Our next Independent off the rank is Rhonda Crooks, an ungrouped candidate standing in the Eastern Victorian region. (Eastern Victoria seems to have won the lottery on the Ungrouped Candidates, though Northern Metropolitan still wins the prize for the largest number of people on the ballot paper.)
Ms Crooks does not have a political website or FaceBook page. She mentions on her personal FaceBook page that she is running an unconventional campaign – which is possibly an entirely offline one. I’m not sure whether it’s appropriate to link to someone’s personal FaceBook page for this sort of thing, so I think I’ll err on the side of caution. Instead, I will simply note that Ms Crooks is a Civil Celebrant, and appears to be staunchly in favour of marriage equality. She seems to be allied, or at least friends with, Tracie Lund, an independent contesting the Lower House seat of Morwell (and no, I will not be reading up on all the Lower House independents – sorry!).
Edited to add: Ms Crooks now does have an official FaceBook page, which can be found here. She has also commented below, to clarify one or two things.
At this point, I honestly don’t know how helpful it is to look at where others have preferenced the independents, but for the sake of form, we’ll give it a go. Ms Crooks gets her best shot from the LDP at 19, with the Christians and the Sex Party putting her at 20 and the Animal Justice People and People Power putting her at 21. Incidentally, in Eastern Victoria it seems that all the political parties have lumped their ungrouped independents together on the Group Voting Tickets, but with the exception of the Coalition, who prefer Sindt, all of them have put Ms Crooks first in that group. I’m not sure what, if anything, this tells you. The Greens have put Crooks at 25th, the Coalition has put her at 27, Labor has put her at 34, and once again, Palmer has given her her lowest ranking, at 43 out of 46.
Before we abandon this post entirely, I note that Ms Crooks in fact wrote a bit of an essay on the FaceBook page of Voices of the Valley president, Wendy Farmer, talking about where she is coming from. I think it is worth quoting in part here:
What we find is that the same political parties are in both houses. No one in our house of review – our Legislative Council is asking questions – These people have been placed there by you and by me. They should be saying before they pass any legislation – Hey you people in the Legislative Assembly, representing the people of Narracan and Morwell – what is in this legislation you’ve brought to the people’s house of review – how will it benefit your community – the people that voted for you? How will it affect them? Will it create new industry and give our youth a fighting chance, will it assist our teachers to be able to spend more time actually teaching, will it help our farmers, will it draw our community closer by helping to address the social isolation of so many, will it help us understand why the gap in our community is becoming wider between the haves and have nots, will it help address the meth amphetamine issues that is destroying so many lives – will it get the masquerading wannabes off our backs and let us fish and hunt responsibly – what’s in it for the SES, our fire fighters, our youth and kids at risk workers, our police, ambos, drug and alcohol and family violence workers, our nurses and other health ancillary workers The great people that keep our kids safe on our beaches and come to our rescue when we get in trouble – oh and did I mention jobs
I have family and friends in the La Trobe Valley, though I don’t get down that way very often. But I do hear plenty about unemployment, about youth not being engaged with education or employment, about long waits for ambulances – and this year, also about the fires in the open cut mine at Hazelwood, that affected the health of a huge number of people, and was generally felt to have been handled extremely badly by the State Government. I suspect it’s this last bit that has been responsible for the sudden surge in Independent candidates in the Valley, who feel (with some justice) that their representatives have failed to actually represent their interests.
Reading Ms Crooks’ list of things that should be considered by political parties, it feels very La Trobe Valley to me. It’s not that these issues only occur there, just that it feels like a snapshot of the things people are worrying about. If a representative’s job is to represent the mood and the priorities of her electorate, I’d say Ms Crooks has her finger pretty much on the pulse of what the La Trobe Valley cares about right now. While I do think it’s interesting that the Hazelwood fire didn’t rate a mention, this does cover all the everyday, long-term social issues that are common to a country town with a somewhat depressed economy.