Bill Stefaniak’s Belco Party – formed last June to “Keep the Bastards Honest” – now has branches in Gungahlin and Tuggeranong.
Despite its name, the party had members in other parts of Canberra apart from Belconnen, Mr Stefaniak said.
“Quite a few people wanted to vote for us, but found that we were not standing candidates in their electorate. Well, that’s going to change.”
The Belconnen branch covers the Ginninderra electorate; its president is Angela Lount, who stood for the Belco Party in October. Ms Lount, a popular local blues singer, told Canberra Weekly last year that she was a former Labor voter, but had joined the party because she felt the government was no longer listening.
“Angela and many of our original supporters will continue to ensure the needs of Belconnen are not forgotten, and will take it up to the local government whenever necessary,” Mr Stefaniak said.
Former jockey Greg Burke is president of the new Gungahlin (Gunners) branch. Mr Burke has been involved in the racing industry for four decades; having managed more than 75 jockeys over the last 25 years, he currently manages five jockeys who ride throughout Canberra and NSW.
“Greg is passionate about the needs of the rapidly growing Gungahlin region, and is very concerned that the local Greens want to destroy all kinds of horse racing in the ACT, not to mention a lot of other things most of us hold dear,” Mr Stefaniak said.
Jason Potter, a Tuggeranong school counsellor, educator, writer, and Christian pastor, is president of the new Tuggeranong branch. He stood for the Federation Party as a candidate for Brindabella last year, and for Eden-Monaro in the 2019 federal election.
“He is passionate about local issues, and also has immense experience in mental health issues and some great ideas on how this issue can be better addressed at both local and national levels,” Mr Stefaniak said.
Mr Stefaniak set up the Belco Party last year because he believed Labor no longer represented the needs of working-class people in Belconnen.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr claimed at the time that the Belco Party was a front for the Liberal Party. (Mr Stefaniak was a Liberal MLA for Ginninderra from 1995 to 2008, and Opposition leader from 2006 to 2007.)
Mr Stefaniak denied the allegations, stating the Belco Party was a centrist, independent party not affiliated with the Liberals or any other party.
The Belco Party’s policies included stopping light rail stage two; ending the ban on greyhound racing (condemned by the Greens); setting up a register for animal cruelty offenders; solar power for every household and investment in electric vehicles; returning Namadgi National Park to Indigenous ownership; better regulated construction; better maintained streets and parks; and free public transport.
In last year’s election, the Belco Party received 9.4% of the vote in Ginninderra, the most of any independent party, close behind the Greens (12.5%), although well below the Liberals (26.7%) or Labor (40%).
Mr Stefaniak wrote on Facebook that he believed this result represented the Belconnen residents looking for an alternative to the ruling Labor-Greens coalition or the Canberra Liberals, which he said had forgotten about the outer suburbs.
He said the Belco Party wanted the Labor-Green coalition that had run the ACT since 2012 broken up, and a few independents elected to the Assembly.
“Three major parties and no one else is bad for democracy and informed decision making. If nothing changes, we may never see a change of government for the next 20 years,” Mr Stefaniak said.
“Whilst we respect the wishes of the electorate who voted in 10 ALP and six Greens, I feel many people will rue the day they did so.”
The three branch presidents will be at Gungahlin Marketplace (near Woolworth’s), outside the Tuggeranong Hyperdome, and at Melba shops on Saturday 8 May from 10am to 12 noon. They have a petition calling on the ACT Government not to decriminalise hard drugs, but to put the money instead into drug rehabilitation programs and an ad campaign to stop young people taking them in the first place.
People interested in joining any of these branches or helping out can email [email protected].
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