Dr Deb Campbell

Dr Deb Campbell

Born and educated in Melbourne, Deb Campbell has worked in intelligence, industrial relations and indigenous affairs operationally, and as a research and policy analyst. She holds a PhD in Australian industrial relations history. She now lives in Deans Marsh, newly a part of the Wannon electorate, where she runs a small home-base dog care business Sam’s Place Home Stay for Dogs, and is currently working on community history projects. Deb has also written business book reviews for the mainstream press, contributed to local newspapers and published a history of the Lorne Community Op Shop called Enriching Lorne [2011] and a detailed essay exploring the Australian euthanasia debate Doing Us Slowly [2016].
Dr Deb Campbell
Featured image: Independent candidate for Wannon, Alex Dyson with Colac councillor Chris Potter. (Photo: Wayne Jansson)

TALKING TO VOTERS at his ‘meet and greets’ around Wannon, Alex Dyson often tells one of his favourite stories from his 2019 campaign.

On election day 2019, Alex was handing out How to Vote cards and he offered one to an older lady suggesting she might like to vote for him. She looked him up and down and said, “You’re the one in that video, aren’t you?”. Alex conceded that yes it was his ‘Campaign Manifesto’ told via interpretive dance. “Well”, she said, “I’m not voting for you – there are already enough clowns in Canberra’’.

And as Alex says, “I just had to pay that.”

In fact, the reason he decided to run in 2019 was exactly that – there are too many clowns in Canberra. Scott Morrison taking a lump of coal to parliament was the final straw for Alex.

“What can I do to stop this nonsense? Well, I can run myself. I am more serious about our future than those clowns seem to be.”

Alex Dyson

Young people

Alex Dyson is 33. That makes him one of the youngest candidates standing for election at this federal poll.

Alex is not just (comparatively) young himself. He connects with and listens to young people – actually all people – but his understanding of the concerns of, and respect for, young voters marks him out as someone different. Alex talks to young voters – not at them, or about them – to them. He listens and he has something to say.

His election would provide the Australian parliament with access to the views and aspirations of younger voters and not-yet-voters – views that would not be constrained by any party’s factional orthodoxy or restrictive policy agenda.

A ‘Voices of’ community candidate

With Alex you get his own local take on Wannon’s issues and priorities, shaped by concerns expressed to him directly, and by the findings of What Wannon Wants. Given his experience at ABC’s TripleJ, and as an author and comedy club co-owner, Alex also brings that rare real understanding of the views of young people, undistorted by the priorities of party politics.

Also, Alex is male which makes him a bit of a rarity among what the mainstream media persist in calling the ‘teal independents’ but who are mostly ‘Voices of’ candidates. As a matter of fact, we in Wannon wanted be teal in 2022 as Alex was in his 2019 campaign, but the rush on teal tee-shirt orders from Goldstein and Kooyong meant we had to be content with a teal flash.

Many of the Voices candidates draw inspiration from Cathy McGowan and the Voices for Indi group which emerged in 2012 as a new political approach based firmly in local communities and not in political parties.

The story of how Alex got from interpretive dancer to Voices of Wannon (VoW) candidate can be read here.

Depending on the outcome on May 21, both here in Wannon and right across Australia, this approach may become a new political force. But we are not there yet.

Alex Dyson is atypical in other ways too. Unlike most of the other community endorsed independents, he has campaign experience.

He ran in Wannon as an independent in 2019 and got more than 10 percent of the vote, after a scrabble for the 100 signatures needed and a three-week campaign run very largely by Alex, his sister Katherine, his father Ian and a few friends. The campaign was boosted by national and international media coverage of that interpretive dance video.

Alex Dyson’s 2019 Campaign Manifesto’ told via interpretive dance

Interestingly while 60 percent of those who voted for Alex preferenced the ALP candidate in 2019, 40 percent preferenced Dan Tehan the Liberal sitting member. Tehan won the seat with a primary vote of 51.1 percent.

Those good at crunching the numbers believe that if Alex can bring Tehan’s vote below 45 percent and grow his own to around 30 percent he is in with a chance.

Tehan and his team must think so too because they have put him last on their How to Vote card. It seems Mr Tehan is more scared of Alex than of either ALP or The Greens. He clearly also feels more affection for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the UAP than he does for Alex – interesting.

