Australian independents day

Today the Poll Bludger celebrates Australia Day with a tribute to that exemplar of the can-do spirit that made this country what it is, the independent election candidate. At the election to be held on Saturday week, the people of Queensland will get to pass their verdict on no fewer than 49 beaut Aussie battlers who would no sooner kowtow to some dickhead party boss than their larrikin Anzac forebears would salute a British officer. Let’s have a squiz at what these jokers are up to.

The first thing to be noted is the amount of post-One Nation detritus floating around. The key example of this is the loose aggregation of independents who have assembled under the wing of maverick federal independent Bob Katter, who are hoping to tap into local fear and loathing over deregulation of the sugar industry. They include our old friend Jeff Knuth in Burdekin, who won the seat for One Nation in 1998 and ended up opting for the City-Country Alliance after efforts to launch his own splinter group failed to get off the ground. A rival One Nation candidate in 2001 put paid to any chance he had of retaining the seat, which went to Labor’s Steve Rodgers. Unfortunately for Knuth he again faces the very same One Nation candidate, and if he couldn’t win in those circumstances in 2001 there’s no reason to think he will now.

However, Andrew Lancini can be marked down as a roughie in Hinchinbrook. A prominent figure on the local council, Lancini did well to poll 17.4 per cent as an independent in 2001. Long-serving National member Marc Rowell had cut a destructive preference deal with a One Nation candidate who almost defeated him, while Lancini made headlines with a decision late in the campaign to direct his preferences to Labor. If Lancini can elbow his One Nation opponent aside to corner the market in this particular piece of electoral real estate, it’s theoretically possible he could pull off an upset.

The group’s other two candidates are running in the Townsville-area seats of Thuringowa (David Moyle) and Mundingburra (Sandra Hubert). Hubert is unlikely to cause Labor’s Lindy Nelson-Carr too many problems but Moyle is a popular local councillor running in a seat which Labor can’t take for granted, having lost it to One Nation in 1998 and now facing the challenge of replacing a sitting member vacating her seat in the hope of entering federal politics.

Jeff Knuth is far from the only member of Pauline’s class of ’98 who doesn’t know to quit while he’s behind. Like Knuth, David Dalgleish, Harry Black and Peter Prenzler were all One Nation dropouts who unsuccessfully contested their seats as part of the City-Country Alliance in 2001 and are now taking the field as independents. Dalgleish won Hervey Bay in 1998 with a lot of help from National Party preferences but in 2001 his competition included a One Nation candidate who succeeded only in splitting their collective vote straight down the middle (18.4 per cent each, with just seven votes separating them). Dalgleish now has a clear run of the far right vote but in the unlikely event that he can match his 1998 performance, he cannot now count on a flood of National Party preferences to finish the job for him.

Harry Black won Whitsunday in 1998 and was also put out of contention in 2001 by vote-splitting between the Nationals, One Nation and himself. The equation is no better for his run at this election, with a promising Nationals competitor in Dan van Blarcom and another One Nation rival facing him in a crowded market.

Peter Prenzler managed to beat Labor and National candidates to make the final two-candidate preferred cut in his 2001 bid for re-election in Lockyer, but the seat was comfortably won by current One Nation state parliamentary leader Bill Flynn. There doesn’t seem any reason to think he will go one better this time.

Elected as a One Nation candidate in 2001, Elisa Roberts is now attempting to hold Gympie as an independent and without wishing to draw any direct inferences, the Poll Bludger cannot help noticing how much it would benefit the Nationals if further independent challengers were to water down Roberts’ primary vote. Two such candidates have indeed emerged among the Melbourne Cup field contesting the seat, the more promising of whom is ambulance officer and Cooloola Shire Councillor Wayne Sachs. This is going to be a tough one to call because while Nationals candidate Christian Rowan is putting in a strong showing, a Labor victory is not beyond the realms of possibility even in this notoriously right-wing electorate, providing votes split between Roberts, Rowan and Sachs in a sufficiently messy fashion.

Other leftovers from the days of Hansonmania include Colene Hughes in Ipswich, Phil Connolly in Gaven and Dominic Frisone in Mulgrave. Hughes ran unsuccessfully for One Nation in Bundamba at the 1998 state election and for Oxley at the federal election later that year (at which Hanson unsuccessfully contested the neighbouring seat of Blair), as well as being a Hanson-backed independent at the 2000 Bundamba state by-election when One Nation’s party status was in legal limbo. Connolly was One Nation’s candidate in Surfers Paradise in 1998 and polled 8.8 per cent as an independent in neighbouring Gaven in 2001. Dominic Frisone failed to win back Mulgrave for One Nation in 2001, which Labor had earlier recovered from them at a mid-term by-election.

