Race is on for Mallee
The National Party has endorsed six candidates for preselection as the race to replace Andrew Broad in the federal seat of Mallee at this year’s election gets underway.
Minyip farmer Shane Mcgrath has joined Mildura social worker Dr Anne Webster, Irymple businessman Toby Heil, Birchip farmer Bernadette Hogan, Mallee Sustainable Farming executive chairman Daniel Linklater and Mildura Police acting inspector Paul Mathieson as candidates for Nationals preselection.
The six candidates will participate in forums at Mildura on January 14, Swan Hill on January 15, Horsham on January 16 and St Arnaud on January 17 before National Party members meet in Birchip for preselection on January 19.
They are vying to replace Mr Broad, who last month announced he would not recontest the seat he has held since 2013 in the wake of allegations he inappropriately messaged and met with a ‘sugar baby’ from a dating website in Hong Kong.
Mr Mcgrath is the son of longserving Nationals state member Bill Mcgrath.
He said his father’s political legacy was an inspiration to him.
“He went to everything he physically could have gone to in the community in terms of functions and opportunities to mix and meet with people,” he said.
“He was very much a working man — he saw the National Party as representing the working farmer and small business.
“He readily mixed with all levels of people and gave his time to all levels of people.”
Mr Mcgrath said he would have a similar focus on engaging with the community and representing their interests in parliament.
“I have a strong faith in God and I stand for family values,” he said.
“I’m a disciplined, determined person who is well organised, with a creative mind and a lot of energy.
“The key role of the job as I see it is assisting people with issues they have with the Federal Government’s services.
“You represent the people, so you need to stay in touch with the people and find out what’s important to them.
“It’s your job to get that through to the Federal Government to get results for them.
“I’m a results person who has always been determined to win.”
Mr Mcgrath said the party would seek to rebuild trust with members and the broader community as it dealt with the fallout of Mr Broad’s resignation, but said it was important for people to remember the work Mr Broad and other Nationals members had done in the region.
“You’d be foolish to say that it didn’t have some effect on trust, but a lesser man might have tried to ride through it and keep his job,” he said.
“Shane Warne represented Australia really well, but he had some weaknesses, which probably cost him some respect.
“The Essendon Football Club had a drug saga that cost them respect, and you have to rebuild that.
“In this case, Andrew has chosen to go and tidy up his life.
“I respect the decision he has made, at the same time not forgetting Peter Fisher and John Forrest were excellent longstanding National Party members who produced excellent results for the Mallee.
“Andrew’s record of what he’s been able to achieve probably stands very well alongside them.”
Mr Mcgrath said he had long been considering a move to politics, but now felt the time was right with his children having matured and grown.
Nationals Victorian president Neil Pankhurst said the party believed any of the six preselection candidates would be strong options to replace Mr Broad.
“The calibre of these candidates is a testament to the passion and community spirit of our branch members in the Wimmera and Mallee,” he said. “Any one of these individuals would make a great representative to continue the Nationals’ legacy in the district of Mallee.”
The Liberal Party announced it would contest the seat, but is yet to open nominations for preselection.
Liberal nominations will open on January 15, with a candidate to be chosen next month.
Labor is also yet to commence its preselection process.
Citizens Electoral Council member Chris Lahy, who stood for Mallee in the 2016 federal election, has announced he will contest the seat again.
Former Yarriambiack Shire mayor Ray Kingston announced last month he would run as an independent candidate.
Mr Kingston said Mallee voters had become disillusioned with the state of federal politics, and he wanted to present an alternative.
“Since I’ve announced that I’ll be running, the response has been incredibly positive from everyone across the electorate,” he said.
“The themes that are the literal reasons I’m running — of frustration at what’s happening on the ground here in terms of any kind of serious investment or attention — resonate widely.
“I’m not the only one feeling like that by a long shot.
“The very reasons I’m running are the very reasons people are interested, and perhaps interested in a new way of looking at politics in this part of the world.”
Mr Kingston said successive governments had failed to look after the basic needs of the Mallee district, and addressing those needs would be his top priority.
“Mallee people have interests in agriculture and all sorts of things, but when you haven’t got satisfactory access to telecommunications, health, education, roads and infrastructure for basic services, until you’ve got that stuff right, it’s pretty hard to be focusing on other issues.
“That’s where we’ve got to start as a region — we’ve got to start with the basics.”
Mr Kingston said the vast size of the Mallee district — which extends from Mildura in the north to Edenhope in the south — made it difficult to govern, but said he would welcome the task.
“It is a huge electorate and it is a challenge no matter who sits in the chair,” he said.
“You literally have to cover a lot of ground to engage with people, and engaging people is what politics is all about if it’s done right.
“I’m based in the Wimmera obviously, but I’m heading up to the Kerang-swan Hill region this week and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’m looking forward to going to an area that I’m not quite as familiar with and getting to know the people there.”
Mr Kingston said Mr Broad’s resignation was unlikely to be a large factor at the election and that Mallee voters had long been disillusioned with the state of politics in the region.
“I think it’s a mistake to point the finger at Andrew Broad in isolation,” he said.
“How people feel about that is a different issue, but there’s been a longgrowing frustration.
“People look around them and see that they’re not being looked after in terms of basic infrastructure.
“Then they look at Canberra and see the ridiculous carry on and people who are interested in themselves and their own ambitions rather than solving our problems.”
NEW MISSION: Former Yarriambiack Shire mayor Ray Kingston is looking forward to meeting new people as he travels the Mallee electorate.