How the west was won
Hasluck is a relatively new seat and has always been marginal - changing at every election. Labor and Liberal Parties have each held the West Australian seat twice.
It is interesting reflecting back on any journey we take in life and remembering each event, which occurred during this time. In reflecting on the Hasluck campaign I have this sense that it was surreal, similar to the effect of a dream that leaves you unsure if it was real or imagined when you wake up. It’s real and I will always cherish the moments frozen in time and locked away in my memories.
My preselection as a candidate seems so long ago, and the whirlwind journey to become the elected member of Hasluck has been exciting and packed with experiences. Campaigns are extremely hard work buoyed by the people who support and work with you each day.
Being disciplined, informed, focused and having the hunger to win was always important if I was to gain the seat of Hasluck. I also wanted to vindicate the decision of those who had supported my preselection by winning back the seat of Hasluck for the Liberal Party and for them.
You have to have a strong belief in yourself and your ability to win over people, to gain their support to vote for you on Election Day. As a candidate you soon learn the importance of a thick hide to deal with strong rejection when it’s delivered face to face by individuals who do not support your party or leader. Generally people I met were great and they’d indicate “You have got my vote” and those who didn’t support you would say “Sorry mate but I support Labor but thanks for knocking on my door”.
New Candidates face the extraordinary challenge of unseating the incumbent Member who is well known to the electorate and has a record of success and achievement. They have established circles of influence in every part of the electorate and a vast array of resources as I regularly discovered throughout the campaign.
Gaining name recognition is daunting and remains a priority through out your campaign because to the people of the electorate don’t know you as a person, your values and your stance on many issues which affect them personally.
Media stories, public forums, events, bill boards and advertisements help but the most effective way was through door knocking on the homes of local residents – introducing yourself and listening to their concerns. Acting on the concerns raised was always important.
My Patron Senator, Judith Adams, instilled in me the value of knocking on doors and introducing yourself personally to residents so that they could, in a sense, interview you about your life experiences, views and values. They were then in a better position to make their own judgement about you.
I must admit I was nervous about the first few doors I knocked on but after breaking the ice I enjoyed door knocking and meeting so many individuals and families who shared their thoughts and ideas with me through out the campaign. I have met so many incredible people but equally many who struggle with day to day expenses and the pressure to pay the bills their including medications. I met many who lived alone and had no family but relied on a neighbour to be there when they needed them.
I personally believe that if you represent an electorate and the people within it - you have to know your patch intimately and become familiar with individuals, families, organisations and the businesses that form the social fabric of your electorate.
I cannot overstate the importance of my staff, as I said to Team Hasluck and all of our volunteers: “That a candidate does not challenge or win a seat without the support of a group of people who give of their time, themselves and their passion to succeed. Always smile at all you come in contact with – it may the factor that encourages an individual to respond and give us their support and ultimately their vote on the day. On Election Day it is you that the public will see at the polling booth not me – you are the face of my campaign.”
The speed and intensity of the last six weeks of the campaign and Election Night were noticeable but during it all what remained important were family and friends who were always there to provide support and encouragement.
The 4.30am start to the day hasn’t changed because it is a moment of sanity where you can read quietly, reflect and plan for the day ahead. It is an oasis of solitude that is only disturbed by the outside noise of birds reminding me to stay grounded.
The media attention, responding to congratulatory calls and winding down a campaign office kept me busy during the days of the count.
I would get an official update on the vote count at the end of each day. My son Aaron would ring each afternoon with his own conclusions and equations, and his view on what swing my opponent would need to win the seat. I enjoyed our conversations and his reassurance that the seat was in the bag.
The first time I walked through the front door of the House of Representatives I felt immensely proud as an Aboriginal man and as a new member. The Party Room meeting was welcoming and yet sobering sitting amongst colleagues who had been there for some time as experienced warriors in the Australian political arena.
A challenge that I face is a double-edged expectation of being the Member for Hasluck and delivering for all electors, but equally a national constituency of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who will also have expectations of me personally to deliver a voice for the serious issues that remain unresolved. I will balance both and meet the obligations that I have within the House of Representatives as a member.
As a member I want to play a role in shaping the future of this great country of ours for all Australians, but in particular for the future generations in the same way our senior Australians built a Nation and society which has generally served us well.
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