Jason Potter of the Australian Federation Party said that the party has already got their sights set on future elections following their political debut in the Eden-Monaro by-election this month.
Mr Potter came last in the by-election on first-preference votes, earning 174 or 0.18 per cent of the total votes. Trailing above him was Independent Riccardo Bosi on 511 first-preference votes.
“Obviously everybody would like to get more votes than they did, so you know there’d be a lot of candidates who are thinking that,” Mr Potter said, reflecting on the by-election campaign and results.
The Australian Federation Party was formed as a merger between various minor parties and independents, with the aim of raising awareness about local issues in the area where they’re campaigning.
“I haven’t founded [the party] just myself, it’s actually a merger of a number of other smaller parties and independent candidates who have got together to work together,” Mr Potter said.
“We kind of all got a bit tired of fighting against each other and decided we’d actually be better off working together.”
Mr Potter said that the Eden-Monaro by-election was an opportunity to launch the new party in an election.
“We haven’t contested an election before and it was an opportunity for us to do that for the first time,” he said.
“The other thing that we really did is we tried to raise issues that the local community were concerned about.”
The Party didn’t come into the election with a set of policies laid out; their aim was to instead listen to the community, and put forward projects they were discussing. One of which was the Canberra to Eden railway, and another was issues around mental health.
“We’re really keen to see the government extend the Medicare benefit to enable people to access psychotherapists rather than just psychiatrists and psychologists,” Mr Potter said.
“Psychiatrists and psychologists are quite expensive to go and see, and so the Medicare gap of $80 is not enough to enable the people who most need that help to access it.”
Mr Potter said that counsellors and psychotherapists cost around $100-$150 for a session, so an $80 rebate is more than half, however a psychiatrist can cost around $300 a session, “so 80 bucks doesn’t make much of a dent in that.”
“We really raised those two issues because they’d been raised by the local community,” Mr Potter added.
The Eden-Monaro by-election was Mr Potter’s first time running as a candidate, entering politics as an ex-Labor member many years ago.
“I’m tired of the major parties just trying to sell their perspective to get enough people to vote for them, and they tend to divide communities when they do that, whereas what we’re really committed to doing is trying to bring people together around things they’re passionate about and raise that issue in as big a sphere as we can,” Mr Potter said.
The Australian Federation Party plans to contest the upcoming ACT and Northern Territory Elections, and Mr Potter said he hopes that Covid-19 restrictions have lifted enough by then to allow for more community interaction such as door knocking.
“I’m okay on paper but I really like talking to people,” Mr Potter said.
“For me one of the best ways to connect with people is actually to have conversations, and that was really hard in Eden-Monaro.”
As for Mr Potter’s thoughts on Labor’s Kristy McBain who came out on top in the by-election race, he said she was a “fairly decent Mayor” and “a very lovely person to meet from a personal perspective,” having met her once or twice.
“The challenge for her will be shifting from the independent mayor model that she’s had – and she’s had the freedom to make decisions in that context – to being part of a party machine,” Mr Potter said.
“I think you have a lot more autonomy in that mayoral role running as an independent than what you necessarily do as a backbencher in a major party.”