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The other independent: Q&A with Dr Jamie Christie, candidate for the seat of Bean

Dr Christie posing with a corflute against a grey background. The corflute says "Independent For Bean Dr Jamie Christie For the Reps"

Dr Jamie Christie has spent the last 30 years looking after Canberrans in local Emergency Departments and is running for the seat of Bean which covers South Canberra and Norfolk Island. 

A political novice, Dr Christie ran for the seat in the last election and received 8.3% of the vote, prompting the Canberra Times to call him: “The best performing Independent House of Representatives candidate in the Territory’s recent memory”. 

I caught up with Dr Christie while he was on the campaign trail to ask why he decided to run for Bean again. 

Q: Anyone can complain about the state of the world, few step up and run for election and even fewer refuse donations and entirely fund their own campaign. Why did you? 

A: There is a thing with integrity, where the money is coming from. I’m hearing this stuff about the Pocock Campaign, the Kim for Canberra Campaign, the rumour around the edges is what or who is behind them.

So my feeling about that was that I just want to be clear that my motivation is to try and change things, I don’t need a career, I’m not aiming to be PM, but gee someone needs to do something. If we’re serious about living in a participatory democracy you have to participate. 

Q: You first ran for the seat of Bean in 2019 and got 8.3% of the vote. The Canberra Times called you “the best performing independent House of Representatives candidate in the Territory’s recent memory”. 

A: Yes! I was a little surprised, and disturbed! 

Q: What do you think attracted voters to you? 

A: There was a substantial amount of frustration. I stood last time just to make a protest, really. The first time I went out corfluting, I was slightly apologetic because no one wants to talk to you, and why would they, they are busy! 

I was saying: “I just want you to know that I’m nothing to do with party politics, and I’m standing as independent.” This woman who was barrelling past me, furiously avoiding eye contact said: “What? Not a politician, no parties? That’s all I need to know. Thanks, bye.” 

A corflute on a white background with purple text that says

Q: What lessons did you learn running for Bean in 2019 that you are taking into your 2022 campaign? 

A: I ended up with a much clearer sense around what it was that I needed to do. The other thing that I learned which was a little bit disturbing was just how much of political processes are not actually involved in representative democracy.  

For many of the operatives it’s a game. I met people who were operatives from both sides of the local political industry, there was a a degree of contempt for the actual voter. They were viewed as something to be manipulated, so I found that disturbing.

Dr Christie being photographed in front of his election corflutes against a bright green wall at Mawson shopping centre

Q: Bean is currently held by Labor MP David Smith and is designated as a safe seat by the ABC’s election wizard Anthony Green, do you think the major parties take seats like Bean for granted? 

A: Yes, so safe that we couldn’t get a Nashville car park! Most Australian electorates are regarded as safe and therefore the current election strategy involves targeting marginal seats, well okay then let’s make us marginal! The electorate in general is frustrated with the major parties or in fact all three of them, the political party process you know.

Conventional wisdom is that if the incumbent is below 45% of the primary vote, then there is a possibility an independent can get over the line. So, in fact, telling the major parties that we are sick of you is achievable! 

Q: Should you be elected, how will your three decades of experience as a doctor in Canberra’s emergency departments influence the way you represent the people of Bean in the Lower House? 

A: I’ve got a pretty good capacity to actually engage with people and a sense of what is important to them. My role in that job often included brokering and negotiation between five different people, none of whom wanted to be there, and one of whom was psychotic, towards some sort of outcome that we could then deliver on. I think that skill set will kind of be useful. 

Q: There is a lot of talk about the 2022 election being the year of the independents. If your campaign is successful and independents hold the key to either side forming minority government, who would you be more willing to support? 

A: It seems unlikely to me at the moment that the current federal Coalition executive can deliver anything on climate, I think it will be challenging to support a government where Barnaby Joyce is the Deputy Prime Minister. I would think it is more likely that I will support a Labor Government. 

The other thing that independents can offer, though, is a capacity to actually talk about stuff that nobody else will say that can then become accepted two years later as part of the deal.  

Pauline Hanson was voted in with ideas that were completely beyond the pale and five years later was led away in tears to jail for electoral fraud, announcing that it wasn’t fair because the Liberal Party had stolen all her policies. If I’m voted out in three years’ time and the Labor Party has stolen half my polices, well you know what, mission accomplished! 

Q: One of the major platforms you’re running on is ‘getting real on climate‘. What does that look like in reality? 

A: It is disappointing that despite the rhetoric, Labor has continued to support the expansion of fossil fuel industry and infrastructure across the country. This needs to stop, it would be a condition of my support for any government, and I hope that the Teal Independents would be able to agree on that.  

Beyond that, there is so much stuff that could be done, the free market will not deliver a transition to a renewables-based energy economy, it will need to be supported.  

Dr Christie posing next to corflutes that say "Won't Hassle You" and 'Get Real On Climate"

Q: Your second policy commitment is to support the establishment of a Federal Anti-Corruption Commission?

A: I think it’s integrity rather than corruption.  

There is a great book by Harry Frankfort called ‘On Bullshit‘ where he says there are liars who know what the truth is and do not want to tell you, and there are people who are attempting to tell the truth. He says that liars do not care, they have no relationship with the truth, their only interest is in the topic of persuasion, and integrity speaks to that.  

For example, both major parties mailed out these ‘handy’ postal voter registration forms, the AEC has advised that this was not authorised, it was data harvesting. That speaks to integrity, it is not corrupt, but I think it is a pretty low bar.  

Q: So why do you think there is such a strong resistance at the federal level for an anti-integrity body when the implementation would be a clear vote winner. 

A: I can’t imagine what could possibly be the problem. I just can’t think of a reason why anybody with nothing to hide would be against it.  

Photos by Liam Jennings