Messy campaign for Melbourne Ports

Greens candidate for Melbourne Ports, Stephanie Hodgins-May.

THE battle for Melbourne Ports is on a knife edge this week after recent polling revealed that the Greens candidate Steph Hodgins-May has closed the gap on Labor’s Michael Danby, and possibly pulled ahead.

Danby and Hodgins-May are neck and neck in second spot, but whoever finishes second in the seat’s primary vote could steal the seat from the Liberal Party’s Owen Guest after preferences are distributed.

While the Greens have unequivocally preferenced Labor, Danby has produced two how-to-vote cards against the wishes of his party, encouraging voters in Jewish neighbourhoods to direct their preferences to the Liberal Party, while others preference the Greens.

As a result, Melbourne Ports is one of the only seats in the country where there are three viable candidates who could win.

The fight for Melbourne Ports heated up last week at the debate co-hosted by The AJN and Zionism Victoria, when Danby and Guest argued about security funding for the Jewish community.

Guest told those in attendance that the Coalition would create a $40 million Safer Communities Fund and that the Jewish community would probably receive at least half of that, totalling at least $20 million.

Danby fired back, insisting the money Guest was referring to has simply been reassigned from the Secure Schools Program set up by the previous ALP government and that it therefore wasn’t new money.

After a heated debate, Danby called on the “investigative journalists” at The AJN to tell the community the truth. So here goes …

Sadly, both politicians are wrong.

Danby’s claim that the money has simply been reassigned is incorrect because the Coalition’s Safer Communities Fund is in addition to the $17 million Secure Schools Program, which is due to end in 2017.

But Guest’s suggestion that the community could reap more than $20 million doesn’t stack up either.

The total fund of $40 million will be split into two streams.

The first is to boost the efforts of identified local councils and community organisations to address crime and antisocial behaviour by funding crime-prevention initiatives, such as fixed and mobile CCTV and lighting. The second stream is to protect schools, preschools and community organisations that are facing security risks associated with racial or religious intolerance.

The AJN understands from speaking to many Coalition MPs that the Jewish community would only be able to seek funding from the second stream, which is expected to contain $20 million in total.

And there’s no reason to think it will only be Jewish communal organisations applying for those funds.

As a result, assuming the Jewish community receives half of the available money, as Guest said, the total for the community would be $10 million, half of what he claimed.

Full election coverage in this week’s AJN.

JOSHUA LEVI