Blog: “The Tuggeranong Candidate”


IV: Winter’s Here – the Cold, and lovely Rita

It’s the day after the day after the Federal election, and I have a few moments to write, but not about that yet. This is about Rita.

It began to cool down about 4 weeks ago. A steel-grey Sunday afternoon in late May or early June. It was a one-off at the time, with sunny days before and after, but this one was the first with that Tuggeranong winter wind ski-jumping off the Brindabellas and slicing through the valley. It was the first day when my knuckles, hands and fingers began to hurt from knocking on (mostly) nice people’s doors and using my phone to record whether they wanted to vote for me (…because most people do, I have to use my phone with my hands out my pockets a lot…*ahem*).

Anyway, it was properly cold outside and I was outside cold, walking from door to door in Monash, talking about myself (which *cough* weirdly never seems to get tiresome), alone because very sensibly none of the volunteers in my team wanted to join me. I was having reasonable success – not the sort of success where it feels as if the whole street must love you and every house you walk up to you will greet you with an encouraging smile, interest and finally a “we’ll vote for you, for sure” and your election is the safest bet since Black Caviar, but better far than those heavy half hours where it seems like no one is home and if there is a person behind the door they are not interested or worse rude or even worse offended and angry that you might want to introduce yourself and ask for their vote (viz; “Please leave my property immediately!”. For real. I should have said something like “Mate, I’m hardly going to pitch a tent here, am I?” instead of “OK”) and not only is your election impossible, but you will be embarrassed, utterly. For me, both of those extremes are rare, and perhaps I am optimistic but it seems the latter is far more rare for me than the former, but regardless, this afternoon was neither of those.

I was having reasonable success. And so, apart from the cold, it was a reasonable day. An ordinary door-knocking day. I must have done what, 30 sessions of door-knocking by then, 100 hours, give or take? And this hour was feeling just like most of the others. It was not, in short, when I expected to experience my campaign highlight (so far).

Her name was Rita. And she is lovely. She lives by herself in a townhouse in Monash, although she will be moving into assisted living before the election, where she has promised to organise for me and whip in all those elderly votes. I knocked on her door and she opened it; short, big and white hair, fizzing eyes and I launched into my spiel, measured so as not overwhelm the old lady; “Hello, apologies for interrupting your afternoon – my name is Taimus Werner-Gibbings, I live in Gowrie and I am the Labor Party’s youngest, newest and most unknown candidate for Tuggeranong in the ACT election in October, and-”

“Oh, yes, Taimus. I remember you. We talked on the phone recently.”

She might have remembered me, and we had been doing some phonebanking a few weeks prior to that, but in all honesty I could not, for love nor money, remember talking to her. And still can’t. But she was definite that we had spoken and, as she invited me in, recalled how helpful I had been on the phone and how somewhat useful had been the advice I offered – which was to call Gai Brodtmann. Which she did. Which paid off, it seemed.

I sat down on the floral couch opposite her favourite chair and the telly which was tuned to ABC News24 and she started to interrogate me in manner that would not have embarrassed the chaps at ASIO. Who was I, why was I running, why Labor, what did I offer, what was my history, what was my future, how was I planning to win election? It was a good 25 minutes of questions, plus a few tangents into her personal history about how she was 82 and had known Jack Lang when she was a youngster, was union to her bones and Labor in her blood. I listened with fascination and answered, as always, with honesty.

I’m Taimus Werner-Gibbings, I want to be useful to the community and am optimistic I can be, I like people, energy/ability/integrity, born in Deniliquin grew up in Canberra moved to Sydney returned, too early to tell, knock on 10000 doors.

We then talked about the federal election – which was only a couple of weeks in at this stage, the many possibilities it promised (including the present result, or lack thereof), and our distrust and disappointment with the conservatives. It was a lovely little chat, the unlooked-for conversation that makes door-knocking my favourite form of campaigning. Then I said unfortunately I had to carry on walking the streets because there is a lot of Tuggeranong and only one of me.

