Kim Huynh remembers his Vietnamese refugee father cycling to the Jamison Centre on a heavy old donated bike on frosty midwinter mornings. He remembers wearing for years the 20-cent beanie his parents gave him, and the long hours spent on his feet at the family’s suburban bakery.
The ANU politics lecturer and ABC Sunday brunch presenter grew up in Belconnen, and he’s so proud of that suburban heritage that he has 2617 tattooed across his chest.
That pride has prompted him to become the second Kim standing for the Senate on the Kim4CBR party ticket founded by fellow academic and law lecturer Kim Rubenstein.
“I can’t say this in a way that doesn’t sound a bit twee but Canberra saved my family’s life. Why wouldn’t I do something like this?” he says.
“We came here with nothing, you know. We came here with absolutely nothing. We’re self-made.
“So I’m doing this for Kim and I’m doing it for Canberra. Kim and I have known each other for ages. Her kids’ Lego is now my kids’ Lego. We still use their totem tennis pole too. I really believe in Kim. She’s the best thing that could happen to Canberra.”
Citing Rubenstein’s constitutional law expertise and focus on citizenship, he says she has the capacity to hold the country to account. Her focus on citizenship extends to refugee issues and equality before the law for a diverse range of Australians. Integrity in government, climate change action and women’s safety are key areas of concern for the campaign.
And, Kim Huynh says, the legislation Kim Rubenstein has drafted for increasing the ACT’s Senate representation to four is something anyone can now take forward, no matter who wins the Senate seats.
The Kim4CBR campaign believes that having two more senators would guarantee the ACT is no longer taken for granted, give greater strength to Territory rights and ensure the direct needs of Canberrans are better looked after.
Kim Rubenstein says that having the legislation drafted immediately exemplifies her intent and ability to create immediate and substantial change for the ACT in the Senate.
“That would be a huge achievement to have four senators. We’re the only jurisdiction in Australia that doesn’t have any independent parliamentary representation,” Kim Huynh says.
“I’ve got nothing against parties. But they’ve had more than a fair run. At some stage, we should have a really strong independent. I really hope it’s Kim and I’m working my guts out for her.”
The campaign has also devised a parliamentary pledge they hope will create more productive dialogue, and they are working on a set of new policy ideas for climate change.
For his part, Kim Huynh is under no illusions about the chances of two both Kim4CBR candidates being elected to the Senate.
“I’m a politics guy. I’ve taught politics for 20 years, so I know exactly how difficult it is,” he says.
“I’ve run before in the ACT election. I know about preferences. I know about quotas. But I’m also a lover of the arts and of mad, creative, wonderful pursuits. I couldn’t care less about endpoints. I care about doing something in the now that’s meaningful.”
His tactics are straightforward and honed in previous campaigns: Huynh aims to ride his bike up to 100 km per day with a campaign flag streaming out behind him, stopping to talk to people along the way.
“Every day I’m riding my bike, I give people something to smile about. You know, you’re stuck in your car. You’re suffering in all sorts of ways because of COVID, because of cost of living, whatever is in your life. You see a mad bugger like me ride by with a big flag, and it gives you joy.
“I’ve been amazed how much people have backed me. There’s no good reason to do that sometimes, but for some reason, they have. And it’s important to me that I don’t just bank that up for me and my family and the people I know.
“Particularly as a person of colour, you know, and one that’s a little bit odd, I want to get out there and say, ‘let’s stand up for Canberra!’
“Is it gonna be a fight? Yeah, it’s gonna be a real tussle,” he says of the battle for Seselja’s seat.
“You’ve got an incumbent who is of Canberra, who serves a significant minority of people’s interests. He reckons he deserves to be there, but he’s got people coming at him from all sorts of places.
“What’s not to like in terms of a story? I hope I can add just a little bit of something good”.