Victorian State Election 2022: Paul Mercurio and Sam Groth contesting seats

The Strictly Ballroom star who could play a key role in the Victorian election as he tries to win the state’s most marginal seat

  • Australian movie icon Paul Mercurio trying his hand at state politics in Victoria 
  • The 59-year-old is vying for marginal seat of Hastings on Mornington Peninsula
  • Ex-tennis ace Sam Groth is also running in the Victorian election for the Liberals
  • Victorians will go to the polls Saturday to decide if Dan Andrews stays in power

The star of Australian hit film Strictly Ballroom is poised to play a pivotal role in Saturday’s Victorian state election.

Paul Mercurio is Labor’s candidate for the marginal seat of Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula south-east of Melbourne, currently held by the Liberals, which is set to be among Victoria’s closest fought battlegrounds.

The 59-year-old, who is best known for playing dancer Scott Hastings in the cult 1992 film and subsequently went on to be a judge on Dancing with the Stars, is up against former Greg Hunt staffer Briony Hutton for the Liberals.

The boundaries of the electorate were redrawn in 2021 which, according to Victorian Electoral Commission calculations, could turn the Liberals’ 1.1 per cent margin into a tiny Labor margin of 0.01 per cent when locals go to the polls.

Former movie star Paul Mercurio (pictured centre) is running for Labor in this weekend's Victorian election

Former movie star Paul Mercurio (pictured centre) is running for Labor in this weekend’s Victorian election 

Mercurio is best known for his lead role in the cult 1992 film Strictly Ballroom (pictured)

Mercurio is best known for his lead role in the cult 1992 film Strictly Ballroom (pictured)

Hutton, who wants to upgrade sports facilities and electrify the Frankston to Baxter train line, said she was the underdog despite having worked for a federal cabinet minister. 

‘You start from behind because you’ve got to build up your own name recognition. Going against a name like Mercurio is always going to be a challenge,’ she told The Age. 

Mercurio, who lives in Tyabb, has a local business selling spices and chutney. He has taken leave from his role as a councillor for Mornington Peninsula to run for state parliament. 

Mercurio told the Today Show he might have ‘rocks in his head’ for wanting to pursue a political career but said there was things he wanted to achieve that he couldn’t do at the local level. 

‘Local government was pretty tough … and I think state government will be pretty tough – I don’t think I’ve got the hide for federal [politics],’ he said.

The 59-year-old is a councillor for Mornington Peninsula but took leave for his run at state politics

The 59-year-old is a councillor for Mornington Peninsula but took leave for his run at state politics

He’s running on a public transport platform along with a focus on healthcare, saying he will push Labor leader Dan Andrews to wipe the HECS and HELP debts of nurses and health workers.

‘I’m just going to be happy doing something for the community – it’s grassroots stuff. I live here, I’m part of the community. I just want to help people in this community. That would be enough.’

Mr Mercurio isn’t the only celebrity running in the Victorian election with former top 100 tennis player Sam Groth contending for the nearby key seat of Nepean as a candidate for the Liberals.

Also vying for a spot in state parliament is former tennis ace Sam Groth (pictured with his wife Britt)

Also vying for a spot in state parliament is former tennis ace Sam Groth (pictured with his wife Britt)

The 35-year-old, who holds the record for the fastest serve on the professional tennis circuit at 263km/h, is favourite to win the seat from the incumbent, Labor’s Chris Brayne.

‘I wouldn’t say I was the best tennis player in the world, but I’ll tell you I worked my guts out and tried to squeeze every little bit out of myself that I can, and I approach this with that same attitude,’ Groth told the Australian Financial Review.

‘From my point of view, people want better people representing us. I was unhappy with the way things were going, and I could either make a lot of noise and use my profile to do that, or I could actually stand up and try and make a difference.’

Groth said he isn't one to keep quiet and was unhappy with how Dan Andrews ran the state during the Covid pandemic

Groth said he isn’t one to keep quiet and was unhappy with how Dan Andrews ran the state during the Covid pandemic

MAJOR PARTIES’ KEY VICTORIAN ELECTION PROMISES:

HEALTH

Labor:

* Build or upgrade at least seven hospitals, including up to $1.05billion on a new Maroondah Hospital, up to $855million to upgrade the Northern, up to $675m for a new West Gippsland hospital, up to $560m to upgrade the Monash Medical Centre

* Fully pay off degrees for more than 10,000 nurses and midwifery students who enrol in 2023 and 2024 and work in the public health system for two years

* $5,000 sign-on bonus for newly graduated nurses and midwives who work two years in the public system

* Up to $170m to redevelop three regional public aged care homes

* $71m to improve women’s health and provide support for issues ranging from period pain to menopause

Coalition:

