Being brave enough to put your hand up for pre-selection is the first step to becoming a Senate candidate. If you can do this, you put yourself up against other candidates who are outstanding, in my case, this was Jocellin Jansson. Secondly, if you have the honour of being voted in as a candidate, you start asking countless questions and begin searching for advice.
The time was ticking with five weeks left until the double dissolution election, so my very zealous husband became my campaign manager, who I turned to as my rock for advice. He said to me, ‘Fiona, think of this as a crash course for a Masters degree in Politics.’ So that’s exactly what I did.
During the election, you have many tutors and lecturers, with lots of advice and demands on your time. Every day you are learning more, and every day you are faced with a new test. For such a degree, your standard “School Supplies” list won’t do. You need to keep in mind the essential tools:
- A robust vehicle that can fit many corflutes,
- Tubs full of handouts,
- Nats t-shirts,
- Business cards, pens, and a hole-punch,
- As well as hay baling twine to attach the corflutes.
Then, you need a good set of clothes as there’s little spare time for washing on the campaign trail. Nationals’ shirts and many pairs of jeans were perfect. Don’t forget phone chargers and a good iPad or laptop too. Another important thing to pack is good food to keep up your energy, but you’ve got to be aware of the supermarket if you live in a small town. A quick dash for groceries can easily transform into an afternoon catch up, when everyone wants to stop and congratulate you, discuss or heckle about politics.
Having set yourself up with these tools, you need to have superior time management skills so that you can be at the right place at the right time. Requests to travel were warmly received and although I felt honoured and humbled, I was unfortunately unable to take up all the offers. Time was a key constraining reason for this, the other reason being my unwavering commitment to the North Coast and maintaining Page as a safe Nationals seat. Additional to this was the desire to try and win back Richmond. I so dearly would have liked to spread my support across a broader platform. Apologies to those I didn't get to.
Day after day of standing on concrete pavements, rangers checking your parking and tyres, moving all your signage off your car and finding another prominent location, dodging hecklers, meeting lovely elderly people needing assistance outside the polling booth to vote - these were all part of the experience and degree. Travelling to locations in Richmond and Page for pre-poll added to the diversity of the experience. There were many volunteers, both young and old. One volunteer, in particular, was ninety years old and had a brilliant spring in her step that was envied by a lot of us, quite amazing!
Then finally, you make it to Election Day. It seems like every day has been an Election Day over the last three weeks. Those great Young Nats, on little or no sleep, had decorated all the booths in the middle of the night to ensure National Party prominence. As the last voter departed after the long day, before the counting and scrutineering started, it occurred to me how civil all the volunteers had been. We used the final moments to recognise them and say thank you for their respectful and democratic approach.
Congratulations to Wacka, Fiona and Wes for your strong results. Thank you to my cohort of Central Councillors for entrusting this privilege to me. The degree completed, perhaps not, but policy and people change, and one must keep abreast, keep listening and communicating for The Nationals.
Fourth Senate Candidate for the NSW Nationals 2016
Read Wes Fang's experience on the campaign trail: An honour to serve our Party.