By SALLY COOPER
Bentleigh MP Nick Staikos was born at Moorabbin Hospital and the 32-year-old has lived in East Bentleigh ever since.
The son of Greek migrants who came to Australia in the 1960s and 1970s, Mr Staikos said he grew up in a Labor-voting household.
“My grandfather was a big fan of Gough Whitlam our former Labor prime minister who really made migrants feel very welcome and made them feel like they were Australian. So I think my family has probably been Labor since then.”
At 19, Mr Staikos was elected to the Glen Eira City Council. He graduated from Monash University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours).
He is a fan of Aussie singing legends Jimmy Barnes and John Farnham, but also likes opera. He paints during his spare time – although he doesn’t consider himself to be good at it. He barracks for the Saints in the AFL but admits he hasn’t always followed them.
Mr Staikos has been Bentleigh MP since he ousted Liberal candidate Elizabeth Miller in November 2014, winning with just 50.78 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.
Now he is encouraging voters to “Stick with Staikos” this election.
When asked about his greatest achievements over the past four years in office, he listed the removal of the level crossings at Bentleigh, McKinnon and Ormond, promised by Labor at the 2014 election.
“I’m very proud of that achievement, because at the election a lot of people didn’t believe that we would do it, they had heard it all before and we are very impressed that we actually got it done,” he said.
Securing more than $60 million over four budgets for schools in the Bentleigh electorate is another of Mr Staikos’s biggest victories. He is particularly proud of the $11.5 million the Andrews Labor Government invested to rebuild the Bayside Special Developmental School in Moorabbin.
If re-elected, he said he would continue rebuilding local schools, which would include funding a second McKinnon Secondary College campus in East Bentleigh.
He also supports investing in renewable energy and said a re-elected Labor government would put solar panels on people’s roofs without any upfront costs.
Improving transport is also high on Staikos’s list of priorities.
“We will continue building the metro rail tunnel,” he said, as well as building the suburban rail loop that would “revolutionise public transport in this state”.
With crime a hot topic going into this election, Mr Staikos said he would continue working with local government to keep the Bentleigh electorate safe.
In September, he announced the Labor government would fund a $203 000 project to improve the safety for those who use the Centre Rd shopping strip. As part of the project, lighting will be installed around the Bentleigh shops car park as well as from Bentleigh station to Godfrey St.
Mr Staikos has also supported a $200,000 grant for better lighting at Moorabbin reserve dog park to make it safer for dog walkers.
When asked if he supported of safe injecting rooms, Mr Staikos said nobody except local Liberal candidate Asher Judah had said there was going to be a safe injecting room in Bentleigh.
“I’m in support of the trial at Richmond where there is a particular problem. I’m not in support of the Liberal Party view of putting people’s health and safety and putting people’s lives below their ambitions to be the government of Victoria.”
Mr Staikos said placing a limit to the number of terms an MP could serve would be undemocratic. Anybody who was an Australian citizen, a resident of the state of Victoria and on the electoral roll “should be able to stand whenever they want”, he said.
Asked whether he supported political parties and candidates disclosing, in real time, donations to their parties and campaigns, Mr Staikos says he supported more rigorous disclosure.
“We brought in huge reforms and brought the disclosure threshold to $1000 so there will be more disclosure. We’ve banned foreign donations but we’ve also put a cap on donations as well.”
While this would mean more public funding for election campaigns, Mr Staikos said it was a price he was willing to pay for integrity and probity in the system.
Bentleigh is traditionally a marginal seat, having been held by the Liberals in 2010 before swinging back to Labor in 2014.
Mr Staikos said he was optimistic about his chances for a second term.
“I feel confident that we have delivered more for Bentleigh than any other government in our history.
“I think the people of Bentleigh know exactly how hard I’ve worked for them, I will accept their verdict on the 24th of November, absolutely, but I go into the election confident that I’ve done everything I can.”
This article was co-published with The Junction and UniPollWatch. For more on the Victorian Election 2018, please go here.