Indi orange all over again

By Simon Ruppert

Indi is Orange after voters rejected the two-party system for the third election in a row.

Dr Helen Haines made history on Saturday night as the first Independent candidate to follow an existing Independent in an Australian Federal seat.

With the retirement of incumbent Cathy McGowan the Liberals saw a good chance to return the electorate to blue — but despite winning the popular vote preferences saw Dr Haines take the seat.

That same preference system, however, saw the Coalition win an unlikely victory, absolutely demolishing the ALP in Queensland — returning Scott Morrison as prime minister.

It should be noted that Liberal candidate Steve Martin has not accepted the result, as yet. He is hoping postal votes change the outcome, however, at this stage that is highly unlikely.

Dr Haines said the reason for her victory was obvious.

‘‘People voted for something this time. They voted for a parliamentarian that will represent them. That is answerable to them, not to a major party,’’ Dr Haines said.

‘‘They saw the impact that Cathy McGowan had. They saw that she was someone they could be proud of and that she was someone who worked together with the community to get things done.

‘‘And I think the community, in seeing that and experiencing that have trust in what an independent can do in Indi.’’

Dr Haines said she was excited, thrilled and humbled by the result.

‘‘Watching the results come in on Saturday was nerve-racking,’’ Dr Haines said.

‘‘But there were a lot of people in the room with me. We had a few hundred supporters at the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre.

‘‘And we had a fantastic tally room operating. Our supporters out at all the booths were ringing in the results booth by booth, so we were able to see it as it happened.

‘‘We could see the pattern emerging as the night went on, but it was terribly close early on.’’

What started as a protest vote three elections ago has turned into a movement cementing Indi as an Independent seat.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who lost his own formerly safe Liberal seat, described a changing of voter patterns across the country in his farewell speech.

And a quick look at the electoral map shows that something is changing in Australia.

The result was a shock to many and as we saw with Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump’s election in the US the poll numbers presented prior to Saturday were a far cry from the result.

What we did see was good support for minor and micro parties, with preferencing making all the difference in a number of electorates.

Dr Haines said that while she couldn’t say why the election unfolded across Australia as it did, she does have an opinion on Indi.

‘‘I think this election has endorsed Indi as an independent seat,’’ Dr Haines said.

‘‘Three elections in a row have now gone to an independent. I think we’re seeing something that is now a real pattern and it’s so fascinating.

‘‘It’s a testament to the communities who have got behind this and have really seen such positivity and such great impact due to having an independent representative.’’

Dr Haines said that now the campaigning was over she could concentrate on her vision for Indi.

‘‘Everything that I’ve campaigned on is the platform that I will continue to work towards for Indi,’’ Dr Haines said.

‘‘I’ve spoken a lot about the improvements that I want to see in rural health — particularly in aged care and mental health.

‘‘I’ve spoken a lot about the infrastructure that we need in Indi and maintaining the pressure to get that north-east rail line, not only functional, but to an excellent rail-service for us.

‘‘I’ll be maintaining the work on that and mobile phone black spots.

‘‘All of that work will continue and is so crucial to maintaining our small businesses and our connectivity.

‘‘I will be working closely with local and state governments on all those things.

‘‘The integrity commission is something else that is very important. The people of Indi talked to me a lot about that.

‘‘Cathy’s bill for a Federal ICAC remains a high priority for me as well, and of course climate is the other big thing.’’

On the topic of climate Dr Haines said that seeing the Coalition returned to government makes the task of keeping Indi at the forefront of climate action more difficult than if the ALP had got in.

‘‘I think it will be more difficult. I think that is the honest truth,’’ Dr Haines said.

‘‘But I see people like myself and Zali Steggall and other members of the cross-bench having a really important role to try and have conversations and discussions and influence over the government.

‘‘That is a conversation that is not based on fear, rather a conversation that is based on opportunity and the way we can move forward together, and the way that we can work closely with communities to make this happen.

‘‘So I see myself as having a really strong role in that. We know that the independents always have a voice, always have impact and are able to talk with whoever is the government of the day.

‘‘In this case that’s the Coalition and that’s who I’ll work very, very positively with to get the outcomes that we want to see in Indi.’’