November 27, 2020, 18:40:02 CET | Wikinews
Groom, highlighted in green, within the state of Queensland.Image: User:Canley.
Portrait of Craig Farquharson.Image: Liberal Democrats - Queensland.
Tomorrow, voters in the Australian electoral district of Groom are scheduled to go to the polls in a by-election following the resignation of Liberal National MP John McVeigh for family reasons. Groom is located in the state of Queensland, and is centred around the city of Toowoomba. At the last federal election, the Liberal National Party, Queensland's dominant conservative party, won this seat by over 70% of the two-party-preferred vote, and since the seat's creation in 1984, it has been held by conservative political parties.
Some political analysts considered this a foregone conclusion, with analyst Kevin Bonham having declared it on his blog as "Australia's most boring by-election", however Bonham noted the size of the swing may have been indicative of the dominant centre left Labor Party's general performance in Queensland. There was a 4.2% swing against the Labor Party in the state of Queensland at the previous federal election.
Wikinews spoke to one of the four candidates running in the by-election, Craig Farquharson, who is running for the Liberal Democrats. Liberal Democrats describes itself as standing for "individual liberty, free markets and small government". The party has two elected officials, who sit in the Victorian Legislative Council. Farquharson is a former military contractor and owns the King Vapealot vape store in Toowoomba.
: Why are you running to be Groom's local MP?
John McVeigh, previous elected MP for Groom.Image: Government of Australia.
Craig Farquharson: What prompted me to run as a candidate in Groom is, because as a small business owner, I could not get my elected MP to talk to me or even to call me back.
I became "cheesed off" with elected representatives who are inaccessible to their electorate, and resolved to do something about it. I have pledged that if elected I will be as accessible as possible to voters in my electorate.
After 36 years of being a safe Coalition seat, the electorate is ready for change, and wants the additional attention that a more marginal electorate gets, or alternately another party to represent them.
As a Liberal Democrat, I guarantee I can get more attention for the voters of the Groom electorate, and a better deal from government.
Being accessible and listening to voters would be step 1 in promoting a better deal for Groom.
((WN)) : The Liberal Democrats are a party of small government and cutting "red tape" – what's one particular law you think needs revising?
Craig Farquharson: Liberal Democrats would like to see subsidies dropped and for all technologies to compete on an equal basis to keep electricity prices and the costs of living as low as competition between companies and technologies can get them.
But one of the big issues for Groom is actually "green tape" rather than "red tape". It is essential for jobs in the region for Acland Mine to receive environmental approvals to extend the mine. This is both a Federal and a State issue.
While Australia can switch to alternative technologies to generate power and for energy, many undeveloped nations depend on cheap electricity to lift their billions out of poverty. And responding to this demand, providing a better quality of coal would not only be an environmental improvement, for humanity and for alleviation of global poverty, it is the right thing to do. And jobs would be created in the Groom electorate. I see this as a triple bottom line win for all stakeholders, enabled by a cutting "green tape" decision.
Craig Farquharson outside his vape shop.Image: Liberal Democrats - Queensland.
((WN)) : You own a vape store in Toowoomba. Do you think that there's reforms that need to be made in regards to e-cigarette laws and drug laws as a whole?
Craig Farquharson: We in Liberal Democrats would like to see some of the restrictions relaxed to enable people to take personal responsibility for their own health. We do not believe recreational drug use should be criminalised — this is harmful to society and funnels money to dangerous gangs via the black market. We believe that drug abuse is a separate matter to use, and should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal matter. We would like to see relaxation of the rules according to the evidence and a scientific/medical approach, rather than using heavy handed legislation and rules enforced by unfeeling bureaucrats. These are personal health problems to be addressed by individuals and their health advisers; not by the justice system or the bureaucrats.
((WN)) : Why did you decide to join the Liberal Democrats?
Craig Farquharson: Liberal Democrats have principles similar to my own values, and similar to the values of most small business owners and with many in the electorate, who see themselves as responsible adults able to run their own lives and make most of their own decisions.
((WN)) : The Liberal Democrats have not ever been successful in winning a seat in the House of Representatives and have never run in the seat of Groom. What is your goal as a candidate this election?
Craig Farquharson: We shall be delighted if we make some impact on the arrogance of the major parties with our campaign. We shall be even more delighted if we are able to deliver a better deal from the Federal Government for the voters of Groom.
Our aim is to restrict the two major parties to no more than the proportion of votes they each received last general election. We are happy to receive the remaining votes.
Social distancing signs outside lift during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brisbane.Image: User:Kgbo.
((WN)) : How have COVID-19 restrictions impacted your ability to campaign?
Craig Farquharson: There are very few COVID[-19] restrictions in Queensland which have had any impact on campaigning. Every business premises has a COVID plan — but that generally has not restricted either voters to participate, nor Liberal Democrats to get our message across. The border closures which are keeping family members apart, and preventing people from accssing health care, hospitals and services closest to their homes is a far greater impact on them than on us with our campaign. We empathise with those who are still impacted or restricted or who have suffered with this disease.
((WN)) : What's one key issue in Groom that you think needs acting on?
Craig Farquharson: Groom has not previously been a marginal electorate, so has not attracted its share of funding for infrastructure over the past 36 years with an LNP [Liberal National Party] representative. Nor have voters of Groom received the amount of attention from government they deserve. Consequently there are water, road and infrastructure problems to resolve. We aim to make Groom a marginal electorate, if we cannot win the seat outright ourselves to hold the government accountable personally. My approach is to listen to the community and to those enterprises in the electorate which employ the people of Groom; and to represent them. The principles of Liberal Democrats are the prism through which my perceptions and solutions will be based. Most of all, and the key issue in Groom, is to listen to the electorate and to represent voters to get for this community, what this community needs.
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"Wikinews interviews Sandra Jephcott, Sustainable Australia candidate for 2020 Groom by-election" — Wikinews, November 27, 2020
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
"Our Principles" — Liberal Democratic Party (Australia), November 27, 2020 (date of access)
Lucy Robinson, Peter Gunders and Nathan Morris. "The view from Groom, one of Queensland's 'ultra conservative' seats, as by-election looms" — ABC News (Australia), November 27, 2020
William Bowe. "Groom by-election minus two days" — The Poll Bludger, November 26, 2020
Kevin Bonham. "Groom: Australia's Most Boring By-Election?" —  November 11, 2020
Melody Labinsky. "Garth Hamilton, Chris Meibusch, Craig Farquharson and Sandra Jephcote contesting Groom" — Queensland Country Life, November 8, 2020
David Chen and Lucy Robinson. "Federal LNP MP John McVeigh resigns from Groom electorate in Toowoomba" — ABC News (Australia), September 18, 2020
Tally Room. "First preferences by party - QLD" — Australian Electoral Commission, July 11, 2019
Tally Room. "Groom, QLD" — Australian Electoral Commission, June 7, 2019
Liberal Democrats - Queensland. "Craig Farquharson - Liberal Democrats Candidate for the Groom By-Election" — YouTube, November 4, 2020
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