Former independent candidate in the ACT Legislative Assembly Michael Moore has some advice for the minor parties tackling the major issues ahead of the ACT election on 17 October.
“My message is to encourage the independents and minor parties to tell voters to put the major parties last and vote for the individuals in a party first,” said Mr Moore, who served four terms as an independent, including as Minister for Health under the minority Liberal governments led by Kate Carnell and Gary Humphries.
“You have to make the Legislative Assembly work in the best way to make the government accountable, and that’s what a crossbench does most effectively.”
Under the Hare-Clark system of voting, Mr Moore said it was imperative that the minor parties and independents tell voters that if they don’t want someone elected, don’t put a mark in their box on the ballot paper.
“No members of the current government have ever been in opposition, so they don’t know what it is like. You don’t necessarily see the effectiveness of the committee system when you’re not in opposition,” Mr Moore said.
“Of course, it was Don Chipp who put it in the most appropriate terms to ‘keep the bastards honest’.”
Of the 25 seats in the Legislative Assembly, Mr Moore said there was always a chance of someone from a minor party being elected because a strong crossbench is an important part of a democracy.
“The worst thing to do is to try and be a politician for the sake of being a politician. The best thing to do is to really read your maiden speech if you do get elected and say why you are in politics.”
Last Thursday night (3 September) at the Southern Cross Club at Woden, candidates from seven registered minor parties had their say on major issues in a field of 13 minor parties and independents.
The forum included candidates from the Canberra Progressives, The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, The Canberra Party, Belco Party, Sustainable Australia, The Community Action Party, the Australian Climate Change Justice Party, and independents David Pollard and Fiona Carrick.
The turnout was sparse at best and mainly included candidates from the parties.
Event organiser and Canberra Progressives candidate for Murrumbidgee Robert Knight said it’s difficult for minor parties to get their voices heard.
“The major parties have sewn up politics for their own benefit and that of their cashed-up vested interests.
“With 23 of 25 seats in the Legislative Assembly occupied by Labor and Liberal, and two Greens forming a government with Labor, this simply doesn’t reflect the diversity of Canberrans and their views,” Mr Knight said.
Each of the candidates had their say on policies and issues from town planning, hospitals and creating a closed-loop economy, to domestic violence, commercial leases, electric vehicles and climate change.
Former Opposition leader and Belco Party candidate Bill Stefaniak cited planning as a key issue: “Two cars can’t even pass each other in the streets out at Molonglo.”
Independent Fiona Carrick noted a lack of community facilities: “We have nowhere for community gatherings in Woden outside of the clubs.”
Ms Carrick also declared two political donations: “Dad gave me $1500 and mum gave me $1000.”
Petar Johnson of the Australian Climate Change Justice Party took aim at the ACT Greens for “selling out” to Andrew Barr’s Labor government. “The ACT Greens have been in power for 25 years,” he said.
Retired public servant and former legislative drafter with the Attorney-General’s department Alvin Hopper said he wanted the ACT to be one electorate rather than five constituencies.
One candidate from the Shooters, Farmers and Fishers Party admitted he “wasn’t across the issue of the West Basin but was happy to find out more”.
The candidates joined at the end of the night for a ‘team photo’, pledging to not do any deals with the major parties to influence the flow of preferences.
“We need more diverse representation in the Assembly to hold the government to account and break up the concentration of power. Canberra will be the richer for it,” said Mr Knight.