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OPINION: How many moments will it take?

A ‘voices for’ Warrnambool-endorsed candidate drew a reverent response from an audience at an election forum for the federal seat of Wannon last week. 

Independent candidate Alex Dyson’s off-the-cuff statement, ‘tone down the rhetoric’, attracted a chorus of applause in what had otherwise been a relatively benign evening of debate.

Mr Dyson is part of a broad and growing political ‘voices for’ movement that promotes endorsed independent candidates for parliamentary office.

And there was little doubt he struck a chord with forum attendees with his observation.

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It begs the question. Is the independent ‘movement’ in high-profile seats this federal election, free of party-driven policy, truly the desire of the national electorate?

Or is it perhaps a hit-or-miss attraction to individual candidate personalities?

For people at the forum at Ararat RSL, Mr Dyson certainly cut through the room in what was part of a response to an audience question on foreign policy. 

His ‘tone down the rhetoric’ quip was a reaction to Member for Wannon Dan Tehan’s allotted two-minute response to a question about the government’s national security and Chinese-Australian trade-dispute record.

Minister Tehan has significant runs on the board with voters in Wannon and is unlikely to be concerned about a charismatic relatively young ‘voices for’ independent.

But his polish and considerable policy experience, and in addressing a mainly ‘older’ and ideologically diverse Ararat audience, far from overshadowed Mr Dyson’s impact on the evening.

Mr Dyson argued without hesitation that heightened national-security rhetoric had become a government election tool. 

Mr Tehan’s initial typically measured response drew from his international trade and parliamentary experience and fastidiously filed economic figures. 

In truth, it is unlikely he would have generated new detractors last week, even if his opponents believed they cornered him.

But how many subtle admirers did Mr Dyson court in that small sub-section of an Ararat community in north-east Wannon?

Probably not enough to prevent Mr Tehan from winning a fifth term in government this month.

There are no doubt positives and negatives to a populist-style personality-
curated vote when it comes to winning elections and ultimately governing.

But this year it seems some established politicians and their parties have become increasingly worried, perhaps loaded with a sense of inevitability, that there could be election-winning personalities quietly, or perhaps not-so-quietly, gunning for their seats.

Mr Dyson’s national-security rhetoric remark generated the evening’s most notable moment. But it remains simply one moment. 

Independent candidates keen for political change might be asking themselves,  how many moments will it take?

The entire May 4, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!