Territory politics wasn’t the obvious first for Canberra Liberals MLA Mark Parton.
But then again, neither was the Liberal Party; nor was the Nation’s Capital.
Like many who move to the city, he envisioned only spending three to six months here before he’d ‘find something else’.
But something about Canberra captured his attention.
“I’m one of the many who was not going to stay here … and that was obviously 23 years ago,” Mr Parton says.
And he found he didn’t mind the weather, either.
A job at Mix 106.3 first called Mr Parton to Canberra. He enjoyed a three-decade-long career in the industry as a radio announcer and ran his own marketing company, PartonMe, from 2015 onwards.
However, he says politics always seemed like something he may do.
His first run for the ACT Legislative Assembly was in 2008, although he failed to get over the line as an Independent candidate.
After that, his business took off, and it didn’t seem like the right time.
Then in 2016, he agreed to fill the vacancy created when long-time ACT politician Brendan Smyth left the Assembly.
As the son of a shopkeeper, Mr Parton, who grew up in York, Western Australia, says hindsight also shows him how closely aligned his values are with those of the Liberal Party.
“I’m the son of a man who started with nothing and became a self-funded retiree at age 50 just through pure hard work,” he explains.
“That just screams Liberal ideology because my dad was the son of an Indigenous woman. He left school at 13, barely able to read or write, but in this country, he was still able to work his guts out and climb up a couple of rungs and that’s what the party is about.”
Even now, he still has distinct memories of the first home he lived in, even though he was only four when his family moved to the other side of town.
That first house was state-owned. “It was okay, it was falling apart, but it was okay,” he remembers.
In recent years, as Opposition spokesperson for housing, he’s picked up the issues being faced by public housing tenants, some of whom are in properties that have fallen into disrepair. He says it’s clear these tenants deserve better from the government.
How does he get these better outcomes?
“I can’t win a vote in the chamber … so the only way I can do it is to go public and embarrass the hell out of [the government],” he says.
Often, he does this by using social media, which he has gained some notoriety for.
This hasn’t been without some controversy.
Mr Parton was briefly ejected from the Assembly in July 2020 after he published a TikTok that some thought may have breached parliamentary rules.
On another occasion, a TikTok, which featured him eating KFC, saw him falling ‘fowl’ of parliamentary standards.
Today he says, “these weren’t that big of a deal”.
Engaging with voters via social media was a strategy Mr Parton and his team cooked up during the 2020 election campaign when many of the usual door-knocking activities and the like couldn’t go ahead due to the pandemic.
He says it’s “absolutely” helped him reach a new voter base.
As a representative of the “hard-working” people of Brindabella, Mr Parton says he shares their concerns that the town centre of Tuggeranong has been left to “wither on the vine” and senses some discontent with the fact that life seems to be getting more expensive while services are also being reduced.
But he’s ultimately not in the Assembly to stay on the Opposition benches.
“We are here to win government in 2024 and that’s about shining a light on the failings of this current government and putting forward our ideas as to how we would do it better,” he says.
However, Mr Parton is cognisant of the Canberra Liberals’ challenge, especially after two decades in Opposition.
“The reality is that this electorate tends to vote more left than right … but you watch us, we’ll pull it off,” he says.