Flan Cleary

Flan Cleary

Flan Cleary is 75, a retired civil engineer born in Co Clare in Ireland who migrated to Australia with his family at 17. He does not like being photographed.
Flan Cleary

You can read A diary of emails to Ireland – Part 1 here

12 April 2022

As a local GP, Dr Sophie is well known in the northern end around Avalon where she lives, but it’s about getting her name out everywhere. Knowing when the Prime Minister would announce the election date, a major awareness event was organised for the next morning.  We were to meet at Narrabeen at 6.30am and line the road to Collaroy (3+ km) with a supporter every 40m from 7am to 8am, waving our Sophie banners at the people heading into work.  

By the time I got there I had to walk about 1 km to get a spot, then gave up my place to someone who had to get away for work. I waved to everyone and rotated my banner but I did feel a bit foolish from time to time.  I’d told my daughter I would be there and she nearly got run into looking for me. I was happy at 8am to start walking back, but then word came down the line that Channel 7 was coming out to film us so we regrouped. I watched Sophie do a TV interview – she’s an excellent candidate.  I don’t envy her, putting herself through this process.

The others went for a coffee to celebrate.  I went off to nursing duties.

13 April 2022 – Waving to your favourite playlist

We repeated the effort the next day at Warringah Rd, Beacon Hill.  When I arrived at 6.15am they’d lined up a coffee van.  Free coffee.  We were getting more organised.
I went up to a separate intersection on my own and thought I did a good job getting everyone’s attention. I varied my wave delivery as I marched up and down. It’s hard to know what to do sometimes when you wave like mad at a car and the lights change and they stop next to you.  One truckie slowed down on the opposite side of the intersection, blasted his horn to get my attention and gave me a middle finger salute.  I gave him a thumbs up.
I noticed the women wavers were moving and dancing as they waved, and it looked so much better than my efforts. I read the instructions suggesting we bring headphones and our favourite music to move to as we waved, so it was back home to get the playlists and work on my moves for next time.  
Apparently some of the wavers got a bit carried away with their signs and only just missed the cars as they drove past.  A few complaints to the police but no real fuss.  And a few noise complaints about horns blowing in support. 

The sign waving team

20 April 2022 – Keeping up the good work

For all our effort, there is no talk from the pundits of us having any hope of winning, but I think Jason (the incumbent) is getting a little bit worried.  The Financial Review released a seat poll that showed Sophie on 23 percent and Jason on 38 percent.  He doesn’t have an army of workers, mostly paid for support.  

He put out a campaign video saying his father came from Croatia with nothing, his mother worked two jobs and his parents started Australia’s first successful computer company then were sent broke by a Labor government.  Violins etc.  Unfortunately he had to take it down when the Financial Review pointed out some factual errors.

Campaign HQ says we need another few percent so keep up the good work. 

We will soldier on.

27 April 2022

Still no one is saying Sophie will win, but apparently Jason is getting even more worried.  According to some locals, he can be very overbearing. The government is pork barrelling the marginal seats and spending nothing on the safe seats and Jason is not feeling the love.  

Sophie has about $1million in donations, about five times what he has. He said on TV she should not spend it on campaigning but instead use it to help distressed single mothers (that the government is doing nothing to help). 

He can’t be the brightest. 

Then they rolled out John Howard, the geriatric ex-prime minister, to accuse all these women independent candidates of being “anti Liberal groupies”. 

That went down well.

I did two more days of door knocking, the first midweek in Avalon. Stormy, and rain forecast, but that was of no concern to Richard.  Avalon is where Sophie lives and so we got a fair bit of support, except for a couple of people. One guy was not looking happy when he saw my T-shirt and I opened with,

“Have you  heard of Sophie’s campaign for the seat?” 

He waved across the street at three Sophie posters and said,

‘I can’t get away from it’. 

A few minutes later another guy verbally attacked me for being a socialist. Then he laughed and said he was a friend of Sophie’s and would be definitely voting for her.

When we returned to the car park for the debrief, Richard had eskies with IPA beer cans, white and red wine. I opted for a beautiful 2013 merlot. Who needs coffee!

30 April 2022 – Three weeks to go

The next doorknock was in Newport. Local. I was paired up with Les who used to have his own business training people for construction certs and safety certificates. In his sixties and great at approaching and talking to people. Bungen Head is just south of Newport and the road loops around the headland and the castle at the Point.  It’s a 30 degree slope to get there, and the houses have magnificent views and the longest and steepest driveways in the world.  Les and I were a pair of mountain goats for two hours.

One woman said she hated Jason but was worried Sophie was running as a fake liberal to give preferences to Jason, but I assured her that Sophie was not allocating preferences and she said she’d vote for Sophie.  I was so pleased with winning the vote, then I spent the rest of the day thinking I should have asked her to put a Sophie sign up or come to listen to Sophie talk.  Missed opportunity.  

I branched out from door knocking and went to a “meeting” at Mona Vale shopping centre.  The idea is to be visible there for about an hour.  Six of us in our Sophie t-shirts had a coffee. the others were about retirement age and greenies from way back  (I think I might have gatecrashed an environmental policy meeting).  One had been working to protect Duffy’s Forest from over-development for over 20 years,  another working for the Narrabeen Lagoon Protection Society and yet another, once she retired as a science teacher, went to East Timor for six months every year helping villagers improve the village water quality.  Fortunately I had to leave before I got round to discussing my 40+ years building motorways. 

Three weeks to go and postal voting is starting.  Jason is getting more nervous, and he was on ABC TV complaining about women independents again.  “Fakes. They agree with our policies and they stand against us.”. It gave Sophie an opportunity to be on TV as well and she was much more impressive. Still none of the pundits talk of her winning.  

5 May 2022 – Meaningful conversations

Back to door knocking last Saturday. The most memorable voter was an elderly Chinese lady. She said this was a very important election, a potential turning point for Australia, that the country was in danger of taking the wrong track and we needed to become more caring again.  She had great dignity and everything she said resonated. It felt quite profound.

By the end of the day the team knocked on 1600 houses, of which 55 percent were at home. Of those, 77 percent were aware of Sophie’s campaign. 21 percent were definite Sophie voters, 39 percent had an open mind and 40 percent were not interested. Not too bad.

On Sunday the campaign ran an outdoor concert in an Avalon park for the younger voters. Two top local bands, free entry and more than 1000 tickets.  It was very popular. They needed marshalls and other helpers but I left it too late to volunteer (another tactical error) so it was back to doorknocking.

Elanora is a few kilometres from the sea, a bit suburban and mainly Liberal voters. One lady wanted to know if Sophie was a closet Liberal, as she had looked it up and knew Sophie was born in a Liberal voting area. She hated the current government with a passion and went off on an absolute rant about them – liars, corrupt, uncaring, incompetent, international embarrassment (hard to argue with all that). When she reached a crescendo I nearly high-fived her in excitement but we have been told not to criticise the other candidates so I held back.  I think we have her vote.  

The previous day they all went to the nearest pub after the door knocking. Richard on Sunday had brought the good 2013 red, but I resisted.  Instead Deirdre and I went to the surf club for a drink, and five Sophie t-shirts dropped after the concert, which they raved about. Next campaign I will do the concert. Jason had his launch but according to reports it was a bit underwhelming.

I worked out. I’d been walking/door knocking for six hours over two days.  Good for my fitness.  


You can read A diary of emails to Ireland – Part 1 here


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