Local, Independant and Effective

Campaign Launch Speech, June 5

Posted June 06, 2016



2.30pm Sunday 5 June 2016

CATHY MCGOWAN AO MP Campaign Launch speech 

What a fantastic gathering

Thanks for turning up and to those online, welcome!

On Sunday the 4th of August 2013, I stood here and asked for your support to bring change to Indi.

You heeded the call and together we mounted an extraordinary grassroots campaign that turned Indi independent.

We are here today to do it again. A campaign that is even more inclusive and as a result stronger, bigger and better. A campaign that will see me re- elected by an increased majority and a campaign that will energise our whole community to take their rightful place in our democracy.


As a community Independent I say with confidence that I STAND FOR Indi - a prosperous and caring community alive with opportunities for everyone. Where we are inclusive and value diversity and the richness that brings to all of us.

I stand for a commitment to listen, engage with and represent our communities. I am transparent, I’m open and I turn up.

I made a promise to work with the Government of the day to deliver the best for Indi.

Three years on I can proudly say this approach is effective – it works! And I know it will continue to work in the future.

Today I will cover some of the major achievements of my first three years representing you. And outline my key work areas for the second term.

There is a Work Plan, titled ‘Putting Indi First’ included in the documentation given to you today which has greater detail and I encourage you to read it. For those online it will be on the web page tomorrow.

Some statistics to start with: The 44 th Parliament commenced on the 12 th of November 2013 and ended on the 5th of May 2016. The Government presented 547 bills to the House of Representatives of which 475 passed – I voted with the Government on 443 occasions with the Opposition 32 occasions, and on 9 occasions I voted against both Government and Opposition.

Indi really matters now and is getting more attention than ever. Making the seat marginal and competitive has delivered for Indi. Fears of the electorate being starved of funding with an Independent at the helm proved false. In excess of $800m of taxpayers’ money has been committed to Indi and it continues.

I have taken Indi to Canberra, making 226 speeches highlighting the excellent work done in our thriving communities and more than 85 volunteers have come to Canberra to work in the Parliamentary office. Indi has a real ’presence’ now in the nation’s Parliament.

Canberra has taken notice of Indi and the people of Indi are taking notice of Canberra. Being Independent Matters. One of the keys to the effectiveness, in being an Independent and getting thing done, and not Cabinet, has been being in Government or in through working in partnership and in setting up networks. I have been able to work across all spheres of politics and work with all members of Parliament, across parties, factions and interest groups. I build networks. I create trusting relationships. Ministers listen. Doors are open.

The stand out success story is how we addressed the mobile phone blackspots.

I have fought for better mobile phone coverage from my first day in office. This effort has paid off with 30 new mobile phone towers to be built, eliminating 199 community identified blackspots. In total, more than $6.6million in Commonwealth funding, combined with significant Victorian and Local government funding – will deliver the third highest number of towers in Australia.

Forming the Indi Telecommunication Action Group, agreeing to an electorate-wide plan and working collaboratively with community, the Victorian and local governments all combined to deliver this excellent outcome. It was a far more effective approach than each local government area competing for towers against each other. And our communities are the winners.

This result was outstanding. But the way we did it - the Indi Way – was even more impressive and showed how the collective momentum of working together is greater than the sum of the parts. This is the Indi Way.

We have learnt so much from this experience of working together - lessons I am keen to apply to other significant problem areas. I will return to this topic when I discuss future actions.

Another area of successful collaboration to achieve results – is the working with cross benches in the Senate to stop legislation that would have been harmful to Indi and regional Australia.

The stand out example is the deregulation of Higher Education legislation – I believe that opening up of our higher education system to ‘an unregulated market’ – would have had serious consequences on both La Trobe and Charles Sturt universities.

Not only did we work with the Senate to stop this legislation, but by working in partnership with La Trobe University and hosting a forum in Wodonga in Feb 2015, a new architecture for funding regional Higher Education is being developed. I am proud of my part in this achievement.

I have taken the voices of our farmers and agri business to Canberra. I accepted the Government’s invitation to join the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry, and what a pleasure it was to showcase Wodonga and the Kiewa Valley during the public hearing into the Agriculture Innovation Inquiry. Local farmers and stakeholders made 15% of the submissions to the inquiry, and had a significant impact on the final report released just before Parliament ended. This report will now form the foundations for policy development in the future.

Regional development underpins the majority of my work in Parliament – there’s such a gap – with no major party having a strong coherent plan for regional Australia.

