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No pause for Panda

first_imgHe’s been in parliament since 1982, and he holds his seat with one of the safest margins in the state, but Labor’s John Pandazopoulos says his work in the seat of Dandenong is far from slowing down. We’re Greek, you know, we’re into politics whether we know it or not. “It continues to be basically a working class area, the highest concentration of industry in Victoria is in the southeast of Melbourne, 40 per cent of the state’s manufacturing is there,” the 37 year-old says, listing the statistics easily. He says the lack of white-collar jobs has been an ongoing concern for the government, which has invested $90 million in a “Docklands-style” makeover for the outer southeast region. “The government comes in, buys the land, and puts sites out for the market, and takes an interventionist approach,” Pandazopoulos explains. “We’re intervening because there’s been market failure in the area.” On November 27, Pandazopoulos says voters will know which party is responsible for investment in the area, listing $155 million of works to Dandenong Hospital. “So we’re rebuilding schools, we’re rebuilding the main street, we’ve built sports facilities, we’ve built roads,” he says, without pausing for breath. “To be blunt about it, the Libs don’t invest in these areas.” The Liberal Party has been pushing law and order as a major election issue and opinion polls seem to reflect it as an issue concerning voters. But Pandazopoulos says he feels safe walking at night. “I feel safe walking around anywhere, because I know that in 99 per cent of cases of violence, the perpetrator is known to the victim,” he says, adding that a growing population will mean Dandenong will need “more cops on the beat”. “Law and order is always there – we watch too many American TV shows, to be blunt about it,” he says. Pandazopoulos says issues of social justice were what prompted him to join the ALP in 1982, when he was 18. His father had an industrial accident in his 50s, and Pandazopoulos remembers it as a time before Work Cover, “when if you had an accident, you basically had to take your employer to court”. But Pandazopoulos, who holds an Arts degree from Monash University, says he was always interested in politics. “We’re Greek, you know, we’re into politics whether we know it or not,” he says. The member for Dandenong is well-known for his involvement with the Greek community. He represented the premier at the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI) ball on Monday, he’s President of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association and, during the Bracks Government, he was Minister assisting the Premier on Multicultural Affairs. The Greek community has changed a lot over Pandazopoulos’ time in politics, he says. He cites it as the migrant community with the highest percentage of tertiary education. The ALP has a strong history on multiculturalism, Pandazopoulos says, adding that it’s more than just words. “What are you doing about supporting the community facilities? What are you doing about supporting seniors? What are you doing about working with ethnic media for getting info into different languages?,” he lists, again without pausing for breath. Even in a very safe seat, pausing for breath is something Pandazopoulos seems loathe to do.Neos Kosmos is running an ongoing series of profiles on Greek Australian candidates in the upcoming Victorian state election. To see the list, as it develops, click here. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more

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