By KATE TAN
It just took one phone call to persuade Suzanne Lee Parker to drive from work in Clayton to St Kilda to save a penguin from a fishing line.
Ms Parker, the Animal Justice Party (AJP) candidate for Oakleigh, rescued the penguin in early November.
"I saw a male penguin stuck on a rock and he was wrapped in a fishing line," Ms Parker said. "Every time he moved, he was tied tighter and tighter.
"I cut him free and cuddled him with a towel against my chest. I could hear him purring like a cat," Ms Parker said.
The AJP candidate has volunteered for Earthcare St Kilda for the past 15 years. Ms Parker aims to gain a wider understanding of animal protection by standing as a candidate in the state election in November.
She said she will lobby the state government for safer living conditions for the penguins that live in Port Phillip Bay in the St Kilda area.
"I hope to ban fishing in the area. That will help protect the penguins from fishing lines," Ms Parker said.
The AJP candidate was born in 1963. She was raised in Geelong and attended Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College.
She moved to Oakleigh 13 years ago, bringing her cleaning business to the neighbourhood.
Ms Parker joined the AJP three years ago. It is the first time she will un as a candidate in any election. She said her volunteering and business experience equipped her with knowledge for the position.
"What is happening in the world of animals around us is quite cruel," she said. "I would like to establish both public and legislative means of getting some changes done."
Ms Parker said her main policies would include banning live exports, reducing factory farming of chickens, and stopping unwanted greyhound racing dogs being shipped for meat consumption in other countries.
Other policies listed on her profile on the AJP website includes ending duck shooting, stopping the culling of kangaroos, establishing an Independent animal protection agency and stopping the use of 1080 poison. This poison causes a painful death and is used against animals considered pests such as rats and rabbits.
"The AJP would like to make sure animal rights are there," Ms Parker said. "The animals will have proper food, proper care, and not whipped or abused by anyone."
Ms Parker's interest in animal protection came from her volunteer work with the penguins. Her late parents had inspired her to give back to society.
She is also a member of the Koala Clancy Foundation, which is a not-for-profit organisation that supports wild koalas around the You Yangs in the west of Melbourne.
She helped the organisation with fundraising, tree planting and building a safe corridor for koalas to go from their habitat to a nearby river to drink.
"I want to save koalas in the You Yangs by assisting volunteer groups to keep doing what they are doing," she said.
As for the Oakleigh electorate, Ms Parker said if she was elected, she would advise the local council to have a more humane treatment in dealing with feral animals like rabbits, possums and foxes.
Ben Schultz, AJP's Southern Metro Region Upper House lead candidate said Ms Parker's local policies were in tune with the broader program of the AJP.
"All our policies are animal-centric," said Mr Schultz. "We will support the native habitat and wildlife rescue."
The AJP was founded in 2009 and aims to protect the interest of animals and their environments.
For more on the Victorian election: http://junctionjournalism.com/2018/10/10/unipollwatch-victoria-2018/