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Bill Lodwick sees red

Hopeful: Bill Lodwick is hopeful that a Labor win will translate into support in Nicholls. Photo: Evan Wallace Photo by Evan Wallace

With opinion polls suggesting a national win for Anthony Albanese’s team, Labor candidate Bill Lodwick is hopeful this will boost his chances in Nicholls.

“You'd be much better off having a Labor Party person on your side and representing you than any of the others,” Mr Lodwick says.

“Our country needs much greater stability. There's too much instability here and there's too much class division building … we need to bring all that back together. I think Labor is the only way to go.”

The former Mitchell Shire councillor takes this approach when assessing the prospects of frontrunners Sam Birrell (The Nationals), Steve Brooks (Liberal) and Rob Priestly (independent).

“I don't think it's going to be a hung parliament. So that makes Rob Priestly sort of irrelevant,” Mr Lodwick says.

“If Labor wins and then either Sam or Brooks gets in … they won't have anything to do either.”

As the only major candidate who ran in the 2019 election, Mr Lodwick is surprised by the attention and media coverage the electorate has experienced in recent weeks. He is also disappointed by the absence of discussion from Mr Brooks, Mr Birrell and Mr Priestly on the issues he is most passionate about.

“They haven't brought up things that I care about, which is domestic violence and aged care,” he says.

“And underemployment and insecure employment, healthcare. They don't seem to come up in the same conversation when they mention Nicholls.”

On housing, Mr Lodwick disagrees with his opponents that the major factor contributing to skyrocketing house prices is the absence of supply. He sees the current market as a reflection of policy decisions that go back to the Howard Government.

“Supply is probably not even the major reason, from my point of view. The Australian population isn't growing that quickly and especially hasn't grown much at all in the last three years because of all the restrictions on immigrants coming here,” he says.

“The rise of rural house prices due to the pandemic was sort of unexpected and pretty much unprecedented. And I think the repercussions of that rising is that it's not going to get any better before it gets worse.

“What has happened is people who have one house buy another house and they are either using it as a holiday home or they rent it out, and rents then reflect what they paid for it, which means the rents are going up and that excludes a whole bunch of people.

“So it's not that there aren't enough houses, per se, but houses are coming off the market, or being unavailable to people because of the change.”

Mr Lodwick believes only the Labor Party can change course on that issue.

“I really think that Labor has a better heart for this,” he says.

“You know, The Nationals and the Libs, they tend to let you sink or swim, whereas Labor will always teach you to swim.”

In Seymour, Mr Lodwick has responded to the push to secure Federal Government funding for the proposed community wellbeing hub and is a fan of the initiative. He has already petitioned Labor to match or beat the Coalition’s commitment of $10 million if it is elected.

“When I was growing up, mental health wasn't something that even existed. Everyone was just ‘stiff upper lip, old chap’,” he reflects.

“Recently it is becoming a bigger and bigger problem and I think the mental health part of the hub is essential for a community like this.”

Aged care is also a concern for the trained geophysicist and former energy policy official. Mr Lodwick is particularly worried about how the aged care system is structured in Australia and is concerned about what impact the commercialisation of care has had.

“Personally, I would go back to a model where they are run more by the state and less by for-profit entities. I think that when you put things in for profit, that it's the people needing that service who suffer,” he says.

“You see the same thing in prisons. They privatised prisons and what happens is that people who own the prison start lobbying for laws where a judge has no choice but to send people to prison. So then they get more people in prison, they make more money.

“If someone is skimming off the profit all the time, the service declines.”

Bill Lodwick has assessed his most likely chance of winning the election is by ‘doing a Bradbury’ and emerging successful off the back of preferences.

While winning is probably not on the cards, for a candidate who secured almost 20 per cent of first preferences at the most recent federal election, the number of ‘true believers’ who emerge in 2022 will play a huge role in determining the electorate’s future.

This interview was the final in a series of conversations in the Telegraph with candidates for Nicholls.

We are keen to hear your top issues for this year’s federal election. Email them to editor@seymourtelegraph.com.au