McGowan’s last­ing legacy

Shepparton News - - VIEWPOINT -

The news of Cathy McGowan’s planned de­par­ture from fed­eral pol­i­tics and the seat of Indi comes as no sur­prise. Ms McGowan, 65, flagged she was seek­ing a suc­ces­sor last Novem­ber.

When first elected in 2013, Ms McGowan nar­rowly de­feated then Lib­eral party in­cum­bent So­phie Mirabella, the only Lib­eral party mem­ber to lose her seat at that elec­tion.

The vic­tory sent a shock­wave through con­ven­tional po­lit­i­cal wis­dom, prov­ing that so­called safe con­ser­va­tive coun­try seats were vul­ner­a­ble to the right type of in­de­pen­dent can­di­date.

Just more than a year later, Shep­par­ton’s Suzanna Sheed re­peated the per­for­mance at the Vic­to­rian state level.

Ms Sheed ar­guably had an eas­ier path to vic­tory. She was not con­test­ing against an es­tab­lished in­cum­bent and had the ben­e­fit of the Indi prece­dent.

This is not to take away from Ms Sheed’s achieve­ments, which have been con­sid­er­able, not least of which was her re-elec­tion on an in­creased mar­gin in Novem­ber.

Ali Cup­per also ar­guably fol­lowed in Ms McGowan’s foot­steps when she de­feated the Na­tion­als’ Peter Crisp in Novem­ber.

Tammy Atkins made in­roads in Ovens, claim­ing 19 per cent of the first pref­er­ence vote, but was still beaten over­whelm­ingly by the Na­tion­als’ Tim McCurdy.

Jac­qui Hawkins came much closer to the prize in Be­nam­bra, with 48 per cent on the two-can­di­date pre­ferred vote against Lib­eral Bill Til­ley.

The lat­ter two have links to ‘‘Voices 4 Indi’’, which with Ms McGowan’s suc­ces­sion plan, is in­creas­ingly look­ing like a po­lit­i­cal party in be­hav­iour, if not in name.

In­de­pen­dents are not known for choos­ing suc­ces­sors, but in this in­stance one is be­ing put forth and it will be in­ter­est­ing if Dr He­len Haines can build on the foun­da­tion Ms McGowan cre­ated. We ex­pect a heated three-way con­test with the Lib­er­als and Na­tion­als ex­pected to fight hard to re­turn the seat to the Coali­tion fold.

We will also wait to see if a McGowan-in­spired can­di­date will en­ter the field in Ni­cholls, for­merly the elec­torate of Mur­ray, to chal­lenge the dom­i­na­tion of the Na­tional Party and Damian Drum.

As a pop­u­lar in­cum­bent, we be­lieve Mr Drum would be dif­fi­cult to de­feat. How­ever, a close race em­pow­ers vot­ers and keeps our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers on their toes.

A good in­de­pen­dent chal­lenger in Ni­cholls would ben­e­fit the elec­torate.

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