A growing number of people turning away from the major parties could have an impact on the Aston by-election this weekend, according to residents and candidates who spoke to Dscribe.
A new member for the Federal House of Representatives will be elected on Saturday to represent the division of Aston in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The by-election was prompted by the resignation of Liberal MP Alan Tudge in February.
New Liberal candidate Roshena Campbell will be running against Labor’s Mary Doyle, the Greens’ Angelica Di Camillo, Owen Miller from FUSION: Science, Pirate, Secular, Climate Emergency, and Independent Maya Tesa.
Recent poor results for the coalition in last year’s federal election and last weekend’s New South Wales state election make this by-election significant for the Liberal-National party, which currently holds the seat with a 2.8 per cent margin.
The once-safe Liberal seat is now up for grabs, as Mary Doyle managed a 7.3 percent swing against the Liberals in 2022 with strong appeal to the working class. Forty-one per cent of Aston residents are mortgage holders, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. These individuals are directly affected by the interest rate rises and inflation at the forefront of the cost-of-living crisis.
Saturday’s by-election result could be a test of actions taken by the Anthony Albanese-led federal government to address the crisis, including policies such as cheaper childcare from the July 1, which could encourage those struggling financially to vote Labor.
The government’s decision to back the $368 billion nuclear submarine agreement with the UK and US has proven less popular with this demographic, according to Greens candidate Angelica Di Camillo.
“That’s $12 billion a year of taxpayer money that isn’t going toward tackling the real problems we are facing, like the cost of living crisis,” she said.
The 2022 federal election saw a 3.22 per cent increase in first-party preference for the Greens in Aston and Di Camillo is hoping to “at least maintain this” in this weekend’s by-election. Their plan to bring dental and mental health into Medicare aligns with the party’s core values, which Di Camillo said “has the interest of the people at heart”.
Few metropolitan federal electoral divisions include entire local council areas such as Knox in Aston. The ‘Save Lake Knox’ campaign promotes the preservation of a naturalised wetland at the foothill of the Dandenong Ranges, which it says is threatened by a State Government proposal to develop housing on the site. The Save Lake Knox campaign has been supported by the Greens and various independents since the development was first proposed in 2018.
Though a state issue, the campaign has created camaraderie amongst residents passionate about the environment who will be voting on Saturday. Aston resident Patrick Marrinan said this could be a factor in the by-election.
“Often minor parties with less power have better policies on wildlife and fauna protection because they don’t have business interests,” he said.
The 2022 federal election saw a major increase in votes for ‘teal’ party independents alongside a significant move away from the major parties as the Greens doubled their numbers in the senate. Di Camillo sees this pattern only getting stronger.