Greg's Election Day Heroes Gallery
Running as an Independent is incredibly difficult from a logistics point of view - you need volunteers to 'man' each election booth. There were 12 in the Kalamunda Electorate, all of them open for 10 hours, but needing people there from at least 7.00am. Not to mention that each booth needed at least two people . It's simply impossible for the candidate to organise and roster everything, so I was incredibly lucky in that my fellow City Gatekeeper, Hilda Turnbull took over the show in early February, without her, I am certain I could not have coped. Then we get to the people who volunteered, I am so grateful , amazed and humbled at the support, in many cases, from people I had not known before I started campaigning. I'm only sorry that I didn't get elected and couldn't ensure things go as they would wish in the electorate. I don't have a photo of them here, but I'd really like to mention Syd Golding and his lovely wife in Maddington, they rang me early in January and offered space in their front yard for my political signs, not to mention fantastic support. Finally, I have to mention Myles Irvine and his gorgeous girlfriend Mel - just when Ann and I were wondering how on earth we would ever finish delivering the flyers to letterboxes throughout the electorate, they turned up and never stopped! It was a life-saver. And I didn't get an opportunity to photograh Ted, Nikki, Anna and Tonina at the booths, humble apologies! But, here's my Heroes Gallery, to all those on the day, who made a stand for democracy and what they believed in. Words are not enough, nor are photos, but they'll have to do. Cheers and thanks, Greg
Running as an Independent is incredibly difficult from a logistics point of view – you need volunteers to ‘man’ each election booth. There were 12 in the Kalamunda Electorate, all of them open for 10 hours, but needing people there from at least 7.00am. Not to mention that each booth needed at least two people . It’s simply impossible for the candidate to organise and roster everything, so I was incredibly lucky in that my fellow City Gatekeeper, Hilda Turnbull took over the show in early February, without her, I am certain I could not have coped. Then we get to the people who volunteered, I am so grateful , amazed and humbled at the support, in many cases, from people I had not known before I started campaigning. I’m only sorry that I didn’t get elected and couldn’t ensure things go as they would wish in the electorate. I don’t have a photo of them here, but I’d really like to mention Syd Golding and his lovely wife in Maddington, they rang me early in January and offered space in their front yard for my political signs, not to mention fantastic support. I also didn’t get a chance to photograph, Ted, Nikki, Anna and Tonina at the booths, humble apologies Finally, I have to mention Myles Irvine and his gorgeous girlfriend Mel – just when Ann and I were wondering how on earth we would ever finish delivering the flyers to letterboxes throughout the electorate, they turned up and never stopped! It was a life-saver. So here’s my Heroes Gallery, to all those on the day, who made a stand for democracy and what they believed in. Words are not enough, nor are photos, but they’ll have to do.
The Trials of a Battle-Scarred First Time Independent
If you’ve ever wanted to put your life on hold, slip deep into debt, be rejected, exhausted, ejected from shopping centres, face emailed demands about your opinions from strangers, fend off single interest groups demanding simple Yes / No answers to complex questions, or fight to get any publicity, try running as an Independent candidate.
Seven months ago, I made the decision to run for the seat of Kalamunda, since then, there’ve been five months of intense campaigning and now, two weeks since the election, I’ve only just found the strength and interest to talk of the experience and more importantly, thank the wonderful people who supported me, without whom I could not possibly have survived the gruelling process.
What to make of it all? I suspect the real long-term lessons, and possible benefits, (I can see none at this point in time), are not yet apparent and quite possibly I will see some aspects differently in the months ahead, but this is the tale so far.
When I was first asked by fellow City Gatekeepers, back in May 2012, if I’d consider running as an Independent, my analysis was I would need to stop work and spend five to six months building up a profile and the combined cost of living and campaigning would be around $50,000.00, money I simply didn’t have. One of the people urging me to run agreed to fund the money required, on the basis that I would also try to secure other donations in order to bring his cost down. It seemed possible, even feasible, so I quit my job and headed out for the great unknown – the winding, treacherous, uncharted, financially disastrous road of an Independent candidate.
