Last week Daniel Andrews visited Bendigo claiming that the lack of candidates put forward by other political parties reflects their lack of concern for Bendigo.
The timing of the premier’s visit, the week after it was announced I was The Nationals candidate, reflects how important Bendigo is to Labor winning government.
The seat of Bendigo East is held by a margin of only five per cent and is one of a handful of seats that will determine who wins government at the next state election.
At the last state election Greg Bickley came close to winning against Labor member Jacinta Allan, who has held the seat for 19 years.
The result may have been very different if we knew then what we know now.
The Victorian Ombudsman released a report in March this year which exposed 21 Labor MPs who had employed electorate office staff to campaign on behalf of the Labor Party in marginal seats, including Bendigo East.
Labor has since repaid $388,000, and our system of government has paid a much heavier price.
Twenty years ago I worked for a coalition state member of parliament, and the standards were very clear, not even a stamp could be used for political purposes.
A lapse of judgment by members of our Australian cricket team has seen players banned for 12 months and left the international reputation of Australian cricket in tatters.
While the approach of the Labor Party has been to continue along with business as usual, we cannot afford to let this “win at all costs” mentality go unchecked in sport, business or politics.
This blatant misuse of taxpayer funds for political gain was a decision that any MP in the Labor Party could have stopped.
Yet the practice continued for months and when called into question, the Labor government used public funds to cover the cost of legal fees associated with obstructing the Victorian Ombudsman’s investigation.
For our system of government to remain on track, we need people of integrity in political leadership.
We cannot rely on the additional safeguards of independent arbitrators, the media, and our court system to set the standard of leadership that our society deserves.
If we want to see change in politics then we need to encourage more community leaders with experience, wisdom and integrity to stand for public office.
We need rigorous pre-selection processes, informed public debate and the election of people who will put the community interest ahead of self interest, and prioritise good governance and policy making over party politics.
Australia’s political system is amongst the best in the world, yet our future depends on the standards we expect of those in government. Rebuilding our trust in government will take time.
Our vote matters. Whatever the outcome, the government we elect in November will be the one we deserve.