Hello everyone.

Helen has kindly asked me here today to update you on what the campaign team and I have been doing. 

It’s important to keep the VoB membership informed about what has been happening, as VoB support remains crucial to any success that the campaign has in the future.

We have spent time since the last VoB AGM setting up the office in Gordon and settling on staffing three days a week with the wonderful Carey, Tuesday to Thursday.

It’s important that we have a physical presence in the electorate, and it sends a message that we are serious. We use the office for team meetings, host talks with potential donors and subject-matter experts, and volunteer meetings. 

We also have a small team of full-time volunteers other than me, in Rob Mills (Campaign manager), Stuart Crossman (marketing, communications and events), and Maryanne Cantwell (fundraising and finances). And, of course, Carey, volunteer wrangler and chief doing person.

We have spent some time with the brand agency that created the look and feel of the 2022 campaign, and have now slightly tweaked the colour palette and the fonts, redesigned some of the printed material, and taken new photos of me looking dynamic and professional.

We’ll be rolling those out over the next few months.

The slogan, for 2022 was “Vote like your future depends on it”. Now it’s “Better is possible”.

Under that banner, and with the assistance in particular of Carey and VoB members, I have been starting to get some traction in meet and greets.

To give you an example, here are some of my engagements from the last 3 months:

  • Lifeline 55-year celebration
  • Chatswood Chamber Budget breakfast
  • Hornsby Community College
  • Roseville Uniting Church refugee forum
  • Gordon Pymble Uniting Church on the Voice to Parliament
  • 1 Million Women climate conversations
  • Alliance for Gambling Reform
  • And VoB’s own Voice Forum a fortnight ago.

We’ve also been audited by the AEC – we passed.

We also made a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM), which is the Committee that undertakes a post mortem of election processes and makes recommendations on the next one.

JSCEM’s interim report is out and we are working our way through it so that:

  • we are not blindsided by any changes in the law, which may impact how we fundraise and what we can spend;
  • we can take any opportunity to have some input into the final report, especially in the areas of campaign finance reform

On the policy front, we have spent considerable time working out possible directions for future policy.

It is a work in progress, and aligns with VoB 2023 survey results, as well as professional surveys.

I think we have a robust set of principles, but I’m not going to go into details here other than to say we have formulated the priorities based on 3 assumptions. that:

  1. Australian voters broadly will continue the trend of the last 25 years and the majority will move away from automatically giving their first preferences to one or other of the major parties;
  2. The final competition at the next election in Bradfield will be between the Liberal party and a community independent, not the Liberals and the ALP;
  3. The best way to lose the next battle is to plan to fight the last one all over again.

To design policies on those principles you have my commitment that we will understand the people of this electorate, in all their varieties and localities, better than anyone else. As many of you know, we have a crack analytical team, all home grown, combing through the Census and other data.

Shortly, you’ll start to see us putting out surveys, starting with doorknocking and urging the people of Bradfield to engage, so that we can listen and learn and refine our policies so that the platform we take forward, truly reflects the matters of concern for this electorate.

Also, I realise that some, maybe many of you, will have concerns about press speculation as to what may be happening with Bradfield.

I want to reassure you that we are aware that there will be a redistribution in NSW before Dec 2024, and that NSW will lose a seat. It is possible that Bradfield may be that seat but we can’t put a likelihood on it and we can’t control it. So we proceed on the assumption that our electorate is retained, until we learn otherwise. We certainly don’t put plans on hold.

Also, you will likely have seen speculation about the future candidate that the Liberals will preselect for NSW seats, including Bradfield. Not all of the speculation can be true, if only because much of it contradicts other speculation. Again, we don’t have control over that, so we focus on those things we CAN influence, such as preparing to take on the major parties on policy terms.

Finally, there has been speculation that the Prime Minister may call an early general election in 2024, as he will have the trigger for a double dissolution. He has said he won’t do it in 2023, but he can always change his mind. 2023 or 2024, that decision is entirely within his remit, and another thing we can’t influence.

All we can do is the work we are doing now, to have as steady a foundation as we can,

  • a platform that reflects the matters of concern to this community and
  • a candidate that authentically and competently can be the community’s advocate in Canberra.
  • a strong basis of fundraising to take us through to election day (whenever that may be)
  • and MOST importantly to excite, engage and recruit more volunteers and be ready for whenever the election or byelection is called.

Don’t forget that in 2022 we effectively had only 3 months to get up and running on policy and on organisation and with that history, this team, and your support, I’m not daunted by any surprises that come our way. This is politics after all.

Finally, I’ve been asked to say something about the current government’s stances on issues, like the climate emergency. If, like me, you care about meaningful responses to the climate emergency, you enjoyed a feeling of hope for the first few days of the new government. 

Then rather rapidly you may have seen the same old party response on climate. Day 10, a new offshore gas drilling project approved WITH $1b taxpayer incentive. Since then we’ve see North Arm Cove and Beetaloo. 

It’s just very, very disappointing. 

It’s this, among other things, that continues to keep the fire in my belly hot. Because the job isn’t done yet.  We have to climate proof our parliament. 

Why, too, do we still have people in offshore detention, not knowing their timeline for processing?

These matters have enjoyed some forward progress thanks to the pressure of the crossbench, including the many new independents elected in 2022.

But just imagine what’s possible with a crossbench that holds the balance of power in both houses.

We need to continue to break the hold parties have over some of the most fundamentally important decisions for our nation and its peoples.

We have no choice. Better is possible. And it’s required.

Thank you all for everything. For knowing that democracy is not a spectator sport, for turning up and continuing to turn up, and for daring to hope and hold that hope. Thank you for playing your part.

It’s a daily privilege to be your endorsed community independent candidate for Bradfield.

In 2022 we made Bradfield marginal.  I am driven to see what may be possible by 2024/25 when we pull together as a community and give it another go.

I wish you a successful AGM here today.