An antidote to disengagement - Northside Chronicle

An antidote to disengagement, Northside Chronicle (Canberra), 2 February

Four decades ago, Roy Morgan began asking Australians whether they thought politicians were ethical and honest. Back then, only one in five said yes. Today, the figure is down to one in seven.

The drop worries me, particularly as it comes alongside other signs of disengagement. More people voting informal. Fewer people following the campaign through newspapers. Shorter soundbites.

For too many Australians, politics feels out of reach, and they’re frustrated that their politicians are out of touch.

But there’s one person I’ve never heard accused of being out of touch: Mary Porter.

A former nurse, midwife, community development worker and parliamentary staffer, Mary entered the ACT Legislative Assembly in 2004. Since then, she has held hundreds of mobile offices in Belconnen, Nicholls, Charnwood, Jamison, Kippax, Kaleen, Florey and Hawker.

One year, the figures showed that Mary raised more constituent issues than the entire opposition. Not surprisingly, voters rewarded her diligence, giving Mary the fifth-highest vote of any candidate in the last Assembly election.

During her political career, Mary has also been active on policy issues, including retirement villages, animal welfare, Restorative Justice practice and end-of-life care. But it’s her electoral engagement that’s most inspired me. As she puts it, ‘The best way to represent your community is to listen to them, and the best way to do that is to make yourself accessible’.

This month, Mary will be retiring from the Legislative Assembly. She leaves having helped thousands of Canberrans, and having set the benchmark for service to our community. Mary has shown us how a great local MP can change lives for the better. If there’s an antidote to political disengagement in Australia, perhaps it’s politics Porter-style.

Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fraser. 

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