candidate for Lowan Maurice Billi, 55, of Stawell is confident he can take a regional voice into the heart of government if he can cause an election upset next month.
Mr Billi, who has spent more than 20 years travelling across the Wimmera in his role as a community development and youth worker, said he saw first-hand a need for strong rural and regional representation.
He said he understood the challenge of trying to seize one of the safest conservative seats in the country away from the Nationals.
But he added he was more than willing to provide Lowan voters with a Labor alternative.
“I’m in it to let people know there is a really strong option for people of Lowan,” he said.
“I realise I have a short period of time before the election, but I want to get out into the community as quickly as I can to build on the conversations and connections I already have.
“I want to hear from people on the ground, what’s affecting them, what concerns they have and provide a clear voice back to the government. That’s the critical connection I have that makes me unique from anyone else.”
Mr Billi, originally from Western Australia, dismissed the fact that he lived in Stawell, which is in Ripon electorate and on the edge of Lowan, as a major issue.
“It doesn’t worry me in the slightest. Everyone knows that regional sensibilities go well beyond electoral boundaries and the important aspect of my candidacy is that my day-to-day work involves an area stretching from Ararat to the South Australian border,” he said.
“There are so many similarities and connections between the Wimmera-Mallee and Western District and working in the health-education sector I do a lot of work with schools and communities. I have a very strong understanding of the region.”
Mr Billi, single and without children but a ‘passionate’ foster carer since he has lived in the Wimmera, put his hand up as Labor’s Lowan candidate after being unsuccessful in pre-selection as a candidate for Ripon. “I don’t have a political background and haven’t been part of that political bubble,” he said.
“I’ve always been a Labor supporter, but in doing a lot of advocacy for work in supporting vulnerable young people with Labor in opposition many years ago, I formed connections. I was asked by Labor’s Stawell branch to stand for pre-selection, but Ripon was lucky enough to have five candidates.”
Mr Billi said he took on the Lowan candidacy based on an understanding of rural and remote communities.
“It’s the bread and butter of the work I do – supporting rural and remote communities. The Wimmera and Western District are rural and remote and really need attention, investment and an increased level of support,” he said.
Mr Billi said getting a public transport equation right in the region was of paramount importance.
“It’s all about connectivity. There is a lot of noise going on about how Lowan and the rest of the region are being serviced by public transport. There are a lot of ideas and thoughts on the table and we need to see how we can advance this in a meaningful way,” he said.
“It’s not just about connectivity between the regions and the major cities, but also within the regions. We need a public transport plan and to build on that. We have people on the lowest incomes in the state, and pockets of high unemployment, especially youth employment. We need to provide transport and other options that help people get to jobs and opportunities.”
Mr Billi said he stood by Labor’s record in providing support to rural and regional Victoria.
“If you just look at who has invested the most in rural and regional Victoria the Labor party’s record over the past four budgets has been second to none – especially in key areas of health, education and roads and with a focus now on agriculture,” he said. “There’s a need to look at using new and existing technology to support key industries and that’s coming from Labor.”
Mr Billi said a Labor for Lowan Facebook page would soon become active and he was keen to hear from people.
“In realistic terms I know that in this election I’ll be coming from a long way back. But our message is clear and we have a State Government that is listening and investing in the region,” he said.
Regional Development and Agriculture Minister and Labor Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said Mr Billi was a passionate advocate for the region.
“I am delighted we have attracted a candidate of Maurice’s quality and calibre,” she said.
“Maurice is passionate about the Wimmera and about getting better services for young people and families as well as tackling the challenges facing an ageing population. He’s a quality candidate and I’m so glad he’s running for Labor in Lowan.” 

The entire October 17, 2018 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

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Posted on Oct 17 2018

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