Evans Head resident Doug Behn.
Evans Head resident Doug Behn. JERAD WILLIAMS

Independents share a common goal

THEY have nothing in common but their contempt for party politics, but the independents of the Northern Rivers want to take over the Federal Parliament.

The Northern Rivers this year is host to the biggest field of independent candidates since the controversial 2001 ‘Tampa’ election, with two independents in Page and seven in Richmond – and the candidates say Australia would be a better place if the Parliament was filled with more people like them.

Unsurprisingly, the major party candidates take a different view. Page Nationals candidate Kevin Hogan described independents as ‘like seagulls on the Adelaide oval – they’re there, but they’re not part of the game’.

The most seasoned campaigner of this year’s field of independents is Evans Head man Doug Behn, who has stood as an independent in Page at every Federal election since the 1998 GST election.

The former Liberal Party foot soldier said that lacking the funds behind the Labor, Liberal, Nationals and Greens parties, persistence was his major campaign tool. He didn’t expect to win – so far he is yet to win enough votes in an election to warrant a refund of his $500 deposit from the electoral commission. But he kept standing because he believed his seat needed an MP not beholden to the rules of a party.

Other independents, Merle Summerville in Page, and Matt Hartley and Stephen Hegedus in Richmond, all agreed Parliament would function better with more independents. Ms Summerville said a Parliament full of independents would give every MP the ability to put up legislation and have it considered through a conscience vote.

Mr Hegedus said a large group of independents could act as potential peace broker, able to build a bridge between the major parties and build a co-operative parliament.

Citing Labor’s Penny Wong and the Liberal Party’s Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Hegedus said both sides of politics had dedicated and highly intelligent MPs and the nation would be better served by them working together.

Mr Hartley said a big group of independents could work in Parliament without compromising the stability of the government by committing before the election to support one party or another for control of the Treasury.

However, Page MP Janelle Saffin said independents lacked the resources to be able to formulate policy in the same way as MPs who were members of parties.

Richmond Nationals candidate Alan Hunter said Parliament was ‘about numbers’ and that was something independents lacked.

“When you are on your own it doesn’t matter how good an idea is, you have to have a lot of people come with you to get anything done,” he said.

Quick History

2010

PAGE: Two independents from a total of six candidates

RICHMOND: Five independents from a total of nine candidates

2007

PAGE: Two independents from a total of 10 candidates

RICHMOND: No independents in a field of seven candidates

2004

PAGE: One independent from a total of eight candidates

RICHMOND: No independents in a field of eight candidates

2001

PAGE: Four independents from a total of 12 candidates

RICHMOND: Four independents from a total of 11 candidates



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