23 May 2024

Group seeks independent candidate to take on David Smith in 'winnable' Bean

| Ian Bushnell
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Voices of Bean's Jessie Price

Voices of Bean’s Jessie Price out at the shops gauging support for an independent candidate in the southern seat. Photo: Voices of Bean.

Should David Smith be worried?

The current Labor member for Bean who sits on a comfortable 25,000-vote margin and requires a 5.43 per cent swing to be unseated may face a challenge from a community independent selected along the lines of successful senator David Pocock.

Grassroots group Voices of Bean is now calling for potential candidates to contest the southern ACT seat at the next federal election, which can be called any time from August to next May.

Co-founder Jessie Price of Chapman said Voices for Bean was set up after ProACT, the group that endorsed Senator Pocock, put a call out last year on its mailing list asking if anyone in the south was interested in running a community process to find an independent candidate for the seat. It said it had crunched the numbers and believed Bean was winnable.

She said the group was undaunted by the scale of the challenge.

“Best-case scenario, our Independent will win and hold a crossbench seat with a minority government – our representative will hold the balance of power in parliament,” she said.

“Worst-case scenario – we make our electorate marginal which is still a win for better representation.”

Ms Price said the group was established on the Voices model used nationwide to find genuine independent candidates.

She said it had no connection to or backing from the Climate 200 group which funded certain candidates’ campaigns, as other media had reported.

“I know they’re aware of us, and we are part of the community independence project,” she said.

But the group funded itself through donations and events such as trivia nights.

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Ms Price said Voices for Bean had a core group of about six to eight members but had steadily grown since January to have more than 100 on its mailing list.

Feedback from shopping centre stalls, “kitchen table” meetings and a small online survey showed the top four issues of concern in Bean were cost of living; health, disability and aged care; climate change; and housing affordability, in that order.

More than 80 per cent of Bean residents who participated said they didn’t feel represented by the incumbent MP.

“Overwhelmingly the MP was seen as being silent or absent or ineffective, and it was felt that Bean is not getting the attention and investment it deserves,” the listening report recently posted on the Voices for Bean website.

“Many questioned whether the MP represented the people, or just the interests of his party.”

Mr Smith told Region it was not really his business who considered running for the seat of Bean.

“I don’t take any election for granted and my approach will be no different to my current approach – actively listening to and working with the community of Bean out in the electorate and representing them in parliament,” he said.

“I’m proud to be part of a government that is acting on key concerns for all Canberrans, one that is acting on cost of living and making record investments in housing while also seeing the opportunities in the path to net-zero emissions.

“But I am also conscious that there is more to do.”

Federal Member for Bean David Smith.

Federal Member for Bean David Smith won’t be taking the upcoming election for granted. Photo: Region.

Voices for Bean’s feedback found people wanted an independent candidate with integrity, engaging with and from the electorate, who could represent them effectively and create positive change.

“The prevailing feeling that comes through is that people feel very disregarded and forgotten on the south side and taken for granted,” Ms Price said.

For Ms Price, a midwife, climate change was the driver and the 2019 bushfires the catalyst.

“I’m terrified about climate change,” she said.

“I had that experience in the 2019 fires where babies were being born into my hands in rooms that smelt of smoke and going home at two in the morning the hills were just ringed with fire for weeks on end.

“I thought, ordinary people need to step up and if the politicians aren’t taking strong enough action, we have to get in there and do it ourselves.”

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Ms Price said the Albanese Government was not doing enough to combat climate change, and approving new coal and gas projects was doing just the opposite of what was needed.

The group is now running a confidential expression of interest campaign for prospective candidates, with application details and selection criteria available on its website.

Ms Price said the group was also open to people nominating someone they believed would make a good candidate.

A small representative panel will shortlist applicants, who will be able to speak at an open community forum. The panel will consider community feedback from this forum in its final decision.

That will end Voices for Bean’s official contribution. It will be up to the candidate to nominate for the seat and organise the campaign, although members may choose to throw their weight behind the candidate.

Ms Price said no closing date or deadline for selection had been set yet, although the group was aware of the election countdown.

“We’re still working that out,” she said.

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“Best-case scenario, our Independent will win and hold a crossbench seat with a minority government”
That’s a pretty good opening salvo, but the devil is in the detail.

I’m not in Bean myself, but I expect the voters will need more than motherhood statements to elect an, as yet, undetermined candidate to the lower house.

The Voices for Bean’s policy agenda for how the candidate will address “the top four issues of concern” (i.e cost of living; health, disability and aged care; climate change; and housing affordability) will need to be clearly stated – and achievable.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

Gregg Heldon8:48 am 29 May 24

This article is correct. David Smith is absent and ineffective. Tuggeranong, in particular, is forgotten about Federally and Locally and needs an injection of new facilities. It is traditionally, a working class area and Labor are counting on that blind loyalty to get them over the line with minimum returns or input from them. Hence we get politicians like David Smith and Mick Gentlemen and Joy Burch “representng” us.

Capital Retro10:20 am 24 May 24

“I’m terrified about climate change,” she said.

Nothing to see here then.

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