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Southbanker

11 Nov 2020

Southbanker Image

Southbank’s almost-elected Liberal Democrat

By Meg Hill

The City of Melbourne was very close to electing a Liberal Democrat this year – whether it realised it or not. Paul Silverberg lost out by only 80 votes, on nearly six per cent of the primary vote – a result that many explained as a vote intended for the Liberal Party.

Mr Silverberg had moved to Southbank in winter and joined the Liberal Democrats in August. He only found out about the council elections in early September.

He said he entered politics in response to the heavy policing of anti-lockdown protestors, specifically the widely-reported arrest of a pregnant Ballarat woman.

“It brought to the front of my mind some unpleasant experiences I had growing up in Russia, with political suppression and security forces enforcing an agenda on ordinary people,” he said.

Following that, Mr Silverberg discovered the Liberal Democratic Party and joined. When he became aware of the elections, he volunteered to run.

Mr Silverberg, whose candidate Facebook page regularly described the state government’s lockdown restriction as “tyrannical” and “irrational”, said he was against the enforcement of the lockdown and an approach that used health as a benchmark and “forgot about all the other pieces”.

Speaking in early November – while Victoria was experiencing a long period of zero daily COVID-19 cases and travel restrictions were being lifted – Mr Silverberg still maintained the restrictions had been misplaced.

If he had been elected as a councillor he said he would have focused on getting the city moving again, reducing government waste and promoting “diversity”.

His prime example of waste was Southbank Boulevard.

“Southbank Boulevard is over time and over cost and this sort of waste that we see is the type of area I would look to optimise. The extra money could have been spent a lot better on things like the arts and helping people get back to work,” he said.

According to the Liberal Democrats, Mr Silverberg’s 80 vote shortfall was due to a preference deal not being honoured. Mr Silverberg declined to name the “group of individuals” who he said had not honoured the deal.

“I haven’t given too much thought yet to whether I’d run again. It was a great experience and I’ve certainly learnt a lot from it,” he said •

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