Opinion

School plan could be Sheed’s Achilles heel

By James Bennett

If the Shepparton Education Plan is not deemed a success in three years' time, it could cost Suzanna Sheed her seat.

Although the next Victorian state election is in 2022, we cannot ignore the decisions made by Ms Sheed in the first 12 months of a new term.

The independent MP has made a huge gamble backing the government’s decision to implement the Shepparton super-school and the education plan — a plan that sits unfavourably with many in Greater Shepparton.

It’s not that many parents disagree with the concept and ideology of the plan, but when they feel their questions aren’t being answered it’s easy to understand and sympathize with their frustration.

The danger for Ms Sheed is, that frustration can boil over into distrust towards governments and politicians.

As an independent, Ms Sheed has the advantage of being able to sit in the middle of the road in politics. She can vote in the best interests of her electorate rather than toeing party lines.

But, as it was once put by British politician Nye Bevan, ``If you sit in the middle of the road there’s a high chance you’ll get run over by both sides.”

Ms Sheed has decided to sit on the Shepparton Education Plan side of the road, and the implications that decision may have for her down the track at the polling booth remain to be seen.

Although when it comes to an election, Ms Sheed has a good track record. She has been successful in using her limited power as an independent.

If a Coalition member was representing the electorate, Shepparton would barely get a look-in with the current Labor government.

Ms Sheed is still fighting for Shepparton to be among the first places in the state to receive any funding against other regional centres such as the heavily Labor-backed Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo.

Without Ms Sheed there’s no doubt many of the infrastructure projects such as GV Health and the rail route wouldn’t be allocated, distributed or even touted; and her views on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan seem sit well with the farming district of her electorate.

But with the majority of the electorate's population based in Greater Shepparton, if the Shepparton Education Plan isn’t working come an election, it could make things interesting.

At the 2018 election, Ms Sheed not only defeated but crushed the Coalition’s two-candidate attempt to regain the seat. She will most likely need to do that again in 2022.

At the next election there will be many parents with children who will have attended the Shepparton super-school since its inception, and if they believe their child’s education has suffered from the school's implementation, their votes might not go towards Ms Sheed — particularly as the Coalition does not support the plan.

Ms Sheed's eight-year track record will be under a stronger microscope, and a smart opposition candidate would exploit her decision to back the Shepparton Education Plan.

Although, Ms Sheed's recent calls for a technical school should sit in her favour, as the Victorian Government has touted them as part of its big education roll-out.

Indeed, it should come as no surprise if Shepparton is on the next list of regional centres to receive a tech school — and that would be largely thanks to the efforts of the local member.

Now that Ms Sheed has made her intentions clear to back the Shepparton Education Plan, she must continue to back it. Rather than backflipping for the sake of votes, Ms Sheed will show she trusts her judgement and principles as being in the best interests of her constituents.

And if the Shepparton Education Plan is working in favour of the Shepparton region and high school students, it would take a miracle for the Coalition to unseat Ms Sheed in 2022.