On the 4th and 5th of November, My Vote Matters met with Footscray candidates Angus McAlpine (Greens) and Katie Hall (Labor).
Our meetings were a part of our ‘Meet Your Candidate’ program which is intended to inform the Muslim community on the political views of their candidates. In each electorate, we question candidates on specific issues relevant to Muslims in their electorate. In the electorate of Footscray, we chose the issues of: Infrastructure, Discrimination and Community Outreach. These issues were selected based on the results of our recent state-wide survey of Victorian Muslims, along with specific research on Footscray’s Muslim community.
Footscray is home to a sizeable African Muslim community which has been targeted by both the media and the police. The African Muslim is frequently associated with crime and gangs which has led to discriminatory police targeting, hate speech against Muslims and new anti-association and mandatory sentencing laws.
We asked both candidates about the issue of police targeting and whether they would support increased punishments of racial targeting by police. McAlpine acknowledged the problem of the police targeting those of African backgrounds and expressed his full support for sensitivity training and increased repercussions of racist behaviour.
Hall did not acknowledge that there was a systemic culture of racism amongst the police and instead defended the police. Hall stated that, as a former police officer, she believed there was no need for new legislation targeting discrimination by police.
We also asked candidates about whether they would support mandatory sentencing and anti-association laws which often disadvantage those of low socio-economic backgrounds. Anti-association laws are especially dangerous to the African Muslim community which is often wrongly associated with gangs. Such laws would allow the police to prevent individuals from meeting each other, if they suspected them to be a part of a gang. They would not require any judicial oversight or proof of criminality, rather, such laws would simply rely on the mere suspicion of criminality.
McAlpine expressed his absolute disapproval of such laws. He does not believe that they would help in any way to target crime. He believes that they would actually increase crime by alienating the African Muslim community from wider Australian society. McAlpine stated that the Greens have consistently voted against anti-association and mandatory sentencing laws.
While Hall was unfamiliar which such laws, she stated that she would do all she can to support the police. She stated that if the police wanted anti-association and mandatory sentencing laws then she would fully support them.
Both candidates expressed their support of increased anti-hate speech legislation to target the stereotyping of African Muslims by Australian media.
The issue of public housing is especially pertinent in the electorate of Footscray. Footscray is home to a sizeable migrant population, as well as many individuals of low socio-economic backgrounds, which means that many in the area find it difficult to afford housing. Footscray is not home to many large social housing projects which makes the need for affordable and quality housing a significant in the area. There is currently a large waiting list in the area for access to housing, with Footscray having the third highest homeless population in Victoria.
We asked Hall about whether she believe there was a lack of public housing in Footscray, and if so, what she planned to do about it. Hall agreed that there needed to be more social housing in the area, however, she stated that she was not familiar with Labor’s plans in the area. Our research shows that the Labor government has constructed at least 60 new units in the Footscray, and intends to create more units.
McAlpine was critical of Labor’s plans in the area of Footscray. He acknowledged the lack of housing in the area and stated that more needed to be done to effectively combat the rise of homelessness in the area. McAlpine believes that massive public development, and a requirement of 30% of all new private developments to be social housing, is necessary to target the issue of housing in Footscray, which continues to become more of an issue as house prices rise.
One central aspect of the My Vote Matters campaign is to encourage and facilitate community interactions between Muslims and politicians. This is intended to increase the confidence of Muslims in their representatives, and to have representatives held directly accountable to the Muslim community.
We asked Hall if had previously worked with the Muslim community, and if not, whether she would work with the Muslim community once elected. Hall informed us that she is currently helping an African Muslim migrant find a permanent location to hosts knitting workshops. Such workshops help train recent migrants in knitting. Hall also expressed a desire to work closer with the Muslim community if elected.
McAlpine also expressed interest in working closely with the Muslim community. He informed us that he had recently hosted a forum with the Greens for African migrants to come and express their concerns and interests. McAlpine informed us that he hopes to work closely with the African and Muslim communities in Footscray if he is elected. He believes that it is crucial that as a representative of Footscray, he takes into consideration the concerns and views of his constituents.
Both candidates stated that if they were approached by members of the Muslim community about issues of concern to them, they would do their best to rectify such issues.