WODONGA’s Steve Martin has won preselection for the Liberals in Indi.
Mr Martin, who moved to the Border with his family five years ago, and joined the Liberal Party three years ago, is still to be officially endorsed as the party’s candidate, but the endorsement is expected to be a formality.
After working as a project manager on the Mars Petcare Wodonga plant expansion, Mr Martin has since been performing a similar role for Seely International as it relocates from Albury to Wodonga.
The preselection, which was held in Wangaratta on Saturday, was also contested by Cobram-Barooga businessman Stephen Brooks and anaesthetist Andrew Walpole.
Mr Martin is the first male candidate to win preselection in Indi in 20 years.
He said his interest in joining the party had stemmed from his own personal values.
“I don’t come from a political background, it was more the fact that the Liberal Party’s values really aligned with my personal values,” he said.
“The things around freedom of enterprise and personal responsibility really resonated with what I think creates a really healthy, cohesive society.
“I’m really passionate about this area and thought this was a way I could contribute.”
Mr Martin said he believed Indo should have a voice in the government party room.
“One of the things that motivates me is that I want to see Indi have a voice in government, not just a voice in parliament,” he said.
“The party room is where issues are debated and government policy is formed, and I think it’s really important for Indi and regional Australia to have a strong voice at that table.
“That can’t happen with an independent – they have other means, but I think the Liberal Party has strong views about freedom and responsibility.”
Mr Martin was heavily involved in supporting Benambra MP Bill Tilley’s successful campaign in the recent Victorian state election.
He said Mr Tilley was one of a number of Liberal Party figures who encouraged him to throw his hat into the ring.
“There were a number of people that I spoke to when I was first contemplating running, as well as Bill, some of the other regional Liberals,” he said.
“Dan Tehan was one, and a good mate of mine is Andrew Hastie.”
Mr Martin said he would wait until he had been officially endorsed by the party before unveiling some of his policies, but indicated childcare would be an area of interest.
The soon-to-be candidate originally hails from central NSW, while his wife Annabelle is from the La Trobe Valley.
“We’ve always wanted to bring our kids up in regional Australia,” he said.
“My wife is a doctor, she did two stints of training in Albury-Wodonga and we just fell in love with the region.”
With the future of incumbent MP Cathy McGowan uncertain and the Nationals yet to announce whether they will be putting forward a candidate, Mr Martin said he was only going to concentrate on his campaign.
“Our focus is to run a really positive, local campaign; we’re the party that believes in communities over bureaucracy,” he said.