She said that is absolutely what I must do and she apologised for delaying me – “not at all Rita, it was lovely, thank you very much” – and that she would like to donate $100 to my campaign – “….?….” – she wanted to give me $100 and was that OK? – “I…I mean, of course, that’s amazing, thank you” – she had decided quickly during our conversation that she liked the cut of my jib and wanted to help me as much as her poor powers allowed, with a donation and any writing or creative work I needed because she had journalism qualifications and was fine on the internet – “Well, Rita, that would be wonderful, I’m very grateful” – anything she could do, because she really wanted me to be elected, she thought I was a very good candidate with a lot of potential and she wanted a young, good person in the Legislative Assembly.

She gave me $100 – just, you know, pulled two $50s out of her purse – and filled out the donation form. I said thank you a few more times and promised I would return with receipt as soon as possible – “That will be fine Taimus. I look forwards to seeing you again but especially to you being elected!” – I am doing my very best I said and this is a big help and very motivating, thanking her again.

One walks out of a random conversation like that with a very big smile. What a highlight! I tripped through the rest of the afternoon, cold on the outside but now very warm within, and was able to get the receipt back to Rita the next week.

I also wrote her a letter. She said, while reading it, that she was gong to cry. She didn’t. She did say this was the first time in her life she had ever received a letter like this and that she was going to frame it. I don’t mind what she does with it – I just want her to know the impact she has had on me (spot the grammatical error – very disappointing, but I don’t think she noticed. If she did, she was too polite to mention it. The best laid plans of mice and men I suppose). She’s been critical.

IMG_20160624_140404 (1)

Epilogue: If Rita wasn’t wonderful enough, just this week I was looking over this website for the first time in ages, thinking about how I had a little bit of time now to write this post, when I noticed the following comment in response to one of the earlier chapters;

“Hi Taimus, about 8.00pm last night [18/5/16] you knocked on our door in Monash.
We wish to apologise for not inviting you in, but a tall dark stranger knocking on our door for us is a bit unsettling.
Now that we have seen your site we would like to give our two votes to you. We would also like to donate $200 to your campaign.
Keep up the good work and we hope all goes well.
Peter & Robyn.”

I mean, c’mon, the people in Tuggeranong. Just amazing. Why wouldn’t one run for office, if only to give one the excuse to walk around and introduce one to such lovely people? Obviously I replied immediately, appalled at how late I was – over a month! – but determined to make them sure that I was grateful, moved and inspired by their generosity, as well as apologetic for being tall, dark  and unsettling on their doorstep (but not handsome it seems). And then Peter and Robyn introduced themselves to me while they waited in the queue to vote on Saturday and I got to thank them face-to-face. Which was my election 2016 highlight, apart from the bride who voted at 5.49pm…that was pretty cool.




The Interregnum (basically a place-holder)



I know, I know, I said no political polemics – only about my experience as a candidate. And I have ideas too, that I want to write to you about. Whether one should bother having a campaign launch, particularly when you raised all your money pretty easily? The difference in volunteerism between the USA and Australia? I will write about them, and soon. Just not right now. I have no damn time, you see. A new job, a federal political campaign, my own political campaign, a 3000 word essay that I have to write for my graduate diploma, Tuggeranong businesses that need to be contacted, some new campaign literature that needs to be designed, a fabulous family that I like to spend time with, when there is only 24 hours in the day – some of which I like to sleep in.

So please accept my apologies and consider the following a little bit of a place-holder until I find an act I can get together and pump out a couple of tremendous posts. It’s a little idea Libby and I had that I think could work in Canberra. I wanted to get it published in a paper to “raise my profile” (which, let’s be frank, needs raising) but I ran out of time and effort, and this page needs an update.

Starting music at the stops

Imagine a warm, late December evening a few years in the future. In purpose-built performance niches the 2020s versions of the Doug Anthony All-Stars or a young, flame-haired flautist from ANU’s School of Music are lighting up Gungahlin, Dickson and Civic tram stations and electrifying the Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong bus interchanges.

That would make a difference to our city. It makes a difference in others already.

I discovered this a week before Christmas, when all through New York, everyone was stirring – even at 2.30am in the morning. It was busy; it was energised; it was amazing. But – embodying none of those qualities – my wife and I leant tiredly and emotional upon each other at Times Square-42nd Street subway station’s Platform One.

