Meet the Independents: Peter ALLAN, Nicola THOMSON, Nicole BATCH (Group N, Northern Metropolitan)

Peter Allan, the lead candidate of the Group N Independents in the Northern Metropolitan Region asks if I am “Tired of Melbourne’s North being ignored in State politics”.  Oh, I am, Peter, I am! Apparently, I should therefore vote above the line for Peter Allan.  Which is a losing argument, because as you all know by now, I never, ever, vote above the line for anyone…

Mr Allan calls himself a ‘Community Independent’, and a brief look at his online presence suggests that he is pretty media-savvy – and particularly strong on social media.  Not only does he have a Facebook page and Twitter account, you can even get Peter Allan Twibbons to show your support on Twitter (I find this mildly hilarious).  He took part in the recent Candidates’ Forum in Brunswick and has been interviewed on 774 FM. I’ll be using this interview and his main website to write this article.

According to his biography, Mr Allan has lived all his life in Melbourne’s North, and has ‘a strong record of community action across social justice, educational and environmental issues’.  Sounds like my kind of candidate.  He is apparently one of Australia’s foremost authorities on recycling and sustainable resource management (and we’ll be hearing more about that later), and was recently recognised as Moreland’s Citizen of the Year.  His track record is an impressive one if you live on the left-side of politics.  Projects he has been involved in have included getting cigarette advertising banned, phasing out leaded petrol, expanding solar installations (and payments), and introducing household recycling.  There’s a lot of good stuff here.

His motivation to become a state parliamentarian is based on his energetic commitment to social justice and environmental protection, his concern about the current state of corruption in Victorian politics, and a desire to be a strong voice for services in the often neglected North.

An excellent start, I think.

A brief note before we get on with the preferences.  While there are three un-grouped Independents on this ticket, it is very much the Peter Allan ticket.  I can’t find information about his running mates anywhere, so I’m guessing that they are largely here so that he can have an above-the-line presence on the ballot.  I’m not sure why he needs two people for this (the minimum for an above-the-line group is 2, and he has three), nor am I aware of the significance of them both being named Nicole/Nicola.  But I am positive there is some!

The Group N preferences go largely left to right across the political spectrum, though Allan has, alas, preferenced several of the dottier parties high on his list.  At the top of his ticket, we find the Animal Justice Party, People Power (oh, Peter, why?), Voice for the West, the Sex Party, the Basics Rock and Roll, the Greens, and the Cyclists.  Labor can be found in the middle of the ticket, and at the foot we have the Country Alliance, Family First, Australian Christians, the Liberal Party, Palmer United, the Liberal Democrats, the Shooters and Fishers, and last of all, Rise Up Australia.

Mr Allan sees himself as a man with big ideas, but who can be practical about working with people across the political spectrum.   He feels that the standard for government policy ought to be community benefit.

As Mr Allan’s policies are in dot point form, and there are a lot of dots,  I’m going to divide them into categories.

Environment, Energy and Recycling

Mr Allan is evidently passionate about the environment and about recycling.  Indeed, at one point, the interviewer asked him why he didn’t just join the Greens (he likes the Greens, but prefers his independence).  He has worked in the recycling industry for 25 years, and one of his big-ticket policies is to turn the car assembly plants that are being shut down into disassembly plants to recycle not just the metal from cars, but the plastic, rubber, glass, and so forth.  This would be good for the environment, but also for employment, and he would like to see Victoria becoming the recycling capital of Australia.  This is something where the government would need to lead the way, by doing feasibility studies and the like.

Speaking of recycling, he would also like to create a national recycling hub in the north of Melbourne, including a battery recycling facility, food waste processing, and an appliance re-use and recycling program.

Mr Allan is also enthusiastic about solar energy and renewable energy generally.  He would like to fund a large-scale solar system roll-out to help low-income households lower their bills, and he would also like to create solar parks in new housing projects, with all new housing to be 5 star with solar.  Appliances need to be more energy efficient, and he wants to reinstate the energy efficiency target ad feed-in tariffs.  Unsurprisingly, he wants to close down and ‘rehabilitate’ existing coal-fired power stations.