I’d agreed to stand for the electorate of Kalamunda, against a sitting Minister (John Day) in a relatively safe Liberal seat, in protest at the Liberal government’s plans for the Elizabeth Quay waterfront project, the closing of the emergency lanes in the Northbridge Tunnel, forced council amalgamations and the Development Assessment Panels, (which cleverly take planning decisions away from local communities). There was also a strong wish to protest at Colin Barnett’s arrogant approach to anybody who disagreed with him on anything.
And so I set about studying the electorate. What I discovered, was that people thought John Day was arrogant, distant and had done nothing for the electorate. Nobody hated him, rather they just felt he’d been there too long and that he and the Liberal Party took the seat for granted. I was told this time and time again.
The other thing I very quickly became aware of, was how toxic the local Kalamunda Shire Council was with the electorate. Words like “corrupt,” “useless”, “hopeless” were thrown at me several times every day. Indeed, when I organised a public forum to inform people about the Liberal government’s plans for forced council amalgamations and DAPs, the questions from the audience were not about those issues, rather aimed squarely at me, asking what I’d do about the council if I was elected. Here I was standing on a ticket of no forced council amalgamations, in an electorate where they hated their council and actually thought they’d be better off with a bigger, more professional council. Alarm bells were ringing for me, indeed they had been for some time.
We live in Woodbridge, part of the Midland electorate – I didn’t see that as a disadvantage as John Day also has a house here, although in reality he lives in Cottesloe. I was well aware of how neglected Midland was – even the much vaunted Midland Railway Workshops precinct, where we live, has been a stalled project for over 12 months. The Liberal Party had no real interest in the area, as a safe Labor seat and I’d long been of the opinion that the Labor member, Michelle Roberts, had been coasting for years. By late November, I told Ann and other friends that I should really stand as an Independent for Midland, as I felt there was a mood and need for change. By mid December, I was certain of it, but my major campaign donor wanted me to run for Kalamunda, not Midland and I’d given my word. I will go to my grave regretting not running as an Independent for Midland.
The question of who else would run for Kalamunda was vital, as the only chance I would have of getting anywhere would be on Preferences. I knew that a local councillor, Geoff Stallard, had been a long-term Labor candidate and had come very close (76 votes!) to unseating John Day in the last Geoff Gallop election, but the train wreck that was Alan Carpenter had dropped him in favour of a younger, female candidate – Carpenter had form there! I also knew Labor wanted Stallard to rejoin the party and run as their candidate. They felt that if he ran as the Labor candidate and I ran a strong campaign, with Greens and my preferences, he’d have a good chance of taking the seat. As much as I wanted to win the seat myself, the main aim was to unseat John Day and teach Barnett a lesson, so if Stallard ran as the Labor candidate, I was willing to carry on, although I might not have spent quite the time, energy and money I did.
However, Stallard’s wounds were too deep – when Carpenter had refused to endorse him for Kalamunda, Stallard had asked for Forrestfield, but a union demanded their man (Andrew Waddell) was chosen, so the local bloke, who’d almost unseated John Day, was dropped. Geoff decided to run as an Independent for 2013, which made my run more difficult. Again, my gut instinct was to run for Midland, but morally, I couldn’t make the move. And just to rub metaphorical salt in, three months into the campaign, my donor appeared to get cold feet and explained there was a misunderstanding the figures and I would need to borrow anything I needed over $30,000. I knew the sensible decision was to immediately pull out, but it would have been a morally bankrupt decision, so in spite of severe misgivings, I kept going. Morals and politics, how naive is that??
The Labor party then announced the Deputy Mayor of Swan, Mick Wainwright, would run as their candidate for Kalamunda (his brother runs Michelle Robert’s office). We met for a coffee and it’s probably fair to say, neither Mick nor I were impressed with or interested in the other. I also met with Geoff Stallard and liked him, but the surprise for me, was how much I liked the long-term Greens candidate, Toni Warden, ethically and as a person.
