Nationals candidate for Page, Kevin Hogan, at his family home in Clunes.
Nationals candidate for Page, Kevin Hogan, at his family home in Clunes. DAVID NIELSEN

Always a Nationals flag carrier

KEVIN HOGAN has described himself as a conservative all his life, but it took the election of the Kevin Rudd and his Labor Government to inspire him to join the National Party.

And when the money manager-turned teacher-turned financial consultantdecided to sign up 18 months ago, he didn’t hold back.

At first he wanted to contribute to the nation’s political life and the party’s local fortunes. Now Mr Hogan, who lives with his wife, Karen, and three children – Bridget, 14, Sean, 12, and Rosie, 8 – just outside Clunes, has raised the bar.

He wants Page MP Janelle Saffin’s job and he wants to give the National Party back one of its prize seats.

The seat is fairly new, as far as crown jewel electorates go, and has spent eight of its 25 years – including the last two years – in Labor hands.

Compared with the neighbouring seat of Richmond, which dates back to Federation and has been largely held by the Nationals since the party’s formation, as ‘the Country Party’, in 1922, it doesn’t seem like much of a pedigree.

However, Page is named after one of the Country Party’s founders, Earle Page, giving it a close tie to theNational Party’s identity. More importantly, though, it’s winnable.

Ms Saffin holds the seat by a relatively modest 2.3 per cent, compared with Justine Elliot’s near 9pc stranglehold on Richmond.

Mr Hogan’s decision to stand as the Nationals candidate for Page stretches back to his childhood, growing up in a proud Nationals-voting home in rural South Australia.

Armed with an economics degree he headed for the bright lights of Sydney where he worked as a money manager – mostly for Colonial.

However, he never lost touch with his conservative upbringing. He had been a Nationals supporter in the bush, in the city he was a Liberal.

Thirteen years ago – before Suffolk Park resident Deb Cox came up with the phrase ‘sea-change’ for her famed TV show – the Hogans moved to the Northern Rivers, where Karen had grown up.

Mr Hogan, 46, working first as a teacher at St Mary’s Catholic High School in Casino and eventually as a consultant, was a Nationals supporter again.

At the end of 2007, Labor was elected to government and Mr Hogan, inspired after meeting local State Nationals MPs Thomas George, Don Page and Steve Cansdell, decided to step up. He joined the party and, late last year, became the only member of the Page Nationals to nominate for Nationals preselection in Page. The local members confirmed the nomination in late November.

For Mr Hogan the divide between Labor and the Liberal/National Coalition comes down to a matter of philosophy.

“Both sides’ intent is to lift every-one so we’re all doing as well as we can,” he said. “But philosophically there are distinct camps on how to do that.

“The conservatives’ way is to lower taxes and help private businesses, so you have more money (throughout the economy).

“The Labor approach is punishing everyone and bringing everyone down.”

The conservative way was to promote individual freedom and freedom of choice and to celebrate those who did well, he said.

Individually, Mr Hogan saw health and climate change as two key issues for the next election.

On health, he pointed to the Coalition attack on Labor’s failure to take over the hospital system – which it promised during the 2007 election.

On climate change, he backed the Coalition’s position of refusing to support an emissions trading scheme – at least until the other nations were prepared to take part.

Mr Hogan also backed the Coalition’s plan to reintroduce small area health boards that would be responsible for funding distribution – although he shied away from boards for individual hospitals, a plan raised by then Prime Minister John Howard during the 2007 election campaign.

Mr Hogan said the small boards would include clinicians and, because they knew their own hospitals, would be better able to find savings to stretch their funding further.

However, despite the Coalition’s criticism of Labor for failing to launch a federal takeover of health, he saw no need for a Liberal/National Federal Government to take control of health care from the states.

On climate change, Mr Hogan, who describes himself as a believer in global warming, said the failed Copen-hagen summit vindicated the Coalition’s refusal to back Labor’s emissions trading scheme.

That scheme would have penalised Australia’s economy without having any impact on global warming, he said.

Mr Hogan also rejected the notion that Australia could have led the way to a global emissions trading scheme, pointing to the crumbling support for a scheme in the US and China’s reluctance on the subject.

Until a global price for carbon could be established, he said Australia was better off finding other ways of taking greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as carbon sequestration.

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