We need a national approach to building our regions - including regional higher education, regional health, regional manufacturing, regional transport –indeed we need a vision for regional Australia.

To address this gap, I introduced a Private Members Bill the Charter of Budget Honesty Amendment (regional Australia statements) Bill 2015. This Bill calls on the government, when formulating policy, to ensure that regional impact statements are prepared and accompany every budget, every year. While the government has partly acted on this Bill,  I will continue pressuring the Government to consider the impact of policy decisions on regional Australians, across all portfolios.

Another achievement was the making of the formal apology, on behalf of the people of Indi to the stolen generations. Our aboriginal communities make a significant contribution to the culture of the North East, and I will continue to build a strong relationship with Indi’s aboriginal people.

When I lie in bed at night and think about the job – I think of the work done in Indi as well as in Canberra.

  • Making more than 1000 representations directly to Ministers on issues of concern to constituents.
  • Solving problems -sorting out issues with Centrelink, immigration, the taxation office and Telstra and NBN
  • Having many of our young people come to Canberra, providing opportunities for them to speak, as well as speaking about them in Parliament.
  • Someone’s Daughter Theatre company came to Parliament house and Wodonga’s young people communicated with great success with the Minister for Education Christopher Pyne about rural issues
  • Minister for aged care, Ken Wyatt came to Benalla and meet with aged care workers and gave his support for our aboriginal people
  • The Governor General and Lady Cosgrave visited Indi – and meet many of our communities and volunteers
  • In an unprecedented community consultation, well over 2000 people were involved in Budget Impact Tours, Kitchen Table Conversations and the inaugural
  • And I am particularly pleased to have given direct access to the people of Wodonga to their MP by opening an office
  • It’s all about building partnerships to deliver results.


Let me pause for a few moments to reflect on these many partnerships. How extensive they are – how many of us have worked together – many are here today. You are here.

Those who have volunteered in Canberra- can you put your hands up?

Volunteers in the Wangaratta and Wodonga Offices – can you put your hands up?

Volunteers who have helped with the Cathyvan and valley visits right across the electorate – can you put your hands up?

Those who hosted Kitchen table conversations and attended the Summit – can you put your hands up?

Those who have volunteered on The Orange Campaign Team, in the Campaign Hubs – Door knockers and corflute putter-upers  - can you put your hands up?

And those from Chiltern – what a fantastic job you have done – prize for most posters and best decorated town

My wonderful staff – can you put your hands up?

Thank you!

Look around and what do we see – I see a grass roots movement – that’s what we have created – we have created change, and now we have the opportunity through this campaign, and I hope afterwards to grow this movement for change.

In the first 3 years we laid the foundations. We set the agenda. We worked out how to work together successfully– the process of the mobile phone demonstrates this.

Your presence here today says that you – we - us are committed to this work. We will continue to engage in our democracy, we will take action. And through this local action we will make an impact on Australia.

My role –as I see it, is to be the elected representative in Canberra. To facilitate the partnerships but I am not the movement. The movement is Orange – it is all of us.


First and foremost, when I am re-elected, I will make no deals that compromise my independence or ability to put the interest of the people of Indi first. I will represent. I will lobby and advocate so that our taxes return to us to build the infrastructure and support services we need.

In Canberra I will continue to focus on key issues that impact particularly heavily on Indi: Higher education, health, infrastructure, asylum seekers, marriage equality, renewable energy, young people and work and the future employment opportunities

Higher Education Matters

I believe that education underpins our whole future. Access to higher education remains a challenge in rural and regional areas. I will continue to work with La Trobe University and other regional universities to support a national Strategy for Regional Higher Education, which builds pathways from school, to TAFE and University.

Health Matters

Funding for our health system is a complex mix of local, state and national funding. I will fight for support for capital works for our regional hospitals, especially Wangaratta, and small rural health services. Over the past three years I have advocated strongly for a review and updated funding for our multi-purpose services in Corryong, Bright, Mt Beauty and Myrtleford and I will continue to push for this. Regional and rural age care is another area where significant government support is needed. Of particular urgent need, is more targeted funding, and education, around rural mental health services. This will be another key focus for me in the next term.

Infrastructure Matters

Infrastructure – especially access to mobile phone coverage and broadband, will continue to be a high priority. In the transport area – the train service has improved marginally and we have made some progress, in particular the Australian Rail Track Corporation commitment to fix the mud holes. The Victorian Government has acknowledged the need to replace old trains and is preparing the necessary long term plan, however there is a long way to go before we have a satisfactory level of public transport.

