The National party is running a candidate in the seat of Ballarat for the first time in 30 years, and the man chosen for the job isn’t even sure he’s picked the right party.
Former Mayor of Moorabool shire and businessman Paul Tatchell will represent the Nationals after joining the party only two months before the election.
“If I was to be part of a party system I needed to find one that had the same passions and beliefs that I had, even if the policies needed to be moderated.”
Tatchell has spent most of his life in Western Victoria, from Ballarat to Hamilton to Bacchus Marsh.
He considers himself to be “a pretty straightforward sort of bloke.”
Tachell and his wife own a number of small businesses – a transport company, the local newspaper Moorabool News and a sporting centre. He has served on the Moorabool shire council since his election in 2012 when he stepped back from active roles in his businesses.
Tatchell understands painfully well the history of child sexual abuse that has stained the Ballarat region for years. He was abused as a high school student, and his experience has propelled him to help others.
“Would you rather have a big party that’s a machine, or someone who fell off the production line that will get up every morning and the first thought in that person’s head will be ‘what about my people in Ballarat, what can I do for them’ rather than ‘what can I do for my party?", he said.
This disdain for traditional party politics may have come at the expense of a positive relationship with the Liberal Party candidate for Ballarat, Sarah Wade. Tatchell’s entrance to the race has created a ‘three-cornered contest’, which may make it harder for Wade to take Ballarat from sitting member Catherine King.
When asked about the conversations that he has had with Wade, Tatchell said, “I suppose it’s been fairly candid. But I joined the National party not the the Coalition.”
Wade considers her relationship with Tatchell to be “good” and when asked how she felt about his entry to the race, her answer was brief: “The more the merrier,” she said.
As a councillor for Moorabool in the east of the electorate, Tatchell rails against what he sees as the Ballarat-centric way that the electorate has been represented.
“We need to take a holistic view of what Ballarat is. At present it’s a half moon. It only develops one side because of the invisible fences that separate shires.”He refers here to the major emphasis on the city of Ballarat which is in the western corner of the electorate, at the expense, he believes, of smaller towns in the north, east and south such as Bacchus Marsh, Daylesford and Ballan.
With the Nationals absent from the Ballarat contest for so long, it’s difficult to know how Tatchell will fare on July 2. Personally he doesn’t give himself much of a chance. “I said to someone a week and a half ago, ‘if you won me in a sweepstakes, I’d buy another ticket.’“
No matter how he goes, Tatchell’s presence in the race is sure to challenge traditional campaign norms. “There won’t be a lot of balloons and coloured t-shirts,” he said.
“I’ll say the things that I mean and I’ll mean the things that I say, and some people will like it and some won’t.“