The Kalamunda electorate boundaries are a perfect example of political bastardy. Set up by the Labor Party to try and unseat John Day, the electorate includes most of Maddington, much to the surprise of Maddington and Kalamunda people. A Kalamunda councillor, Frank Lindsey, part of Geoff Stallard’s team, at one stage emailed me to tell me to “Stay on message” (his regular phone calls and emails to me are another story in themselves) and not talk about issues facing people in Maddington, he seemed completely oblivious to the difference between the Shire and State electorate boundaries. And Maddington people would forcefully argue they were not in the Kalamunda electorate – I’d have to show them the electoral map on my flyer. The result for Maddington has been that neither the Liberal, nor Labor parties are remotely interested in them, as is obvious when you drive around. The needs and interests of people in the leafy hills area, compared to the people on the suburban flats, with a burgeoning migrant population, are very, very different. It’s a travesty that I became more and more interested in trying to do something about. Although the local Maddington shopping centre owner didn’t see it that way – he told me to leave his property, where I was handing out flyers outside the entrance, telling me only John Day could come there.
The local newspapers were interesting. There are basically three covering the electorate – Community Newspapers with six different issues, Echo Newspapers with two different issues and The Examiner newspaper (Maddington specific). Placing advertising was very easy, although everything had to be paid for up front, however editorial was virtually impossible – absolutely in terms of the Echo newspaper, a very strong supporter of John Day and the Liberal Party. Community Newspapers made no mention of me, to the best of my knowledge, however the Examiner did run a story which resonated with people. Both Community Newspapers and the Examiner were excellent in terms of ad placement (right hand pages etc). The Echo people went out of their way to make life difficult – right hand pages and EGN requests etc, were impossible and it became obvious my ads weren’t really welcome, so I stayed with Community Newspapers and the Examiner, plus I ran a couple of ads in the monthly Darlington Review, although the editor of that august publication took freezing umbrage at a joke I made about Troy Buswell. Funnily enough, Darlington was the only place where I felt I wasn’t welcome, yet as an actor, writer and photographer, it was the one place I expected to feel most at home. Looking back, I was deep in true-blue Liberal territory, I just hadn’t realised it.
In terms of big mainstream media, it’s almost impossible for an Independent (unless you deliberately court controversy) to get any coverage. ABC 720 proved the champion of the Labor party, with long plugs for Labor candidates, to a lesser extent the Greens and coverage for any Liberal candidate Barnett allowed to speak, but anybody else didn’t exist for dear old Aunty. Unexpectedly, Paul Murray and Jane Marwick on 6PR gave me some excellent time and I began listening to their programmes, to the point where I’ve now stopped a 30 year history of listening only to 720 and switched to 6PR, although I still can’t do Howard Sattler, as much as I wish him well with his health. Jane has even done the impossible and made afternoon radio interesting for blokes.
I was also very grateful for the opportunity Allen Newton from WA Today gave me, running an opinion piece I had written. I didn’t expect anything from The West, or the Sunday Times, however a video I’d made on the future conversion of the Northbidge Tunnel into three lanes suddenly came alive and I did score a very brief mention in a major EGN story in the West. They got my name wrong the following day, but didn’t bother correcting it. That same story lead to television coverage and interviews with 9, 7 and 10, I don’t think ABC TV went near it. However the ABC 7.30 Report did run a story on a long-running aged care saga out Wattle Grove way, which I consider helped cement Labor’s fate in Forrestfield.
A Wattle Grove land owner developer had long wanted to build a retirement village / nursing home facility on his land, but although the Kalamunda Council was very supportive, local residents weren’t and had fought a long, hard, at times bitter campaign against it, culminating in the Minister for Planning’s (John Day) department declaring the project totally unsuitable for a plethora of reasons. John Day eventually had no choice but to can the project in late 2012, setting himself against the council, in particular, Councillor Geoff Stallard. Geoff appeared on the 7.30 Report, arguing against John Day’s decision, as did the developer and a very public spirited nurse. Both the Greens candidate (Toni Warden) and myself supported John Day’s decision, but the Labor candidate, Mick Wainwright, stated Day was wrong and the nursing home should have been approved.
