Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


United we stand …

Scott Morrison ...

Many Australians are asking themselves – is the nation’s political system broken, are we becoming a banana republic with six prime ministers in 8 years?

Yes, says small businessman from Penguin, Phil: it’s the ruination of our national economy, fostering a climate of uncertainty that is bad for investment, even at the state level. It’s been going on since 2010, and both Labor and the Liberals have not helped at all.

Look at how the government under Malcolm Turnbull struggled with energy policy, and coming up with the NEG (National Energy Guarantee) that was immediately overturned by his successor, ScoMo, he says.

How can we trust these politicians?

Phil reckons adversarial politics no longer serves the nation well, adversarial politics actually stymies the best outcomes for the country.

No wonder there is so much public cynicism about the antics of politicians in Canberra, he says.

The current crop of federal politicians are so inward-looking and only interested in short-termism, and about feathering their nests, he muses.

He points out that we’ve not had any major nation-building infrastructure development since the Snowy Mountains Scheme of fifty years ago.

Is it telling that our major parties are beholden either to big business or to the unions, and both to sectional interests and accept their money?

Australian democracy has been debased and corrupted by powerful interests that trade support for influence among the major parties. And we can’t have foreign interests interfere. According to Phil, political parties should not accept political donations.

No wonder the Coalition and Labor parties are not keen to have a national anti-corruption body to oversee the politicians, public servants and the business interests something like the NSW ICAC.

The trend in federal voting patterns since 2013 demonstrate that more and more Australians are turning to independents and the smaller parties as a way of showing their dissatisfaction of the conduct of the major parties, and Phil has been voting thus since the 2001 Tampa affair.

A swinging voter, Phil first supported the Liberals, then Labor, then the Greens, and has voted for independents since then. I’ve never been a card-carrying member of any party, he says.

Until last month – more on that later.

Why? Because according to Phil, a clutch of independents can’t make a major difference.

Phil watched the rise and fall of the Palmer United Party, and wrote to Clive Palmer before the 2013 federal election suggesting not to go down the path of identity politics, but was told that Clive’s first preference was the United Australia Party which had turned down by the Australian Electoral Commission.

I wasn’t impressed by the calibre of PUP candidates then, Phil says candidly, they had their heart in the right place but weren’t qualified to take on the political machinery of the major parties.

I was even asked to “soften the edges of Jackie Lambie” by the state PUP convenor after the stunning electoral success of PUP in 2013 to which I replied “No, mission impossible”.

Phil still reckons that then Senator Lambie made more headway and lifted the Tasmanian flag in Canberra more effectively then the combined Liberal and Labor senators put together, despite her distinctive and peculiar ways and interests.

He also wrote to Jackie recommending to avoid identity politics when she walked away from the PUP.

Sadly, Jackie is a bit like Pauline Hanson, a big personality pushing divisive politics but with not much support to help make a difference in Canberra.

So finally Phil bit the bullet and joined the United Australia Party last month, desperate at the lack of suitable alternatives.

What attracted Phil to finally join up a political party?

Unlike the now defunct Australian Democrats, Phil reckons the UAP is about “kicking the bastards out”. I think we need that says Phil.

We really do need a political alternative to the current mess in our nation’s capital, Phil says.

He is attracted to the fact that, unlike Liberal or Labor, the UAP is not seeking professional politicians for life, but rather seeking ordinary Australians to do their civic duty and contribute for the welfare of the nation, and then to move on, unlike the rusted-on politicians from the major parties.

Phil throws up a historical oddity: did you know that the original UAP was founded in 1931 by Tasmania’s only Australian Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons, and that he brought together the polar opposites, the former Labor PM Billy Hughes and Liberal-PM-to-be Robert Menzies into the fold?

The UAP doesn’t have all the answers, Phil reckons, for that it relies on Australians to contribute and it will provide them the platform that the current LNP and Labor don’t.

But we got to start somewhere, Phil opines.

The way forward is to unite all Australians, not to continue to divide them.

Post script: Phil has no intention for running for politics at this time.

