A YEAR 10 student at Great Lakes College challenged a "seagull" metaphor that member for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead applied to the role and effectiveness of independent politicians in Australia during the Myall Lakes Young Leadership Forum.
Lucy Attkins used the 'open mic' to immediately disagree with Mr Bromhead's comments to the forum and her decision to speak also prompted guest speaker, author Tanya Saad to "humbly disagree with the seagull metaphor" before sharing an alternative perspective.
Around 60 young people attended the forum at Club Taree on July 18. The forum was organised by Mr Bromhead and featured Taree's most decorated rugby league player, Danny Buderus, author Tanya Saad, general manager of Manning Hospital Tricia Bulic and fellow National Party politician, member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall.
Pathways to leadership and politics was the focus of the forum and it enabled Mr Bromhead to deliver his opinion of independent politicians. His comments visibly confronted and at times amused panellists Tanya Saad, Adam Marshall and moderator Katrina Carlon from Old Bar who is a senior advisor to the Minister for Local Government. The other panelists, Tricia Bulic and Danny Buderus had left the forum.
Mr Bromhead stated that Australian politics is "like a test match anywhere, there's always the players on the field and there's always the seagull - and the seagull's there, it's flapping around in the middle of the field, it's making a scene, you see the seagull, but can it score any runs? No. Can it get anyone out? No. It's there, it's being seen but not achieving anything.
"And that's like an independent in politics, they're there, they're sitting in a seat, but they're not part of a team, and they've got no other support around them, they don't score any runs and they don't achieve anything because they are a lone voice. And it's like anything, and Adam (Marshall) spoke about it earlier, if you want to achieve things you have to be part of a team. So you need to look at what does the party stand for, and you look at whether you want to be part of the Labor Party or here in a regional area, the National Party.
"I'm not going to tell you that you have to be a member of the National Party, you through your life experiences you will find the fit for you. I could go through my reasons why, but we don't want this to be overly political - today's not about trying to convert everybody here into becoming a National Party member, although that would be a wonderful thing. But it's about you being involved in the community so that if you do go into politics, you can help people, you can help your community, and you can achieve things for your local community. Politics is not about being in the newspaper or being on TV, the overwhelming majority of the politics is being undertaken in your office, looking after ordinary people with dramas in their life - it could be a family with a disabled child who needs help, they can't get community transport or something like that, and you make those arrangements. A woman whose, (with a) broken family, got nowhere to stay, needs help with public housing."
Lucy Attkins sought to challenge Mr Bromhead's analogy and countered with the comment that: "There was a hung parliament, in the last federal election, not the last one, but the one before that, and there were three independents who totally changed that, and actually had the final say in what and how the country ran for the next three and a bit years.
"So when you say that they flap around and do nothing, I do believe that that's a little bit of, you know ... they do do something and they do have like a team behind them."
Lucy's comments prompted Mr Marshall to claim the right to respond from Mr Bromhead and he then explained some of the history of hung parliaments in Australia. While listening to Mr Marshall, author Tanya Saad jotted notes and then claimed the microphone before turning her head to directly look at Mr Bromhead.
"I might add to that. Not being a politician, I humbly disagree about the seagull metaphor," Tanya said.
She then turned to speak to the room and countered Mr Bromhead's comments.
"I think that is a little bit harsh. I think that governments are elected and there's a reason why independents were seen to be valuable and that may or may not be, but my perception is that the teams, eg. the parties that were in power at the time, weren't doing a very good job of representing, collaborating as a team or having, as Danny (Buderus) said, the right structure to ensure that the team worked effectively for the whole, and that's for Australia.
"So, I think governments across the world take very different forms and so do teams, and the secret to being a great leader is to know how to work with those dynamic, diverse team environments."