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Louise Staley states her opposition priorities as she retains her seat

Finally: Member for Ripon Louise Staley accepts official confirmation of her election win from Ripon district election manager Ian McLean in Stawell. Picture: DEAN LAWSON

FINALLY: Member for Ripon Louise Staley accepts official confirmation of her election win from Ripon district election manager Ian McLean in Stawell. Picture: DEAN LAWSON

By Colin MacGillivray
Re-elected Member for Ripon Louise Staley has vowed to hold the Victorian Labor government to account for its pre-election promises during her next four years in opposition.
Ms Staley, the incumbent Liberal member, held her seat by only 15 votes, finishing ahead of Labor challenger Sarah De Santis after a recount of 40,055 formal votes.
The Monday announcement by the Victorian Electoral Commission came more than two weeks after polls closed in the state election and confirmed Ripon’s status as the most marginal electorate in the state.
While the election resulted in a landslide loss for the Liberal-Nationals Coalition, Ms Staley’s narrow re-election represented a bright spot for the opposition.
She said challenging the Daniel Andrews-led government to deliver for her electorate would be her priority.
She said she would push to fulfill the Coalition’s pre-election pledge to return rail services to Stawell and Horsham, despite Labor not matching the commitment.
With doubt surrounding The Overland train service between Melbourne and Adelaide, Ms Staley said it was vital regional residents in Ripon and beyond were not left with inadequate transport options.
She called on the government to fund a business case for the return of passenger rail to western Victoria.
“We need to see what the best way is, but it can’t be beyond the realms of government – given how much money they are proposing to spend in Melbourne – to do this business case and ensure that Stawell and Horsham, and ideally Hamilton, have regular passenger services,” she said.
“The Overland is better than nothing, but it is not the answer. We need regular services that don’t go via Geelong and take a very long time.”
Ms Staley said other Coalition election promises – such as a $4-million upgrade for Ararat’s Marian College and $1.3-million to develop Wedderburn’s Donaldson Park sporting complex – would also be high on her agenda.
“The key thing, particularly with the sporting facility projects, is that they’re all backed by local government,” she said.
“The reason I committed to funding them is because I knew there were partnerships in place between the clubs, between the council and between the community that would mean those projects are ready to go.
“It’s clear those councils have put together projects where there is community need.”

“I will be ensuring, through parliament and other mechanisms, the government recognises that the people in these communities need these facilitites, and they have to get on and deliver them.”
Ms Staley’s retention of Ripon bucked an anti-Liberal election trend in Melbourne, where the opposition lost previously safe ‘blue-ribbon’ seats such as Hawthorn.
Ms Staley said the Liberal-Nationals Coalition had fared better in country electorates because its messages resonated with voters, and described the alliance between the two parties as ‘vital’.
“If you look at the country Liberals – Cindy McLeish, myself, Richard Riordan, Gary Blackwood – we held well against the tide,” she said.
“Clearly the Liberal party brand in Melbourne and what happened in the eastern suburbs was very difficult, but country Victorians didn’t embrace Labor whether the seat they were in was a Liberal Party seat or a National Party seat.
“Both the country Liberals and the Nationals are embedded in our communities. We understand Daniel Andrews and Labor have not been good for our communities.
“Whether it is roads, which continue to disintegrate, whether it’s the rates issue, which Labor has no answers on, there is a raft of ways in which this government has demonstrated it is not governing for all Victorians.
“It is our continued challenge to bring home to the government that they have to look further afield and govern for all Victorians.”
Ms Staley said the Liberal Party was still searching for answers after its heavy election defeat, but suggested country women such as herself, Eildon’s Ms McLeish and South West Coast member Roma Britnell would play a big part in the party’s future.
“There are clearly a number of women who have held country seats and who will have plenty to say within our party room,” she said.
“It is absolutely clear we need to have more women representing the Liberal Party.”
Ripon was the fourth most marginal electorate at the 2014 election and the most marginal electorate this year.
Victorian Electoral Commission data showed Ms Staley had mixed results at polling centres in Stawell and Stawell West, while Ararat and Ararat West residents cast 316 more votes for Ms De Santis after preferences were distributed.
Smaller Wimmera voting centres such as Donald, Great Western, Glenorchy, Marnoo and Litchfield voted predominantly Liberal.
Ms Staley said because of the diverse range of communities within the Ripon electorate, the seat was always likely to be marginal at an election.
“Politicians don’t get to draw the boundaries, the Electoral Boundaries Commission does that,” she said.
“They’ve drawn boundaries around Ripon that just means it is a marginal seat – it’s always going to be tight.”

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Posted on Dec 12 2018

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