KEN Jasper believes Indi will “no longer be taken for granted” after next week’s election.
The National Party stalwart, and self-confessed “strongest conservative out” publicly threw his support behind independent candidate Cathy McGowan — effectively rejecting the sitting Coalition MP Sophie Mirabella.
Mr Jasper’s name is synonymous with the Nationals, having held Murray Valley for 34 years until retiring as state MP in 2010.
His name was among 44 prominent Indi personalities who pledged support to Ms McGowan in advertisements in The Border Mail and Wangaratta Chronicle.
It brings the tension between the Coalition parties in Victoria to a head, after claims the Nationals were angered by the Liberals’ move to run a candidate in Mallee where a three-cornered contest is under way.
It suggests several high-profile National Party identities were backing the independent out of dissatisfaction with Mrs Mirabella.
Mr Jasper, who has close ties to the McGowan family, said his only concern was to get “proper representation out of Indi”.
“If Cathy can come forward and win the election, well then, we hope then we’ll have someone really stand up for the people of Indi,” he said.
“I think she’s working very well and working very hard to make sure people understand what the issues are here in Indi, and to get the best representation going forward to the next Parliament.”
He would not be drawn on discussing why he had chosen not to support Mrs Mirabella, but confirmed he had never endorsed her in 12 years in office.
“I’d be the strongest conservative out and I support the National Party and Liberal Party in the Coalition arrangement,” Mr Jasper said.
“But I have not supported the federal member (of Indi).”
Mr Jasper, still a member of the Nationals, saw nothing unusual in his position.
“In the National Party, we have members with individual views and they can put those views forward,” he said.
“When in Parliament, I was often in conflict with things we in the National Party and Coalition did, but I was entitled to those views.
“People who know me, I think they’ll say, ‘Ken’s standing up for what he thinks is the right way to go’, so my view is that it won’t be an issue (with the party).”
He said it wasn’t true the Nationals had encouraged Ms McGowan to run opposite Mrs Mirabella as an independent.
“The issue many of us are concerned with is getting appropriate support for us here within the electorate of Indi,” he said.
“This area’s been taken for granted for too long... no longer can it be taken for granted,” he said.
Ms McGowan was “delighted” with Mr Jasper’s support, but said there were many others from all sides of politics coming out to support her.
Mrs Mirabella brushed aside any suggestion of a rift in the Coalition.