22 April 2022

Mark Parton: the TikToking politician unafraid to 'embarrass the hell' out of the government

| Lottie Twyford
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Mark Parton

Canberra Liberals MLA Mark Parton only thought he’d be in Canberra for six months. That was 23 years ago. Photo: Region Media.

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.

READ ALSO Parton vows to continue fighting for public housing tenants

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.

READ ALSO From the Murray River to political currents: James Milligan’s journey to becoming an MLA

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.

Mark Parton eating KFC

Mr Parton had to apologise for a Tik Tok video that featured him eating KFC. Photo: Tik Tok.

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.

Runner near lake Tuggeranong

Mr Parton says the people of Brindabella can feel forgotten by the ACT Government as its town centre is “left to wither on the vine”. Photo: Thomas Lucraft

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.

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Unfortunately, someone screaming Liberal ideologies is taken to these days be stuck in the past and lacking in progressive thought. Which is why they are consistently in opposition in a city of people who on the whole embrace progressive policy positions.

The damage done to the Canberra Liberals over the last 20 years will take a long time to turn around in these times. Progressive thoughts and policy might be their only way back.

The Liberals change their leaders more often than underwear. Perhaps start there

George Watling11:52 pm 24 Apr 22

A question for Mark is – will he oppose the government’s changes to our planning laws that are designed to:
1) gut the current rules based checks and balances that exist in the current planning system,
2) allow planning bureaucrats and ministers to us their ‘discretion’ to override community and tenet’s concerns and individual home owners property rights to force through oversized developments into Canberra’s peaceful suburbs and streets,
3) severely limit community members’, tenants, and property owner’s abilities to contest developments that will adversely impact their quality of life, family’s health, and property values,
4) over turn the existing residential zoning laws that are designed to:
+ protect every people’s access to sunlight and privacy,
+ limit noise and light pollution to levels that ensure people can sleep at night,
+ ensure children and adults have access to outdoor spaces and gardens where they can play and relax,
+ protect families and others from extreme summer temperatures, and exorbitant air conditioning costs, by ensuring there enough spaces in our subrubs for people to plant shade trees.

Hi George – I would like to know more about any changes to government planning laws. I’ve been battling for citizen rights regarding the 71 Constitution Avenue development – specifically the parking situation and the colourbond fence that has been built to the verge which is clearly not allowed according to Australian Standards. I’ve been reading the legislation and I’d be interested in any more info that you can provide regarding any changes that you know of.

You could have just written:

“Is Mr Parton going to support NIMBY efforts to prevent younger people from enjoying the same amenity that older, wealthy landholders have.”

Maybe Mr Parton could reflect on why his party is unelectable and has become a running joke. Not only to Canberrans but those within the party itself. Maybe if Mr Parton started acting like a politician rather than a pratt he might be taken more seriously! He could start by explaining why he and the Canberra Liberals tried to lay claim to the social funding support offered in the last ACT budget but when the party came to vote, they voted against it! This was the largest investment in public housing in the history of self-government. The budget also included $100 million investment to increase and improve affordable and public housing. It also funded the expansion of the JobTrainer program by up to 2,500 additional training places over the next two years. There was also over $75 million in additional funding to support those most in need, including new funding to expand homelessness services, increased community and multicultural sector funding, and more support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans. Maybe Mr Parton could explain this to the Riot-ACT readership!

Hi Estelle,

The ACT Assembly has 10 ALP members, 9 Libs and 6 Greens, so on a straight party basis, the ALP is only marginally ahead of the Libs.

The ALP has secured a voting block of 16, through its coalition with the Greens which enables Mr Barr to shut down the voice of the Opposition in the Assembly.

There was a recent article written about how the ALP/Greens coalition had neutered the Greens.

Whether we like or dislike ALP, Libs or Greens, these coalition arrangements achieve only one thing and that is to make the Government less accountable to the people of Canberra.

You are going off on a different tangent to what my comment actually said kenbehrens. Labor doesn’t have to govern in partnership with the Greens but they do. The Greens have made some great achievements over the years including environmental, drug law reform (not fast enough), health, transport, education and social services. All achievements have been rejected by the Canberra Liberals. The Labor/Greens joint parliamentary agreement is freely available on the ACT government website. There is give and take in any partnership. Any angst over how the Greens vote on different issues is up to their party. Mr Parton and the Liberals should reflect on why the party is unelectable and irrelevant to ACT voters. There is a great deal of disillusionment within the party itself with the current crop of elected members. I challenge anyone to seriously think about who is capable of standing up to the leadership should Elizabeth Lee and Jeremy Hanson fall under a bus! Mark Parton is promoting Advance Australia propaganda on his Facebook page. Vicki Dunne is the director of this extreme right wing activist group and the Canberra Liberals should declare their links to it. We have another Liberal MLA who hasn’t stepped into the Chamber since November 2021 and is currently on 6 months leave while deciding her future, earning over $200K per year. Gee thanks taxpayers! The Liberals voted against this current budget, the best ever in ACT’s history in increasing public housing, tackling homelessness and unemployment. These achievements are all thanks to the Greens and the joint parliamentary agreement. And guess what, the Canberra Liberals tried to take credit but voted against it! Instead of finding fault with everything Labor does the Canberra Liberals should put forward some decent policies of their own and stop supporting and electing Zed Seselja.

