Cathy McGowan announces retirement from politics at next federal election

Updated January 14, 2019 13:12:41

Independent MP Cathy McGowan has announced she will retire as the member for Indi at the next federal election, declaring it is time to “pass on the baton” to a successor.

Key points:

  • Ms McGowan’s supporters have endorsed a candidate to succeed her in Indi
  • The outgoing MP said she has run the “first leg of an amazing relay” and wants to support a smooth succession
  • The Liberal and Nationals parties are likely to contest the seat in a three-way contest

Ms McGowan, 65, won the electorate in Victoria’s north-east in the 2013 election, when she defeated incumbent Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella.

In November last year the Voices 4 Indi community group, which campaigned for her in the 2013 and 2016 elections, posted advertisements calling for a successor to Ms McGowan.

On Saturday, a delegation of supporters voted to endorse nurse and public health researcher Helen Haines to succeed Ms McGowan should she decide to retire at the next election.

Speaking in her electorate this morning, Ms McGowan said she had decided that the “timing is right” for a fresh independent candidate in the seat.

“I’ve run the first leg of an amazing relay … now it’s time to pass on the baton,” she said.

“Yesterday I rang around my colleagues on the crossbench, I spoke to the Prime Minister, I spoke to the Leader of the Opposition, and had conversations with them.

“And they thanked me for the work I’ve done, they wished Helen well, and they said we’re going to have a very fierce competition in Indi.”

Three-candidate contest likely for Indi

When asked whether she thought Dr Haines would be able to win the seat in what is likely to be a three-candidate contest, Ms McGowan said she had “every belief” the electorate would embrace the values of her chosen successor.

“She’s an acknowledged leader in her community, there is huge respect for her integrity, ethics and values,” she said.

“She’s tough and she’s strong and I know she’ll take the battle to Canberra.

“We know the main political parties are going to throw everything at Indi, and I say bring it on. I’m really looking forward to having a battle around politics, about policy and representation.”

Dr Haines said she felt “enormous gratitude” for the support she had received to run as an independent.

She said she looked forward to having political discussions in a “really respectful way that gets beyond a headline, that actually engages in what is going on and helps us collectively to move forward into a better Australia”.

“At no other time in history do I think we need intelligent women, we need rural women, we need people from the communities to speak up and say ‘Canberra, we want better than what we’re seeing’,” she said.

The Liberal Party has preselected Wodonga engineer Steve Martin as its candidate for Indi in what is widely predicted to be a May federal election.

Mr Martin congratulated Ms McGowan on her passionate representation of the electorate over two terms.

He said he would be focused on taking a “robust plan” to the election focused on boosting local employment.

Ms McGowan said she hoped the Nationals would preselect a female candidate for the seat, which she holds with a margin of 4.1 per cent after the latest redistribution.

Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie recently confirmed she is moving her electorate office from Bendigo to Wodonga, fuelling speculation she may attempt to contest Indi.

When asked how she would feel about Senator McKenzie contesting the seat, Ms McGowan said she did not have a preference about any specific Nationals candidate.

Labor — which has not held Indi since 1931 — will also contest the seat with candidate Eric Kerr.

‘Australia is listening to Indi’

Ms McGowan urged her constituents to make sure that the parties vying for their vote in the upcoming election represented the issues that mattered to them.

“I say sign up to your party, I say turn up to your party, and I say speak up about the things that are important,” she said.

“For today, and the next five months, Australia is listening to Indi.”

During her two terms in parliament, Ms McGowan also campaigned for the establishment of a national anti-corruption commission.

She introduced a bill to Parliament which was rejected by the Federal Government last year, shortly before Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared the Government would support the creation of an anti-corruption commission.

Ms McGowan was strongly opposed to the removal of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister last year, and criticised the Liberal Party for being “totally irresponsible”.

Topics: government-and-politics, federal-parliament, parliament, federal-elections, wodonga-3690, albury-2640, bright-3741, vic, canberra-2600

First posted January 14, 2019 10:05:04

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