Greens back primary school teacher in attempt to reclaim Northcote

The Victorian Greens have backed a primary school teacher to reclaim the seat the party lost in one of its most bruising battles of the 2018 state poll.

Northcote candidate Campbell Gome has spent his life campaigning for environmental issues and said his light-bulb moment was four years ago, when student-led climate protests sprang up across the world.

The Greens candidate for Northcote, teacher Campbell Gome, talks to his former students.Credit:Jason South

“These young people were my students and my daughters. It was a real turning point for me to step up,” he said. “One of the things about being a teacher, is that this notion of future generations is not abstract.”

The seat of Northcote was won by Greens candidate Lidia Thorpe in a byelection after the death of sitting Labor MP Fiona Richardson in 2017.

The Greens had hoped to extend Ms Thorpe’s slender grip on the electorate and take control of neighbouring Brunswick and Richmond in 2018, but a campaign beset by controversy and sustained attacks from Labor sounded the death knell for the party’s expansion plans.

Labor’s Kat Theophanous won by 800 votes following what was described as a final-week smear campaign that highlighted purportedly offensive tweets by a Greens staffer.

Labor MP Kat Theophanous has proposed turning the Northcote Golf Course into a six-hole design.Credit:Justin McManus

The leaks prompted Premier Daniel Andrews to claim the Greens had a “toxic cultural problem” with women, but then Greens leader Richard Di Natale accused Labor of cynical campaigning.

“They have a massive dirt unit,” Mr Di Natale said in the aftermath of the election, at which the party lost four upper house seats and gained none in net terms in the lower house.

Four years on, the party has strengthened its candidate vetting standards and wants to reassert itself as a force in state politics by winning back Northcote, snatching Richmond from Labor and occupying more space on the red-leather benches of the upper house.

Mr Gome has little experience with the dog fight of state politics – he has previously run for a seat in the upper house in an unwinnable position – but believes he’s “a really strong chance to win”.

Lidia Thorpe celebrates with Greens leader Samantha Ratnam after winning the Northcote byelection in 2017.Credit:The Age

“The last thing State Parliament needs is another career politician,” he said.

The Andrews government’s progressive social policies have blunted the Greens’ ability to attack it on its left flank.

The Greens polled less than 11 per cent at the 2018 election after securing more than 11 per cent at the two elections before that.

Polling by Resolve Political Monitor suggests the Greens command the support of 10 per cent of Victorians.

However, Mr Gome said Labor was not doing enough to phase out coal, tackle the social housing crisis or address inequality.

“Labor has made some important strides [on environmental policy] but there are many areas where they fall short and there doesn’t seem to be any real engagement with the fact that this is a genuine crisis situation,” he said.

“We’ll hear one day Labor has banned fracking in the constitution, then we hear they will open up vast areas on land and water for conventional exploration of gas and that they are keeping coal plants open well past their expiry dates.”

The Greens will seek to capitalise on the Andrews government ditching a tax on property developers to pay for thousands of social houses, whose dearth is a hot-button political issue.

Few local issues are animating Northcote locals like the debate over the future use of the Northcote Golf Course that was used as a picnic and walking area when golf was banned during lockdowns.

Ms Theophanous has previously backed turning three of the course’s nine holes into parkland and keeping six holes for golfers. Mr Gome agreed with the principle of sharing the area between golfers and other recreational users.

Jacqueline Maley cuts through the noise of the federal election campaign with news, views and expert analysis. Sign up to our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter here.

Most Viewed in Politics

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article