Australians want and need to be represented in Canberra by someone who understands their values and concerns, and will fight for these. It’s all too often that Australians are denied any choice because of the dominant two-party system. In the two-party system the voice of their elected representative is that of their party and often poorly reflects the electorate’s views. However, in some areas often known for their conservatism they come to elect progressive candidates. Such a person is Dr Helen Haines; as was her predecessor Ms Kathy McGowan.
Dr Haines did not come from the usual political background but grew up on a dairy farm near Colac, Victoria, trained as a nurse and midwife later moving to NE Victoria. Dr Haines subsequently completed a Bachelor’s Degree at Deakin University and holds a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of NSW. She also has a PhD in Medical Science.
In 2019, Dr Haines decided to stand for election
“… because I believe our communities need real representation on what matters to us: education, healthcare, getting rid of corruption in politics, harnessing clean energy for Australia’s future, and building jobs and prosperity.”
As an independent member of Parliament representing a rural and regional electorate such as Indi, Dr Haines has embraced what people are telling her and has encouraged this communication. As she expresses it, her experiences are those of the people of her electorate. On being asked which issues she believes are the most important, Dr Haines stated:
One of the most common enquiries I get in this office are mobile phone and internet issues – the NBN.
… having reliable connectivity to the internet is more than a fundamental need, it is absolutely crucial. We know that in order to undertake business, education and health care you need connection to the internet, and by not having a connection to the internet you are disadvantaged.”
Dr Haines explained that a key job of a representative of an electorate is to make sure that the people represented are not disadvantaged and they have all the needs that are fundamental to living a high quality, safe and enjoyable healthy life. Dr Haines believes that the Covid Crisis has made it even clearer that unless you have full connectivity you can’t access all those things in a way you should be able to.
EFTPOS machines go down. People can’t make business transactions, Business people get frustrated. As the member of Parliament my job is to make sure the people I look after have the access that they need, and right now many of them do not. I sit on the NBN Parliamentary Committee and I deliberately joined that committee as I knew that it’s a big challenge to us.
Dr Haines also stated that she believes that if as a representative and you are working closely with the people you serve, then your actions in Parliament will reflect more accurately the needs of your electorate.
One of the key things is to use all the parliamentary tools that are there. I can give speeches, I can pass motions in the House, I can introduce private member’s bills, I can ask questions in Question Time and I can use parliamentary committees … this is good democracy … to make sure that the people I represent – that those issues make it all the way through to the federal government. That’s what I do. Everyday that I’m in Parliament, and my job when not in parliament is to be out there talking to people and hearing directly what their issues are
On the issue of Climate Change and Climate Action Dr Haines pointed out that:
We are the in the middle of a renewal energy boom so why the heck aren’t we benefitting from it. All big renewal energy projects are in regional Australia but where’s the money going? The money’s going offshore. I want to see the money going into the pockets of regional communities. I want to see them having lower power prices and having the capacity to make money from this.
Dr Haines is of the opinion that Australia has “… the greatest capacity in the world to generate renewable energy.”
I look at this from the perspective of young Australians probably more than anyone. The opportunities for them to truly benefit from a renewal energy boom through skills and opportunity. They’re missing out.
I hear this loud and clear from my electorate. People are sick of the politics, they’re sick of so-called leaders just sticking in their corners. We need to come together on this issue.
Irrespective of how you see the world we are led by business people [who are essentially] putting aside their moral obligations to do something that is compelling science, and from an economic perspective we are getting so left behind on this and the opportunities that are missing now I think is negligent of the government.
Dr Haines believes that regional communities have the ability to harness the potential for renewable energy and in May this year launched a renewable energy plan for regional Australia, inviting public consultation about how the Federal Government can support “community energy” in regional Australia. “From Wodonga and Wangaratta to Euroa and Alexandra, these groups are working on building rooftop solar, wind turbines, batteries and pumped hydro to generate their own cheap, clean and local electricity,” Dr Haines said.
Australians have the smarts and the grit to tackle climate change – we just need the politics to catch up. (helenhaines.org).
The 8th of September 2021 will mark 1,000 days since he (PM Morrison) first made that promise. But we are still waiting on him to act.
My Australian Federal Integrity Conmission includes a sister bill- The Commonwealth Parliamentary Standards Bill with an independent commissioner & code of conduct. What is the government waiting for? 1000 days, 1000 delays https://t.co/bbNA1As63M
— Helen Haines MP (@helenhainesindi) July 12, 2021
We need to restore integrity and honesty to our democracy.
Open, honest, transparent government is not an optional extra – it is what people demand and deserve (helenhaines.org).
In concluding our interview with Dr Haines she was asked her opinion of the Federal government’s vaccine rollout.
Dr Haines’ opinion is:
The vaccine has been nowhere near the success it was claimed it was going to be.
Our capacity to open our international borders, and our capacity to reduce the number of lockdowns and internal border closures is absolutely contingent upon getting our population vaccinated.
We are being held back by not having choices in the vaccines we need.
We’re eighteen months into the pandemic now and it appears that there are many lessons that have not been learnt in a way that would change policy. We’re waiting on Pfizer and Moderna which we won’t see until the last three months of the year.
Dr Haines’ vision for Indi is a thriving, prosperous regional community with access to good education, good health services, good jobs and good income. She sees Indi as:
A lighthouse beacon to the nation which shows when communities work together, work positively, come with a good set of ethics and values, don’t get into that negative, destructive talk that happens with politics … You can do good things and you can give people hope.
Could progressive Independents be the way of the future? The opportunity to reduce the influence of party politics and all the politicking that this entails, and return Australia to the people? If more of the calibre of Dr Helen Haines can be encouraged to enter Australian politics, then we can look forward to an Australia of Dr Haines’ goal of “high quality, safe and (an) enjoyable healthy life.”
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