The future of education in the Victorian electorate of Dunkley is in jeopardy, according to Labor candidate Peta Murphy.
The former barrister is worried that the Liberals, who hold the socio-economically diverse seat to the south-east of Melbourne by a margin of 5.6 percent, will significantly increase disadvantage in the area.
“If the Turnbull government gets re-elected, there’ll be $28 million cut from schools in Dunkley from 2018 to 2019,” she says.
If elected, Murphy says she will focus on getting money outlined in the Gonski Report flowing into the electorate’s schools.
Murphy, who moved with her husband to Mt Eliza in 2012, won pre-selection last year. She believes her expertise in criminal defence law and as a legal aid public advocate makes her well placed to deal with difficult electorate issues such as high rates of poverty, unemployment and family violence.
“I’ve got a much better understanding of how people find themselves in a situation where they are addicted to drugs or committing horrible crimes,” she says.
Murphy sees being part of the community as essential to being a good representative.
“Going out and asking people what is important to them gives you a much greater insight into what the community wants than just standing up and saying what you are for.”
She is an advocate for community-run programs, having been a life-long participant in local sports, including serving as president of Squash and Racquetball Victoria for the last seven years.
“One thing about having a strong community is having clubs which kids can get involved in. Sports can be about getting a career, but they’re often about finding a mentor and a family that not everyone has at home.”
If elected, she promises to continue to listen to local concerns. “I’ve been meeting with community groups for over a year now – sporting, social and business groups. It’s about following that up and asking, ‘Who is needed around the table to achieve X or Y?’”
Murphy acknowledges that the electorate is diverse, but says peoples’ wants and needs are the same.
“Everybody wants to be able to send their kids to a good school, wants to know that they can go to a hospital and not worry if they’re able to afford it, and wants to know that they and their kids can find a good job close to home.”
Murphy also believes campaign financing should be investigated.
“It’s a vexed issue. If we ever got to the point of what it is in America, it would be terrible for democracy.”
Murphy says it’s difficult to run a campaign in Australia if you are not independently wealthy or don’t have access to wealthy people to support your campaign.
“We don’t get paid a salary by the party to be a candidate, so you do have to find a lot of resources yourself. I don’t have huge resources, so it’s not like there’s going to be posters of me in every window.”
The Liberals criticised Murphy when she put her name to a submission to Parliament, which called on the government to deny the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the police greater powers to detain terror suspects without charge.
Attorney General George Brandis called for the Labor party to dump Murphy for this stance, but Labor leader Bill Shorten refused to do so. Murphy has since stated publicly that she now fully supports tougher security laws.