Jennifer Podesta to stand for Benambra

Jennifer Podesta

Jennifer Podesta

JENNIFER Podesta is returning to the campaign trail — this time in the red corner.

The Wodonga small business owner and PhD student has been endorsed as the ALP candidate for Benambra in the Victorian state election.

Ms Podesta last year ran as an independent in the seat of Indi, but joined the Labor party in November.

Her decision to join the party was borne from her experience campaigning in the North East.

“I think my skills can be better utilised in a party rather than as an independent,” she said.

“The ALP best fits my ideology.”

Ms Podesta would need a swing of about 9 per cent to take the seat from Liberal Bill Tilley, who has held Benambra since 2006.

In 2010, ALP candidate John Williams had 33.52 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, compared with Mr Tilley’s 66.48.

The seat has been a conservative since its inception and has been a Liberal stronghold since 1976, when Lou Lieberman was elected.

But Ms Podesta yesterday expressed her confidence, despite the odds.

“I don’t think there are safe seats any more,” she said.

“You only need to look how quickly the polls are changing every few weeks ... it’s all up for grabs.”

Ms Podesta and her husband Tim are co-directors of Wodonga’s Regional Academy of Performing Arts, and have three adult children.

She was a board member until 2012 at Albury Wodonga Community Network, which runs women’s refuge Betty’s Place.

She is also working towards a PhD in sociology from Melbourne University, focusing on the impacts of social disadvantage in young people — one of the key issues she aimed to bring to the fore during last year’s federal election campaign.

“There’s a huge difference in the opportunities for people living in regional Victoria,” she said.

“We make up 25 per cent of the population but we only got 4 per cent of infrastructure spending in this year’s state budget.

“And while infrastructure is welcome the government is not delivering on health, on education, on training, on jobs.”

Ms Podesta will be officially launching her campaign within weeks.

She acknowledged she had joined the party at what was a tumultuous, but exciting, time.

“It’s not easy but it’s moving in the right direction and I hope people will see me as part of that change,” she said.

“I’m not a member of a union, I have the small business perspective ... and I was supported unanimously by my branch.”