Plibersek at Burns launch

From left: Victorian MP Martin Foley, ALP Macnamara candidate Josh Burns and Deputy ALP Leader Tanya Plibersek at Burns’ campaign launch. Photo: Simon Kosmer

AN enthusiastic crowd of ALP supporters packed into St Kilda’s Hotel Esplanade for the launch of Josh Burns’ bid to keep Macnamara in Labor hands.

Addressing his supporters at the April 11 event, Burns – flanked by ALP deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and state MP for Albert Park Martin Foley – paid tribute to retiring Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby who held the seat, now named Macnamara, for 20 years.

Lauding his immigrant grandfather who left school at the age of 14, Burns reflected, “Even though my grandfather never had a chance to go to university and get a degree, he made sure I finished mine because he knew education gives people opportunity and to be given an education is to be given a chance in this country,” the Monash University graduate told his audience, in a nod to Plibersek, who holds the shadow education portfolio.

“We can do better than the dog whistling and the racist hat tipping that we have seen from [Home Affairs Minister] Peter Dutton and [PM] Scott Morrison over the last few years. 

“Only around the corner here in St Kilda, we saw the effects of years and years of saying that that’s okay by our conservative governments,” said Burns in a reference to January’s far-right demonstration on the St Kilda foreshore.

The Labor candidate drew cheers when he continued, “And we can do better than doing deals with Pauline Hanson and One Nation.”

Burns promised Labor would remove cuts to TAFE and university places, and in the workplace, restore penalty rates that were cut by the Coalition and end the gender gap in salaries. 

He also promised a government more involved in tackling climate change. On asylum seekers, he declared, “We can aim higher than spending $185 million to open and close the Christmas Island detention centre.”

Although Burns did not refer to being Jewish, Plibersek, who was introduced by Foley as “the next deputy prime minister of Australia”, told the launch, “One of the really important things that Michael Danby has done and [ALP frontbencher] Mark Dreyfus has done and other members of our Caucus who have a Jewish background have done, is remind us all of what this country has meant for generations of refugees. What it’s meant as a safe haven for people from conflict around the world, and how important it is that we focus on unity and respect.”