JEREMY Hanson is right when he says it is going to be more difficult for him to work with Brianna Heseltine after she announced her intention to run for the Labor Party.
The Opposition Leader has made great mileage over the Mr Fluffy asbestos debacle. That’s his job. Holding the government to account is a prime role of the alternate government. Mr Hanson knows that his role has just become more difficult.
There’s a flipside. There is often a catalyst that spurs someone into politics. People involved in the union movement, industry bodies and trying to rectify a range of social wrongs realise that there is only so far they can go without having a hand on the tiller of decision making.
It is not surprising that Heseltine has determined that she can play a role in making a better society by being involved in politics. At this level she should be congratulated for being prepared to put her hand up.
More awkward is the revelation that Heseltine has been a member of the Labor Party for a number of months and had revealed this to her networks on social media.
The leadership she has shown in bringing the Fluffy issue into the public eye has been exemplary. She has worked with Senators, Labor and Liberal and, at the same time as working with the government, she has kept the opposition briefed.
Senators and MLAs understand that people lobbying for better community outcomes rarely rely on one side of politics, but seek to get an agreed approach across the political spectrum. This is how the Fluffy Owners and Residents’ Action Group has operated.
Hanson’s response suggesting that this group would feel “misled and let down” may prove to be the case.
Under the Hare-Clark system, community profile is a key element in getting someone elected. It may well be that the ability to vote for Heseltine is much more important than the fact that she is running for Labor. Voters may well vote for her personally and then move their vote across to a Liberal or Green candidate. The ACT electoral system allows this to happen and it is quite common.
Favouring the best candidates over party preferences is an appropriate way to vote. The Labor Party hates the approach with scrutineers and officials describing it as “undisciplined voting”. The Liberal Party has a similar, although less publicly strident, view to voters moving across party lines.
Ordinary members of political parties are also community members. In my view they do not have to disclose their membership until such time as they seek election themselves. There are many reasons why people join political parties without the intention of standing for that party in an election.
Jeremy Hanson has explained what he sees as the conflict of interest: “This now calls into question Heseltine’s recent statements in defence of (Chief Minister) Katy Gallagher’s past inaction on the issue”.
Heseltine has run such a vigorous public campaign that she deserves recognition for that advocacy work. There is no suggestion that she was just doing this for a personal political agenda – that would put the cart before the horse.
She explained in a public statement: “When this was first put to me, I was astounded that something that has brought my family so much devastation could possibly lead to a future in public life.
“I am asked by affected families on almost a daily basis whether I will go into politics after all of this. I think a lot of people can see that I actually care about them and the issue”.
No one can doubt Heseltine’s level of concern and care. It is a different issue now that she can see clearly how decisions that affect our community are made, that she has decided to take the next logical step to put her hand up for one of the 25 seats in the next Legislative Assembly.
Michael Moore was an independent member of the ACT Legislative Assembly (1989 to 2001) and was minister for health.