GORDON OFFICE – NOV 2022
On Monday 21 Nov 2022, Nicolette Boele’s office in Gordon re-opened with new signage, confirming that she intends to recontest the seat of Bradfield at the next federal election (or by-election).
The new signage replaces the messaging that was designed for the federal election in May, with a simple message: that she now seeks to be the shadow representative for the people of Bradfield. In June, Nicolette was re-endorsed by Voices of Bradfield as the candidate they would support at the next election.
Nicolette says that the idea of the shadow representative is to hold herself out as someone who genuinely wants to learn from her electorate about what concerns them, what they value and the direction they want our country to go in. “I don’t represent a party, I haven’t signed up to any head office that dictates the way I think or would vote. Together, we have the opportunity here to try something new: offer myself to the people of Bradfield as someone who will listen and who can be trusted. This gives us the opportunity for the electorate and I to get to know each other better over the next two years.”
“Many people asked me to stand again and after lots of discussion and thinking I realised that the same issue that drove me in May, and which, I think, drove nearly half the electorate to vote for me, is still here. Our failure to deal with emissions and our failure to seriously deal with integrity are driven by the same thing: the inertia of the two-party system. Until we change that, we will continue to grapple with long term systemic problems in piecemeal ways. We need more independents, people who genuinely represent their electorate, rather than more of the same.”
In the May election, Bradfield switched from its historical safe or very safe position to marginal, and the incumbent, a former Liberal cabinet minister, now holds the seat with a margin of only 4.23%. This is a smaller margin than that of North Sydney (13.61) and Mackellar (16.74) after the 2019 election; those neighbouring electorates went independent in 2022.
WHAT’S A SHADOW REPRESENTATIVE?
Nicolette sees the shadow representative as having three purposes:
To listen to and learn from her community
To skill up herself and supporters in advance of winning the seat at the next election
To demonstrate that there is a viable alternative to the two-party system
Being a shadow representative is not analogous to being the elected federal Member for Bradfield, because the sitting Member:
Gets paid to represent; the shadow representative does not;
Has formal power; the shadow representative does not;
Has party backing; the shadow representative does not.
“I’ve been asked, for example, if I think the shadow representative means I should publish a pecuniary interest register. It’s a good question. That is an obligation incumbent upon elected members and is meant to provide protection against conflicts of interest when legislation is debated and passed. If and when I’m elected I will of course abide by that, and other obligations, but until that happens there can be no conflict of interest because I have no authority.”
“That question is a good example of what we are trying here. It’s something new and we are facing questions no-one has had to face before, so far as I know,” says Nicolette, “and I appreciate that some people will find it unnerving or maybe even pretentious. But it is important that our community see that I take the representative aspiration seriously. That’s why we’ve come up with “shadow representative for the people of Bradfield” rather than “shadow member”. So far, most of the feedback has been positive and encouraging.”
HOW ARE YOU PAYING FOR THIS?
“As with the campaign, we are relying on donations and the work of volunteers,” replies Nicolette when asked this question. “After each federal election, candidates, including unsuccessful ones, receive reimbursement from the AEC if they reach certain first preference milestones. We decided to reinvest those funds into our former campaign office. We’ll be able to keep going if donations come in to support us, and, so far, we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the willingness of people to support the idea of doing democracy differently. It’s very heartening.”
WILL YOU DISCLOSE YOUR DONORS?
It seems the AEC’s disclosure requirements apply when no election has been called and no writ issued.
“The disclosure threshold this financial year is $15,200. We are going to assume that it applies when no election is on, and will seek the guidance of the AEC on the particulars.“
“During the campaign I said that, once elected, I would declare donors over $1,500 quarterly. I was under no legal obligation to do that, but transparency is vital for our democracy to heal, so even though I wasn’t elected, I will declare the names on my website of those people who generously donate over $1,500.”
ARE YOU DENYING THE ELECTION RESULTS?
“Quite the contrary. I didn’t win, Paul Fletcher did, clearly. My team and I gave it a red-hot go this year, and we came close but didn’t get over the line. I will use the time between now and whenever the opportunity to stand again presents. All I am doing is my very best to provide a choice, which we haven’t really had before.”