$100m at the current median property price is sufficient to purchase ~107 properties against an ACTCOSS identified shortfall of 3,000, further reduced by the appalling state of maintenance of the existing public housing stock. ACT Labor / Greens government policy on social housing and the broader housing market has been an abject failure for a decade by any reasonable measure. Your shrill government cheer-leading and attack on the opposition over this issue marks you as an ACT Labor stooge.

Estelle, if the Greens have made achievements, why is the ACT in the books for the worst mental health, hospital waiting times, prison riots/conditions, public housing. Well I guess you can list those as achievement if that was what you were planning all along

If you think the local Liberals are unelectable it truly shows how rusted on the electorate is, considering how truly woeful the local ALP and Greens are.

If there ever was a government that’s been in power too long, it’s our local one.

I wouldn’t call my argument shrill or cheer-leading. The Canberra Liberals are conservative party and not the progressive party they were under its only elected leader Kate Carnell all those years ago. Like me, many liberals in the party are frustrated at its current state and quite freely express their frustrations. The party is run by Zed Seselja and his Young Liberal toadies, with unelectable ultra-conservatives putting their hands up to be elected at each election. The party has been in opposition for 21 years and I am asking some legitimate questions.

Estelle, my point really is that the ALP/Greens coalition locks out any viable opposition because the
Agreement ensures the Greens support the Government in no confidence motions.

I suspect more than a few people would question whether the Greens really have acheived much. I can’t think of anything.

Mark Parton MLA8:52 pm 25 Apr 22

It’s a common practice around the world for oppositions to vote against the budget. It doesn’t mean they disagree with every aspect of spending in the budget, but rather that they disagree with the document as a whole. Saying that “the Canberra Liberals voted against a specific initiative because we voted against the budget is just incorrect. You could also say that because we’d voted against the budget that we’d voted not to pay police officers or teachers, which would be a ludicrous characterization

Estelle, ACT Labor and Greens have been announcing public housing related big budgets, more affordable housing and increasing public housing places for years. Truth is that the number of public housing dwellings and public housing tenants has actually declined over the last decade.

ACT Government has had heaps of affordable housing strategies and budget announcements like the ones you highlight.

The sad reality is the promised money gets reallocated to other projects or the promises are never actually delivered. It’s no good you highlighting promises on paper when it’s the delivery on the promise that actually counts.

The Labor/Greens governing agreement in place targets poverty, homelessness, public housing and other social programs. I believe this agreement and the ones before it all provide input into the government’s budgets. It is freely available on the ACT govt website to view. While I am not aware of the redirection of funding in the budgets, I know there are many militant Greens out there who are only too willing to hold the government to account if they don’t honour the agreement. While I have met Andrew Barr only on a few occasions, he is well respected outside of the confines of the Riot-ACT comments pages. I am sure he wouldn’t want a bunch of hairy militant Greenies coming after him vying for his blood. But it is also up to the opposition Liberals to hold the government to account and I don’t hold out much hope there. The overdramatising from Elizabeth Lee and her deputy following the Budget in October last year was quite frankly embarrassing and I expected better! Elizabeth Lee misquoted figures and couldn’t even distinguish between physical and financial completion amongst other things and she certainly came out second best. Unfortunately, this is just a continuing list of failures from the Canberra Liberals!!

Tick Tock Tick Tock Mr Parton I am still waiting on your response to my question on what links the Canberra Liberals have to the Far Right and xenophobic Advance Australia group. You have been posting grubby Advance Australia propaganda on your Facebook page. The Advance Australia party director is the deeply conservative Vicki Dunne. She was until recently an ACT Liberal MLA, speaker of the Assembly and shadow health minister. Canberra’s very own conservative and far right Liberal Senator Zed Seselja has also been a director of this group. This shadowy group runs a number of far right campaigns and an anti-vaccine agenda. They have started vigorously targeting the Independent Senate candidate David Pocock. The Advance Australia website contains a freedom pledge calling for lockdowns to end and free choice in medical treatments. Advance Australia claim the ABC is left wing and calls for the broadcaster to be scrapped. They also claim that there is a plan to cancel Anzac Day and the curriculum is trying to erase Western culture. Vicki Dunne also has links on her social media pages directing people to the Canberra Liberals. Labor MLA Michael Pettersson has questioned the Canberra Liberals on their association with this group just recently in the Assembly and I pose the same questions. Mr Parton (or Elizabeth Lee or Jeremy Hanson) please explain why Advance Australia has become a major source of your party’s leadership? Are any current Canberra Liberal MLAs, their staff or party members involved with this group? Will the Canberra Liberals disavow the involvement of this group in the 2024 ACT election and will the Canberra Liberals condemn this extremist group?

Hi Estelle it’s great you’re reading the Labor Greens agreement on public housing etc. it’s important people on this site are widely informed.

To get a more rounded view of the reality of housing issues in Canberra, don’t read what the Liberals say but I’d recommend reading the views of ACTCOSS, the Productivity Commission, the former Labor chief minister or even yesterdays Canberra Times.





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