OPINION – Results count despite the uniform

8 Jul 2016

Ross EastgateAs prophesied last week defence and veterans matters as discrete political issues have failed to inspire the Australian electorate. While the final election tally is still far from clear, veteran-based special interest group candidates have polled abysmally.

Perhaps the most dismal performance was by the Australian Liberty Alliance which strongly identified with the wider defence community.
Despite a slick social media presence and its self-promoting leader, former intelligence officer Bernard Gaynor, ALA attracted less than one per cent of the national senate vote, outpolled in some states by the Australian Sex Party.

Despite also making loud noises about defence and veterans’ issues the Jacqui Lambie Network senate candidates trailed even further behind, though comfortably ahead of the Palmer United Party. Except in Tasmania where JLN may yet secure one senator.

Former ADF personnel who ran as candidates for the major political parties fared much better despite some who declared their military links attracting the ire of the anonymous Canberra-based spokeswoman who apparently adjudicates such matters.

Colonel Dr The Honourable Mike Kelly regained the southern NSW Eden-Monaro electorate, considered since its inception as a “bell wether” seat for the incumbent government. The former ADF lawyer and Labor assistant defence minister felt compelled however to resign from the Army Reserve during the campaign lest ADF HQ be somehow offended by that link.

Former brigadier and infantryman Andrew Nickolic lost Bass for the LNP in Tasmania in an almost clean sweep for Labor, save Denison held by independent and former infantryman Andrew Wilkie, who has shown little interest pursuing veterans’ interests in his parliamentary career so far.

Former cavalryman, major and gay activist Pat O’Neill, the Labor candidate who so deeply offended the ADF spokeswoman by showing himself in uniform on his campaign posters was soundly defeated in Brisbane.

Sexuality was not an issue because the victorious LNP candidate also identified as gay, although the transgender Veteran’s Party candidate, a former captain and infanteer, ran a miserable last.

Former SAS officer Andrew Hastie who courageously defied Canberra’s anonymous ADF spokeswoman on uniform matters comfortably retained the West Australian seat of Canning.

Former intelligence officer Stuart Robert comfortably retained the Fadden electorate, though no one is holding their breath hoping the fallen ex-veterans’ affairs minister might actually interest himself in veterans’ issues.

There is some excitement not to mention expectation that second-time Labor candidate Luke Gosling who captured the previous CLP stronghold Solomon might become a strong veterans’ voice in parliament. Solomon has a significant defence presence including Darwin’s Larrakeyah Barracks and the Palmerston-based 1st Brigade. The former infantryman who was awarded an OAM in 2006 and who has been active assisting remote NT and Timor-L‘Este communities has retained close links with the extended defence community.

With Herbert still undecided, whoever wins the Townsville electorate will need to demonstrate a strong, active commitment to veterans’ issues even in the face of past indifference by either major party.

The only remaining issue is whether unsuccessful candidates might get their uniforms back should they so desire.