Victoria Votes: Interview with LDP Candidate Les Hughes

Les Hughes is a staff member in the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University, Clayton campus. He recently announced on Monash Stalkerspace that he is intending to run in the Victorian State election under the Liberal Democratic Party (pending registration with the Victorian Electoral Commission).

What seat/electorate/division are you running for and which party are you representing?

Upper House, South East Metro Region, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

What attracted you to this party over another party or running as an independent?

My basic philosophy is that people should be able to whatever they want as long as they do not harm others and the property of others. Those who have studied philosophy will know that working out what constitutes “harm” can be a tough. Choosing to smoke/grow marijuana, marry someone of the same sex, ride a bicycle without a helmet… these are pretty clear cut. They should all be legal, and it’s LDP policy to make them legal. No other party comes close to the LDP with regard to freedom of the individual. On the economic side, it’s my firm belief that on the overall, current policy furthers the separation between rich and poor, and helps create entrenched poverty. A straight-forward example is that the government is solely to blame for high house prices, and the LDP is one of very few parties that recognise the cause of such problems.

Running with a party has huge advantages over running as an independent, and as I lean classical-liberal the LDP is a good match. If I had to pick another party, maybe the Sex Party.
How did you get involved with this party?

Different friends had mentioned the LDP to me a few times over the years. Although I have a huge interest in philosophy and economics, I didn’t pay too much attention because I generally despise politics. After spending some time in the United States in 2012 and 2013 where I was able to hang out with philosophers, economists, and activists, I was motivated to do a bit more “on the ground” work back at home. Through becoming more active here in Melbourne, I ran into a few of the people that made up much of the LDP’s Victorian “core team”. They were good folk, and after some prodding I attended a meeting. I haven’t missed a meeting since. I still despise politics, but I see the LDP as a genuinely honest group who are trying to make things better, and I’m happy to help.

What, in your view, is the current government doing wrong?

Everything. The desalinisation plant is something that stands out, as is their secrecy on the east-west link. If I had to pick the things that pissed me off the most, it would be the “move-on” and swearing laws.
What (if anything), in your view, is the current government doing right?
I’m not sure whether it’s because I am potentially so blinded by distaste for the government, but I’m unable to think of anything positive which isn’t continuation of the status-quo. I mean, we have schools for children, that’s great, and we have hospitals and other services, and that’s great too, but is it the “current government” who are really doing this “right”? Or is it just the system chugging along as usual, but getting even more tried and run-down as each year goes by?

I really wish I could say something positive, but it’s too hard. Do I need help? Or am I right?
Recent reports have indicated that youth unemployment is at a 15-year high in Victoria. How would you and your party help ensure that more young people are able to access employment?

Since I left high-school, I’ve picked up differing freelance roles which have enabled me to hire some mates to do various work for me. Anyone who has hired people will know that it’s hard. There are workcover forms, super forms, tax forms, PAYG calculations, rules about certain hours, rules about certain conditions, excess hours, and a whole lot more. A lot of these rules serve a purpose, but if I want someone to help me out for a few hours and then pay them by-the-books, I might have a day of figuring out what paperwork needs to be filled out. I might also find that I was breaking some law.

I first hired a 20-year-old friend when I was 19 to help me work on a software project. They’d sit beside me on another computer and do part of the work while I’d do another part on my computer. Another friend, who was like a mentor, mentioned that I needed workcover. I had no idea. It seemed absurd that I needed insurance so my mate could type some code on a computer next to me. I rang the Workcover people to ask them what the deal was. It turned out by not having Workcover while someone was working for me I had been breaking the law, to which I had openly admitted over the phone. I was fined ~$400. I did know that I had to pay Super, and kept harassing my mate in telling him to bring in his details so I put the cash into his account. He knew I had put the money aside and he trusted me. It took him maybe six months to finally bring in his details, and when I rang up to find out how I to transfer the money across, it turned out that Super must be paid into an account within three months, I had broken the law again. I was fined ~$300.

Of course, each extra time you hire someone, you are more prepared and it takes you less time to get the paperwork done, but with the introduction of WorkChoices, then FairWork, and then possibly something new with the current federal government, you constantly have relearn how to do the “right” thing.

Why tell this story? To illustrate a point: How is small business or anyone else who can’t afford to keep workplace lawyers on a retainer supposed to hire people without spending lots of time and bringing on unnecessary risk? Add the complications and risks of hiring people that you do not know, and hiring becomes even less appealing.

