VOICES are being heard and issues being raised across the Mornington Peninsula in the search for an independent election candidate for the federal seat of Flinders.
Members of the fledgling Voices for Mornington Peninsula say it is time for a change in Flinders, held by the Minister for Health and Ageing, Liberal Greg Hunt, for more than two decades.
Since the group’s Saturday 19 June online launch, VMP volunteers have been seeking residents’ views of the peninsula, including “their concerns and ideas for the future”.
“These conversations highlight concerns about the federal government’s failure to address significant issues such as climate change, aged care, child care, telecommunications, First Nations issues and refugees,” chair Kate Lardner said.
VMP says that its launch “attended” by an audience of about 200 “demonstrates a thirst for change”.
Keynote speakers former Liberal leader John Hewson and former MP for Indi Cathy McGowan said the views and voices of independent MPs were lacking in federal parliament.
In a thinly disguised suggestion of wider representation to come, VMP says the peninsula’s community should be “truly represented at all levels of government”.
“The launch demonstrated there is a real thirst for change on the peninsula,” Ms Lardner said. “For too long our voices have not been heard by decision makers – in Canberra, Spring Street or even locally. We want our politicians to represent us.”
Dr Hewson said there was “mounting disquiet right across Australian communities because political processes have become disengaged from local communities”.
He said strong independents focussed on particular issues could make a big difference to the political system.
Ms McGowan said “better representation is possible and worth the work”.
“If not now, then when?” Ms McGowan said people in her electorate of Indi had felt “an incredible sense of pride that we stood up for ourselves … to reclaim democracy for the community”.
This and her election had been achieved through local volunteers “talking with locals”. She described participatory democracy as “fun”.
The search by VMP for a candidate coincides with this week’s release of a book by former Liberal MP Julia Banks who unsuccessfully stood against her one-time colleague Mr Hunt in the 2019 (“Nine line up for Flinders” The News 29/4/2019).
In the book Power Play: Breaking Through Bias, Barriers and Boys’ Clubs Ms Banks airs allegations of misogyny and inappropriate sexual advances by male MPs.
A disillusioned Ms Banks left the Liberal Party and moved to the cross bench after the August 2018 leadership coup that ousted Malcolm Turnbull and led to Scott Morrison being made prime minister. Mr Hunt sought the deputy leadership in the failed bid led by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to become prime minister. After Mr Morrison’s win, Mr Hunt remained as Health Minister and Mr Dutton as Home Affairs Minister (“Hunt under pressure of coup fallout” The News 4/2/19).
Louise Page, one of the founders of VMP, said the successful Save Westernport campaign against AGL’s plans for a gas import terminal at Crib Point started out like VMP.
“A small group of locals got together because they thought something was really wrong and they wanted to fix it,” she said.
Ms Page said she joined VMP because as she was concerned about “transparency and accountability and the current lack of leadership and integrity in politics”.