Get Elected by Ruth McGowan – a brief review

Ruth McGowan’s* Get Elected: a step-by-step guide to winning public office (2019)** is hopefully prominent in the library of all the Voices groups springing up around Australia – girded into action by the abysmal performances of many of our elected representatives. In particular, these groups are concerned with the failure of successive governments to act decisively on climate change and a book like this is crucial to their campaign’s success.

It is a detailed guide for independent candidates at all levels of government and is divided into three sections – decide, plan and run – and is full of tips, tables, exercises, checklists, case studies and practical advice. Ruth is well qualified as an author on this subject as she was the campaign co-ordinator for the successful election of her sister Cathy McGowan in 2013 and 2016 in the pioneering Voices for Indi campaigns.

Ruth uses the feminine pronoun throughout, with the not so subtle hint that women are the best candidates – in the Federal sphere especially, following on the success of Cathy and more recently of Helen Haines and Zali Steggall. A candidate should “be well known across the Ward and Municipality. If she is standing for State or Federal Parliament she should work hard to become well known across her electorate and perhaps beyond.” (p.91) A high profile certainly helps.

High on the agenda is the role of grass roots politicking known as ‘kitchen cabinets’ pioneered by Voices for Indi and the role of volunteers. Tony Windsor advised that a minimum of 50 friends/supporters were needed to work for you as election volunteers (p.87) and the Voices for Indi previous campaigns had many, many more. As a failed Independent climate candidate on a number of occasions, I can only stress how necessary this minimum number is, as my actual volunteer base was at best a handful, and my results correspondingly poor***.

The opportunity to ‘get elected’ is now quite favourable with suitable candidates likely to receive support from Climate 200 and the many voices groups across the country now searching for, or appointing, strong independent candidates. A number of the Voices groups already are in campaign mode and have strong finances. In west and south Gippsland the Voices for Monash group has been operating for a few months but is a relative newcomer. There is, as yet, no Voices for Gippsland movement.

What is earnestly hoped for, and desperately needed, is a strong cross bench in our next Federal government, similar to that of the Gillard minority government, holding the balance of power, that will, as a start, immediately pass Zali Steggall’s climate bill and Helen Haines federal integrity commission bill. Hopefully Get Elected and the Voices groups will help us get there.

*the author is a former councillor and mayor of Baw Baw Shire. Her website is here.

**copy in the East Gippsland Shire Library

***in my favour is that I was trying to publicise and promote the climate emergency rather than ‘getting elected’ and in this I was moderately successful.