Sophie Mirabella - Border Mail

Sophie Mirabella – Border Mail

By Tom Anderson,

2 September, 2013

Back on August 16 I made my debut as a Citizen Journalist when Margo published my first ever piece of writing after I live-tweeted for the first time an Indi candidates forum. I ended with:

“Tonight I became involved in local grass roots politics. I got engaged in it and like a child given candy and riding high on a sugar rush, I WANT MORE’.”

Every day in the two weeks since has seen a forum, a press conference or an event. It’s almost a full time job just trying to stay up to date on everything happening around you. I’ve been riding the ‘sugar high’ and am addicted to the election goings on in the seat of Indi and fully engaged in the #Indivotes Twitter discussions every day and night.

Now that I am Tom Anderson, writer for No Fibs, local candidates and support staff all know my name and greet me except Sophie Mirabella’s staff, who now go out of their way to not talk to me.

Due to work commitments I listened in to the Wodonga candidates’ forum on 26th August, which was broadcast live on the local ABC. It was a fiery passionate night with a little comic relief from the ‘Bullet Train guy’.

I attended the Victorian Farmers Federation candidates’ forum on the 29th August and live tweeted that forum. My upward-pumping hand was finally recognised and I was given the microphone to ask one question to be directed at just one candidate. I asked:

“We started this evening with a Welcome to Country ceremony conducted by Uncle Wally of the Yorta Yorta people, and I would like to thank Uncle Wally for that. My question is for Sophie Mirabella. Members of your party have stated publicly that the Welcome to Country ceremony is overdone these days – how do see the significance of that and with hindsight do you regret boycotting the National Sorry day speech in Parliament?”

Sophie’s reply was that “I am more interested in substance over symbolism” and that the ‘Sorry Day’ was rushed and she did not have enough information at the time. She concluded by stating that Uncle Wally had conducted a smoking ceremony in her office and she had respect for the local Indigenous community, but did not include an answer to the question.

The moderator deemed the question to be answered and I was not allowed the opportunity to seek further clarification.

My observations and form guide garnered from the performances that night are as follows:

Robyn Walsh, ALP, is trying very hard to be seen as just not making up the numbers. She has become more engaged.

Jenny O’Connor, Greens, has become feistier and her passion has intensified. She is now prepared to call others out and interject when she disagrees.

As I predicted, Cathy McGowan has improved since earlier forums. She is now confident and assertive, and is no longer willing to let anyone dominate, interject over her or steal the spotlight from her. At one stage I unexpectedly had goose bumps listening to her talk.

Sophie Mirabella came out with all guns blazing. The confident, arrogant and consummate professional at previous forums is becoming more intense and desperate. The calmness and confidence in her answers at the last two forums has been replaced by intensity and a degree of the old bitchiness associated with her persona.

I also attended my first press conference, where former Victorian National Party MP of more than 34 years Ken Jasper publicly expressed support for his old family friend Cathy McGowan. He stated he had never supported Sophie Mirabella and believed it was time for a change in the electorate of Indi and that we deserved better representation.

He had this to say:

After spending most of the night transcribing that press conference for No Fibs , I hope I never have to do that again in my life. I have a new found respect for journalist and students who do it on a regular basis.

On the same day we also had news of the first ‘dirty tricks’ of the campaign with the ALP robo-calling the electorate and playing a sound bite of Tony Windsor’s ‘Insiders’ appearance in which he stated that Sophie Mirabella won his parliamentary “nasty prize”. The recording quoted Mr Windsor saying the citizens of Indi “could do much better” than Mrs. Mirabella.

I contacted Tony Windsor via Twitter, asking “How do you feel about the ALP using your #Insiders quote in a robo telecall?”

He replied:  “I don’t approve Tom.”

Throughout the campaign Twitter’s news feed #Indivotes has been a place of robust yet civilized debate. I think that might change in the last week, but I hope not. I want to see robust debate and discussion. There’s no need for bullying or personal attacks. After all, we are country people and we like to show respect, even for opposing points of view.

I will now spend my time getting even more involved and volunteering by distributing ‘How to Vote’ cards, because to actually make and be part of a change you need to get involved.

Out in the community of Indi there is a real buzz in the air.

I recently had reason to visit an elderly couple in their 80s in Beechworth. They started talking about the election and continued to do so for over 45 minutes. With a chuckle and a twinkle in their eye they told me that they had taken up Sophie Mirabella’s offer to help them with a postal vote for both of them and had used them to vote for “that Cathy McGowan woman”.

“She is what this electorate needs right now. Someone who cares about us locals.”

They spent the next 20 minutes or so trying to convince me to support Cathy McGowan as well. I did not have the heart to stop and tell them that they were preaching to the converted. They also informed me that they had voted Labor at the last election.

I also caught up Dylan, a first time voter in this election, Dylan is a resident of Huon currently studying at university in Melbourne who I have known to be a staunch Liberal supporter.  He provided me with this statement:

“When studying legal studies as part of my VCE my teacher, whom I respected, taught us that independents struggled for a voice in parliament. But with recent events like the mistreatment of the Wodonga-Melbourne rail line, I’ve realized that our local member of parliament never comes out fighting for our interests. Thus I believe it’s time to turn to someone who actually listens, cares and will actually cry out for Indi and try her best for her seat. That is why I am going to vote for Cathy McGowan.”

There is a distinct feeling of change here in the seat of Indi, and supporters from both sides are supporting that change.

Me, I will continue to ride the sugar high rush all the way until the finish line and until the results are known.

I am left still wanting more.