WHILE BARNABY JOYCE has been getting to know the real Scott Morrison, Mallee and Nicholls have been preparing the ground to, as the Indi mob say, rust-off.
Alex Dyson in Wannon, who I think will be a big mover, launched his campaign over the weekend in a low key affair.
The Haines Indi campaign hubs are up ramping with an elegant response to campaigning in a pandemic.
Mallee was a bit of a surprise packet at the 2019 election – three climate focussed independent candidates shared over 21percent of the primary vote with Mildura Councillor, Jason Modica coming close to making it a two candidate preferred race instead of a two party preferred race.
Mallee was the last seat called by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). The Nationals suffered a -28.06 percent primary vote swing against them.
In my estimation that was largely down to two factors: a departing Nationals MP meant the Liberal coalition partner could run and the strong combined primary vote of three independents.
Modica told No Fibs he has not made a decision regarding his candidacy at this election.
Mallee demonstrated it might be for turning just like the state seat of Mildura that’s within the federal electorate.
Last Friday rural journalist and former farmer, Sophie Baldwin, announced her candidacy for Mallee on Facebook, from the key rural city of Mildura.
Baldwin told the gathered crowd she was nervous, and it showed – I imagine standing for federal Parliament is a bit like standing on the edge of a 10 metre dive tower for the first time, terrifying.
Nervousness at the start of a campaign by an independent community candidate without the safe embrace of a major party is neither good or bad. In the first ever interview I conducted, Cathy McGowan was as nervous as me and look how that turned out.
Key for Baldwin are endorsements from 2019 independent candidate, Ray Kingston, and independent state MP for Mildura, Ali Cupper.
Horsham councillor Claudia Haenel has also announced her candidacy.
Voices for Mallee welcomed both independent candidates.
Although a National Party seat, a threat to any Coalition seat is bad for the Prime Minister. The Cupper and Kingston endorsements for Baldwin are significant.
I think Mallee will probably be in play, but there’s a lot to unfold yet.
The Haines Indi campaign hubs are ramping up and in a response to a world of COVID density limits and social distancing, Wodonga is an empty block and I’m told it’s in a good central location. I’ll get up to the Wodonga block in the near future.
Over the weekend I had a quick chat with one of driving forces behind local independent campaigns, Alana Johnson at the Benalla hub. She gave her thoughts on the new Indi campaign.
I asked about Indi’s “radical trust”, one of the big drivers behind the success of independent campaigns in the electorate.
The mission for the campaigners I spoke to at the Benalla hub – “Win Benalla”.
Indi is probably not considered winnable by even the Liberal Party – the Haines ground game will be way too big and it’s already on the ground.
Every election since 2013 the community independent campaign volunteer numbers grow and they’ve been training since at least November last year.
I believe Haines won in 2019 off the back of very strong performances on, QandA and ABC Goulburn Murray radio in the final week of the campaign.
Skipping an appearance on The Drum for a candidate forum on local radio, in which she deconstructed her Liberal opponent, was huge – I bet loads of Indi’s sheds and kitchens were tuned in that afternoon.
Rural communities rely on local and national public broadcasting for so many reason.
De-funding of the ABC is fast becoming a sore for the government and is another issue uniting city and country ‘Voices’ groups.
Alex Dyson launched his campaign over the weekend in a lowkey affair making use of the spectacular Shipwreck Coast.
The Wannon community is in the process of organising the first candidates forum of this campaign, likely to be in early March.
The forums will be fascinating. The human sleep tape, Dan Tehan versus Alex Dyson who woke a generation for breakfast on Triple J – the contrast between the two couldn’t be sharper.
I spoke with Dyson on a recent trip to Warrnambool and came away believing – Tehan will be up against a much more expansive and sophisticated campaign.
Listen to podcast:
As Dyson explained in the podcast, his 2019 campaign was designed to engage youth and get them interested in politics and democracy – narrow casting won him over ten percent of the primary vote.
This isn’t a seat likely to fall in anyone’s estimation, but I believe the former Triple J host will be a big mover and he’ll keep using creative ways to get core campaign messages to the electorate.
The answer to question 25 in The Weekly Times quiz is, Alex Dyson.
Dyson’s gonna give Tehan heartburn – I’ve come to believe this time around the independent will find at least some Liberal voters ready to rust-off.
No Fibs recently interviewed the McGowan endorsed independent candidate for Nicholls, Rob Priestly.
Nicholls and other electorates with communities along the Murray River have misgivings about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan – some people feel they paid a heavy price while others won big dividends with very little benefit for environment.
It’s been put to me a number of times that management of the plan is itself causing environmental damage, with un-naturally heavy river flows when water is moved.
The impact of the plan on some communities seems to be an issue that isn’t going away and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about community based political candidates, when the community really is with them, they can responded well to local and hyper-local community concerns.
It’s an issue I know little about but plan to look at in more depth.
Priestly says he has around 300 volunteers.
Nicholls contains the state seat of Shepparton which is independent, it borders Indi which is independent and along the river in Mallee is the independent state seat of Mildura. Regionally community independents are gaining traction.
Nicholls MP, Damian Drum is retiring at the next election so the Liberal Party will also contest the seat.
If Nicholls ends up a tight 3 cornered contest – National, Liberal and independent – the electorate may give the Coalition some real curry.