As a new father and proprietor of a domestic building company, and someone who has been chafing against political responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mount Waverley resident Matthew Zervides says politics has lately become a whole lot more interesting, and personal.
It wasn’t always so. “To be honest, I haven’t been really aware [about politics] until the pandemic. I never really cared until it affected me,” he says.
“Now I’m taking a bit more of an interest.”
When Zervides, 34, first voted in a federal election, he was a 19-year-old apprentice living with his parents in Mount Waverley. It was 2007, and he backed Chisholm’s long-serving Labor incumbent Anna Burke, helping a Rudd-led Labor government to win 83 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives and oust long-standing Prime Minister John Howard. The “Kevin07” campaign secured Labor the biggest two-party preferred swing since the 1970s, with the electorate of Chisholm proving to be a bellwether.
Zervides then switched camps, voting for the Coalition in every election since 2007. This time around, as polling day looms again, he’s experiencing another powerful shift in political allegiance. After the past two years of COVID-related lockdowns, he feels increasingly disenfranchised by the two major parties.
He’s disappointed with the performance of the coalition government on COVID, mostly around its ineffectiveness against state-enforced restrictions. And ask Zervides about Labor’s chances of ever earning his vote again, and he doesn’t mess about.
“Even if I had an inkling to vote federally for Labor, I would never, just because of Dan Andrews … I’m so disgusted by the way we have been governed [in Victoria] the past four years.
“I don’t want anybody to have the authority to restrict my movement. Like I don’t think anybody has the right to lock me in my home, or put me in a curfew”.
He is no anti-vaxxer, he says. He’s got a seven week old daughter and is fully vaccinated against COVID. His frustration stems from having to implement vaccine mandates in his own business, which he believes turned “the community against themselves”. Zervides says that federal and state governments left people to “police it ourselves”.
“I do wish there [had been] a bit more of a pushback from the federal level to say they [were] overstepping their mark”.
Zervides says at this point he is undecided about who he will be voting for in this federal election, but is heavily leaning towards the Liberal-Democratic Party candidate in Chisholm, Ethelyn King. The Liberal-Democrats – not to be confused with the centrist Australian Democrats – is a minor party espousing a libertarian focus on individual rights and minimal state intervention. In the 2019 federal election, the Mount Waverley-headquartered party failed to win any seats in the House of Representatives or the Senate.
This time around, the Liberal–Democrats are running on an anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine mandate platform, detailed in their “Freedom Manifesto”, even as COVID restrictions are lifted across the country.
Asked about federal issues that might make a difference to how he votes, it’s hard to get past Zervides’ responses to the pandemic restrictions, which run deep. He says that his family history and connection to Chisholm’s Greek community – an enduring demographic in Chisholm that has had its epicentre in the suburb of Oakleigh since the 1950s – has shaped his focus.
“My family are refugees … My Dad came from Cyprus. He was 14 years old when the country was invaded. That’s the only other time in his life where he’s been under a curfew.”
But Zervides also makes it clear that his views are not unanimously held across his family and social circles. He has “friends who hold those beliefs, and other ones who have polar opposite beliefs, which again, is a good thing. I think that’s how democracy should be”.
On his hopes for what the next three years in federal governance might bring, Zervides says that no matter the winner, he just wants things to “get back to normal”.
“These are the reasons I’m looking at the Liberal–Democrat Party, they have said at the federal level that they would have done anything in their power to fight against the mandate.
“It’s been labelled as extremist, but it’s freedom,” he says.
“All my political thoughts have been tainted by the last couple of years.”
This story is part of a continuing special reporting series focusing on the voters of Chisholm, published in collaboration with Crikey.com. See the Chisholm’s Choice Crikey series here.