Another of Mr Allan’s big policies is the creation of the Great Forest National Park, which we have heard about from a few parties now.  He wants to protect national parks from grazing, mining and sale, and increase funding for their upkeep.

 

Transport

Mr Allan’s transport policy is, in a nutshell, trains not cars.  He wants to expand public transport, including putting more rail crossings underground, extending and connecting tram routes, and extending and constructing train lines in Doncaster, Rowville, Upfield and Whittlesea.  He also wants to subsidise annual Myki cards for the public sector, which sounds like a great idea, and wants fast, free connector mini-buses to stations.

He is against the East-West tollway.  Nobody is surprised. Mr Allan is, however, in favour of a lot more bicycle infrastrucutre (hooray!), as well as full third-party insurance coverage for cycling, a Vulnerable Road Users Charter for cyclists and pedestrians, and an enforced clearance when passing cyclists of 1-1.5 metres.  He also wants to integrate cycling into all transport planning.  He would also like to link vehicle registration to efficiency, and move the public sector vehicle fleet to hybrid cars.

People

Mr Allan wants to increase funding for health and educational services and create jobs.  So far, the only people I’ve seen who don’t want to do that are the Liberal Democrats.  He wants to address gambling addiction, and does not feel that gambling facilities should be self-regulating or being involved in harm-reduction strategy development, since their interests are not precisely aligned with this.  He also wants to reduce the number of poker machines in Victoria, and ban incentives and enticements for gambling.

In health, he would like to fund 24-hour GP clinics, to ease the load on emergency departments.  This is not a bad idea at all.  He would also like to expand public emergency hospital beds.  Mr Allan supports voluntary euthanasia, and is also pro-choice.  He also wants to reduce the requirement for doctors certificates when taking sick leave, which sounds like an excellent plan to me – sometimes, one just needs to stay in bed with one’s cold, rather than go out and share it with a whole waiting-room full of people while you wait two hours for your appointment…

He wants better funding for schools, more TAFE funding, and better teacher training, with greater support for education expenses for low-income houses.  He also wants fewer casual teaching appointments, and to ensure that all schools are covered by equal opportunity and non-discrimination legislation.  It took me two tries to work out what that was about, but basically, I suspect it’s a rebuttal to the Religious Right and their right for religious schools to discriminate by hiring teachers whose morals match their own.

Mr Allan wants to increase funding for community sport and recreation, as well as for elite female sports.  He also wants to encourage street closures and street-based recreation.  (I’m actually really liking all these policies, but somehow, this whole thing has a nostalgically retro, 1980s feel to me.  The cricket-in-the-street image that comes to mind here is just one example of this – perhaps it’s because I’m just the right age to remember the end of cigarette advertising, and worrying about CFCs, and many of the other  other campaigns Mr Allan was involved in back then?)

Mr Allan also wants to increase funding to social housing, remove negative gearing, and require new residential developments to have a social housing component.  If he’s talking about supported accommodation or public housing, he’s going to have a fight on his hands there, though I think it’s one worth fighting.  The ghettoising of our poorest citizens into council flats in which the only other tenants are also disadvantaged is a definite problem, and makes it very hard for people to break out of the cycle of poverty.

(I can think of at least one school, for example, where parents who work where I do will not send their children, because virtually all the students there are from council flats, have quite significant social and learning issues, and the teachers really have to focus on their needs to the detriment of other students.  If one distributes the population of disadvantaged families more evenly through the community, this effect is lessened, and both disadvantaged children and children from easier backgrounds can benefit from a better education.)

