1st February 2014
In something of a surprise for the upcoming Griffith by-election, Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) is standing a candidate new to Griffith, but not new to the KAP.
Ray Sawyer stood for the KAP in the division of Fairfax in 2013, a seat that was won by Clive Palmer, with Sawyer managing just 1.92 per cent of the vote.
While he does not live in the region, Mr Sawyer described himself as someone who has “strong connections with the Griffith electorate.”
His campaign literature revealed that he has operated a dance school for a number of years, which has given him “the opportunity to meet many locals and work with businesses and charities in the area.”
Mr Sawyer entered politics due to disenchantment.
“I became disillusioned by the major parties, realising they are in it to win and be in power, which is not representative of the local bloke or our democratic political system.”
Mr Sawyer told No Fibs that he and his wife run a wedding dance business, teaching couples how to dance the bridal waltz, for example. As Mr Sawyer has already been reported in the press as an opponent of same-sex marriage, I asked if he would be willing to teach a same-sex couple how to dance.
“If a couple came to me”, he said, “and they were the same sex and they wanted to learn to dance, I would have no problem teaching them to dance whatsoever.”
However, he said that a core principle of the party is that marriage is between a man and a woman. Mr Sawyer is a churchgoer and Sunday school teacher, and said: “You could say my upbringing has influenced my beliefs and that’s what attracted me to the Katter Australia Party.”
Among the issues of concern for the KAP in Griffith, Mr Sawyer listed the new runway at Brisbane airport.
“Air traffic is increasing and to some degree, while that is good for Brisbane tourism, it brings not only noise, it brings air pollution too,” he said, then added he would like to see a review commissioned on the airport noise issue, and would support ALP candidate Terri Butler’s idea of trialling a curfew.
He said that he is getting a good response from his recent door-knocking efforts. “A lot of people say they are worried about the way this country is going. They have issues with the 457 visas and the number of people coming to our country and taking good jobs that everyday Australians could no doubt do.”
He said that people are raising concerns about Australian industries closing and are worried about keeping their jobs and being able to support their families.
A key personal issue is the sale of public assets: “The government should be providing basic essential services, infrastructure, water, electricity, communications, health and transport. It is about providing affordable services for the community. Selling these public assets only promotes price gouging from private investors, and high costs are then unavoidable.”
He added that, “governments should provide suitable communications for us all, and that includes broadband.”
Like Labor and the Greens, Mr Sawyer is opposed to the idea of introducing a new Medicare fee. “I think a lot of people will take the attitude that they can’t afford to go to the doctor. It’s very important to encourage people to go the doctor when they need to,” he said.
I noted that apart from same-sex marriage, a number of his views seem to be consistent with his Labor Party opponent, and I asked whether the KAP had received any reaction to the preference deal which saw it list Mr Rudd last in 2013.
Mr Sawyer said the party “took a bit of a hammering” in the last election and that this time it would give supporters the option of preferencing either of the two major parties. He has listed independent candidate Travis Windsor at number two on this how-to-vote card.
In 2013, Jan McNichol stood for the Stable Population Party (SPP) and polled 0.19 per cent of the primary vote. This time around the party has selected a new and young face in Timothy Lawrence. The party hopes that their name change before this by-election, to the Sustainable Population Party, will more accurately describe its purpose.
The SPP has said it did not actively campaign in 2013. Now, they are getting behind their candidate and are particularly active on social media. Mr Lawrence told No Fibs that he intends to engage at a local level as much as possible, and he was out and about in Griffith last weekend.
Mr Lawrence is a newly married 23-year-old software designer. He told No Fibs that his interest in politics and the SPP came about because of his interest in “social systems, and how they interact with our ecological systems.”
Population, he said, is the “everything issue”.
In conversations with people in the Griffith electorate, Mr Lawrence said they have expressed concerns about over-development, housing affordability, aircraft noise and the cost of living.
All of these issues, he said, relate back to the issue of a growing population, as does the impact on rising health costs and access.
“According to the AMA, we have gone from 6 hospital beds per 1000 (public and private) in 1970-71, down to 3.8 per 1000 in 2010-11”, he said.
Strategies proposed by the SPP to sustain current population levels in Australia include the removal of “government birth payments (the Family Tax Benefit A and paid parental leave) beyond a woman’s first two children”, and, “zero net migration,” such that “permanent immigration is equivalent to permanent emigration.”
Mr Lawrence said that up to 70 per cent of Australians do not want a bigger Australia by 2050, but the major parties are not listening.
The SPP has an open ticket when it comes to preferences, which encourages voters to select the SPP as number one, and whomever they like after that. Mr Lawrence said that people who vote for the SPP are not wasting their votes because they will be sending an important message to the major parties.
The new face of Family First (FF) in 2014 is Christopher Williams, 24, unmarried and resident outside the electorate at Mt Gravatt East.
A committed christian, he is interested in music and is currently studying for a Bachelor of Ministry.
Mr Williams said that Family First is not a one-issue party.
It is concerned about issues such as schools, jobs, and securing local funding for community groups.
He is one of only two candidates of the eleven standing in this by-election who is opposed to same-sex marriage, and underlined that the LNP and the ALP are in agreement on what he sees as the “controversial issues” of same-sex marriage and abortion.
I asked Mr Williams why he would characterise these issues as controversial when the majority of Australians are in support. He responded that, “they are controversial because of the level of feeling involved. People feel quite strongly one way or the other,” he said.
He said that FF looks through the lens of putting families first, and when it comes to same-sex marriage, he is interested in “protecting the rights and interests of children”.
“Children are harmed when they are not raised by a mother and a father.”
While he understands that for various reasons there are single-parent families, and that “single parents do their best for their children”, they are, “not ideal.”
As to his personal credentials as a candidate, Mr Williams said the he has proven himself in his studies and in his church service, “To be loyal, to be dependable, to be driven … if I told people I will do something, I will do it,” he said, “I will achieve what I set out to do for the people of Griffith.”
On the Medicare co-payment, he said it initially sounded reasonable, but he agreed with concerns about shutting-off access for people who need to go to the GP more often than others: “They could be negatively affected by it,” he said.
On education, he said he would like to see more power handed to schools and to parents and less central control. He thinks that would be more productive than the current ‘culture wars’ around a national curriculum.
Mr Williams said that a lot of focus in this election seems to be on “minor issues” concerning Mr Abbott or Mr Newman, and not on substantive issues about which candidates could have some impact: “Protecting the institution of marriage and protecting unborn rights.”
On preferences, Mr Williams said he is very disappointed that Dr Glasson preferenced Labor candidate Terri Butler ahead of Family First.
“I don’t know why they (the LNP) expect the conservative parties to stick with them when they show that level of disrespect,” he said.
Mr Williams does not expect party leader Bob Day to make it to the electorate during the campaign.
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