Mr Howard, your memory is not what it used to be 

New England MP Tony  Windsor believes former PM John Howard could be getting a bit forgetful after his comments on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes program.

I THANK Mr Howard for mentioning me in such a disparaging way on the program as he recalled a visit to Tamworth by his emissary, Senator Bill Heffernan, to ask me to stand as a Liberal in 1998.

I must have been OK back in 1998 for John Howard to ask Bill Heffernan to seek my signature on a Liberal Party membership form and he probably would have thought I was OK when I backed Nick Greiner and the NSW Coalition into government in 1991, but I guess there’s nothing worse than a former PM scorned. 

After I said “no” to Bill, I suppose Mr Howard must have just forgotten that it had happened.

In relation to Mr Howard’s comments about “the political predisposition of those two electorates (New England and Lyne) was not to support the current government, but rather to support the Opposition”, I’d like to draw to his attention a few facts about the voting at the last election.

In the 2010 federal election, nearly 60 per cent of New England voters did NOT vote for a conservative party in the Senate (where I was not a candidate).

That’s a pretty clear majority – I’m sure Mr Howard would have loved to have had that two-party- preferred outcome.

For the past 21 years, I have represented this area as an independent – NOT a conservative independent and not a Labor independent – but a true INDEPENDENT – something that upsets those who want total control on power.

If the people of the New England electorate had wanted a Coalition MP to represent them in the Parliament, then they would have voted for the one who was running.

But they didn’t – 62 per cent voted for me as their independent candidate and on a two-party-preferred basis, over 75 per cent put their faith in me to do the best for them and I will be happy to go to the next election and put my record on the table for the people of New England to judge.

The last time John Howard came to Tamworth was in 2001 to campaign against me and the people of the New England still gave me their support – a very great honour and privilege and one that I have never taken for granted.

The day after my becoming the independent member for New England, then National Party member for Gwydir and Minister for Transport, John Anderson, said on ABC in the New England North West that the people of the New England would be punished.

This did not happen as despite the National Party still believing the seat was rightfully theirs, the people of the New England had to be wooed back.

They had taken themselves out of being taken for granted by both sides of politics into a seat that had to be fought for.

Political competition has delivered good outcomes for the people of New England under the previous Howard Coalition government and again under the Labor government in their first term.

In this hung parliament, New England has fared well again but more broadly, regional Australia has received more recognition in funding and also more input into legislation and policy.

The government has had to negotiate the passage of its legislation, not only through the Senate that has been “hung” except for the term from 2004 to 2007, but also through the House of Representatives where the independents have held sway.

Hung parliaments or minority government brings a handbrake onto the two-party system.

 It’s no wonder the major parties don’t like it. They have to take into consideration the views of others who ask questions and put up other ideas rather than just being able to ram through their legislation because they have the numbers – not because it’s the right, well- thought-out legislation reflecting a policy direction that will help the nation.

I haven’t felt the need to join a party. Look at all the energy wasted in the backstabbing and jockeying for positions of power when, if all that energy was put into doing something constructive about the issues we face as a nation, we would all be better off.

I look forward to putting myself before the good people of the New England on September 14 and letting them be my judge and jury.

Perhaps Mr Howard would like to come back again to campaign against me alongside the National Party candidate who, up until last year, was still on the NSW Labor Party voter computer database program, Electrac.

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