The majority of jobs exist within small to medium sizes business, and despite the boogeyman stories, the majority of businesses owners want to do the right thing, but it’s hard knowing what the “right” thing actually entails.

I still feel that I didn’t deserve to be fined, but how is a poor 19 year-old supposed to fight it? Unnecessary and harmful red-tape which punishes honest actors needs to be scrapped.

Although most workplace regulation is done at the federal level, one policy which is a big part of the Victorian LDP platform is to scrap the “jobs tax”, better known as the “payroll tax”. For organisations which are subject to this tax, it would bring down the cost of paying wages by 5% making Victoria a much more competitive in labour costs without cutting wages.

At the Federal level, LDP Senator David Leyonhjelm was responsible for splitting the carbon tax repeal bill as to keep the tax-three threshold from going back to $6,000 from the $18,000 mark. The LDP’s federal policy is to make the first $40,000 per year, or ~$800 per week tax-free. This means people on lower incomes, particularly younger people, get to keep more of what they earn, and will also make it easy for employers hiring young people in that they will not have to spend time calculating PAYG/etc.
Would you restore the funding to the TAFE sector that has been taken out of it by the Bailleu/Napthine governments?

Admittedly, this is an issue which I am not at all familiar with. After googling the issue and quickly reading though a few articles, it doesn’t look postive at all, but it seems irresponsible to offer an opinion without taking a deeper look into details like historical funding, balance sheets, cost breakdowns, etc. I don’t trust the media enough to form an opinion on the superficial things they say, even if it does confirm the bias I have that the government can’t do anything right, and anything it touches becomes worse.
What is your stance/your party’s stance on the controversial East-West link project? Should the Napthine government have signed the contract before the election, or should they have waited until after the November vote?

I have no faith in major-party politicians to look any further than their own re-election, so when the government looks to spend billions on a project where the public isn’t even allowed to see the business case, I get pretty suspicious.

As for the project itself, it’s hard to make a decision when we aren’t even allowed to know the details. I am also really concerned about the cost. $1 billion per 1km of road!? How does anything cost that much!? Would it be better to spend that money public transport? school funding? tax cuts? free helicopters for everyone? Who knows!? For all we know, it’s the best project that has ever existed (more likely: the opposite).

I do know this though:

– I am greatly concerned whenever the government wants to kick people out of their home for some “grand project.”

–  I have no faith in either the Liberal Party or Labor party to deliver on large projects in an efficient or effective way. Let’s look at the last two: The over-budget and late $6 billion desal plant which only pumps half the amount of water that was promised, with three times the safe level of boron, where it hasn’t pumped a single litre of water, and the $2 billion spent on Myki, which would take 300+ years to be cost effective based on it’s transaction volume.


What is your view/your party’s view on Protective Services Officers on train stations? Are they making travellers safer, or are they a waste of money?

The only harassment I’ve ever received on public transport is that of police and other transport workers. Last year I was assaulted and detained illegally by police because they happened to get recorded while I was legally filming in a public place with my camera phone. As someone of a reasonable-sized frame and having grown up in a fairly rough area (Noble Park), I’ve never felt that unsafe around train stations as I feel like I can handle myself to some degree, but as a result of my previous interactions with “authority”, the presence of even more armed people in blue uniform makes me feel less safe. I understand that this may be different for others.

On “others”, I’ve had numerous people tell me that they do feel safer, and public opinion seems to support this. Crime statistics would also indicate that they are making travelers safer, however, the same statistics indicate that while crime is down at train stations, it is up in the areas around train-stations, begging the question: Has it actually made a difference, or just pushed the problem somewhere else?

The PSO program is currently costing roughly $200 million per year, and a further $87 million has been spent over the past two years on building 215 “PSO Pods” at a cost of roughly $400,000 each. Instead of attempting to address and fix the underlying social problems, is the PSO program just pushing the crime out of site and out of mind? My gut feeling is that this is an expensive political bandaid that helps “tough on crime”-types win votes by giving the perception of lower crime, but I am open to debate.

Victorian Trades Hall Council have been running an anti-Napthine campaign in cooperation with Nursing, Paramedic and Fire service unions among others over their work conditions under this government. How do you feel about their concerns?

