Independents matter

By Country News

Just weeks out from a federal election, independent MP Cathy McGowan has a message for major parties.

‘‘Independents do get things done and any time any one of you says the opposite, the people of rural and regional Australia will remember these words,’’ she told Federal Parliament in a valedictory speech on Thursday.

‘‘Independents deliver. Marginal seats matter.’’

Ms McGowan is retiring as Federal Member for Indi in Victoria’s north-east after six years, hoping to pass the baton on to another independent candidate, rural health researcher Helen Haines.

‘‘I have run one leg of this relay, and the independent banner carries a precious leg for our future.’’

She first won the seat in 2013, defeating long-serving Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella with a strong grassroots campaign.

Her margin increased at the 2016 election, handing Ms Mirabella another loss.

The outgoing MP said her community took a huge risk in voting for her on both occasions.

But she believed voting for an independent now seemed less like a risk and more like choosing a sane, sensible alternative.

She thanked those she had worked alongside on the crossbench such as the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie and Greens MP Adam Bandt, holding sway over contentious legislation.

‘‘May you grow and multiply.’’

Ms McGowan said in her years in office her community had its voice heard and the Liberal-National government was called to account.

But she stressed their work was far from done.

‘‘All of us need to hold the next government to account,’’ she said.

‘‘Don’t get mad, get elected.’’