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HomeNewsVictorian election: Strictly Ballroom star Paul Mercurio runs for seat of Hastings

Victorian election: Strictly Ballroom star Paul Mercurio runs for seat of Hastings

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For most Australians, Paul Mercurio is best known for his role as boisterous Scott Hastings in the cult Baz Lurhmann classic Strictly Ballroom.

But now, the star of stage and screen is attempting to entering another arena that may be just as theatrical – Victorian state politics.

The now 59-year-old is running as Labor’s candidate in the seat of Hastings, on the Mornington Peninsula, armed with a mission to put his experience to good use.

“I was a restaurateur, I’ve done work for plumbers, I’ve done all sorts of things. As an actor in this country, you don’t just act all the time,” he said.

“You have to do a lot of things to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. I think the good thing about that is that I have a fairly healthy lived experience.”

Mercurio hails from Swan Hill in Victoria’s north and moved to Perth as an adolescent before becoming principal dancer with the Sydney Dance Company at 19.

His famed breakout role came in 1992 before he moved to the US and starred in a string of TV series throughout the decade.

Mercurio was also a judge on the Australian version of Dancing with the Stars until August 2008 when he was dropped for being deemed “too nice” for television.

He was elected as a councillor for Mornington Peninsula Shire in November 2020 but says the role wasn’t as impactful as he’d hoped.

“I was a little bit frustrated that I couldn’t do enough on council which is why I decided to go for state. If I could do more as a state MP, then I would be more grateful,” he said.

The father of three says his belief that Labor will retain power is central to why constituents should support his political run.

“For people who are undecided on who to vote for in the electorate of Hastings, if you read all the political commentary or what not, Labor will retain the government,” he said.

“And the choice for our community is do you want someone at the table who can actively and positively advocate for our community, or do you want someone in opposition who really can’t do anything?”

Labor retained power in 2018 in what was dubbed a “Danslide”. The Daniel Andrews-led party claimed a 10-seat majority with 55 of the 88 lower house electorates.

The Coalition won just 27 seats – less than half of Labor’s – while the Greens and independents each claimed three.

A post-election redistribution gives Labor an estimated notional 57 seats, but Mr Andrews believes the result will be tight.

“I don’t take anything for granted. This election will be close, all elections are. A handful of votes and a handful of seats will determine who governs our state for the next four years,” he said.

“And whether we keep pushing forward with strong economic growth, low unemployment but some challenges, challenges that will only be made worse by cuts and closures.”

Mercurio is running against 29-year-old former Greg Hunt staffer Briony Hutton, who’s hoping to retain the semi-rural seat for the Liberal Party.

However, Mercurio believes his tenure in the spotlight gives him an advantage when entering the political arena.

“I think at the end of the day, I’ve got a voice. And I think as an actor and as a dancer and being to some extent on the world stage, as a performer, I have a voice and I can use that,” he said.

“I guess the decision to use it for really positive outcomes is the driving thing. I think being famous or notorious or however you want to put it, people are interested in your thoughts, and from that I’ve found by engaging with people in the community or on TV or even TV shows, you can help and I would rather help people in a positive way.”

The Victorian election will be held on November 26.

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