Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston

Co-publisher and editor-in-chief at No Fibs
Margo Kingston is a retired Australian journalist and climate change activist. She is best known for her stint as Phillip Adams’ ‘Canberra Babylon’ contributor and her work at The Sydney Morning Herald and #Webdiary. Since 2012, Kingston has been a citizen journalist, reporting and commenting on Australian politics via Twitter and No Fibs.
Margo Kingston

THANK YOU EVERYONE for turning up today. 

Thanks Dr Sarah and Simone for your powerful words.
I would like to acknowledge the Birripi people as the traditional custodians of the country we are gathering on today. I recognise their continuing connection to the land and waters, and thank them for protecting this coastline and its ecosystems since humans have walked this country. I pay my respects to Elders past and present, and extend that respect to all First Nations people present today. 

Many of you know that in recent years I’ve known the darkest of days with a serious cancer diagnosis. Days of pain and uncertain recovery. But confronted by despair, I’ve summoned hope. I have responded with grit and determination. I put one foot in front of the other and now I am cancer free and burning with a fire inside me to make a positive change!

My recovery has made me a stronger and better person. And given me opportunity to reflect on our collective future, our children’s and grandchildren’s future. 

Cowper needs all of us to speak out now!

And I am 100 percent ready, willing and able to be your representative.

Yesterday I met with a woman from South West Rocks who shared her story and unfortunately it has all too familiar themes. She is a prominent small business owner, who has been saving for many years to buy a home. Despite having a successful business, she has watched house prices outstrip her saving capabilities. Now, the property that she has rented for many years has been sold – and with the rental crisis – she is about to find herself homeless.

In an attempt to purchase a home, she is selling her business but the bank won’t loan her money because she is about to become unemployed. Unfortunately, she has to proceed with the sale regardless – because she has not been able to find accommodation for her and her children. This hard working, community member is suddenly adrift and suffering from extreme anxiety.

As I said earlier, I’m hearing many stories like this right across Cowper. People are feeling that the gap is widening between those that have and those have not – many people are feeling abandoned! 

We are right now at a crossroads.

We can’t let the business as usual model of career politician’s pork barrelling, and being in the pockets of big developers, tax avoiding industry continue! We must act to protect our families, our quality of life, this beautiful environment, our values, our future. In the next couple of months, we can ensure that we and our communities vote to be on the right side of history. 

Today, I will reinforce to you why right now in this election, we need to get smart and get strategic as a community! 

Thanks Sarah for reminding us that the health impacts of climate change are real, frightening and already being experienced here in Cowper.

Can I ask you all to just consider for a moment what it is like for our doctors, nurses and paramedics to treat a person fighting for breath when their lungs are filled with bushfire smoke, the struggles of an older person battling heat exhaustion or the ongoing consequences for a person who’s home becomes inhabited by mould because it just won’t stop raining! The emotional toll of financial and housing insecurity.

As a registered nurse, with years of experience and a person with post graduate qualifications in public health and a masters of business administration – I understand the science about the health impacts of climate change and the pandemic and I understand we still have time to implement the necessary actions and solutions to turn this ship around.

Lately, I have been out and about in the Hastings Macleay region meeting with people from all walks of life and I have read the latest polls. All of these things are telling me that: 

  • The majority of Cowper residents accept that we need to act on climate change – standing still is no longer an option.
  • Most people want to protect their current way of life, and why wouldn’t they? We live in paradise! 
  • Changes such as incentives to support the uptake of electric vehicles, home battery storage and micro community electricity grids should not be considered threatening – instead we should see opportunity.
  • We need practical solutions that support our economy, jobs growth, secure housing and regional security.
  • COVID has exposed weaknesses – our reliance on goods and services from outside of Australia. None of us like going to our local supermarket to find the shelves low on essential stock! 
  • We need long term planning around local industry, sustainable agriculture and local market led solutions. There are many local farmers and business people across Cowper taking up this charge already – they are leading the way and providing inspiration for future economic opportunities.

Of course, climate change isn’t the only major issue I want to address as a matter of urgency. My other main policy platforms include – but are not limited to – integrity in politics, real action on the aged care royal commission, better support for primary health and equity and respect for community. At the core of all healthy, resilient and productive communities is a deep commitment to respect! 

