Oh, and we should mention he’s also the son of Ted Baillieu, the 46th premier of Victoria.
Baillieu Jr, running as an independent, is not the only political offspring standing for council. Meet the proto-politicians of Generation Z. Their surnames might be familiar but their faces – and their policies – are fresh.
“It’s never too early to start and that shouldn’t be an excuse to not at least try,” says Laura Mayne, a 19-year-old law and commerce student at Deakin University. Mayne, the daughter of Stephen Mayne, founder of the Crikey independent news website, is standing in Schramm ward in Manningham and faces an uphill battle against a popular incumbent. Her dad is a former independent councillor in the City of Melbourne and in Manningham who is running this year in the adjacent ward of Ruffey.
“Politics has always been a part of the dinner table discussion and has only influenced me for the better,” says Laura, who was playing VFLW for Richmond before the pandemic interrupted. “A big benefit is that they have also shown me a practical pathway to get involved, which isn’t as easily acquired for other young people who share my same passions.”
Mayne is campaigning to reduce gambling harm, an issue her father is passionate about, and also wants to protect the environment and support small businesses hurt by the pandemic, policies she has in common with other Generation Z politicians.
There are 2187 candidates contesting the council elections, standing for 623 available positions, according to an analysis by Spence Consulting.
But very few are members of Generation Z, those born after 1996 who say diversity in all its guises is extremely important to them. They are digital natives who cannot remember a time before smartphones, so Zoom campaigning should be a breeze. And as children, they have seen their parents try (and fail) at politics.
Annabel Yates, a 19-year-old first-year science undergraduate at the University of Melbourne, is standing as an independent, and continuing a proud tradition of sticking it to the majors in Boroondara’s Studley Ward.
She is the daughter of Oliver Yates, the former Liberal member and renewable energy executive, who ran as an independent for Kooyong against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the 2019 federal election.
Yates, an environmentalist, says the power councils have to spark change is underestimated. “Local councils build the foundations of what we want to see at a higher level,” she says.
Her father lost his battle against Frydenberg, and failed to have the vote overturned in the Court of Disputed Returns, after alleging Frydenberg’s team had misled voters.
“Dad’s definitely kickstarted my interest with his campaign mostly because I admired how he carried himself – his intention was genuine.
“When something is not the way you want it to be, instead of complaining about that, it’s important to make the change in a positive way and I think Dad did that in a really good way, he may not have won but he showed that doing something imperfectly was better than doing nothing.”
These politicians don’t like talk of political dynasties. Indeed, from an early age, Robert has showed an independent mindset from his Liberal premier father. As a nine-year-old, Robert accompanied his dad on to the polling booth at his unsuccessful 2006 attempt to become premier. A local reporter asked young Baillieu whom he would vote for. “I will only vote for Ted Baillieu if he gives me a hot dog.”
Stephen Brook is CBD columnist for The Age. He is a former features editor and media editor at The Australian, where he wrote the Media Diary column and hosted the Behind The Media podcast. He spent six years in London working for The Guardian.