Where it went wrong for Sophie Mirabella | Women's Agenda

Where it went wrong for Sophie Mirabella

As the dust begins to settle across the nation after the 2013 election, the significance of what has been achieved in the electorate of Indi will continue to be a talking point for some time to come.

It will no doubt be analysed from multiple positions: by engaged and disgruntled voters in other electorates who may seek to use the Indi model as a playbook for their own democratic awakening; by party political campaigners keen to adopt some of the secrets to build their own flagging supporter base; and maybe, hopefully, by Members of Parliament who recognise that a sitting member holding a ‘safe’ 10% margin losing her seat is a lesson to all.

But what is the lesson?

I don’t pretend to have the sort of political insight that can provide all the answers here, but as a local born and bred, and someone who was very involved in this election as a candidate, I offer a few observations about some of the things that provided the catalyst for this change.

I would venture to say that Mrs Mirabella was never especially popular in her electorate, but a deeply entrenched conservative history and a lack of any serious alternatives meant she had enjoyed a relatively uncontested run.

She has clearly done very little for the electorate in her time as our elected representative, but then to be fair she has been in opposition for much of this time and in a very safe seat, which ensured that neither party were likely to be jumping at spending money in Indi.

Even this may have been overlooked, had she been more engaged locally, sympathetic to her people’s needs, or willing to show up other than when their was a plaque to be unveiled. It had become very clear that her main focus was on her career and the Liberal party’s role at a national level and not on representing her electorate.

I can’t speak for others, but this is certainly what motivated me to stand as a candidate.

As is often the case, luck and timing can play a huge role. As Mrs Mirabella became more visible in the media so to did her social ineptness. Her poor response to Simon Sheik’s faint on QandA was just one example of this.

What really turned things were Tony Windsor’s comments about her on Insiders, early on in the campaign. At this point it seemed that everyone suddenly realised how much they didn’t like her. I will leave it to readers to decide how much of a role the media played in fanning this idea, but it was certainly after this that people’s responses began to change and the drive to remove her gained momentum.

This was the turning point for Mrs. Mirabella. How she responded here could have changed the outcome.

Instead of looking at these things and seeing that there was room for her to change and build bridges with her people, and in particular her own local liberal base, her response to this very high profile attack and the growing challenge by the V4I candidate Cathy McGowan, was to become defensive, elusive and at times dishonest.

This really only served to heighten the determination to oust her, turned the media against her, and even stirred a nation-wide social media campaign egging-on her downfall.

So what is the lesson here?

I don’t think voters in Indi expect our MP’s to be perfect, or to be able to achieve everything they want for their electorate.

I don’t think they, for the most part, care how much power they wield in Federal parliament.

I think most voters look for someone who shares their values, their concerns, and their hopes. They want someone who is ambitious enough to try, persistent and not easily deterred, but humble enough to admit when they fail. They want someone who will take the time to listen to them even if they don’t agree or there is nothing they can do to help, and most of all we want someone we can look to in parliament and feel proud of as one of our own.

In twelve years Sophie Mirabella had failed to learn these lessons and she paid the price.

The people of Indi have seen these qualities in Cathy McGowan, and I am very pleased that she will be representing me and Indi in the 43rd Parliament.

I hope that the renewed energy and engagement that has been stirred in Indi continues on and spreads across other electorates and elections.

I decided to stand as a candidate in this election because I believe that as individuals we can make change and have a responsibility to do so. What has happened in Indi has shown that we should never doubt the ability of a few dedicated individuals to change the course of history.

It is the only thing that ever has.

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