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Meet your A.C.T. election candidates – Independents/minor parties

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Independent candidates Anthony Pesec, Dr Jamie Christie and Robert Knight (Screenshots via YouTube, third image supplied)

In the A.C.T., there are several Independent candidates looking to secure votes away from the two major parties, writes Chris Mordd Richards.

WHILE PEOPLE OFTEN COMPLAIN that politics in Australia is merely a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee being the Liberal National Coalition and the Australian Labor Party, in this election there is quite a variety of choice of independent and minor party candidates vying in seats across Australia.

No, I am not referring to the Australian Greens – although IA did cover the A.C.T. Greens candidates already – I am referring to the mostly unknown candidates vying for votes who usually get left out of the legacy media’s coverage.

Unless you have the profile of someone like Zali Steggall or Kerryn Phelps, then local ABC Radio might be as much coverage as you can generally hope for.

IA spoke to three candidates who we identified as the higher profile A.C.T. independent or minor party candidates: Independent Anthony Pesec running for the Senate; Independent Dr Jamie Christie running for the new seat of Bean; and The Progressives with Robert Knight running in the Seat of Canberra.

We posed the same three questions to each candidate:

  • Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you are running.
  • What are you doing to distinguish yourself in the campaign from other candidates and how do you convince voters that a vote for an independent or minor party is not a wasted vote?
  • Which policy areas most set you apart from other candidates and what is your long term political vision?

Independent Anthony Pesec, in his run for the Senate, admits unabashedly he is targeting traditionally Liberal voters, although his policies are an interesting mix of both conservative and more liberal policies.

Anthony was born and raised in Chapman, A.C.T. to Croatian immigrants who moved to Australia in the 1960s. He worked as an investment banker in London for three years before moving to Croatia, where he founded a corporate finance advisory service. After ten years in Croatia, he moved back to Canberra in 2015 to be close to his elderly mother after his father passed away a few years earlier. Upon his return, he co-founded a Canberra based renewable energy business.

Australians are upset with the leadership turmoil for the last decade since 2007 and too many controversial Prime Minster changes over this time. Currently, we have the Labor Party tipped to win the upcoming election despite its leader having the worst preferred Prime Minister polling in Australian history. An increasing number of voters are looking beyond both major parties.

 

Previously, independent politicians were very focused on one or two policy areas (for instance, Pauline Hanson, Derryn Hinch) or populists (Nick Xenophon). However, with the Liberal National Party having drifted further Right in recent years and Labor being led by a Left-leaning Bill Shorten, many voters that consider themselves in the centre of politics feel that they aren’t represented well by the major parties. As such, centrist-focused citizens such as myself have put their hands up as candidates for the next election.

Anthony says climate change is what sets him apart from other candidates and that he is ‘one of only four candidates nationwide that is endorsed by the Smart Energy Council for the upcoming election’. Anthony will bring a ‘high level of understanding and experience in the field of clean energy when considering policies presented to the Senate’. His long-term vision is to bring back stability to Australian governance with a focus on what is good for Australia, unencumbered by party politics.

Independent Dr Jamie Christie running for the new seat of Bean, has spent his life in emergency medicine as a specialist working in public hospitals, triaging and treating Australians back to good health. Dr Christie grew up in Canberra, as did his father and has also worked in urban, regional and rural settings during his career as well as some time in the UK, but says Canberra was always his home.

Now he wants to apply the same skills he learnt through a career in medicine, to triaging and treating Australia back to good health, from inside the House of Representatives. He told IA over the last couple of years he’d been increasingly disturbed by the shift in tone in our political system.

Really exemplified by the robo-debt scandal where the “Commonwealth” continues to issue aggressive demands for repayment of debt which the relevant minister knows at least 20 per cent of the notices are inflated or, in fact, report debt that does not exist; the idea that 80-year-old nursing home residents will be responsible for accessing and managing their own “myGov” portal when they’ve never had a computer and our continuing indefinite detention of asylum seekers.

 

And all this before we even look at our Parliament's complete failure of political leadership on issues relating to climate and breaking free of our current fossil fuel dependence.

Dr Christie says there is a clear sense in the electorate that people are ‘tired of party infighting compromising the function of our Government’. He believes the electorate is fairly sophisticated and there is a perception that an ‘Independent candidate is better able to advocate for their constituents’.

He also lists climate change as being a clear focus of his which sets him apart from other candidates, which he says:

‘...is not listed as a particular priority by any other candidate contesting the lower house seat of Bean. The Greens and Progressive Party candidates have a wide variety of issues they are campaigning on which include climate change, but neither the Labor nor Liberal candidates for the lower house have mentioned it.’

Long term, he would like to see a return to a ‘significantly less adversarial style of politics’ with increased community engagement in the political process.

The Progressives’ Robert Knight, running in the Seat of Canberra, was also born and raised in Canberra. He spent a total of 21 years in the Australian Defence Force before leaving in 2015 and became involved in politics after undertaking a postgraduate degree in urban planning.

He says the reason he isn’t a member of a major party is because he is ‘more focused on doing what is right by the public at large, rather than making a name for myself’. He says for far too long the major parties have been ‘inwardly focused and self-interested, doing their best to score points on each other as opposed to developing functional policy solutions to our ever-changing problem.

He lists climate change, anti-corruption and political donation reform, economic inequality, gender equality and future building – ensuring a sustainable future – as the five key policies of The Progressives.

As to why you should vote for him:

‘Politics has devolved to a spectator sport rather than the noble pursuit of effective public service. Voting for a minor party, particularly the Australian Progressives, is quite the opposition of wasting your vote. It’s sending a message to the major parties that their antics won’t be tolerated anymore.’

The Progressives are also running candidates Therese Faulkner for the seat of Bean as well as Kagiso Ratlhagane as a candidate in Fenner — the seat Andrew Leigh currently holds for Labor.

Labor’s Alicia Payne and the Liberal’s Mina Zaki, both candidates for the seat of Canberra, were sent interview questions a few weeks ago. Despite in-person and emailed confirmations from both that they would reply to IA’s questions, it is looking likely at this stage that IA will not be receiving a response from them after all.

Alicia Payne has stopped replying to emails enquiring about it and, despite Mina replying she would follow it up with her media team, she is now embroiled in a Section 44 scandal over her dual citizenship renunciation and is likely to be keen to take a lower profile for the remainder of the campaign.

If a reply is still received from either, we will endeavour to bring it you prior to polling day but we are realistic about the timing involved less than a fortnight out from 18 May.

A candidates forum was held on Saturday 13 April in Canberra with the candidates mentioned above. You can see the full 100-minute long event video if you wish to know more about the candidates and their views.

You can follow Chris Mordd Richards on Twitter @Mordd_IndyMedia.

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