Within hours, I knew his statement was the Kiss of Death for Waddell, Labor’s Forrestfield member. The Wattle Grove action group had been in touch with me several times, giving me background details and straight after the programme, it was made clear to me they would be advising their members to vote Liberal, not Labor. It wasn’t my electorate so it didn’t worry me, but I was certain Wainwright had ruined any chance Waddell might have had. It also serves as another example of how confused issues become crossing over Shire and State electoral boundaries – in state electoral terms, this was a Forrestfield issue, not a Kalamunda issue. As a postscript to the story, both the developer and the nurse were active in Geoff Stallard’s campaign, including handing out How to Vote cards at polling booths.
On to Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, websites and community television. There was no way I could afford any advertising on mainstream commercial television, so I gave consideration to the one community station, WTV, although I’d never watched it. We negotiated what I felt was a very good deal – they would make a series of 30 second ads for me and schedule them constantly over the three months leading up to the election, plus make them available for me on YouTube, so I could post the links on my website and political Facebook site. I still never cease to be amazed at how many people, from all walks of life, saw those ads. I’m a marketing, advertising man, but I still cannot believe the reach of the station. I might not have been elected, but those ads were seen by people all over the metro area. WTV also started a political programme called Shadow Boxing and I became the first person interviewed, the programme continues and is very interesting television for anyone interested in local politics. I then made a suggestion to WTV management that they consider running a Town Hall debate, as the ABC TV Leaders Debate was basically scripted controlled nonsense, with no input from voters. The ABC 720 Transport Forum was the same, tightly scripted, controlled by journalists with no input from the public or audience.
They liked the idea and ran with it, but effectively the only conclusion you could come to, is that Perth people are almost completely disconnected from and disinterested in politics. The Liberal party pointedly refused to be involved – the station had invited Colin Barnett and Mark McGowan to appear, but as soon as Barnett refused, McGowan bowed out. A week before the Town Hall debate, we found out Barnett and McGowan had quietly agreed to attend a private audience with Christian Leaders that same night.
Certainly there were some low-profile candidates such as myself, but there were two high profile panellists – Ken Travers (Labor) and Lynn MacLaren (Greens), plus Kevin Morgan (Mayor of Cottesloe and Independent Candidate for Cottesloe). The event was free, anybody could ask questions, nothing was scripted. You’d think, as the first real old style town hall debate for years, people would be interested. But no, about 20 people turned up. It was shown live to air, has since been repeated and is now available on the internet, but you’d have to say it was a resounding failure. Having said that, I found it fascinating, I learnt a lot about myself and really enjoyed the process, not to mention a little black humour. In answers to a couple of questions, I’d been supportive of gay people and said that I was Agnostic. Then a representative from the United Motorcycle Association asked about planned association laws, I said I wasn’t in favour of them. The bloke introduced himself afterwards, as a member of the Gypsy Jokers. We laughed on the way home, realising we’d probably lost the Christian vote, but gained the Bikies. Hmm.
As the campaign rolled on, it was increasingly obvious, neither of the two major parties were keen on their candidates engaging with the voters – Barnett was virtually a one man band, with occasional public forays by Troy Buswell, while Labor trotted out McGowan, Ben Wyatt and Ken Travers. But where was Quigley, the human volcano? And where were both parties new candidates? Which segues into Social Media – Facebook, Twitter and websites.
I’d followed Barrack Obama’s campaign on the web and still receive daily update emails, all of which helped form my opinion that a strong social media presence was a pre-requisite to campaigning. How wrong I was. Apart from a couple of obvious ‘stooge attack’ Twitter accounts run on their behalf, the Liberal Party had no social media presence. Labor did, the Greens slightly less so and the websites of the the big three – Liberal, Labor and Greens – were strangely cold and bland.