Moving right along from the post-Hanson mess, three candidates have stepped forward to fill the void created by the major parties’ pitiful failure to select a single indigenous candidate. Cook candidate Bruce Gibson, a business consultant to traditional Cape York land owners, was earlier spoken of as a possibility for the National Party nomination that eventually went to Graham Elmes. Gibson will be taking on two white major party candidates in a seat that has a 40 per cent aboriginal and islander population. A little further south in Townsville, erstwhile Palm Island Aboriginal Council chair Delena Foster will be making a run against Labor’s Mike Reynolds. Despite the fact the council was dissolved last year over mismanagement of funds, Foster has an admirer in One Nation’s Bill Flynn. Further south still, local indigenous identity Adrian McAvoy hopes to promote his cause with a challenge to Peter Beattie in Brisbane Central.

The Poll Bludger is intrigued by Redcliffe candidate Rob Mcjannett, who polled an impressive 18.6 per cent in Murrumba in 2001. Mcjannett has a keen interest in promoting monorail developments, recently lending his weight to a rather bizarre proposal to construct one in outer suburban Melbourne. Mcjannett, who has also weighed in on public transport issues during his current campaign, describes the monorail as "the safest mode of transport on the face of the Earth with zero fatalities for decades", which should cause amusement for fans of The Simpsons.

Bungil deputy mayor Ruth Spencer has stepped down from council to challenge Nationals MP Howard Hobbs in Warrego but seems to be running a rather low-key campaign at this stage. Clayfield candidate Robyn McGee is a serial writer of letters to the editor, and keen Courier Mail readers will have recently encountered her protesting the death penalty in relation to Saddam Hussein, complaining about the failure of heads to roll (figuratively speaking of course) over the child abuse scandal and getting stuck into Beattie over the Merri Rose affair. Next door in Sandgate Ron Eaton is having another bash after scoring 13.1 per cent last time by peddling One Nation-style economic quackery minus the racism, and he will be joined by Rod McDonough, the Democrats’ candidate for the corresponding electorate of Lilley at the 2001 federal election. Yeerongpilly candidate Andrew Lamb ran in Algester for the Christian Democrats in the 2001 state election and as an independent in Moreton in the federal election later that year. During the latter campaign he won headlines, but not too many votes, with his robust critique of the Koran.

In their Labor stronghold seats of Inala, South Brisbane and Brisbane Central, Henry Palaszczuk, Anna Bligh and Peter Beattie are unlikely to lose any sleep over Socialist Alliance ratbags Adrian Skerritt, Carol Wynter and Lynda Hansen (not to be confused with Nicklin Labor candidate Linda Hanson), while Beattie also faces proven electoral non-achiever Alan Skyring.

Another variety of independent is the single-issue crusader running without hope of victory in order to promote a particular issue. This category includes truckie Glen Poulton in Whitsunday advocating reform of his industry; cannabis enthusiast Billy Tait in Townsville; and disabled rights advocate Anita Gordon, who is running as part of a campaign for pedestrian safety measures in the National-held Sunshine Coast seat of Maroochydore.

There has been much talk of dummy candidates, but the only explicit allegation has been Labor’s claim against Darling Downs candidate Kathy Sankey, a former staffer to federal Nationals MP Bruce Scott. That just leaves those who have the Poll Bludger wondering if they’re fair dinkum about getting their deposit back – Andrew Ryan (Barron River), Adrian Wone (Bundaberg), Bruce Chalmers (Darling Downs), Leo de Marchi (Everton), Warren Simondson (Greenslopes), Martin Poole (Gympie), Michael Ward (Ipswich West), Bruce Piggott and John Murphy (Keppel), Connie Wood (Kurwongbah), Ron Frood (Logan), Ed Vaughan (Mirani), Dave Noke (Mount Coot-tha), JF Barnes (Mount Gravatt), Wayne Kirk (Mount Ommaney), Gary Pead (Mudgeeraba), John Ryan (Thuringowa) and Malcolm Groves (Warrego).

UPDATE: Warren Simondson writes to say, "I’m not ‘fair dinkum’ about getting my deposit back – I’m fair dinkum about representing my electorate. I’ve invested $20,000 of my own money derived from my small business, Ctrl-Alt-Del IT Consultancy, in my campaign. I have placed half-page colour ads in the local paper and distributed over 30,000 flyers. Check out the website" Robyn McGee takes exception to being described as a "serial writer of letters to the editor" despite her recent flurry of activity on this front, and sets the record straight on her views re Saddam Hussein: "I was not, per se, protesting the death penalty in relation to Saddam Hussein. Rather, I was protesting John Howard’s support of the death penalty on the principle that as the leader of a nation that opposes the death penalty he has an obligation to condemn it wherever it occurs … the problem with state-sanctioned murder (a.k.a. the death penalty) is that it makes murderers of all the people of the state who therefore become no better than those the state seeks to put to death". Also, Bruce Chalmers may consider himself withdrawn from the also-rans list following his endorsement by Bob Katter.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.