Mark Parton began his career in radio at the age of 17. Thirty-two years later, 16 of which were spent in Canberra, Parton will retire from local station 2CC as one of the most respected and recognised voices in the ACT.
No hullabaloo or humiliation mark Mark’s departure. He retires with grace and style knowing that he has garnered the trust and esteem not only of his listeners but also the broader community.
At this point, I must confess that I have an addiction … to radio … and I blame Mark. A little old-fashioned I know, but whether I’m sitting at the computer, walking my dog Bruce, or at the helm of my little Holden Astra, the radio is on – often to the disapprobation of my fiancée.
As a lover of classical music, ABC classic FM is my obligatory hit. But when it comes to news and talkback it starts with Mark at 6am every day.
Then, the dial turns to aunty ABC – local and national. A day without Genevieve Jacobs gives me serious withdrawal symptoms. And in the afternoons it’s back to 2CC with Marcus Paul … if he’s lucky. I enjoy talking with them, and I enjoy listening to them, and it all started with Mark.
In 2012 I made national news when I confronted the then opposition leader Tony Abbott in front of journalists and cameras. I told him that he wasn’t fit to lead the country, and the cameras caught me jeering, “you’ve got contempt for the parliament and you got contempt for the Australian people”. Abbott glared at me in his high vis vest and I thought he was going to punch me but a tall lady, I think it was Credlin, gestured Abbott to turn around and ignore me. If only people had listened to me then …
Just in case you missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNrU_jAuHfM
Parton gave me a hoy on the phone and I was on the radio with him the next day.
Personally, I thrive in front of a crowd. Even in intense situations, speaking to large audiences is where I feel most comfortable. But this was my first public interrogation, and I’d just peeved half of the country. As I sat in the studio opposite him, Mark saw that I was a little unnerved. I remember it vividly. He said, “Don’t worry, just be yourself”, and then we were on air.
In 2013 I made national news again during an interview with Mark a year later. I was working with Bob Katter at the time, and we did a joint interview with Mark. At the end of the interview, I dropped the bomb, “I support marriage equality”. This little saga was widely misreported by mainstream media. Katter always supported me and respected my positions. He told me that politics should be about being yourself before following a party line and to “tell everyone else to root their boots”.
Since then, I’ve been a regular speaker on 2CC, and I’m thankful to the station for giving Canberra a diversity of opinions.
Mark never gave me a free go, but he always gave me a fair go.
(Mark takes a photograph of me during an election debate)
His central reason for turning the microphone off on Friday is because his new social media and advertising business, Parton Me, is taking off. Developing a small business but having an alarm that goes off at 2.45 every morning would be impossible for most people.
It’s no secret that Parton harbours political ambitions and good on him I say. We need a greater diversity of people in the ACT Legislative Assembly.
In 2008, he ran for a seat in the Assembly as an independent, and he was very close to winning a seat. On his primary votes he came 5th in a 5-seat electorate, but was brutally out-preferenced.
Recently, he had a meeting with Liberal Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson. What they spoke about can only be left to the imagination.
Mark has consistently denied that he would run in the 2016 ACT elections but has recently softened his approach when he said that his chances of running again next year were between zero and 2 per cent – the very same odds that Turnbull gave himself for taking the leadership from Abbott.
Creating speculation and building interest before running for public office is a textbook technique for the genesis of any political campaign.
I bet my left testicle that Parton does run for public office again and I think he will win. The question isn’t if. The question is in what electorate and when: 2016 or 2020?
Parton is not a member of the Liberal Party, but if he ever found himself in a balance of power situation, he will give the gong for Government to the Libs, and his support wouldn’t be conditional on a project at a cost to the taxpayer of a billion dollars. I say this as a statement of fact, not as a criticism to any other political party.
It is the accepted wisdom in ACT politics that the Canberra Liberals are unable to form Government in their own right, partly because the party is burdened with an unwieldy and extreme conservative faction in the ACT Young Liberals.
This faction was responsible for the elevation of the ultra-conservative Zed Seselja to the Senate by the underhanded knifing of former senator Gary Humphries. This ultra-conservative faction is incompatible with mainstream Canberra. It’s for this reason that the Canberra Libs need a Mark Parton to form Government. Although it is currently unclear to the public whether ACT Liberal MLAs really want Government or if they are simply comfortable enough as career politicians disinterested in leadership and more interested in a comfy wage, a free car, and a few other perks.
Nonetheless, Mark Parton is a fair-minded, intelligent, and utterly electable public figure. Obviously, I will be voting for myself and other Australian Sex Party candidates before anyone else, but Mark Parton has my admiration and I believe that he would make an excellent independent MLA.
I thank him for giving me the opportunity to develop my public voice and I wish him and his family all the best for the future.
A keen photographer with a distinct style, Mark also takes beautiful photographs of the place we all call home.
And when it comes to elections, he may very well have my second preference.
Steven Bailey is a regular contributor to the RiotACT. He is President of the Australian Sex Party ACT and its lead candidate in the 2016 ACT elections.