THE arrival of larger-than-life mining billionaire Professor Clive Palmer to the federal election stage brought much mirth from “serious” political pundits.
His drive for the Lodge was labelled the most audacious since Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s ill-fated push in 1987.
But the Mineralogy executive chairman and officially declared National Living Treasure has made a habit of gaining far greater traction with the general public than allegedly better credentialed experts.
And as Kevin Rudd’s defiant return to the top demonstrated only too clearly, those with the temerity to ignore the better judgement of the faceless men and political commentariat may actually get to enjoy the last laugh and hurl some humble pie.
Despite being a lifetime member of the Queensland National Party with decades of service on the conservative side of politics, including ironically enough a stint as a media adviser to Sir Joh, Palmer announced earlier this year his intention to go his own flamboyant way and stand at the 2013 federal election.
He formed the Palmer United Party as the vehicle for his assault on Canberra and vowed to stand candidates in all 150 seats of the House of Representative.
For Frankston and Mornington voters, single working mother Kate Ryder has emerged as the local face of the colourful businessman’s fledgling political machine.
She is the Palmer United Party’s candidate for the federal seat of Dunkley, where she’ll battle Liberal incumbent Bruce Billson, who holds a razor-thin margin of just over one per cent, and the ALP’s Sonya Kilkenny.
While Palmer brings a hint of the American presidential style to the campaign trail, Ryder plays her politics in a far more down-to-earth fashion and says it was only because of the dire current state of the political climate that she decided to run.
Having grown up on the peninsula, raised three children as a single parent and built a career in sports marketing, Ryder said she was just an ordinary Australian who wanted to help voice the everyday issues families faced.
“I’ve been a bit of a swinging voter, but I always vote with real conviction for the issues that were important,” she said.
“Then I looked at the current situation and thought, for the first time in my life, I can’t vote for any of these people.
“Like many ordinary families, I guess I’ve felt like the government has let us down. I want to vote for a real person and I was over all the career politicians and lobbyists with their backstabbing and self-interest.
But then Clive Palmer and his party hit the national scene, not only reinvigorating her passion to engage in the issues, but motivating her to stand up and get involved at the pointy end of politics.
“I probably would have been a donkey voter had it not been for the Palmer Party. He appealed to me because he’s not looking for lobbyists or career politicians – he’s looking for real people from all walks of life. So if he’s successful, we’ll bring a whole range of real people into politics.
“It would be great for Dunkley voters to have someone who’s like them, who’s walked a mile in their shoes.
“I grew up on the peninsula and I just love the area. My grandparents settled in the Pines [Frankston North] and my mother worked for 23 years for Frankston Community Health Centre so she was always talking to me about issues such as waiting queues.
“My brother Evan was a pretty good footballer with Edi-Asp during their really dominant period in the MPNFL [Peninsula Division] when they won back-to-back premierships [1999 and 2000 as well as 2002].
“I remember he was at one end and there was ‘Goose’ [MPNFL legend, Mornington premiership player and now Dolphins coach Simon Goosey].”
Having raised children and seen the issues they faced, Ryder said education and youth affairs were critical issues for her and she wants to help educate and empower people across the community people to look to the future and “have a go”.
Information about Palmer United Party is online at www.palmerunited.com