It’s always nice (and so unusual!) when one starts one’s little journey into the land of small parties and independent candidates with someone who gives every appearance of being sane and intelligent. Dr Christine Sindt looks suspiciously as though she might be both of these things.
Of course, I’m probably biased in her favour by the fact that she is a scientist (crystallography and biologically-active compounds) and speaks English, French and German. And I really love the fact that she helped establish the Sudanese Nuer Community Language School in the La Trobe Valley.
Dr Sindt is currently a La Trobe City Councillor, and is running as an Ungrouped Independent in the region of Eastern Victoria, which runs from the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne (Belgrave, Lilydale, Mornington), and stretches all the way to East Gippsland, taking in part of the Victorian Alps along the way. She is clearly very passionate about education, and is absolutely against a proposed merger between Monash University Gippsland and the University of Ballarat, on the grounds both of educational quality and governance (she is concerned that if the Churchill Campus is run from Ballarat, local priorities will be ignored).
As an ungrouped candidate, Dr Sindt gives no obvious clues as to which political parties she does and doesn’t approve of, so you’ll have to guess based on her policies…
In terms of policies, her key platforms are removing a water tax, improving education, and boosting employment. She is very keen on improving the TAFE system, and believes that education in general is key to social improvement:
“When you’ve got an educated society, everything else will follow. Everyone should have the opportunity to pursue what makes them happy with the support of a good education.” (Latrobe Valley Express, November 14th)
There’s a lot to like in this statement.
On the subject of water, Dr Sindt is deeply concerned that Gippsland is paying more for their water than anywhere else in Victoria, even though quite a bit of Victoria’s water comes from Gippsland. There is an entire section of her website devoted to this, with links to a Water Hardship Policy which she was responsible for, as well as correspondence to government bodies and ministers regarding water prices in Gippsland. I have to say, if the letters and policy are anything to go by, it sounds like water prices really are shockingly high, and this is likely to be a winning platform.
Dr Sindt is also concerned about electricity prices, commenting that “Our water rates are double those of Melbourne and our council rates subsidise the power generators. Our electricity should be cheaper than Melbourne since we have the coal.”
Dr Sindt highlights her record in job creation, working with the Gippsland Resource Group to establish or relocate services to regional areas, and also expresses concerns regarding infrastructure generally – drainage, freeway closures, and land slippage near the mines.
And that’s around about it. This looks to me like the portrait of a good, competent local candidate, who is very aware of the issues in her region. It’s difficult to tell how well this is likely to translate to being an Upper House representative, given that all I really have to go on is Dr Sindt’s self-assessment that she will be good at this. She certainly knows how to write a policy document well, which ought to count for something.
Edited to add: However, please see comments and links below. It turns out that I may not agree with this candidate quite as much as I had thought…
In terms of getting elected, the fact that she got voted into Council speaks in her favour, but as an Ungrouped Independent, she is at a huge disadvantage, as she will have no box ‘above the line’ and will be reliant on people who vote below the line – or on preferences from larger parties – for her share of the votes. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.