“The challengers in the ACT have credibility… They should be admired as they have been generous enough to come forward and ensure our democracy continues to work effectively,” writes MICHAEL MOORE.
THE major parties would have us believe that we are in a presidential election. We can either vote for Scott Morrison or Anthony Albanese. The traditional media are complicit in this deception.
We live in a Westminster parliamentary democracy. Voters might wish to know who is the most likely leader of a party going into government. However, the reality is that they vote for their local representative. It is that representative, along with their colleagues, who will determine who is the prime minister.
So, who are those standing to be our local representatives? In Canberra, there is a pretty good understanding about our Senate candidates. But they are not the ones who determine the prime minister. Labor’s Senator Katy Gallagher is on pretty firm ground for re-election. Senator Zed Seselja is more vulnerable – but it will still take a significant swing to unseat him.
The three ACT House of Representatives’ electorates are all looking fairly solid for Labor. However, there are substantive challengers. The challengers will really only have a chance if the notion of the presidential election focused solely on Morrison and Albanese takes a back-burner in the ACT.
Andrew Leigh has represented his electorate and contributed substantially to the intellectual competency of the Labor Party and the parliament as a whole. With redistribution, he moved from the seat of Canberra to the seat of Fenner in North Canberra. He is a strong candidate. However, the Liberal challenger, Nathan Kuster, should not be dismissed as a lightweight.
Nathan lives in Bonner in the heart of the electorate of Fenner. He is a small-business owner and manager of a law firm specialising in supporting families and other small businesses, and a strong contributor. He was born and raised in Canberra studying law at the University of Canberra.
The alternatives in the electorate of Fenner are the Greens’ Natasa Sojic or United Australia Party’s Tracey Page. Considering the dominance of Labor in Fenner, it is difficult to see the conservative UAP getting many votes. However, Green representation by a woman who is both an environmental scientist and engineer would have been an interesting alternative had Andrew Leigh proven to be a poor representative.
Campaigning against the incumbent in the seat of Canberra will also be challenging. Labor’s Alicia Payne has held the seat for her first term as a member of the House of Representatives. Her Liberal Party challenger is property developer and real estate agent Slade Minson. Slade has lived in Canberra for three decades and argues that he is proud to raise his family in Canberra.
The Greens candidate, Tim Hollo, has an impressive political CV and has built a presence in Canberra. He understands politics and media, having been the communications director for Senator Christine Milne and a campaigner and board member for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. Considering the support that got so many Greens members into the Assembly, there is an outside chance if the Labor campaign takes a nosedive.
In the south of Canberra, the seat of Bean is held by David Smith, who had a rocky entry into ACT politics. When Gallagher lost her seat over citizenship issues, he was appointed as the replacement. With citizenship sorted, he was then sidelined while Katy was preselected for the Senate. However, he was then selected by Labor for the safe seat of Bean. His first speech in the House concludes with a quote that is revealing – “the opportunity to serve – that is all we ask”.
The challenger from the Liberals is navy veteran and small business owner, Jane Hiatt. The mother of four has lived in south Canberra for more than 30 years and has been a strong community member involved in coaching sports and a range of school and community boards.
The Greens have selected an accountant and business manager, Kathryn Savery, for their challenge in Bean. Accountability and integrity in politics are issues that are highlighted for her campaign.
The challengers in the ACT do have credibility but it would require a significant swing for them to oust the incumbents. They should be admired as they have been generous enough to come forward and ensure our democracy continues to work effectively.
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Ian Meikle, editor