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Below the Line: Former independent Cathy McGowan hits back at John Howard’s ‘anti-Liberal groupies’ jibe – podcast

Below the Line Episode 6 The Conversation75.3 MB (download)

Former independent federal MP Cathy McGowan has hit back at John Howard’s description of independent candidates as “anti-Liberal groupies”.

In this Below the Line exclusive, McGowan says the former Prime Minister’s use of the term was clearly meant to be derogatory. “I suspect someone has given it to him,” she said. “It doesn’t bring to mind the calibre of the people who are standing. If he is trying to talk to people in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney, and calling those candidates groupies, then he has missed the mark totally.”

McGowan argues that independents cannot be put into just one category. While some are high-profile, have branded themselves with the colour teal and receive funding from the Climate200 group to promote action on climate change, “there are orange and pink and yellow and other colours as well… There are at least 25 community independents running and you could not group them together.”

McGowan, who defied the odds and won the traditional Liberal seat of Indi (previously held by Liberal Sophie Mirabella), predicted as many as ten independents could get over the line on polling day. “There is an incredible sense across the country of disillusionment with the government, and people are desperate to send a message to both parties that they are not doing well enough, and the independents are putting their hand up as a very viable alternative,” she said.

If McGowan’s prediction came true, independents would likely hold the balance of power in the lower house, forcing a minority government. Below the Line’s Anika Gauja says working with such a large crossbench would be “unprecedented in Australian federal politics”. And if the independents do poll well, Simon Jackman explains it may make counting the vote complicated on election night, possibly slowing down the final result.

Our expert panel also discuss Defence Minister Peter Dutton’s recent comment that “the only way you can preserve peace is to prepare for war”, the record number of female candidates this election (39%, up from 32% last time around), and large numbers of young people enrolling to vote at the last minute.

Below the Line is a twice-weekly election podcast hosted by award-winning broadcaster Jon Faine and brought to you by The Conversation and La Trobe University.

Image credit: Diego Fedele/AAP

Disclosure: Simon Jackman is an unpaid consultant on polling data for the Climate 200 network of independent candidates.

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