Agriculture Matters

Agriculture and food production are major industries in Indi. I will continue my advocacy work for our agricultural industries, especially for the dairy industry and lobby for the research and development needed to ensure that our farmers and agribusinesses can meet the demands of modern Agriculture. 

Defence Matters

Defence has strong Government support and I look forward to being closely involved in the rollout of the Defence Industry White Paper in Bandiana and Thales in Benalla.

Asylum Seekers Matter

In regional Australia we seek to be good neighbours to others in time of need. The same should apply to those seeking asylum to our country. I believe the Australian Government has a duty of care to protect the safety and health of the people who come here seeking our protection. I call on both parties to commit to protect people from harm and honour our commitments to the United Nations; to stop detaining children, and to legislate time limits for detention.

Marriage Equality Matters

I support equal rights for same-sex couples to marry. Discrimination has no place in Australian law or society. I will be voting in support of marriage equality, whether it comes directly to the House or by way of a plebiscite.

I will support four-year terms, the recognition of local government and of our indigenous people in our Constitution.

While most of my work takes place in Canberra, there are also actions that we can take in Indi that can have impact on some of the serious issues facing our nation.

There are 3 topics raised during the Indi Summit, where I believe that by taking strong concerted local and regional action, we will have a significant impact at the national level.

This is where our “Indi” movement can play a major role.

There was a clear message from The Summit that our planet matters: There is a unique opportunity for Indi to work together to increase our use of renewable energy and thus lessen our carbon foot print.

Renewable Energy Matters

Building on the work modelled by Totally Renewable Yackandandah which has set a target of net renewables by 2022, I will invite local governments and key stakeholder groups to form the Indi Renewable Energy Action Group. We will work together to do what is need to increase the percentage of renewable energy used in our communities. We will take responsibility for our energy use across the North East.

People Matter

There was a clear message from The Summit that our people matter, particularly our young people and their access to work Indi is leading the way in teaching entrepreneurship. The Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship based in Beechworth is working with local schools to enable our young people, when they leave school to have the skills and resources to be ‘job creators’.

Building on the knowledge and skill of the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship I will sponsor the establishment of an Indi Youth Entrepreneurial Action Group to build a culture across the electorate of employment that is innovation, creative and inclusive.

Arts Matter

There was a clear message from The Summit that our arts play a central role in our economy – they combine, jobs, with tourism, education, personal development, entertainment and give life and energy and to our communities. The development and support of our cultural economy is a priority. IndiArts will be my third area for concerted regional action. The arts are strong in Indi and music, theatre, sculpture, painting/drawing are thriving. I am committed to working with this community to advance the arts, to grow jobs, increase tourism, sponsorship and patronage and build the recognition of the importance of arts to our culture and economy.

It is my hope that by working together on these three focus areas, with the local knowledge and skill already demonstrated - we will model action what is effective and delivers results – action that is based on strong community partnerships and stakeholder participation, action that can be replicated in other communities.


Today I have outlined some of the achievements of being the local, independent and effective MP for Indi. In bringing my speech to a close I want to talk about the way ahead.

Over the next 4 weeks we have a unique opportunity. There are over 500 of us here today who care about the future. We are committed to keeping the seat orange. To keeping this electorate independent and seeing me re-elected so we can continue the work.

The grassroots campaign that has brought us here today has been a success. Now it needs to grow and spread.

And the most effective way for this movement to grow is by having conversations.

At school pick up, at the half time at the footy, after work drinks at the pub, Monday’s yoga class, and your next dinner party and BBQ’s -  I invite you to talk about politics. Take the risk, open the conversation- and explain why voting for me as the Independent representative for Indi matters. If each one of us talks about politics with our workmates, friends, family and neigbours, imagine how powerful that will be. 

Don’t underestimate the power of conversations, conversations that build partnerships, conversations that create a sense of excitement, conversations that create change!

Trust the power of your own courage. When we literally wear ‘orange’ on our sleeves, others who may be undecided will find their voice and join with us in keeping Indi independent.

Don’t underestimate the power of a bumper sticker on your car, a poster on your fence, an orange flag at the mail box, an orange seat on the verandah, groups of orange t shirts having coffee in our towns.

Thank you for your support.  Now- lets go out there are keep the seat orange!

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