Commitment

Watching Alex in 2022 moving across and around the enormous Wannon electorate – the area is bigger than countries like Belgium, Albania or Israel – often getting lifts from father Ian or mates, or driving himself from event to event or travelling by train – inspires much admiration and respect for his commitment and energy.

The commitment Alex shows may also explain his decision not to produce another interpretive dance video. Perhaps that ‘clowns’ reference did hit home. But he does use humour and warmth in meeting everyone, and in his social media campaigns.

As Alex travelled around Wannon even before he was endorsed by VoW, he came to understand more fully the very real concerns of community members. His meetings around the electorate are much more about listening to those who come to meet him, than about selling himself. We volunteers often have to do that part for him… and it is easy to do.

As a Liberal friend told me,

“I take my vote very seriously. We women had to fight to vote and we all need be serious about it. I will vote for Alex because I liked how he answered me when I asked ‘Well why should I vote for you?’ “

Alex is finding that many of the concerns expressed around the electorate match his own policy priorities about sustainable climate action and integrity. Key local issues also emerged: better educational opportunities for the regions, more mental health staff and facilities, connectivity across digital, road, rail, and especially housing.

The role of women in politics and society has also featured in the campaign and on that front Alex has ticked every box in the Victorian Women’s Trust Matters that Count candidate questionnaire. He personifies its mantra, ‘don’t get mad, get involved’.

This video asks ‘Who is Alex Dyson?’. The answer is ‘a good listener who will advocate for you’.

His genuine interest in people has always been there, and it makes an impression on the people he meets. Another story Alex tells from the 2019 campaign involved a voter from a small rural hamlet who told Alex,

‘I just gave you my first formal vote in 40 years.’

Amazed, Alex thanked him and asked why?

“Because you are a real person acting like an idiot (that video again!) but the rest of that mob are idiots pretending to be real people.”

Campaign funding

Dyson4Wannon is a totally volunteer-run campaign – with Alex’s friends and family again playing important roles but with the addition of more than 80 volunteers drawn mostly from the Voices of Wannon group. We endorsed Alex as our candidate in early 2021. Most of us are the very baby boomers he is sending up, but we get it. This election is not about us – it is about the sustainability of this country and the world, about getting Australia where it needs to be on climate, on corruption, on education and health. We can certainly take the well-meant jokes but we also see there is nothing at all funny about this election.

Most campaign funding has come either from Alex himself, or from many small donations from within the Wannon community.

The campaign has also received $30,000 from Climate 200.

As noted on his website FAQ:

After announcing myself as an Independent candidate, and after demonstrating that ours was a campaign willing to prioritise parliamentary integrity, climate action, and respect for women, I was fortunate to receive a $20,000 donation from Climate 200, with another $10,000 pledged based on our huge volunteer and newsletter subscriber count. 

Alex Dyson

Despite what the mainstream media relentlessly report, Climate 200 has had no impact at all on Alex’s policy agenda, campaign programme or media statements. Climate 200 is an organisation that donates to candidates “who have the best chance of success or highest strategic impact” while being pro-climate, pro-integrity and pro-gender equality – just as fossil fuel companies, management consulting firms and any other organisation donates to political candidates they support.

Federal funding

Although money in any sense was never a driving force in his decision to run, research published by The Age on 17 December 2021 proved to be a real eye opener and a bit of a galvanizing force for Alex, for we VoW members and indeed for everyone who read it.

It showed that over the last four years the Wannon electorate [mistakenly listed by The Age as a National held seat] had received less than $7M in all types of federal funding grants reviewed. Next door in marginal Corangamite communities received $55M, and National seat Mallee to the north $66M. This demonstrates conclusively that both the local MP and the ruling party have got away with safely ignoring a ‘safe’ Liberal seat for many, many years. Alex has something very pertinent to say about this here.

At our meet and greet in Deans Marsh in April this year, Alex spoke of meeting a farmer for a cuppa and a chat recently. At the end of their conversation, the farmer left the room and returned with a $500 donation.

“For me, that was a very emotional moment.”

Alex Dyson

It’s clear that Alex Dyson is committed to the Wannon community, to engaging young voters and advocating for regional Australians who have been taken for granted by the current government. His warmth, humour, integrity, authenticity and positivity are infectious.

Alex Dyson is connecting with all ages and with very different groups of people across Wannon. In doing so he just might achieve something truly audacious – succeed in actually representing our interests in the next Federal Parliament.