Western
Melbourne youth worker Les Twentyman and former independent member for
Wills, Phil Cleary, have more in common than most people realise. Both
are former high school teachers who also played and coached in the
Victorian Football Association league before branching out into
independent tilts at parliament and high profile media and community
campaigning roles. Cleary is a left wing firebrand who appears with
Andrew Bolt on the Today show at 6.40am every Wednesday and there was Twentyman on Today last Thursday morning commenting on proposed “move on” laws to deal with loitering youth.

Cleary
and Twentyman were also both speakers at last Thursday’s People Power
launch function in Melbourne. Neither has committed to running for the
start-up party at the 25 November election but the idea was to hear
from the two best-performed independents that metropolitan Melbourne
have thrown up over the past 30 years.

Cleary won the 1992
by-election for Bob Hawke’s seat of Wills with a primary
vote of 33% in a field of 22 candidates. After the High Court booted him out
for having “an office of profit under the crown”, he retained the seat
at the 1993 federal election with a primary vote of 29% but then lost
in 1996 when his primary vote fell to 25% and he was hit by an
unfavourable redistribution.

Twentyman was the best-performed of
the record 182 independent candidates who ran in the 1992 Victorian
election after the Cain-Kirner governments trashed the state’s finances
but alternative premier Jeff Kennett was hardly inspiring voter confidence.

He
polled 22% in the upper house region of Melbourne West, which comprised
four lower house seats and was supported by everyone from Angry
Anderson to the Western Bulldogs. Twentyman is the highest profile
campaigner for more resources in Melbourne’s industrial west. He ran in
1992 as a protest against factional deals that saw Labor preselect Jean
McLean who was previously the member for Boronia in Melbourne’s outer
eastern suburbs.

Twentyman ran again in 1996 after
Richmond-based Sang Nguyen was preselected in Melbourne West but his
vote fell to 16%, a drop that he attributes to the public support he
offered to the Paxton family a week before polling day after A Current Affair fitted them up as long-haired dole bludgers.

Cleary
and Twentyman would be excellent prospects if they ran as independents
or for a minor party at the forthcoming election.
Twentyman has just been named Victorian of the Year, so his stocks have never been higher and he would probably win a seat in the upper house western metropolitan region
in his own right, given a quota is only 16.6%. This seat would probably
come at the expense of the Greens, which fancy themselves for balance
of power in the new Victorian upper house.

Labor’s Carlo Carli holds the lower house seat of Brunswick
with a 28% two party preferred margin but Cleary would be an outside chance
to win if he ran, especially if preferences flowed the Liberals and the
Greens which polled primary votes of 16.41% and 24.34% respectively in
2002.

The other independent with a serious chance is celebrity Mildura
restaurateur and former Labor Party adviser Stefano de Pieri who already
has this campaign website
up and running. With support from Mildura independent Russell Savage
and good preference flows Stefano could sneak into the fifth spot in
the Northern Victoria region.

Peter Fray

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