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As the dust settled on Victoria's 2022 state election in November, the final tally resulted in Liberal candidate John Pesutto narrowly winning the seat of Hawthorn after losing to Labor in 2018. State opposition leader, The Hon. Matthew Guy stepped down in the wake of the Coalition's loss, while John won a party room vote to become the new state opposition leader.
“I have injected an enormous amount of new talent into the shadow cabinet to signal there is change happening. Secondly, I have demonstrated that we have a serious focus on issues that matter, such as cost of living. We are facing a ninth interest rate rise and we need to make sure that people can put food on their tables and can afford to stay in their homes.” On his new roles as local representative and state opposition leader, John explains
“There is a responsibility to be present locally. You’ve got to balance state affairs with local expectations. I spend a lot of my time doing state-based work, out on the road, but I try to dedicate at least one day a week here in Hawthorn among my constituents.” In 2018, John went to the election promising $250,000 for an upgrade to Glenferrie Station and surrounding arcades. It’s a project he says he will take to the next election. “I’m very concerned about the state of Glenferrie Station. I remember saying to the other candidates, to go and look at the station and surrounding streets. I think there should be some beautification work and it is something that will get more people back to Glenferrie Road.”
With his background in law, John has been regularly outspoken on crime. Many will recall the Liberal party's controversial focus on 'gangs’, which some political opponents jumped on as ‘fearmongering’. Not mentioning specific offenses outright, youth crime remains a firm focus of his. “I do feel strongly about criminal justice reform. Recidivism is clearly a problem, with around half of all offenders going back into the legal justice system. We want people to come out of custodian settings with a pathway forward to a fulfilling life and can access education, in particular for young offenders.”
Finally, the Voice to Parliament has become a contentious issue of late. The opposition’s mantra of wanting ‘more clarity on what this would entail’ before supporting it, is repeated by John. “I’ve got an open mind on it. I do want to see a bit more detail as it is a bit of a new institution and I’m probably like most Australians who just want to know a bit more about it. I do support recognition of our indigenous population in the constitution, but it isn’t just words, it’s a new institution that needs more clarity.”