Time passed. Seconds? Minutes? Then a young man or woman (I couldn’t tell behind the sunglasses) a few platforms over picked up their saxophone and began to play. They played the melodies of classic songs, and recent songs becoming classics – and they played beautifully.

The music misted up the lines, feathering the platforms, while everyone in the station arranged themselves so they could watch and listen. At 2.30am at a public transport stop Libby and I, suddenly electrified, happily heard a concert. It was a moment that felt utterly unique and fabulous.

I don’t know if the musician made much money – I presume they did, but at the time it didn’t feel like that was the point. All I know is that it made the wait an experience. It was the sort of atmospheric, spontaneous moment New York City tapes into your memory for fun.

Over the next couple of days I delightedly discovered that busking in New York Subway stations is a thing…so much a thing in fact that professional performers go underground deliberately because the acoustics are so good.

Music Under New York is an official part of the Arts & Design program run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It schedules musical performances in the New York City Subway – giving particular visibility and promotion to over 350 groups and artists who participate. And it’s brilliant.

Over that week in New York we listened to performances from an amazing nine-piece jazz ensemble electrifying Jamaica Railway Station, watched a couple of young but precocious rappers at the South Wharf terminal, and stood still-shocked in Williamsburg by a guy playing a classical-Spanish mash-up on his acoustic guitar.

Could we bring that musical sizzle to Canberra? Should we make it easier for musicians and performers to play at the major public transport nodes? Could we encourage them to do so? From what I have seen and heard, I really think we should and could.

We should build dedicated performance niches at major public transport stops. We could design them with quality acoustics and protection from the winter winds to make it easier for creative talents to practice for them and perform for us.

This idea synchronises nicely with the principles outlined in the ACT Arts Policy 2015, particularly with regards to participation and community access to art. The ACT Labor Government is already taking a very progressive approach to public performance and buskers don’t need licences or permits to perform in public. One of the Government’s arts forums this year will be particularly focused on the music scene in Canberra, which I think will provide a good opportunity to discuss some of these ideas in greater detail.

With a bit of imagination, a bit of organisation, a bit of money and some stylish, modern and practical architecture, music might overflow our public spaces. Performers hone their craft and we build on our city’s development into a cool little capital.

Everybody wins.
Taimus Werner-Gibbings is one of ACT Labor’s candidates for Brindabella in the October 2016 election. His website is



Blog Post 3: The Beginning-ing

APRIL the 10th, 2016 – VOTE COUNT



A lot happens on a campaign. One get preselected and the election is 11 months away, sounds longer and feels closer. The feeling is more accurate than the sound. Campaigns – even very small, forgotten, local campaigns – pass quickly. Extraordinary amounts of time, effort and money accumulated, spent and wasted.

This is what has happened from then until now.

The full extent of Taimus’ campaign experience was not, at all, extensive. He had spent 4 weeks at the Federal Labor Campaign HQ in Melbourne in 2013, calling Australians all over the country and encouraging them with some success to volunteer on an election campaign that had started behind but “saved the furniture”. But it taught him nothing about the logistics, organisation, strategy (political and communicational) needed to succeed in a campaign. He had also spent 4 weeks calling Labor Party members in Brindabella asking them to preselect him, but that was it. So not a lot.

He wasn’t starting from scratch but to use an homage to the Stawell Gift (go Jack Hale) from the Easter Weekend when he started writing this post, he was the backmarker. Fortunately, he wasn’t the only one. In fact, with more Labor candidates running then ever before, there had to be one or two who hadn’t run before and would have to learn and learn quickly. Just like him. And if they could, he could. Which made him feel much better.

He was proud to be running for election to an ACT Labor Government that had been amply demonstrating its vision and capability for 16 years. The difference in energy and amenity from when he had left Canberra to when he returned was evidence enough of this. However, the ability to take the bold risks needed to implement the successful vision was an large part due to the Government’s long term of office, a state which goes and grows against any Government anywhere, but one which Taimus was keen to undermine and overcome by presenting himself to the electorate in the full flower of his youth and enthusiasm, believing in the Government’s ideas and fully prepared to persuade people to believe with him.

