The Canberra Community Voters party is funded by Clubs ACT, and is geared to appeal to voters who have previously voted Labor and are considering a change this time but are not prepared to give their vote to the Liberals.
So says the party’s co-founder, Richard Farmer, the latest entrant in our ACT Election Candidate Baking Challenge and a last minute inclusion on his party’s ticket for the seat of Kurrajong.
“The clubs have given me the money, you can write that,” Mr Farmer says.
The co-founders with Mr Farmer of the party, by the way, are past-President and Director of Capital Community Housing Peter Moore and ex-NSW auditor-general Tony Harris.
Clubs ACT has waged a fierce anti-Labor campaign for months following Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s decision to offer poker machine licences to Canberra’s casino. It says such a move will cause many clubs to close, impacting on sporting and community activities currently sponsored by clubs.
The Canberra Liberals are also working closely with Clubs ACT this campaign – Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson and Canberra Community Voters Party candidate for Ginninderra Geoff Kettle spoke in swift succession at last month’s Clubs ACT rally protesting against Labor’s policies.
The rally was held in Ginninderra heartland, on the oval behind the Raiders Club in Belconnen.
Last week, when we visited him at home in Dunlop for the candidate challenge, Mr Farmer baked us a fish pie in recognition of the fact that the name Kurrajong is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning fishing line*.
The former lobbyist, journalist, political adviser, liquor store owner and restaurateur says his candidate challenge entry will be the major event of his campaign – he is not spending his weekends chatting to voters in shopping centres, hammering election corflutes bearing his image into the earth beside main roads or delivering flyers into Kurrajong letterboxes.
Mr Farmer told the RiotACT when we met at a forum a few weeks ago that he would only run for the Assembly if he had to, as he was hoping he’d find five candidates with better prospects in Kurrajong.
The RiotACT has spoken to three inner south residents he approached to run. All three decided against joining the Canberra Community Voters ticket.
Mr Farmer did secure North Canberra Community Council chair and former two-time Labor candidate Mike Hettinger and rates-cap campaigner Lucinda Spier, who stood for the Canberra First Party in 2001 and for the Liberals before that, in 1995.
“I reckon Mike has got a very good chance,” Mr Farmer says of Mr Hettinger.
“The best chance of an independent or minor party candidate winning has got to be someone who can attract what I think is a considerable number of people who’ve voted Labor all their life, living in Canberra, and really are not that excited about this current government, and they’re looking for an alternative, but they can’t bring themselves to vote Liberal.”
Mr Farmer has managed to ensure the party has received significant coverage in The Canberra Times, and has arranged television commercials for “the three Canberra Community Voters candidates that have got a chance”, Ms Spier, Mr Hettinger and Mr Kettle.
“Me, I’m only there because the more people you have on a ticket, the better your chance,” he says.
“If I pick up two or three hundred, it might just be enough to help Lucinda or Mike.”
After personally spending “a bloody fortune” to get polling done two weeks ago using the outfit that conducted polling for Nick Xenophon before the Federal election earlier this year, Mr Farmer learnt that it was in Ginninderra that an independent or minor party candidate had the best chance of taking a seat. That’s one reason five Canberra Community Voters candidates are running in Ginninderra. The other is the fact that some of Canberra’s largest (and presumably grumpiest) clubs are based there.
The polling found that some 30 per cent of Ginninderra electors were soft about their voting intentions, which Mr Farmer interprets as meaning that Labor is likely to win two seats and the Liberals another two, leaving one “up for grabs”. Does this open up the prospect of Greens candidate Indra Esguerra getting up?
“She’s in the mix, but so are we, with Geoff Kettle and Alan [Tutt], I think,” Mr Farmer says.
Mr Kettle is a former Liberal mayor of Goulburn, and Mr Tutt is a greyhound breeder and former AFL player. Together with their three running mates, they stand a much stronger chance than an independent candidate would, Mr Farmer says.
“Only one person has ever won as an independent starting in that independents/ungrouped candidates column, since they’ve had the Hare-Clark system, and that was a grand final hero [Raiders star Paul Osbourne], whose campaign I ran,” he says.
The common goal the Canberra Community Voters candidates share is ousting Labor’s Andrew Barr from the top job. Ensuring the Greens are unsuccessful is part of that, because the Greens have ruled out a parliamentary agreement with the Liberals (given they will tear up the light rail contracts if elected).
They’re anti-Mr Barr because of his government’s handling of planning issues and continuing increases to residential rates.
Mr Farmer attributes Mr Barr’s position on rates to the fact that he studied economics at the ANU.
“ANU economists are all the same. They turn out thousands of them and they’re all through government, at every level,” he says.
“I call his staff and his advisers the ANU Debating Society, they still act like they’re the ANU Debating Society: ‘Aren’t we clever fellows!’.”
Asked whether the Liberals are in with a chance this election, Mr Farmer says yes.
“For the Liberals to become government, one of us, non-Labor, Liberals and Greens has got to win,” he says.
Mr Farmer says the Liberals are likely to win three of the five seats each in Brindabella and Murrumbidgee, with Labor or a Labor/Greens combination likely to take three each in Kurrajong (though he lives in hope that Mr Hettinger might get up) and Yerrabi.
“That makes the whole game about this one here, Belconnen, out here, my territory.”
As for the fish pie, being a vegetarian I had to rush my slice fresh from Mr Farmer’s oven to a taste tester, in this case my dad. He wasn’t hungry, having already had lunch, but proceeded to eat most of it anyway, giving it the thumbs up. The prawns were a particular hit.
Richard’s fish pie recipe
1kg Nicola potatoes
50g butter for the mash
Splash of milk
500ml fish stock (I cheated and used Mures from Tasmania)
100ml white wine (carefully preserving the balance for the use of the chef)
Small bunch of parsley, separated into leaves and stalks
Half a leek, chopped
350g Ling fillets
350g smoked Snowy Mountains trout
200g small peeled prawns
50g butter for the sauce
50g plain flour
200ml double cream
2 anchovies, finely chopped
Handful of white breadcrumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized chunks. Put in a large pan, cover with cold water, add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain, and allow to sit in the colander for a few minutes, then mash until smooth, and beat in the butter and a splash of milk. Season well and set aside.
2. Put the fish stock, wine and parsley stalks into a large pan, and bring to a simmer. Add the fish and the leek, and simmer for five of minutes, then lift out with a slotted spoon. Remove the skins if any from the fish and cut into large chunks. Discard the parsley stalks.
3. Melt the butter in a medium pan over a lowish heat, and then stir in the flour. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, being careful not to let it brown. Gradually stir in the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.
4. Take the sauce off the heat, stir in the double cream, parsley leaves and anchovies and season. Add the fish and prawns and toss to coat.
5. Put the seafood and sauce into a baking dish and top with the mashed potato. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and bake for a further 15, until the top is golden.
Are you running for the ACT Legislative Assembly and keen to participate in the RiotACT’s candidate challenge? We want to hear from you! The details are here.
* Kurrajong comes from Dharuk garraju? “fishing line”, as fishing lines were made from kurrajong bark.
Dixon, R.M.W.; Moore, Bruce; Ramson, W. S.; Thomas, Mandy (2006). Australian Aboriginal Words in English: Their Origin and Meaning (2nd ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 114. ISBN 0-19-554073-5.