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The sitting MP: Russell Northe

Mark Farrelly

Mark Farrelly

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Russell Northe has been the MP for Morwell since 2006. He was re-elected in the 2010 and 2014, however his chances in 2018 are uncertain.

Northe sits as an independent after leaving the Nationals in August 2017.

In 2014, Northe’s vote plummeted. He won by a margin of 1.8 per cent, compared to 16.26 per cent in the 2010 election.

Northe has been transparent about the reasons for his departure from the National Party. In late August 2017, he took a leave of absence from his role as an MP and told the media it was to focus on his mental health.

Speaking to 3AW, Northe said he was struggling with significant personal debt, depression, alcohol and gambling issues.

Gippsland born and bred, Northe is married with three children. Last February this year, his wife Jenny entered the public eye when she accused the Nationals of “gutter politics” and “hypocrisy” in the wake of an alleged forgery at the Morwell branch of the National Party. In the same week, Nationals leader Peter Walshe went public with a claim that Russell Northe owed him $30,000.

Northe has not yet announced that he will contest the seat of Morwell, in the face of announcements from six other candidates. He did not respond to requests to be interviewed.

If he runs and loses, Northe could be paid close to $85,000 according to a report in the Weekly Times. This figure is based on retirement pay guidelines for MPs in Victoria. Northe could also be paid thousands in reimbursed election costs if he contests and fails, based on previous amounts paid to independent candidates in state elections.

Though no announcement of candidacy has been made, Northe has been increasingly active via social media and his website in recent months. He has returned to Twitter this year after a period of inactivity, using the platform to draw attention to issues in his electorate such as mental health support services and public transport infrastructure.

Northe has a following of more than 1000 people on Twitter. In comparison, Nationals candidate Sheridan Bond has 39 Twitter followers.

On his website, Northe has been publishing his policy stances on many local issues. These include an increased funding initiative for the Latrobe Valley Racing Club, a call for a $16 million 30 bed residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Central Gippsland, and cheaper public transport for regional seniors, among other proposals.

Since being elected in 2006, Northe has held several roles in the Parliament of Victoria. He has been the shadow minister for consumer affairs and liquor and gaming regulation, the Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism. He was also the Minister for Energy and Resources and Small Business between March and December 2014.

Locals are perhaps more likely to know Russell Northe as a football hero than for his previous work as a business manager. Northe was once the coach of the Traralgon Football Club after playing more than 300 games for them including  seven premierships.

In his online bio, Northe says he’s someone who wants to improve the community he lives in.

“I believe the Latrobe Valley is a great place to live and raise a family and I want to work with my local community to make it even better. You can be confident that I will always fight for a fair go for locals and a fair share of government funding for our region.”

However, the question of whether Northe will continue to fight for the Latrobe Valley after November 24 is still unanswered.

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The sitting MP: Russell Northe