Which he set about doing. Immediately.

By teaching himself how to do it. The best way to learn is to learn immersively – on the job – so to speak. Start talking to people, listen to their ideas, pitching them his own, about himself, who he was, what motivated him, why he was running, what he wanted to do, cut out the stuff that was boring and hone the bits of his personal story/his message/his “narrative” that people responded to. He did a lot of this. He needed a lot of practice. He made a lot of mistakes, but he learnt from them and got better, quickly. He surfed a lot of net as well. Because, and this may came as a surprise to a lot of people, the interweb is an extraordinary resource for all sorts of useful and useless information, campaigning and fundraising not least among them. He did a lot of printing, folderising and tabbing.

He studied up on campaigning, message-shaping, stump-speeching, media-responding, campaign administration, volunteer recruiting and fund-raising. It was all of it – most of it – quite interesting. The most intimidating aspect of the entire performance, initially, was the art of fund-raising. He needed to raise as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, to spend on his political materials – t-shirts, coreflutes (the ubiquitous signs that go up everywhere), letters, pamphlets, that sort of stuff – and campaign administration. But if you wanted to spend it, then you had to raise it. Raise it? Yep. From who? Whomever you like. How? Ask. Who? Really…I just answered that…whoever you can. By when? The sooner the better.

Oh my god.

It felt hard. It felt out of the realms of possibilities, until one of the website discussion threads took it down a few levels. “Ask all of your friends. All of your relatives. Everyone you know. It doesn’t matter. They can say no, but many of them will say yes. Many of them will want to support you. Break it down. How much can you realistically expect of that group for friends? How much from your work colleagues? How much from your Facebook friends? $5000 is only 50 of your friends giving you $100. $10000 is 100 of your friends kicking in. Away you go.”

Well, when he read it like that then. Away Taimus went.

But first he needed a team.

“Who is your campaign manager?” was a question often asked of Taimus as he worked on his preselection. “Don’t have one yet” was his laconic reply. He was focused on the immediate, not the important. Which, if he was to do it again,Taimus would have done it differently by focusing on the important, not just the immediate – despite the logic of not wasting time and effort on what comes after when you have no real idea of whether you’ll even get past now. 

But he would have done it differently – like Obama in 2008, apparently, who had the whole transition team and administration locked in and ready to go by the September before the November election. Makes a lot of sense now. He would have had a campaign manager and a couple of other important team-members lined up, instead of having to wait and hope things worked out for him, which they generally did. And did again in this case, but not without some frustration.

He asked a few people, who showed interest, but not so much that they wanted to put themselves through it. He recruited a young, intelligent friend to do it, who on a fortnight’s reflection upon the work involved, decided it was too much and tapped out after a week of being uncontactable.

The thing is, asking people to help you, to give of their time and expend quite a lot of effort, for no guaranteed outcome, possible abuse and considerable irritation without being able to offer them anything other than gratitude and a little bit of fun now and then is not easy. It is hard. And humbling. The latter is the key word.

Politicians always talk at their victory speeches how “humbling” it is, how “humble” they feel, at the support of all the voters. Taimus always felt it was bunkum. But is not. Its entirely true. It was very humbling to have people decide to help him simply because they believed in him. It was humbling…and inspirational. Their encouragement convinced him, during the darker moments, to work better, try harder, walk faster, talk slower – make sure he did his best and tried his hardest every opportunity he had. To never, ever waste a conversation.

He kept asking people to help him, and more often than not they kept saying yes. A couple of people he hoped would take on lead roles, took on lead roles. A couple of people whom he barely knew actually volunteered themselves and took on lead roles and started dominating. Sooner than he thought, he had built the biggest volunteer team of all the candidates, including a campaign manager and a campaign team, and decided he had to start asking people for money.

For the record, Taimus did not find asking people to help him with their credit card any easier than asking them to help him with their time and effort. The random call out of the blue. The 10 minutes (minimum) small-talk about nothing and everything when most of the time both players knew exactly what the point was, especially when at some point Taimus dropped in the old, “well, I’m actually running for parliament! Well, ambling…moseying at this stage…for the ACT Assembly.” 

