Independent talks bushfire recovery and mental health

Small business owner Karen Porter from Bredbo is running for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro in the upcoming by-election as an independent.

Bredbo-based small business owner and mum of five, Karen Porter, has put her hand up as an Independent candidate for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro in the upcoming by-election. With over 20 years of experience in the public sector, and over a decade working in small business, she said she’s ready to “give it a red hot shot.”

Originally gearing up for the 2022 election under The New Liberals party, the by-election threw a bit of a spanner in the works, as The New Liberals aren’t due to complete their registration process for a few months. This means that Mrs Porter will run as an independent.

“I’m coming in with all their values and all the things they want to achieve,” she said.

“We’ve got the opportunity to make the government accountable and join the others that are in the crusade to try and get rid of the far-right cronies and if we don’t get in, then it’s a really good dry run for 2022.”

Mrs Porter went into local government upon leaving school, working with the ACT government for seven years and the federal government for fifteen years. After having her fourth and fifth babies, she decided she couldn’t stay in the public service anymore, so joined her then-husband’s business. She ended up running a window company, which she’s had for 14 years now, and is heavily involved with small business.

In the past, she had a self-imposed ban on the media because she felt she couldn’t do anything about the issues she was seeing.

“It was just getting louder and louder,” she said, “and then when I decided I was over it, I was approached by The New Liberal party.

“I looked at their values, they looked at my values, and I thought, you know what, I’ve found my tribe. I’ve actually found some people who have ethics, and values, and actually want to do things to make everything equal for everybody, you know, don’t discriminate against anybody.”

The New Liberals are a new political party who say they are not made up of politicians, and that they “would never have entered politics unless they were driven to do so by the yawning of nothingness offered by other parties,” according to their website. The party has a strong focus on climate change initiatives, freedom and respect for the individual, making Australia a dominant economic force, national security, education, justice, and standing up for what is right “whatever the consequences.”

Like most candidates, the bushfires are Mrs Porter’s main area of concern going into the by-election.

“We were really close to the fires (in Bredbo), a lot of the farmers around us were affected and are still affected and they’re not getting the help from government they need still,” she said.

“I feel like Eden-Monaro just needs some love at the moment. They’re so damaged, so many areas are damaged. They just need someone on their side, someone that’s going to go in and bat for them, and that’s what I’m hoping I can do.”

Mrs Porter believes that the clean-up process across fire affected areas of Eden-Monaro has been too slow.

“In our area and Cobargo and probably over in Batlow as well I’d say, the demolition of the burnt down properties has been really slow,” she said.

“These people have been waiting for months now, they can’t even get a start on getting their life back.

“We’ve got people living in caravans and tents, nobody’s really been able to get back on their feet.”

Along with fast-tracking the bushfire recovery process, Mrs Porter said that education is a big issue, as well as the availability of mental health facilities.

“I really feel like there is a lack of mental health facilities,” she said, the issue being close to her heart with one of her children struggling with their mental health.

“I’ve been going through it at least seven years now, it’s so stressful as a parent because you don’t know what to do.

“The last thing you want to do is send them off into the big city and not be able to be their support.”

Mrs Porter also wants to get funding to farmers in need who are suffering because of the drought, saying that the red tape to get money “is just atrocious.”

“Farmers with the drought, they need money, they are struggling,” she said.

“They need money over feed, apparently there’s so many different feed requirements that if you got them another one of those semi-trailer’s with all the feed that’s not what they need, they need money so that they can buy the right feed.”

Porter also wants to push for a Level 4 Hospital, and create a real focus on making regional towns sustainable and self-reliant.

“I’m the President of the Progress Association here in Bredbo and we’ve been introducing things like local farmers markets. Our local farmers around us can benefit from selling within our community and then we all get fresh fruit and vegetables,” she said.

“I think that’s something a lot of small towns has lost, is being parochial and being able to come together and be less reliant on the outside world.”

Adding on to this idea, Porter touted the idea of renewable energy in regional towns as a way to increase sharing and “link together.”

When asked what time she has spent in the Snowy Valleys LGA, Mrs Porter said she has been here as a tourist in the past, but that it’s difficult to visit right now due to Covid-19.

“With Covid it’s been hard to be able to drive around like you normally would on a campaign and meet people, so I’m doing it electronically at the moment.”

She also commented on the political circus of the last few weeks, calling the debacle “embarrassing.”

“It was just a game and we could all see it, it was so obvious,” she said.

Mrs Porter predicts that the by-election will come down to three women; Labor candidate Kristy McBain, Liberal Fiona Kotvojs (who is still in the pre-selection process), and herself, “because I’m going to put in a big fight.”

“If people want to vote for me they’re going to get a totally different voice, they’re not going to get Labor or Liberal – the main parties, they’re actually going to get someone that cares, somebody that’s going to bring values back and actually do something for the community,” she said.

“I’m a real active doer and I’m very determined as well, when I get my head on an issue…then I will just keep going through with that until we get it across the line.”

She compared her attitude to that of Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, saying that “I don’t like everything she stands for but she has conviction, drive, [and] she has passion.”

That is what Mrs Porter says she wants to deliver: “energy, passion, drive and commitment to bring positive change to Eden-Monaro.”