Nakita Thomson

VETERAN campaigner Laurie Whelan will run for the Greens in the seat of Bendigo West, counterbalanced by a first-time preselection Nakita Thomson in Bendigo East.

Mr Whelan, a former City of Greater Bendigo councillor and mayor, has campaigned in previous state elections, and expects to learn about social media campaigning from his Greens running mate.

Both candidates picked public transport and a container deposit scheme as key platforms of their compaigns leading into the November state election.

“Being involved in public transport issues in the past through council and that sort of thing, reliability and punctuality are the big ones in terms of transport issues,” Mr Whelan said.

“I was at a transport forum run by Change.org looking at transport options, and the big message particularly from the Castlemaine bus operators is they are under-utilised and people aren’t using buses to get to the station because they weren’t trusting the reliability of the connections.

“That is why you see the expansion of car parks at the train station, it is because people are not going to rely on the buses to get there, or when they get off the train, the buses are gone.”

Ms Thomson, a recent psychology graduate from  La Trobe University and about to start a Masters in planning, counts public transport as a weakness for the Labor incumbent in Bendigo East, Jacinta Allan.

“A lot of us travel to Melbourne and we have had to sit on the rail and wait, on the single line, for other trains to pass,” she said.

She was going to work to take votes off Ms Allan, Ms Thomson said, but she felt a measure of respect for the Labor MP who is also the public transport minister.

“I respect Jacinta because she was elected when she was 25, and she has held the seat for a good 19 years, and she is a woman, she is a strong person, so the campaign will be a challenge,” she said.

Ms Thomson is aged 22, was born in Shepparton, and is part of a farming family.

She said she had always been “environmentally inclined”, and political activism followed on from that including the start up of a Greens club at Bendigo’s La Trobe University campus, a zero waste Shepparton facebook page, and taking over the equivalent page for the Bendigo Sustainability Group.

Ms Thomson said she was ultimately motivated to seek preselection because there were no voices for young people in Parliament, and “older people don’t seem to be looking out for our interests”.

“Living on the Youth Allowance, I think that made me politically active,” she said.

Mr Whelan said he wanted to do something other than be an observer.

“The issues that continue to spark my interest are around sustainability, our communities and employment and education,” he said.

He was mostly recent part of a campaign supporting former Bendigo South East College principal Ernie Fleming amid an 18-month Department of Education investigation.

Mr Whelan said he found himself wanting to see transparency in the process.