We need political leadership which operates from a position of mutual respect and prioritises: 

  • A genuine respect for women, people aged over 65, first nations people, our culturally and linguistically diverse communities, the disabled, disadvantaged and different.
  • Respect for the rule of law and established political conventions.
  • Decision making based on science and factual evidence.
  • Putting people first and serving everyone equally regardless of gender, age, ability, ethnicity or socio-economic standing. 

When I work with you, and on your behalf, I will always act with integrity.

Instead of complaining or playing dirty politics, I am running a respectful campaign, we want to show our politicians what our community really wants and the possibility of a new culture in government.

There is definitely a growing dissatisfaction in the Australian community with the current state of our politics and party politicians. As citizens, we know that trustworthiness and clear choices underpin a healthy democracy and this includes a productive life, flourishing families and communities, viable businesses and vibrant economies. However, it seems that Canberra has lost our trust and robbed us of honest, workable choices to create a sustainable future for all.

Many people in Cowper do not feel our interests are being represented at all in Canberra. We feel abandoned!

Our voices are not being heard.

This is not just a feeling. The evidence shows Australia is going backwards when it comes to representative democracy with: 

  • Public satisfaction with the way our democracy is working having crashed over the past decade – from 86 percent to 41 percent. 
  • Australia’s status as an open transparent democracy was downgraded from ”open” to ”narrowed” in 2019 by CIVICUS.
  • For almost 20 years, Australia ranked in the top ten least corrupt countries, however, by 2018, we’d fallen eight points to 13.

This raises serious questions about the ethical underpinnings and intentions of political parties, politicians and institutions in this country. We’re tired of having our votes taken for granted. This is why Voices of Cowper (many members are here today) started its quest to find a community independent to run in our electorate.

Voices of Cowper has conducted many Kitchen Table Conversations (KTC) across our community since 2019 and the major concerns being raised include: 

  • The undue influence of political donors, lobbyists and industry bodies influencing and corrupting our political system leading party politicians to vote in favour of their vested interests rather than for their constituents 
  • The dramatic rise in corruption with the current federal government throwing a veil of secrecy over deals and decisions that keeps us in the dark
  • Mainstream media being too concentrated, distracting and misleading us with biased reporting and propaganda
  • The lack of workable policies and accountability for major issues, that I have already touched on such as the climate crisis, growing poverty and inequality, and misogyny and racism.

The KTCs also showed an overwhelming support for an Independent Candidate for Cowper especially because our current federal representative has a 100 percent track record of voting with his party because he is party aligned.

We need an Independent voice in Canberra! 

We have been inspired to follow the path set by the likes of Voices of Indi who elected Cathy McGowan and then Helen Haines as their Independent federal representatives and Voices of Warringah who ousted Tony Abbott and elected Zali Steggall.

At last count there are 40 plus ‘Voices of’ communities around the country calling their elected representatives to account and demanding better representative democracy.

On the campaign trail I have been asked a few key questions: 

What will I do in the event of a hung parliament?

Let me reassure you a hung parliament is not an unhealthy position to be in – despite what our current government tells you. It gives us opportunities to debate, negotiate and slow down some decision-making to get it right! There are a number of other countries who run very successful hung parliaments, such as our near neighbour New Zealand, where debates result in properly considered decisions and legislation.

How will I advise people to vote on preferences? Which of the main two parties am I affiliated with?

Neither of them! Through extensive consultation with you and in all of my decisions I will always use this framework: 

  • Is the legislation good for Cowper now? 
  • Is it good for Cowper in the future? 
  • Is it affordable? Is it sustainable? 
  • Is it fair and equitable?

I am not party affiliated and will always vote on what is best for Cowper as your Independent!

We have cut and spliced the data on the electorate and I need to share this important message/call to action: 

  • The federal election in Cowper is a race between the Independent and the National Party – The Greens, Labor, UAP and other parties in recent decades have not gone close to winning this seat. 
  • The Nationals have largely always held the seat. We only need an 8 percent swing to get them out, to change things up for good!
  • Look at the seat of Willoughby in NSW where the independent (Larissa Penn) recently had a 17 percent swing towards her!  Half of that and we will win!

That means we need to get strategic.

We need to spread the word – vote 1 me! You must tell your friends, family, neighbours – shout it from the rooftops if you can – Vote 1 Caz 4 Cowper – we are all in this together and can do politics differently!

Now is a good opportunity for me to thank my family, my wonderful, energised campaign team, volunteers and many advisors who are here today and are well and truly on this amazing train for change!

I couldn’t do this journey alone. This is winnable and it is totally achievable! 

Good luck and go Port Macquarie

Cathy McGowan