The Fraser-era immigration minister Ian Macphee has endorsed a local push to replace the incumbent Liberal MP Tim Wilson in his former electorate of Goldstein with an independent at the next federal election.
Macphee, a vocal party moderate, held the Victorian electorate of Goldstein during his political career before he lost Liberal preselection in 1989.
During an interview with a moderator of community group Voices of Goldstein, the former Liberal minister said this was a time “when voters in a progressive electorate like Goldstein must play their part”.
Macphee said he greatly admired the work of Voices for Goldstein. “I believe grassroots activity is imperative and can be done by supporting good independent candidates.”
During the interview, Macphee expressed strong objections to the “disgusting” and “inhumane” offshore processing policies of the Morrison government, and said the Coalition was “not listening” to the science on climate change despite some of the hottest temperatures on record.
Macphee also noted the government was not facilitating proper accountability around policy making. He characterised the decisions taken on sports grants and in the commuter carpark fund as “a disgrace”.
He said if the Australian National Audit Office had not examined both programs – if the auditor general had not “done his job” – the public would never have known that grants were skewed to targeted seats rather than allocated through a merit-based program.
Macphee said it was obvious the parliament needed more independents to “review policies and their implementation … that’s the state we’ve got to in our democracy”.
He said independently minded “genuine Liberal voters” needed to “come together with other voters to support a really good, honest, broad thinking, visionary candidate to represent them”.
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The incumbent Liberal member, Tim Wilson, declined to comment on Macphee’s intervention when contacted by Guardian Australia. Wilson holds the seat on a margin of 7.8%.
Macphee’s activism is not new. He also endorsed the prominent barrister Julian Burnside when he ran for the Greens in 2019 in the Victorian Liberal stronghold of Kooyong at the last federal election.
Inspired by the success of Zali Steggall in Warringah and Helen Haines in Indi, movements supporting independents are targeting a number of Coalition-held seats.
Sue Barrett, a spokesperson for Voices of Goldstein, said Macphee’s frustration reflected “what so many of us feel about Australian politics at the moment”.
Barrett said successful independents like McGowan and Steggall had shown the community that people could have better representation if they were prepared to get organised and run a grassroots campaign. “That is why we are searching for a community minded independent to get behind,” she said.