John ran as a candidate for Dignity Party in the South Australia state election, held on 17th March 2018, in the seat of Torrens. His goal was simple – to increase the votes for the Upper House candidates, and for Kelly Vincent to retain her position in the Legislative Council. Kelly has been a voice for people such as those with a disability for the past eight years. This blog shares the results and his experiences with the campaign. John’s opponents were Dana Wortley (Labor), Therese Kennedy (Liberal) and Alex Dinovitser (Greens).
Lower House Result
It was expected that Dana Wortley (Labor) would retain the seat, and the swing towards Labor was 2%. John’s goal was to receive 5% of the overall vote, and this was achieved with a share of 5.9%, an increase of 5.4% since the 2014 election.
Upper House Result
Unfortunately, Kelly Vincent wasn’t re-elected, and the Liberal Party and Australia Labor Party won four seats each, SA Best received two seats, and the Greens gained the final seat. The vote for Dignity Party increased by one per cent. However, over 60,000 votes were required, and only a third of this was achieved.
Why did John run as a candidate for Dignity Party?
Following his accident in 2009, John gained experience in living a life with a disability, namely paraplegia and chronic pain. During his travels, he came across many situations that either prevented his access or made it more difficult than it should have been. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person due to their disability, including employment, using services, accessing public places and others.
When John encountered a business in violation with the DDA, he would talk to them, and encourage them to make changes. The majority of businesses did the right thing, and a few were reported to the Human Rights Commission. Initially, John aimed at improving access for himself, which then extended to advocacy for all people with accessibility issues. This lead John to discover Dignity Party and was accepted to be a candidate in the 2018 election. The seat of Torrens had no Dignity candidate, and given John had lived there for over 20 years, it was the perfect match.
Dignity party held a large number of informative sessions aimed at teaching the candidates about politics, and in particular, running a political campaign. Campaign Manager Anna Tree and Office Manager Kathi Tucker both had extensive political experience, as did Kelly Vincent, with eight years in the Upper House. Many of the candidates had experience in previous campaigns going back to 2006. John’s campaign was based on the needs of the marginalised in the community, and he attended events including AGMs, charity events, quiz nights and other events, some of which were included in his blog.
One of John’s focus during the campaign was social media, which included regular posts on Twitter, Dignity Party FB Group for Torrens, and this website. Other avenues of marketing included two letterbox drops of the eleven suburbs and finding volunteers to provide the “how to vote” cards to voters, on election day.
John categorised the whole experience of running as a candidate into three categories – The Good, the Bad, the Funny and the Ugly.
- Learning about the political system in Australia
- An appreciation of the work of Dignity Party
- Getting to know people in Dignity Party including the candidates, staff, friends and family, and leadership team
- Talking to people about Dignity Party, both in person and via the internet
- Supporting rallies, protests, fundraisers and other events
- Obtaining 5.9% of the vote in Torrens
- The team of volunteers handing out “how to vote cards” on election day
- Election officials that helped John on election day with his special needs
- The volunteers from other parties that worked together to help each other
- Kelly Vincent unable to retain her seat
- John watched the Green’s candidate in Torrens, Alex Dinovitser, attempt to erect a shelter at a pre-polling centre (it was a hot day). John thought that Greens should know how to put up tents (or equipment like this) 🙂
- While giving out how to vote cards, someone removed all Dignity Party stickers from the back of John’s chair (John thinks he knows who arranged this 🙂 )
The Ugly (not literally)
- Preferencing is a dirty word, notably the lack of help in the Upper House from Labor and Liberal parties. John felt the major parties didn’t want Kelly Vincent in the Upper House. In the Lower House, John wasn’t involved in the preferencing deals, and the parties preferences are included below.
- Ms Dana Wortley (see below)
Ms Dana Wortley
John believes Ms Dana Wortley is a hard-working MP, who helps constituents in the Torrens electorate. However, John didn’t experience this for himself. Before the announcement as a candidate for Dignity Party, he requested the help of his local MP for many issues…
- Medical Cannabis (January 8, 2017) – John asked for a meeting with Mrs Wortly to get support for legalising cannabis for medical use
- Lower House candidate cost (April 3, 2017) – John asked for help in decreasing the cost of running as a candidate in the lower house (Major parties increased it to $3,000)
- An issue with SA Health (May 23, 2017) – John asked to talk to Ms Dana Wortley about a personal issue (please see http://transforminghealthsa.com/ for details)
- A problem with misuse of a playground (June 3, 2017) – John asked Ms Dana Wortley to speak to a school, as students from a local high school were misusing a playground, and preventing younger people from using it
Waiting, waiting and waiting
John gave up on meeting with Ms Dana Wortley about Medical Cannabis after four months of hearing nothing. He reminded her about the issue of the candidate cost once, and during July received a letter from SA Health, but hadn’t had any contact from Ms Dana Wortley about this particular topic. John reminded her that talking to each other about the issues was the request. John contacted Ms Dana Wortley again on July 28, 2017, asking why she wasn’t interested in a face to face meeting, and this meeting didn’t occur until February 6, 2018. It took Ms Dana Wortley 394 days to meet with John, and it only happened due to 1) The 2018 election campaign and 2) This site shared the lack of response from Ms Dana Wortley, as well as the following details.
- Ms and Mr Wortley do not live in a suburb within the seat of Torrens and live in an exclusive suburb
- Ms and Mr Wortly earn over $8,000 a week together (refer to the Adelaide Now story, which mentions Mr Wortley also has the use of a chauffeur-driven car. note: the average dual income in Gilles Plains is $1,200 a week)
- Given that Ms and Mr Wortley represent Labor Party (who traditionally support working class people), how can the couple understand what it is like to struggle with finances as they live in an exclusive suburb and have an enormous weekly income?
Early 2018, Ms Dana Wortley became aware of this website, and rather than talking to John, Ms Dana Wortley complained to Dignity Party via Kelly Vincent. Following the offer of a meeting, John decided to remove the details graciously.
John’s meeting with Ms Dana Wortley didn’t help resolve any of the issues. However, it was good to have the time of the local MP finally.
The Liberal party placed an interesting political advertisement in my letterbox!
The Political Future
John is uncertain about the future as a candidate in the 2022 election but believes in the goals of Dignity Party. He wants to help the party regain a seat in the Upper House. There may be other avenues of helping Dignity Party too. John hopes to get a better response from his local MP for assistance with future issues, and so far so good.