Race for Hume hots up

James Harker-Mortlock at  Blackburn Estate.
James Harker-Mortlock at Blackburn Estate.

The campaign for the federal seat of Hume just hit a lot closer to home, with local farmer James Harker-Mortlock confirming his candidacy late Monday afternoon.

Harker-Mortlock’s nomination takes the confirmed number of candidates to four, with Angus Taylor (Liberal Party), Adrian Van der Byl (Christian Democratic Party) and Bruce Nicholson (Katter’s Australian Party) also in the running.

Harker-Mortlock, a National Party member, will run as an independent after the party hierarchy controversially agreed last month not to endorse anyone in Hume and Eden-Monaro at the next federal election. The decision was part of an agreement with the Liberals, who in return won’t run in key independent Rob Oakeshott's seat of Lyne or Tony Windsor's seat of New England.

Harker-Mortlock was scathing of the decision. But the Burrinjuck Nationals branch president says he has no intention of resigning from the party to contest the seat. If elected, he’d seek to become a member of the party room.

He told the Tribune he felt the need for “a voice for the ordinary people in Hume”, and he did not consider hot favourite Angus Taylor was able to deliver that.

He said Taylor did not have enough experience in this electorate nor in politics.

“Nor does he understand how the system works in order to be able to deliver anything of value for the people of Hume,” he said.

“The problem with Angus Taylor is that he has no definable position on anything.

“He comes from a comfortable and privileged background and doesn’t understand what people in Hume have had to deal with in their lives – where as I do, because I’ve had to fight for most things in my life.”

He will however direct his second preference votes to Taylor.

Taylor wasn’t buying into the attack yesterday, saying he welcomed the competition.

“I’ll be playing the issues and not the personality politics,” he said.

“We’ve seen how ineffective Parliament and government has become with independents holding the balance of power. I don’t think Australians want another three years of that type of government.”

Taylor has been groomed by current Hume stalwart Alby Schultz and has even attended official functions on his behalf. He opened his campaign office in Goulburn a fortnight ago – up to a year out from the scheduled election.

"A few people have queried why I would open a campaign office prior to the federal election campaign officially kicking off. The next federal election is not scheduled until the second half of next year. However, it may be that we get an election in the early part of next year. We simply don't know when it will happen," he said.

"I am trying to take over from the popular and well-known Alby Schultz. I am not taking anything for granted. People want to know their federal representatives, and that is another reason for getting the campaign office up and running."

Labor has yet to announce pre-selection candidates, although Goulburn mechanical engineer Jason Shepherd recently outed himself as one of three local Labor Party members seeking pre-selection.

Labor Party hierarchy from Sydney visited the region on October 29 to speak with the three potential candidates – one from Goulburn and two from the Yass area.

Yass Valley councillor Michael McManus has ruled himself out. While he had stood three times for a state seat, he wanted to concentrate on local government issues. He would not be swayed on revealing who had shown interest.

The party has said it will announce its candidate in February next year.

The Tribune's profiled James Harker-Mortlock earlier this year. Click here.


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