Victoria

Greens enlist Moreland mayor for assault on Wills

Tackling unemployment will be a major policy the Greens spruik in their quest to unseat Labor in the inner city seat of Wills at the federal election.

It will be one of the first times the party campaign has put such a strong emphasis on employment with the seat's northern suburbs hit hard be the decline in manufacturing.

Greens candidate for Wills Samantha Ratnam with party leader Richard Di Natale.
Greens candidate for Wills Samantha Ratnam with party leader Richard Di Natale. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

Leading the charge will be Moreland mayor Samantha Ratnam​ who has been endorsed as the Greens' candidate.

Despite a brief flirt with independent Phil Cleary after Bob Hawke left Parliament, Wills has long been a Labor stronghold, but there is a growing threat from the Greens.

And with well-liked Labor MP Kelvin Thomson retiring, and a bitter ALP preselection battle under way, the Greens are putting as many resources into the seat as possible.

Cr Ratnam, 38, migrated from Sri Lanka, via Canada, when she was 10 said the council had given her a good understanding of local concerns including housing affordability, traffic and transport issues and cost of living.

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"Jobs is a fundamental question that fits into equality and opportunity," Cr Ratnam said.

"It fits very much with the ethos of the Greens by addressing inequality and fits in with our other policy about transforming the economy and tackling climate change."

The Greens have a growing presence in the trendy and increasingly expensive southern part of the electorate but the key to electorate success is winning votes in the traditional Labor strongholds north of Bell Street.

Labor is well aware of the threat from the Greens in the inner city seat but is confident it will hold both Wills and Batman especially with its very strong support north of Bell Street where it will campaign hard on traditional Labor issues of health, education and jobs. 

Mr Thomson holds the seat by a healthy 15.2 per cent margin over the Greens but, with the Liberals leaving open the door for preferencing the minor party, a Green victory is not impossible.

And many in the Greens are taking a pragmatic approach, saying capturing Wills could be a two-election strategy, in a similar vein to their plans for neighbouring Batman.

Adam Bandt's defence of Melbourne will again draw a big crowd of volunteers and resources and if the campaign begins to show that he is on track to retain the seat some of his resources will be poured into Wills and Batman.

The Labor fight to be Mr Thomson's replacement has also been bitter and ugly with the Greens keen to exploit any hint of factional influence and a non-local being installed.

"It is going to be a really interesting election, Kelvin Thomson has been a good local community member and the community really want a strong local voice," Cr Ratnam said.

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said the Greens had hundreds of real members signed up in Wills who were ready to doorknock, hit the phones and hand out info across the electorate.

Taking a swipe at allegations of Labor branch stacking, Senator Di Natale said the Greens "had a clear advantage as a grassroots party, with our members actually knowing they are signed up to the party".