Given Crikey’s political history, we have decided to give Warrenbayne farmer Bill Hill a helping hand in his campaign to become Victoria’s fourth independent MP when former deputy Premier Pat McNamara finally resigns and triggers the Benalla by-election.
Given Crikey’s political history, we have decided to give Warrenbayne farmer Bill Hill a helping hand in his campaign to become Victoria’s fourth independent MP when former deputy Premier Pat McNamara finally resigns and triggers the Benalla by-election.

We’ve had a number of discussions with Bill and believe him to be an upstanding citizen who would give Benalla a strong, independent voice. He was also one of the few dissenting conservative voices to stand against the government at the 1996 election when it was considered unVictorian to speak out against the coalition.

We are hosting Bill’s excellent website which, surprise surprise, is called billhill.com.au and is definitely worth a look.

Stay tuned for more developments on this as we believe Bill is an outside chance to win the seat. And don’t miss the Bill Hill wine tour of the Benalla electorate which is being planned for next month.

This is an example of an article Bill has written on his website.

Previous History: The 1996 Election

I stood as an independent in 1996 for the seat of Benalla out of pure frustration with the National Party’s apparent disregard for its traditional supporters. The Nationals’ stood meekly by, as Jeff Kennett – the most radical “Liberal” Premier in the history of Victoria – implemented city-centric reforms designed with scant regard for rural and regional Victorians.

Few would argue that change was desperately needed to restore the economic health of the state but it was the undemocratic and unyielding way that these reforms were implemented that upset many country people. I became disillusioned with the process after fighting the forced council amalgamations and to retain the local Warrenbayne School and Regional Veterinary Laboratory. My experience suggested that government was unresponsive to reasonable modifications in the implementation of these forced changes. It was then that I decided to stand as an Independent candidate with the intention of at least giving them reason to listen, while we still had something left to rebuild.

I gained close to 16 per cent of the vote in a three-week campaign in 1996, a highly satisfactory result for me given the overall inability of many candidates to make inroads into the Coalition majority at that election. In percentage terms, the voters who supported me in 1996 failed to return to the coalition in the two-horse race in September 1999..

!n 1996, after voting for the Coalition all my life, I was now faced with the dilemma of how to distribute my preferences. I wanted to give myself the best chance to win. I was so determined to maximize my chances that I preferenced away from my traditional allegiance. I only did this in the belief that Labor could never win the seat.

I now understand that this was misinterpreted as support for Labor. Many people told me that they could not vote for me because of that decision. As a result I will run a split ticket for the by – election, allowing voters to choose the flow of their preferences. If they vote for me and I don’t win then their preferences will return to the major party of their allegiance, it will have the same effect as if I had not stood at all.

In September 1999 Pat McNamara received 57.4% and Labor’s Denise Allen achieved 42.6% of the vote. With Mr McNamara’s 17,543 and Ms Allen polling 13,013 votes, it only needed 2,266 of those who cast a valid vote to change that vote to see the Nationals lose this seat. There were 1128 informal votes and 2,403 eligible voters who chose not to exercise their democratic right. They did not even cast a vote!

These figures aptly demonstrate the depth of disillusionment that voters in the Benalla electorate now feel in relation to the National Party, and that Pat has squandered the previously unassailable margin he inherited from his predecessor.

Many people told me they voted Labor for the first time in 1999 and that they would have liked to have had the option of voting for an independent candidate.

A number of independents have indicated that they may stand, but the fact remains that I was the one that stood up in 1996, when it was considered unVictorian to speak out against the government.

One of the main reasons for standing in 1996 was that I wanted to encourage a more consultative attitude by government, as they introduced their reforms. I didn’t win and they became more intransigent than even I believed possible.

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