Mark Parton smashed last night’s Brindabella candidates forum at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre. Smashed it.
Each of the 15 candidates who had turned up sat quietly in their seats until moderator Genevieve Jacobs directed an audience question about community engagement their way. Then, remaining seated, they spoke into a microphone about their achievements for others.
When it was the turn of ex-2CC presenter now Liberal candidate Mr Parton, the high profile candidate leapt up, strode across the room until he was standing directly in front of the questioner, and launched into an impromptu speech about how his father’s small-town supermarket success had inspired his work ethic.
Mr Parton will come up a winner whenever public speaking is required during this campaign.
Among the other candidates who impressed the RiotACT was Labor’s Angie Drake, who has a knack like her former boss Katy Gallagher for explaining policies past and present in a way that is easy for the rest of us to understand and accept. Come to think of it, Ms Drake’s voice even sounds a bit like Ms Gallagher’s. She’s likeable, approachable and seems genuine. Having grown up in Tuggeranong, Ms Drake still lives there, unlike Greens candidate Michael Mazengarb, the Liberals’ Nicole Lawder was quick to point out.
Mr Mazengarb is a thoughtful and intellectual candidate who did grow up in the electorate but lives across town these days. If the reaction of the audience last night to his environmental policies and defence of the light rail project are any indication, he will struggle to win the one seat the Greens are hoping for in Brindabella.
More positively received was national director of Sensis Annette Fazey. A Liberal candidate like Mr Parton, Ms Fazey had the audience gripped by the story of how her 9-year-old’s Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis and treatment issues had inspired her to get involved in politics. She is a strong public speaker with career experience that positions her well for local politics. She is also a Tuggeranong local.
Former Labor minister Joy Burch was the only candidate from the major parties not participating last night (she was interstate). Ms Burch has worked hard this year at a grass roots level in Tuggeranong after losing the ministry.
Minor party candidates like Steven Bailey of the Sex Party and the Like Canberra candidates Richard Tuffin and Tim Friel were joined by enthusiastic independent Joel McKay on the stage, but with such strong candidates for the major parties, it seems unlikely they present a real threat.
So, if you’re a Brindabella resident and want to vote on the basis of an individual candidate’s ability to perform in the public sphere rather than along party lines, I’d suggest you take a serious look at Mark Parton, Annette Fazey and Angie Drake.
I’d say that of the three, Mr Parton is the most likely to succeed come election day. It will be interesting to see whether Labor incumbents Joy Burch and Mick Gentleman and Liberal MLAs Andrew Wall and Nicole Lawder are returned or replaced by newcomers.