*Phil na Champassak owns The Madsen Boutique Hotel in Penguin and is a founding board member of the Cradle Coast Innovation Inc whose purpose is switching on innovation in a regional context and enterprise, and formerly a board director of the Cradle Coast Tourism Executive, the regional tourism organisation for NW Tasmania. Formerly a diplomat and DFAT policy analyst, Phil has worked on trade, aid, public diplomacy, consular, international security, and bilateral relations with PNG, the US, and NZ, and was most recently DFAT State Director for Tasmania. Prior to that Phil worked for the UN Development Programme in New York, West Africa and PNG. Phil also served as election monitor to the first elections in Cambodia (1992) and South Africa (1994) and was a peace monitor in Bougainville (2002). He has contributed to publications on human rights, election monitoring, and UN issues. Awarded in 2003 a Australian Service Medal. Phil was a guest of ABC Radio Richard Fidler’s ‘Conversations’ in November 2013.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Simon Warriner

    January 27, 2019 at 9:10 am

    Palmer’s first instinct was to call his party the “Palmer United Party”. That tells the alert voter exactly where he is coming from.

    I strongly suspect that Phil will be disappointed with the route he has chosen, and I obviously disagree with his view about Independents.

    It will need more than a “clutch” of them to effect the elimination of the wholesale rorts that enable party domination of our political lives.

    But the strongest, most durable changes are those that start small and grow at a steady rate based on observed success. Movements based on the depth of a founder’s pockets have a long history of being flash-in-the-pan phenomena, regardless of the worth of the stated aims.

  2. Rob Halton

    January 24, 2019 at 12:05 am

    Interesting point Phil, with Jacqui Lambie who jumped ship from the Senate seeking out that a larger than life ego-seeking role thinking that State politics would make her the loudest voice within what is a rather dull Liberal bound State Parliament. Didn’t happen did it!

    Despite her good work in the Senate where she should still be today, now on reality TV makes her look churlish and bogan-like, not a good look at all for any return to Federal politics! Sorry Jacqui, you put your foot in too far in the wrong place.

    I am not that close a fan of Hanson but she has a remarkable knack of political survival within Qld, given the emerging Liberal Labor backlash Pauline has a good chance of more support from the average battler who will be looking for a savior in the ever growing mine field of politics.

    I have no feeling for Shorten as PM. Morrison is better as the devil we know than the other who most of us don’t really trust!
    Albanese should be the one representing Labor seeking the PM role, not Shorten!

    Safe bet in Denison where I live is to vote for Andrew Wilkie despite my Liberal leanings towards Morrison remaining as PM.

    • MJF

      January 24, 2019 at 9:53 am

      Rob Halton … Hanson comes across as the village idiot and some voters warm to that for some reason. Qld’ers in particular are awash with these types of politicians. Have you heard any Bob Katter interviews recently, rambling on incoherently ?

      How else do you explain Hanson’s proposal to use dole recipients and kids on school holidays to eradicate cane toads ? She even wants to fund candidates from the southern non-toad states to fly-in-fly-out as part of the assault!

      • Rob Halton

        January 27, 2019 at 3:32 am

        MJF..Clive Palmer is an interesting cove trying to sneak back in offering a vote worthy punt ” to make Australia great” from NZ.
        Palmer is giving himself all of the wriggle room under his flagship private company Mineralogy funding his big spending federal election campaign, is now owned by a company called Mineralogy International Ltd (MIL) set up in NZ last month.

        Clive has also opened negotiations with a key creditor of his failed Queensland Nickel refinery near Townsville the first verifiable move to get the plant back up in tandem with his bid to return to national politics.
        The rich listed businessman had “positive discussions” to settle a $1 million debt to the State owned Port of Townsville.

        Palmer would need to get his business deals sorted out and the refinery up and running by actually providing reliable employment leading up to the Federal election for Townsville which is in a desperate situation economically being caught between an unclear Adani startup, now Clive’s ambitious promises and as a second rate tourism destination. Cairns as a base takes beating for tourism in FNQ.

        In my opinion Townsville should be aiming to incease its military interests to keep the population on track.

        I am also at the opinion that the battlers in Qld will not desert Pauline Hanson as for Bob Katter I remain skeptical about his ability to retain the interests of rural voters.

  3. Russell

    January 22, 2019 at 6:11 am

    Independents are the future and they are gaining more popularity in the electorate. Take Andrew Wilkie as a very positive example and role model.

    Joining up with the unstable Clive Palmer will get you nowhere. People only use these rich fools to get elected and then they desert them, which is pretty disingenuous.

    The electorates can see through that, and they are moving away from such shysters and backdooring.

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