“Team Bert” is on the road. With straw hat, monogrammed blue and white shirt and his friendly, toothy smile at the ready, Forde MP Bert van Manen is doorknocking across the 419 square kilometres of his electorate in south-east Queensland.
Despite his low profile in Canberra, Liberal National Party's van Manen, 51, is highly visible on social media and in his Logan stomping ground.
Contesting his current parliamentary seat of Forde for the third time, he has held it since switching from Family First in 2010.
In 2007 he stood unsuccessfully as Family First candidate in the neighbouring Queensland seat of Rankin, scoring just 3.53 per cent of the primary vote.
By 2013, three years after winning Forde for the LNP, he defied former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie’s attempt to break into federal politics, benefiting from an anti-Beattie backlash by winning 42.5 per cent of the vote to Beattie’s 34 per cent
Born in Brisbane, van Manen was a banker for 15 years, after which he and his wife Judi owned a share in a financial planning business for 11 years.
He attracted bad press in 2012 following the collapse of that business, Vangrove, owing creditors $1.5 million – which he has since said he has repaid.
Full name Albertus Johannes, van Manen was raised in his electorate – in Bethania and Waterford – by Dutch immigrant parents and has said living in the area shaped his desire for political influence in the seat.
Political commentator Dr Paul Williams says van Manen’s personable nature is a key to his success. Describing him as “a good local member”, Williams says he is highly regarded in the electorate because “my understanding is that [he] is a nice person”.
The conservative MP, opposed to marriage equality, says on his website: “I believe that strong families are the basic building blocks of our society.”
He sees a "safe, family focused community, where children learn, play and grow in a secure environment" as priority.
UniPollWatch's request for an interview was met with a copy of his Meet the Candidate document outlining his policy positions.
In it van Manen says he is standing for upgrading the M1 Pacific Motorway, solving youth unemployment issues, reducing tax burden and cost of living and improving the NBN.
He says he is striving to “support families and businesses” in the Forde community in correlation to the Coalition’s policy to “grow our economy and create more jobs for Australians”.
Teresa Foster, Licencee of LJ Hooker’s Coomera range says Mr van Manen has “always been quick to get [her] opinion on issues that affect small businesses.
“He involves small businesses in local issues and gets our advice on how we feel about the way the government is going.”
She says van Manen is also very active in the community. “He does support local events; I've seen him at many. He has supported fundraising I've done.”
A father of three and keen soccer player and golfer, van Manen is an active user of social media, updating his Twitter and Facebook profiles daily to detail his travels around the electorate.