At that point the pennies would plunge like thunder. 

But while it was as hard as asking people to volunteer, like that, asking people to donate did get easier – and the key, curiously, came from a right-wing-leaning website Local Victory, which basically said just ask, ask for a lot. People can always say no, or agree to give you less, but everyone, generally, finds it difficult, or doesn’t actually want to say no. It’s only weird if you make it weird. Be nice, tell them what you are doing, why, and ask for their financial help.

And some of Taimus’ friends and family were amazing. His Grandma gave him $1500, a friend from his football club asked Taimus to contact him and then donated $1000, the biggest donation but by no means the only one from his footballing comrades. 8 self-identified liberal voters donated $2500 between them to Taimus, because they thought he was, quote “a really good person who would do great things for Tuggeranong.” It wasn’t too bad, and once again, it was quite a humbling but exciting experience having 63 people pay their own shekels into his campaign for no other reason that they respected him enough to believe he could do a good job. There was no way, Taimus decided, he would dare risk wasting their money or their confidence. And like with his volunteers, where Taimus could maximise his advantages, he did, raising the most money the fastest, so by the time the campaign really kicked off in February, money wasn’t an issue. The funds had been raised.

Now, to the campaign.

Everyone on Taimus’ campaign team was a fresher. New to the game, with some familiarity, sort-of, from the West Wing and reading manuals and attending training days, but even still, the training is on-the-job and no one was one the job. So they had to learn quickly, make their mistakes early, learn their mistakes rapidly and keep it very, very simple when it came to a campaign strategy. And the simplest strategy of all was to knock on doors. Taimus had no name recognition, no profile, and not a lot of opportunity to create one, being the youngest and newest Labor candidate in Brindabella during a six month campaign within which there would be a 100 day Federal Campaign and a grand final weekend. 

His best product was himself, no bells and less whistles, his biggest attribute was an ability to work harder and walk further than anyone. Therefore he was going to walk a lot to get himself in front as many people as possible. Due to the vagaries of the Hare-Clark system (another post…about pizza) – Taimus needs at least 5000 votes to give himself a decent chance of getting elected. He needs to talk to 10,000 people (assuming only 1 out of every 2 people Taimus talks to vote for him…is that ambitious?) That’s a lot of people to talk to. But that was it. 

That was, and is, the plan. Anything that got in the way of knocking on doors was pointless, he decided. People talked a lot about exposure – getting your name out there, letting people know you exist – but ask yourself, if you aren’t actually looking for a politician at a shopping centre, have you ever paid any attention to someone handing out “lititcha”? Do you care? Course you don’t.

A street stall, where you might talk to 3 people an hour, was nothing compared to a door-knock, where you had a chat with 15 people an hour. That said, Taimus did have the pleasure in February and March of a couple of very pleasant street-stalls with Angie Drake, a delightful fellow Labor candidate for Brindabella.

So he did a couple of street stalls, which were fine, designed and ordered his merchandise, some of which had a misspelling (and not of his name!), which was funny, but another story, and got knocking in the suburb of Monash. Which is where we find him still, bleeding knuckles and all, at the start of April.


Blog Post 2: Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…(part 1)

The Candidate” actually began in September 2015 when Taimus sent around an email to a few people he thought might be interested.

To wit (and apologies for the redactions but you know, “‘er upstairs an’ all”):


This is a very select, confidential email – not for distribution please – to “a small list of a few intimate friends, a few hundred or so” due to the imploring of one of you “to put together a mailing list and regular memo to supporters regarding your impending run at dictatorship.” (Nb: in this case I am defining supporters as the small number of people who I think may, but may very well not, be interested. If you want off the list, let me know and it’s done). 

I’ve done a small list and it is unlikely to grow and there is every chance said run at dictatorship might sink faster than the Vasa in 1628 (wiki it), or it might come off in a small and modest way. 

Who knows? 

I’m trying to get pre-selected for the electorate of Brindabella (basically the Tuggeranong valley) in Southern Canberra.