* Build or upgrade more than 25 hospitals, including $900m for a new Werribee Royal Children’s hospital, $750m for a new Mildura Hospital, $550m to rebuild Caulfield Hospital and $400m for a new infectious disease hospital

* Free public transport on all metropolitan and V/Line public transport services for more than 260,000 health workers

* A $325m staffing plan to recruit and upskill 40,000 health workers over the next four years

* An extra $125m for Victoria’s triple-zero call-taking and dispatch service

* Halve the public elective surgery waitlist in first term

ROADS AND TRANSPORT

Labor:

* $203m to cap V/Line train fares in line with metropolitan services

* $600m for 23 new VLocity trains

* $207m for 200 extra services on major regional lines each weekend

* Remove an extra 25 level crossings by 2030, taking total to 110 since 2015

* $650m to improve train services to Melbourne’s west

Coalition:

* Shelve Labor’s $35b Suburban Rail Loop and redirect funding to the health system

* Capped $2 daily fares on the metropolitan public transport network

* Half-price V/Line train fares and free replacement buses

* Begin planning for a second Metro Tunnel in Melbourne

* $23m to trial capped return airfares from Mildura to Melbourne for locals

* Lowering the age for a probationary driver’s licence to 17

EDUCATION

Labor:

* Almost $1.6b to build and upgrade Victorian public schools and kindergartens

* $717m package for low-fee Catholic and independent schools

* $584m to establish 50 new government-owned and operated early education centres

* $207m specialist schools package

* $170m to build new TAFE campuses and improve existing ones across the state

* Free TAFE courses for all Victorians

Coalition:

* More than $1b for new and upgraded government schools

* $700m over four years to non-government school sector for capital support

* $220m for a schools literacy plan

* $300m for free lunches at Victorian public schools under two-year pilot program

* Simplify and streamline the Victorian curriculum

* Support free TAFE system for areas with workforce shortages

ENERGY/CLIMATE CHANGE

Labor:

* Bring back majority public-owned State Electricity Commission, enshrining it in the constitution

* $1b on renewable energy projects to be overseen and run by SEC

* Increase renewable energy targets from 50 per cent to 65 per cent by 2030, 95 per cent by 2035

* Reach net zero emissions by 2045 instead of 2050

* Legislate renewable energy storage targets for 2030 and 2035

* $42m for 100 community batteries

Coalition:

* Quarantine all new gas discovered in Victoria for state-only use

* Legislate Victoria’s 2030 emissions reduction target of 50 per cent

* A $1b clean hydrogen strategy

* Upgrade transmission infrastructure in western Victoria

* Rebates for both solar panels and home batteries

PARLIAMENTARY AND LEGISLATIVE REFORM

Labor:

* Apology to people who were in state care between 1928 to 1990 for historical abuse and neglect

* Workshop replacing the Lord’s Prayer in parliament

Coalition:

* A royal commission into Victoria’s COVID-19 pandemic response, scrap Victoria’s pandemic laws and guarantee no more lockdowns

* Amend the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act to give faith-based schools protection to hire people based on their values

* Extra funding for the integrity agencies and expand powers for the corruption watchdog to conduct public hearings

* Lead reform on Victoria’s upper house group voting ticket system

TAXES/COST OF LIVING

Labor:

* A fresh round of the $250 power-saving bonus next year

* $9.7m to make vehicle registration free for eligible tradies

* Introduce a Victorian veterans card, including $100 discount on vehicle registration

Coalition:

* Remove electricity supply charges to cut household electricity bills by up to $235

* Freeze water service charges for five years, saving average Victorian households up to $100 a year

* Legislate debt cap and scrap seven taxes

* Pause electric vehicle tax until 2027

* Lift payroll tax threshold from $700,000 to $1.6m

HOUSING

Labor:

* $2.08m towards Magie Nest Housing, a partnership between The Salvation Army, Melbourne Project 614 and The Collingwood Football Club Foundation that provides accommodation to 130 people with a history of or are at risk of homelessness

* $141m towards installing air conditioners in more than 40 public housing towers in Victoria

Coalition:

* Legislate planning reforms to cut red tape without Labor’s dumped social housing levy on developers

* Expand stamp duty exemption for first homebuyers to purchases up to $1 million for a year from January 1

* Unlock 150,000 extra lots of land across Melbourne and regional Victoria in next two years

SPORT/TOURISM/ARTS

Labor:

* $34m live music support package

* $30m package for brewers, winemakers, distillers

* New planning overlay laws to protect prominent live music venues

Coalition:

* $150m homegrown events fund to assist planning, attracting and re-starting local festivals, concerts and events

* Move 2026 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony from the MCG to Geelong and include Shepparton as hub

* Establish Tourism and Events Victoria as an independent statutory body

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