In 1995 Graham Howard was given two months to live. He suffered a number of severe heart attacks and needed very intensive surgery.
“I was inoperable,” said Howard, who 21 years later is still alive, and well enough to be the Family First candidate for Ballarat.
“My doctor here in Ballarat persuaded the doctor in Melbourne to operate and I went from inoperable to pretty good.”
Due to his health problems, Howard was forced into early retirement after driving professionally for most of his career.
“I’ve been a driver all my life - taxis, trucks, buses. My last job was working for Davis Bus Lines in Ballarat before I retired,” he said.
Howard, now 65, quickly admits he has no background in politics, and declined to comment on specific policy issues or Family First’s election priorities beyond a general endorsement for family values.
“I’ve been brought up in the Church, I’m a Christian. I’m a very strong believer in family values,” he said.
His involvement in the party came through a friend, Dale Butterfield, who has been Family First’s Ballarat candidate in multiple state and federal elections.
“Graham was one of our helpers and one of our volunteers,” said Butterfield. “He has always been a really hard working sort of man, he’s very honest, and he speaks his mind", Butterfield said.
When asked why running as a candidate in the federal election was of interest to him, Graham Howard said, “It wasn’t really.”
“But I thought if we could get a few votes and take some away from the major parties, and it may help Family First to get into the Senate.”
He’s particularly unhappy with the way the major parties conduct themselves, seemingly unable to ever agree.
“If it’s obviously a good idea, parties should be able to agree on it,” he said.
Peter Bain is the Family First State Director and Senate candidate for Victoria, and encouraged Howard to run in Ballarat.
“He’s a good guy, he’s put his hand up for the party in Ballarat,” said Bain.
“With a minor party it very much is about driving the vote into the upper house. Having a lower house candidate helps raise the profile.”
Apart from family values, Howard thinks that people in Ballarat are concerned with jobs and the economy, and foreign land ownership.
He thinks that climate change is a “very real issue”, and the historic sexual abuse carried out by clergy in the Ballarat region is a “terrible thing.”
“They’ll be judged,” he said.
Howard spends most of his days looking after animals on his five-acre hobby farm in Happy Valley, 28 kilometres south-west of Ballarat, in the electorate of Corangamite.
His campaign activities will primarily be focused on handing out how-to-vote cards on election day.