I played the game, believing Social Media was increasingly important. The results speak for themselves. Barnett was devastatingly correct in his assumption that voters were not remotely interested in either personal or internet contact with candidates. I still think a website is a must as part of the mix, for any candidate or business, but Facebook and Twitter, in an Australian political context, are just vanity tools for people to prove how clever and relevant they are. I’m a long-term Facebook user in private, but I dropped my political page the day after the election. I’ve kept Twitter going, as I rather enjoy it, (see vanity tools above), but neither is of any use in the current Australian political climate. Given the results of this election, the sooner we cut costs, campaigns and personalities out of the equation and stop boring voters with flyers and ads, we can then introduce simplified cheaper on-line voting and voters can get back to doing what interests them.
Back to the streets and the battle I imagined was running. For much of the last five months, there were just two of us – my finance Ann and me. Our personal life more or less ground to a halt, but without her nothing would have been possible, we were (and are) a team – she built the website, bullied me into doing the things I instinctively procrastinate about and walked virtually every street in the electorate with me, helping deliver political flyers. Some days it was 41c, most were over 30c, the terrain is often as steep as the Rhine and the electorate spread out, over 100kms in circumference (where it’s not forest). By day’s end, we would collapse exhausted and sunburnt at home, but every night there were constant demands – emails and phone calls to reply to.
The next morning, back to the hard slog, walking, driving, door knocking, letter box dropping, talking, at times thinking “What am I doing?” Usually as somebody stared right through you and said “No thank you,” or “Na, you’re all fucking crooks!” However, a picture did emerge (false as it turned out) of disaffected Liberal voters. It seemed from their comments, that they hadn’t dropped their Liberal principles, they just felt John Day had ignored them and they didn’t much care for Barnett. I also began to gather support, people who agreed with me and also offered to help man booths on election day. These were people I had never met, who’d emailed, or phoned, or even stopped me in the street to talk. Down Maddington way, I’d be walking along the streets and people would call out “Go Greg” from their cars, truck drivers would wave and blow their air horns. It seemed something was in the air.
And the opposition turned the heat up. No, not John Day. In fact we had a very pleasant chat in Kalamunda’s main street one Saturday morning, rather with Geoff Stallard’s campaign man. Frank Lindsey began appearing on my Facebook site, wrongly correcting me and taking voters to task over issues, while Mick Wainwright’s campaign man, his brother Steve, was annoyed with comments I’d made about Labor’s stance on Forced Amalgamations and wanted me to notify my followers of Labor’s unpublicised decision not to force council amalgamations. Then the Greens’ Toni Wadren contacted me, re a fairly vicious email that had been sent out painting me as a Liberal Stooge. The same person behind the email had earlier rung the Labor Party expressing outrage that I was actually a National Party person and they had to combine forces against me. I knew where that had come from, the wonderful Hilda Turnbull, a fellow City Gatekeeper and retired long serving National MP, had thankfully begun to take a real hands-on interest and was organising my booths etc. It seems her presence at the Kalamunda public meeting had created a mini storm. One tale of the night must be told, after the meeting had finished, Geoff Stallard, not realising who Hilda was, expressed his anger and dismay at the Nationals “dreadful Royalties for Regions” programme. She politely replied that she had a slightly different point of view.
The election day drew nigh and I started to believe there was just a possibility that the dissatisfaction with John Day might prove interesting and that although Geoff Stallard undoubtedly had a strong following amongst the Lesmurdie Catholic community, I felt his role in the almost universally disliked Kalamunda Council would not help him. I also felt he would split the Labor vote, as their candidate was not registering well with voters. I felt the Greens would get their usual 2,000 – 2,500 votes, although I was well aware support for the Greens was on the wane across Australia.
Preferencing took over as the Main Game. Both Geoff and I understood very early on that we had to place each other second and we both stood by the gentlemen’s agreement. I discovered the Greens had placed me second. It hit the fan between the Stallard camp and the Greens, as he’d expected second place, not fifth! Geoff placed Labor third, whilst I put Greens third, John Day fourth and Labor fifth. Geoff of course didn’t want to offend his traditional Labor voters and I didn’t want to make things too hard for disaffected Liberal voters.
