Greens Party leader Richard Di Natale launched the candidacy of Alex Bhathal in Canberra today (5th February 2018) for the by-election at the Victorian Federal seat of Batman. The elections could be held as early as 7th March following the resignation of current member David Freeney. The Greens will campaign on issues such as climate change, the Adani coal mine in Queensland, rising inequality and a more humane approach to immigration issues.
Labor will field union boss Ged Kearney in this once-safe Labor seat. The Liberals are yet to say whether they will field their candidate here. Liberal state President Michael Kroger weighted into the issue saying he would want his party to contest the bye election if it was found Ms Bhathal had been involved in the controversial Boycott Divest Sanctions movement protesting Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Bhathal maintains that she disagreed very strongly with the academic and cultural boycott aspects of that campaign.”
Named after John Batman, one of the founders of Melbourne, this electorate covers northern suburbs including Northcote, Thornbury, Clifton Hill, Fairfield and Preston in Victoria. Labor powerbroker David Feeney switched from the Senate to the safe Labor seat in 2013 following the retirement of Martin Ferguson. At one-time Batman was Labor’s safest seat in Australia.
This will be the sixth time 54-year-old Alex Bathel is contesting the seat. She first contested in 2001 and that year John Howard was returned to power on the Tampa lie. She did not run in 2007 federal elections. Greens have been consistently improving their performance in Batman over the years. Greens Primary votes has risen from 11.6 percent in 2001 to 26.4 percent in 2013. In 2016, Feeney narrowly held Batman by 51-49 against the Greens at the election, a 9.6-point swing to the Greens.
Ms Bhathal has lived in the electorate for three decades with her GP husband and the couple own a home in South Preston. Bhathal nominated housing affordability, multiculturalism and immigration and climate action as major strengths.