“At this stage, early in the election year, the threat is coming from potential crossbenchers. It remains to be seen what will be offered by the Liberals,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.
An old political party working to refresh itself, and the establishment of a new grouping of independent candidates marks a powerful start to this election year in the ACT.
Canberrans will go to the polls on October 19 to elect a new Legislative Assembly.
The Labor-Greens Coalition government will be judged. A decision will be taken about whether the Liberal opposition is really up to governing the Territory.
Additionally, a challenge will be launched by a series of independent candidates who will seek to hold the balance of power. There are outstanding candidates already emerging across the political spectrum.
The Independents for Canberra Group is being led by Clare Carnell, daughter of the former Chief Minister, Kate Carnell. She is a disaffected former Liberal, frustrated by the party reaction to the “Liberals for a YES vote” campaign as the final straw.
Clare has teamed with Thomas Emerson – putting a lie to the accusations by Chief Minister Andrew Barr of “stooge independents”. Thomas is the son of long-term Labor MP, Dr Craig Emerson. Thomas is an adviser to independent senator David Pocock.
The common ground for these two is a genuine belief in liberal democracy, integrity and accountable government. They are Canberra’s answer to the federal “teal independent” movement. They hope that other independents will join with them to make most effective use of the Hare-Clarke electoral system.
The Independents for Canberra are seeking to expand and draw in other people willing to raise their hands to run for the Legislative Assembly. They have announced their first “town hall” meeting at the RUC Bowling Club in Turner on Sunday morning, February 11, and hope to engender enthusiasm for the cause at that meeting. I have agreed to address that meeting.
Until now there have only been four independent MLAs who have sat in the ACT Legislative Assembly since inception in 1989. I was the last of those to be elected in 1998 and served through to the end of 2001.
Labor is aware of the accusations of being a tired government, as Leon Delaney of 2CC put it – of being “predictable and mundane”. In a move to counter this they have enrolled some outstanding community contributors to run for their party. I will cite just two examples.
Tim Bavinton, who has been announced as a candidate for Labor in Ginninderra, is currently the executive director of Sexual Health and Family Planning (ACT). He is a youth worker, teacher and community educator. With the support of the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre he established SAMSSA (Services Assisting Male Survivors of Sexual Assault). Tim is a graduate of three universities, (ANU, UC and UTS) and offers an in-depth understanding of governance and social issues to Labor.
Heidi Prowse OAM is the executive manager of strategy and impact for Capital Region Community Services. Another outstanding community contributor, she is also a Labor candidate for the electorate of Ginninderra.
Heidi has been a community leader for the past 15 years working with Camp Quality, Cystic Fibrosis ACT and Mental Illness Education ACT. She was acknowledged as the 2017 ACT Young Australian of the Year and 2020 Telstra Business Woman of the year.
These two candidates represent what the Labor Party hopes will be the fresh face of Labor.
They are also being challenged by the rise of other “teal” independents. Here are just two more examples. Peter Strong AM, long-term executive director of the Council of Small Business will run in the seat of Kurrajong. He announced with Ann Bray, a medical scientist and former diplomat, who will run in Murrumbidgee.
Ann says: “We need to have independents in the Assembly that involve the community; think about the issues; and look at the facts and the evidence, unencumbered by factions, and vested interests”.
Peter makes the point that “the government isn’t evil, it has just been there too long, far too long”.
These sentiments are ones that Andrew Barr and Labor leaders know very well, and they seek to counter with unfounded accusations such as “stooges” and fake independents. This reveals just how real the threat is to their government at the next election.
At this stage, early in the election year, the threat is coming from potential cross-benchers. The Greens announced some of their candidates in December. It remains to be seen what the rest will look like and who the Liberals will field.
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health. He has been a political columnist with “CityNews” since 2006.
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