And so the games began. Hilda had virtually every booth covered with some absolutely wonderful people, I will never forget the support they gave me.The only booth we couldn’t cover all day was one small shared polling booth, with just 300 voters, although we had somebody there until midday.
My role was to drive around from booth to booth, making sure everyone had everything they needed. I was very pleasantly surprised to find people at the booths getting along very well, regardless of who they were handing out How to Vote cards for. In fact John Day’s daughter was kind enough to take a picture of me and friends up at Carmel Hall. The only stressful time had been around 6.00am at East Maddington, where a very aggressive Liberal bloke was insistent that nobody else could put up any posters or signs, only the Liberals had the right to do so. I let the truckie in me off the chain and things quickly settled. But that was the only incident I was aware of.
By 10.30am, the two central Kalamunda booths were reporting voters were all Liberal, with some voting Geoff Stallard, while I did seem to be making some headway in Maddington. Toni Wadren’s words of a couple of weeks previous began to resonate – “Greg, don’t be disappointed, I’ve run and lived up here for a long while. They all moan and groan about John Day, but on the day, they can’t bring themselves not to vote Liberal. Afterwards, they’ll look you straight in the face, shake their heads and says they don’t understand how he got back in.” By 11.30am, I was sure she was right, in fact from the reports I was getting, it was a Liberal landslide.
That evening, friends and supporters kept asking me how I felt. I wasn’t angry, sad, humiliated, or sorry, I just felt annoyed with myself, that I’d wasted so much time, money and energy and not followed my gut instincts re Midland. I was stunned at the size of the Liberal landslide, shocked at John Hyde’s loss and really surprised to see Max Hipkins had come nowhere in Nedlands. But most of all, I was exhausted. Locking the gates of the Kalamunda RSL, we drove around to where I had signs up, took them all down and drove home, both of us completely shattered emotionally and physically.
The next morning, I took a strange pleasure in removing all the stickers and signs off the car and trailer as soon as possible, but then, for the next two weeks, apart from answering a couple of hate emails, I didn’t want anything to do with politics.
My conclusions? I was right about two things – the Greens were on the wane and Midland was there for the taking. I got the mood of the Kalamunda electorate completely wrong, it is blue blood Liberal party territory, although I do think the state of the Kalamunda Shire Council ruined my message about forced amalgamations – most Kalamunda voters think it would be preferable to what they’ve got. Labor ran a second rate campaign and Geoff Stallard definitely split the Labor vote. I think he made a huge mistake in refusing Labor’s advances, if he’d run as the their candidate, with preferences, he would once again have come very close to unseating John Day, in spite of his council connections.
As a society, we have very definitely moved to the right, almost a seismic shift. Perhaps it’s because of the on-going toxic federal Parliament, there’s no doubt Federal Labor has been diabolically stupid in its handling of the Mining Tax and Barnett very cleverly played the “Us against Them”, State vs Canberra card over the last four years. Public perception of the Greens has altered with Christine Milne taking over as leader, her acerbic, lecturing, self-righteous image is far less acceptable to people than the charismatic, media savvy Bob Brown. The Murdoch press in particular has been relentless in its attack on the Federal Independents, as a result, I suspect voters currently don’t see a role for Independents. All of which seems to prove that in WA at least, it’s now very hard to separate State and Federal politics – in voters minds, they are the same.
I don’t think I’d do it again, or advise anybody else to run as an Independent, so far I can’t see a single personal benefit – well, I did lose 9kgs! But, I do have a niggling feeling that I could and should do more for the people of Maddington, I suspect they were beginning to want me, whereas the Hills people didn’t. Then there’s Midland, Labor deserved the kick in the backside the voters gave them. I wish I’d run, to make sure the Liberal government turned it’s attention to Midland, which will of course include Kalamunda, when it is swallowed up into the Midland Super Council later this year. Now there’s a thought, I could run for the new council!