Animals

Mr Allan is quite strong on animal welfare, which is not surprising given that he preferences the Animal Justice Party first on his ticket.  He wants to end duck hunting, jumps racing and the sale of caged eggs, ban animals in circuses, and require humane slaughter of animals.  Interestingly, he does not – quite – say he will ban live exports:

  • Require that all animals be stunned prior to slaughter here and in foreign destinations
  • Ensure all livestock exports include an independent veterinarian for the full voyage and a public report

Politics and Government

Peter Allan tells us that he is sick of the current direction of politics, and wants to clean it up.  He feels that the Democratic Process has been hijacked by corporations, and that community interests are not getting the proper weight.  Like many other Independents and small parties, he wants an Independent Commission Against Corruption, and he wants to ban corporate political donations and cap individual donations at $1000.  He wants to introduce an independent speaker to parliament, and expand freedom of information to encourage government transparency.

On the subject of budgets and spending, he does not like the current government’s tack on health spending, and he opposes the introduction of a GST on education and fresh food – but he does support GST on online purchases.  This is an interesting one, and is probably a reference to local businesses complaining that they are undercut by online businesses overseas who can charge a lower price because they don’t have to pass on a GST to their customers.  He also wants money brought in by fines on things like waste levies, traffic offenses, and gambling and tobacco taxes to be used to address these issues.

Law and order

Unsurprisingly, Mr Allan is in favour of discretion in sentencing, and against private prisons.  Interestingly, he wants more autonomy for police to decide their resource allocations, and he wants to fund education and diversion programs for Ice.

 

And that’s about it for Mr Allan for now.  It’s a nice raft of policies, I think, and while I will not be taking his advice to vote above the line (evidently he does not know me!), he certainly looks like someone who will appear in my top five parties on Election Day.

 

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6 thoughts on “Meet the Independents: Peter ALLAN, Nicola THOMSON, Nicole BATCH (Group N, Northern Metropolitan)

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who came up short trying to find information on the Nicola/es! I’m quite impressed by Allan’s policies and general ideology, and apart from giving high preferences to No Smart Meters I’ve really struggled to find much to disagree with. That said, I can’t bring myself to give high preferences to two individuals I know nothing about, so while Allan will definitely feature very high in my preferences, the other two will go lower down. I can only assume they have likeminded political views to Allan if they are running with him, so I won’t be too harsh, but I prefer my preferences to go to known quantities.

    Similarly, I’m giving Phil Cleary high preferences because I personally think positively of him as a candidate, but I could not find anything about the other Voice for the West candidate and I was somewhat lukewarm on their policies so I’m putting that candidate much further down.

    By the way, I just noticed you added my review page to your blogroll – I’m flattered!

    • Yes, I like the look of Peter Allan too, I must say. And he speaks rather well.

      And yes, I love your review page – I do not have the art of conciseness, and I think it’s good to have an alternative run-down of the parties for people who don’t have hours to spend reading my epic essays! I especially like the way you feature highlights and lowlights.

      (Incidentally, I believe we may be neighbours, work-wise. Perhaps we could meet up sometime? If this appeals, let me know, and I’ll email you.)

      • One of my mates – a former staffer to a state MP – thinks very poorly of Allan and believes he will say anything to get elected. So for me it comes down to my mate’s word against Allan’s own ideology and current media coverage. To be frank, even if I gave my mate full credit, Allan would still factor high because I’m generally unimpressed with the minor parties. There are a reasonable number where I think “yeah that’s decent enough” but not much that seriously leaps out at me. Voluntary Euthanasia and the Cyclists are the best examples – sure, those are important issues, but I can’t just take them in isolation.

        Trust me, you learn to be concise when you write 125,000 words for a doctoral thesis that’s meant to be 100,000 words maximum and then have to edit the damn thing without sacrificing any major content!

        And yes, do get in touch! Does wordpress show you my email address, even though it doesn’t appear publicly? If not let me know. I think I’ve spotted you on a couple of political Facebook pages, and if so we have a mutual friend.