There are currently 6 candidates vying for 5 spots on the ALP voting ticket for the electorate so my speculative grenade means a vote is necessary. Which is fine, as is a democratic vote but residual irritation may explain why it felt (though I am fresh at this so I may be wrong) harder then it should have been to get signatures on my nomination form – that and the fact that there are not many declared independent, eligible Labor members in Tuggeranong.

Nonetheless, and a little wiser, I got 8 signatures, three of which I was pretty certain were definitely eligible. Nominations closed on October 21. I must have been OK, because I was accepted and am speaking at a “meet the candidates” forum this Thursday.

Which is good, because there was a meeting of independent candidates hosted by Andrew Leigh the week before last where everyone got a chance to pitch the schtick they are going to use at the “meet the candidates” forums. It was encouraging, convivial, useful and I held my end up when it was my turn, I reckon.

In a week we vote, and those of you who can, should. For me. Please.

No one work too hard.”

So Taimus went through the preselection process. And there was a vote, and there was a result. Which prompted another email.


“Good Evening Everyone

After everything has calmed down and Facebook pages and text messaging thumbs have cooled off somewhat since yesterday evening, I am using this brief moment before the tempest to tell those people – you – who gave me their preselection vote – and some of whom made an extreme personal effort to do so – that I was successful in getting on the ALP ticket for Brindabella as an independent candidate. By 0.5 of a vote.

Which is pretty exciting, but rather close. Still, I am in the same position as if I had won by a hundred votes. 

I’m satisfied, energised and intimidated by the task in front of me and I will be asking some of you – who know who you are – for advice about how to do what’s next and/or help to do it. This may be just the start, or the beginning of the end, of my tilt, but regardless, as the good people who were there from the first, if any of you have any advice, thoughts, questions or concerns about my campaign, Labor’s campaign in Brindabella, or the campaign more broadly, you have only to ask and I will give you what facts I know, and what opinions I hold, straight-up.

Finally, I would love to count on your vote and support at the 2016 election. I need 10000 votes, and with you all and some of my more excited friends, that tally is now less than 9990!

Thank you everyone. I am grateful, humbled and genuinely honoured. I trust you all enjoy a wonderful summer.”

And with that, Taimus’ campaign for election began. Sort-of.

Next post: “Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…(part 2)


Blog Post 1: The Candidate

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a candidate in a election?
Like, even in just a little, council-type election? Not much money, local issues, lots of candidates you’ve never heard of for very good reasons?

Well I have. So there.

Why do they do it? And lose. Why do they keep doing it? And keep losing. Where do they get the money, the belief, the time, the DRIVE? And what happens if they win? How do they win? How do they engineer their profile in such crowded market, with no money and very little POP to get them in the papers, when no one is paying attention?

I am sure there is a plenty of other questions I have contemplated but so fleetingly I have forgotten them. No problem now though, because I am a CANDIDATE in a local election in theACT. Pretty sure I’ll have lots of questions for myself.

I am very interested in the candidate experience, particularly because I have no candidate experience. I am writing to answer of the eternal question expressed in the eternal comedy of Monty Python “What’s it like” – the experience, straight-up.

No policies or opeds (well, maybe a couple, that I can’t get published somewhere else on or something like RiotACT), no local thoughts on local issues (I have plenty of those, and good ones, but come and find me at a street stall or I will find you at your door and we can chat about them then and then you can give me your vote), no outraged, overtly political polemics (but seriously, the Canberra Libs? Please). Everyone is doing those sort of earnest epics and this is not the place, nor do I have the time.

Simply my impressions, such as they are, from inside this local campaign – my first and maybe my last if those impressions aren’t all that.

I don’t know what I am going to write, what I am going to write about, or when I am going to write it – but I am aiming at a couple of times a month, give or take.

If anyone reading has questions, you are welcome to ask them. I may have no idea, but I have just become the full bucket on coreflute design, so who knows?

Comment here, on my facebook page, or at the campaign gmail – twg4tugg@ (geddit? Clever, non?).


That’s about it. Welcome to the “The Candidate” by the Candidate.

We’ll Begin. And to do that we need to go back to the start…