I’m not familiar with what’s been going on at Trades Hall, but I do have a few personal connections to those affected. My mother is a nurse who recently left Victoria to head back to her home state of Tasmania. One motivator for the move was how poorly nurses in Victoriaa re paid compared to the rest of Australia. I firmly believe that nurses should be paid more than what they are. I’d also like to see the opportunity for nurses to do further training allowing them to take more responsibility for patient care if they want to. Prescribing basic medications, and doing minor-GP work would be something that makes sense. The President of the LDP in Victoria, Abe Salt, has spoken regularly at LDP meetings regarding the conditions of the Ambulance Service and Ambulance workers. It seems obvious that the government is failing which seems to be an ongoing theme of theirs. I believe that concern regarding the employment conditions of all of the above mentioned workers is easily justified.

What is your stance on the deregulation of Universities /TAFE?

For all but two universities, government owns the universities, government funds the universities, government owns the land which the universities are on, government owns the university buildings, government set the prices for the universities, and government sets the amount of university places. For all universities, government regulates the universities, government enforce occupational licensing requiring certain degrees for certain professions, and government lives out loans and sets rates for these loans.

The current “deregulation” is really only the deregulation of one thing, the amount of money you’ll be indebted to attend the public university of your choice.

The current amount of money which students are indebted via HECS isn’t even half of the amount the government spend on the university places. The government have completely failed to keep universities affordable, and they intend to pass the costs of their inefficiency onto the students, leaving some with crippling debt.

This is my sixth year working at Monash, I want education to be much more affordable and accessible, not less, and while I’d certainly like to see some kinds of deregulation of the tertiary sector, I am absolutely opposed to what the federal government are currently touting as “deregulation”.

Do you think you will benefit from major party apathy?

Perhaps, but I would not use the word “apathy”. The major parties are terrible. Wars of aggression, corporate welfare, unanimous support for the Stalinist changes to the National Security Act, attempts at legalised torture, horrible drug-policy, dragging their feet on gay marriage, unaffordable housing, and that’s just the start.

With all of the minor parties standing up for different issues, there is absolutely no excuse for anyone to give their first preference to a major party. I understand people many not necessarily agree with the LDP on a range of issues, and that’s fine, but if I could ask anything of anyone’s vote, it would be that they put the major parties dead last, in whatever order they prefer.

How has the campaigning been going? Has there been any feedback from your potential constituents?

At this stage, we are still trying to get the party registered in Victoria. The Liberal Party have objected to the word Liberal in our name by claiming we are trying to trick voters. It’s my opinion that the Liberal Party are barely “liberal” in any way, shape, or form, so who is really trying to trick voters? I’m spending most of my time at the moment working on party registration, so campaigning has mostly taken a back seat for now.

Most of the campaigning at this stage has been online. Websites like Reddit and Facebook provide a great platform for allowing communication between voters and candidates. I recently did an “Ask Me (Almost) Anything” on Reddit. Offline, I’ve been giving talks on various topics to anyone who will listen, my most recent was yesterday at Monash Clayton on ‘Metadata, Privacy, and the Internet’. I’ve also visited my old high-school (Noble Park S.C.) where I spent six hours speaking with staff and students. The current  opposition leader, Daniel Andrews, visited the day before I did. I think they liked me more.

While many of my friends and family think I am mad, and have been offered all types of scorn, feedback on the overall has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been quite surprised by it. I do fear that people who do not know me are just acting nice because they don’t want to make a 6’, 100kg, bald, and bearded man angry, but as the election season starts to kick into full gear, people might start to be more honest. We’ll see.
 Is there anything else you think students should know about you and your party?

On the LDP, our major policy focuses in Victoria are: protecting civil liberties, affordable housing, removing revenue cameras, increasing government transparency, legalising marijuana, removing stamp duty, and removing the “jobs tax”. I know that not will agree with all of our policies, but they should know that we are a decent bunch of people who genuinely want to help your average person, including those who are struggling, as do many of the minor partes. Please support the minor parties!

On me, a few selected facts: I studied Computer Science at Monash Clayton and lived in Farrer Hall from 2005 for 1.5 years. I love attending music festivals with friends, the two I’ve attended the most over the past few years are Soundwave and Rainbow Serpent which reflect my two major music tastes: punk/alternate and psychedelic trance. I am a former athlete who has represented Australia at the international level. I attended Chelsea Manning’s trial as a supporter in Fort. Meade in Maryland. I really do want to own a pony. (Who wouldn’t?)

If anyone has any questions for me, feel free to tag me on StalkerSpace or Politicalspace, perhaps with the opening, “Hey, Jerk!” and I’ll attempt to reply to you.

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Tags : Victorian Election 2014
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