        • I *can* be concise if I have to, but I find it takes me much longer, because my natural style is very chatty, and I really have to tighten things up! (And yes, every time I wrote an essay at uni, I knew that if the first draft wasn’t 25-50%% over the word count, there wasn’t enough content there for it to be a High Distinction essay…)

          Regarding Peter Allan, that’s very interesting. I’ve been in two minds about him, because I really like his policies, but somehow I don’t quite want to vote for him, and I have no idea why this is. Except that he looks too much like a politician, in some weird way. I like my independents a bit less polished!

          I’d note that whether he is a cynical politician or an idealist, the recycling hub stuff is pretty detailed. It’s a unique policy, and it’s clearly had a lot of thought put into it, so I reckon that he’s for real on that one, at the very least. I think for me the question is how much I like that policy, because my gut feeling is that if Mr Allan only got to enact one of his policies, that’s the one he’d be prioritising.

          (Will drop you an email shortly.)

  2. Hi Catherine
    A few weeks after the State Election and I am just finding your amazing blog. As the candidate who you have reviewed here I welcome your comprehensive research and thoughtful opinions. As an independent I was striving to be taken seriously and maybe i strayed into being too polished!
    There are always regrets in campaigns and looking back I wish I had profiled my running mates a bit more on line. I am sorry to disappoint you that the Nicola/Nicole is a complete coincidence! They are both very impressive people-Nicola Thomson doing great work in drug and alcohol research and Nicole Batch with Red Cross on refugee support and family tracing. I am sorry I gave you the impression I advocated above the line voting. If you read my feature article from The Age this week you will see that I want to get rid of the ATL boxes.
    http://www.theage.com.au/comment/upper-house-voting-shambles-needs-fixing-20141217-128qgt.html
    My family like the reference to me as nostalgically retro! I think your blog is brilliant and hope we can shine more light on candidates and parties at future elections. You are right to criticise my preferencing of People power but it sort of came out of my links to Animal Justice. Post election I am turning my attention to getting some key policies implemented including vehicle disassembly and a ban on corporate donations. I would like to have a coffee some time if you wish. Part of the polish in my social media came from an ex ABC journo who helped me and my wonderful family who are more accomplished than I am!
    Keep up the blog
    Peter Allan
    Community Independent Candidate
    0478 221332

    • Hi Peter,

      Thank you for your very kind comments! I’m glad you like what I wrote, and appreciate your remarks about above the line voting (great article, by the way). As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I am a trifle tongue-in-cheek when writing these blog posts (more on some occasions than on others, depending on how sleep deprived I am and how I feel about the candidate or party in question). So I wasn’t particularly serious when talking about voting above the line – except in noting that, being a grouped independent, your how to vote card does quite naturally suggest this option. Which is one of the advantages of the system, and one would be foolish not to take advantage of it.

      (On a more serious note, I’m deeply disappointed to learn that the Nicole thing was a coincidence. I feel strongly that Australia needs more candidates with matching names, and was looking to you to lead the way in this respect…)

      Regarding the Mystery Nicoles, I am doubly sad that I didn’t know more about them before election day, because I really am not comfortable preferencing people who I know nothing about, and they do sound like people I’d have liked to vote for. I’ve noticed that quite a few grouped independents do this, too, and it’s rather a shame – if someone cares enough to be on your ticket, then they deserve at least a paragraph or two about who they are and what they stand for! Though I also recognise that, particularly with State Elections, the time between announcing candidates and the election itself can be incredibly short, which makes it difficult. What I find particularly puzzling is when people run as independents and then don’t put any information out there at all…

      (And please don’t get hung up on the ‘polished’ thing. I did find it interesting to notice in myself that for all my time-consuming research into candidates and parties and attempt to vote as close to my personal policies as possible, there is still a part of me that just kind of goes ‘I like this person more than that person for no logical reason at all’, and is inclined to vote accordingly. I strongly suspect that this makes me very little different from most of the electorate – but that everyone has their own random and different set of prejudices. Where I see ‘too polished’ others probably see ‘reassuringly professional’. You’re interviewing for a job with 477,000 people on the interview panel, and you’re never going to please everyone…)

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