This article appeared in the South Gippsland Sentinal Times 2/12/14 - Written by Michael Giles visit http://www.sgst.com.au/paynter-cops-a-serve-over-port/ to read the full story.
THE Liberal Party retained the seat of Bass at last Saturday’s State Election but with a greatly reduced margin.
Where the retiring Liberal MP Ken Smith secured 56.5 per cent of the vote in 2010, newcomer Brian Paynter managed just 45.6 per cent this time around.
It puts the seat back in the marginal category.
Mr Paynter said he was simply “thrilled and honoured” to have been voted in by the people of the electorate (see his comments).
But there’s little doubt that fears about the impact of the Port of Hastings’ expansion was a big factor.
In some Western Port booths, the Liberal Party’s vote was slashed by as much as 50 per cent, impacting Mr Paynter’s result overall.
And while the state-wide swing against the Coalition and the challenge by well-known independent, Claire Le Serve, were other factors, concerns over the Napthine Government’s port plans were the key.
Predictably Mrs Le Serve beat Mr Paynter in her own home-town booth of Corinella, 252 votes to 230, but the Libs also copped a pasting in Cowes as well where issues such as the closure of the hospital, Stand-alone, poor support for the tourism industry and the unpopular port plans didn’t play well.
Mr Smith collected 638 of the 1286 formal votes cast in Cowes last time, almost 50 per cent, but Mr Paynter got only 473 votes this time, or 37 per cent.
Here’s how the Waterline towns voted: Bass Le Serve 123, Paynter 133 (199 in 2010); Corinella Le Serve 252, Paynter 230 (378); Cowes Le Serve 169, Paynter 473 (638), Grantville Le Serve 184, Paynter 346 (485), Newhaven Le Serve 127, Paynter 297 (407), Rhyll Le Serve 70, Paynter 150 (206) and San Remo Le Serve 115, Paynter 308 (392).
Mrs Le Serve was pleased with the support she received.
“Our two aims in running were to make the seat marginal, if not win it, and to oppose turning the port into a mega-container facility,” Mrs Le Serve said.
“There’ll be some changes when the pre-polls are counted but by reducing the Liberals’ vote to 45 per cent, we have made the seat more marginal and perhaps the government will take more notice of us now.
“But it was an interesting process and I congratulate Mr Paynter and look forward to working with him as a councillor, hopefully getting the new government to commit to the redevelopment of the secondary college and expansion of the hospital in Wonthaggi.”
Port was the key
Chairman of the Preserve Western Port Action Group, Jeff Nottle, was in no doubt.
“Their polling before the election would have told them they were in trouble in Bass because of the port which is why they rushed down here in the final few days with promises of $21 million for the secondary college and $25 million for the hospital,” Mr Nottle said.
“And it’s probably why Brian Paynter was able to pull a rabbit out of the hat and get the island review funded when the Minister had initially said ‘no way’.
“There’s no doubt it was a factor. The reports I’m getting are that a lot of people going in to vote in this area were talking about it.”
Mr Nottle said that independent candidate, Clare Le Serve, listed concern about the port expansion as her number one policy issue which is why she got 11.4 per cent of the vote.
“We’ll give our team a break for a few weeks now but it’s not over yet. The ALP has a policy of putting the port ‘at a location to the west of Melbourne’ but they will also be reviewing the assessment of Hastings and we’ll be watching what they do very closely.”
Spokesperson for Phillip Island Stand Alone, now Phillip Island Progress, Steve Fullarton, agreed there was a strong undercurrent of concern about the port expansion plans on the island as well.
“Brian Paynter’s support for Stand Alone would have won him some votes here but everyone is worried about their port plans,” Mr Fullarton said.
He also expressed concern about the Daniel Andrews’ bay west plans, noting that ALP supporters on the Mornington Peninsular wanted the jobs that would flow from a Hastings development.
He said his group wanted to meet with the new Local Government Minister and the Tourism Minister as soon as possible to press its claims for a stand-alone shire and an improvement to infrastructure.
“Phillip Island is enormously important to tourism in this state but we’ve been completely let down by Wonthaggi (the shire council),” Mr Fullarton said.
“Everyone talks about the total demise in the presentation of the island.
“We’d be a lot better off on our own,” he said.