Why I’m Independent

Meeting Don Dunstan and Molly Byrne at a very new Tea Tree Plaza many years ago had a profound effect on me but it was the dismissal of Gough Whitlam over 40 years ago that really got me into politics.

Two decades on, this activist ‘kindy mum’ has been lucky enough to be chosen by the people of Florey as their representative in parliament – and I have kept their trust for 5 elections in a row.

Now I am an independent. Not because I wanted to leave Labor, but because Labor chose to leave me – was age really a factor?

Truth is, even stalwarts like Molly and Don wouldn’t get a look in under Labor’s current factional system!

I’ve always worked hard for my community – even before I was elected – and I have never been a ‘yes person’. I’m not in a faction and in my view, factions and personal ambition should never come before good public policy and standing up for what is right.

Sadly, Labor’s factional system is leading it astray and needs some urgent attention to get it working again.

The moment the redistribution made Florey ‘safe’ enough to squeeze me out at last, powerbrokers were on their phones intent on making room for one of their men in the electorate next door.

These imaginary lines on a map were enough to eclipse hard work, loyalty, commitment and experience – the very qualities people say they want in their local MP. No wonder people are disillusioned with politics!

Across all parties, we have the seen the rise of the ‘small-target’ strategy. The result is the sidelining of good candidates, managed soundbites and the triumph of risk-free policies over debate and political courage.

Contesting the policy debate should be part of a healthy democracy. And it should happen every day, not once every 4 years.

The narrower the political gene pool gets, the less likely we will be represented by MPs who are unafraid to ask difficult questions, champion new ideas and take risks in fighting for what they believe.

That’s why, as an independent, I will be fighting to protect Modbury Hospital – our local hospital – from needless cost-cutting and for the introduction of universal ambulance cover for all South Australians. This is an idea that is overdue, easy to deliver and will make health reform actually work for patients.

It’s why I will fight to make sure local small businesses and locally made products get a fair go. We don’t need much-loved family-run supermarkets, newsagents and hotels being crowded out – or local growers being exploited by the big chains.

Raising my children as a single parent, and today as a ‘Fran-ma’ helping to support a frail parent, I’ve lived the same sort of life as almost every family I’m privileged to represent. And when I’m out and about visiting community groups, churches and sporting clubs across the north-east, what I hear is every-day common sense as families go about tackling the issues in their daily lives.

It may not match the robo-call campaigns and poll-driven demographic profile databases self-declared experts come up with from their back-offices but it’s the kind of common sense we need. Not the political musical chairs we have seen of late.

I would be ashamed of myself if I lacked the gumption to stand my ground and stand up to such graceless self-serving behaviour. Because every South Australian can make a difference to our state’s future. And it is the people of Florey who will choose their MP – not faceless numbers-men.

Cut from the team, not for poor form but for free thinking, I’ll keep standing up for the good old fashioned progressive values I’ve always supported. And I will always put people first.

Official Hansard of Frances Bedford’s resignation from the ALP can be viewed here.