ALBURY mayor Kevin Mack’s higher political aspirations have made a sudden switch from Sydney to Canberra with the formation of a Voices for Indi-style movement in Farrer and a challenge to Liberal incumbent Sussan Ley.
A co-founder of Voices for Farrer, Chris Brooks, confirmed Cr Mack’s name had come up as a candidate, but a final decision won’t be made until late January at the earliest with the next federal election due in May.
Mr Brooks said Voices for Farrer had no official ties to the group which was instrumental in getting Indi independent MP Cathy McGowan elected at the last two elections, but believed they had a template which could be replicated in Farrer.
Cr Mack has previously been touted as an independent candidate in the state seat of Albury where Liberal Greg Aplin has announced his retirement and veterinarian Justin Clancy has been entrusted with the job of retaining the seat for the Coalition.
“Kevin Mack has definitely been on the radar,” Mr Brooks said.
“He is an Albury-based guy, he understands water, whether he has an appetite will be for Kevin to determine.
“Whether it is a rural-based person or an Albury-based person will depend on what the issues are.
“We still need someone who can represent us and somebody who we can get elected.”
Cr Mack said: “It is a flattering opportunity. I look forward to a further conversation. End of story”.
He confirmed he met with Mr Brooks and co again in Albury on Thursday.
In addition to his mayoral duties, Cr Mack is chairman of the Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation which covers much of the Farrer electorate.
Mr Brooks said fundraising for a candidate won’t be a problem given the depth of concerns about the major issues in Farrer of water, health and mobile phone coverage.
“I’ve had funds pledged to me from people who are desperate and crying out for better representation,” he said.
Also involved in Voices for Farrer to date are Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Graeme Pyle, Mark van Beek and Geoff Moore with former Adelaide journalist Sally Harding assisting the group.
Mr Brooks said his family was instrumental in Ms Ley initially being elected to federal parliament in 2001.
“We’re not getting the message across at all and that doesn’t stop with water,” he said.
“It’s an issue with health and phone coverage and we want someone who is here more regularly, connected, listening and doing.”
He has ruled out running for Voices for Farrer.
Ms Ley welcomed the political competition in the Farrer electorate.
“I look forward to a variety of individuals and groups expressing their views, or putting their hands up as candidates before the next election,” she said.
“Positive and constructive debate about how we can make our communities even stronger is good for our region.”
A spokesman for Ms Ley confirmed since 2012-13 when the Coalition returned to office, federal hospital funding for Albury-Wodonga had increased from $26 million to more than $83.6 million and mobile phone towers at Savernake, Burrumbuttock and Lowesdale were among 14 built in the electorate.