Photy by: Zaharoula Harris.
Chris Wallis, one of Macnamara’s independent candidates, is easily recognised biking around the streets of the division sporting a pink shirt and a thick moustache. The eldest of seven children, Mr Wallis grew up in an Irish-Catholic family.
“At the age of 11, I remember delivering newspapers and pies and magazines at car races. It wasn’t a bad childhood, but it wasn’t easy – it was seven kids in a three-bedroom house,” he said.
Prior to starting his own business, he worked as an accountant, a teacher and a barrister. He decided to run in Macnamara upon discovering that he has both “the skill set as well as the appetite” for a career in politics.
Mr Wallis said working with businesses and cooperatives gave him perspective on politics.
“None of the politicians have woken up at three am wondering if their client was going to pay them so they can pay their staff. They know nothing,” he said.
A key aspect of his campaign is fair superannuation top-up opportunities for those over 55.
“When the superannuation system was put in place in 1992, the over 55s were already 35 years of age so they’ve missed 15 years of contribution and accumulation,” Mr Wallis said.
The candidate believes changing the way we live is the first step towards tackling climate change. He said having a beer fridge, using cars to travel short distances and excessive packaging are things that need to change.
“We didn’t get in the mess we’re in because of Adani. We got in the mess we’re in because of the way we live now,” he said.
Mr Wallis thinks that both the major parties support the Adani coal mine.
“Unfortunately, I’m going to have to live with the fact that Adani is going to go ahead but I don’t want to see any of our (taxpayers’) money go into it,” he said.
“There are around 50 coal mines in Queensland and Adani is one more. For me, it is a lovely symbol and it centralises a focus, but the real issue is the way we live now.”
He said none of the major political parties have a concrete plan to fight climate change.
“They can’t even work out whether we’re going to have an emissions trading scheme, or whether we’re going to have a carbon tax,” he said.
Mr Wallis is also campaigning for a better public transport network. He said the frequency as well as the accessibility of public transport needs to improve. He is also pushing for secure bike cages at train stations to encourage cyclists.
Criminalising wage theft is another priority for the independent candidate.
“Criminalising doesn’t mean people have to go to jail. What it means is that people will have a record (for committing the crime),” he said.
Mr Wallis believes that one of the main reasons international students who are “vulnerable” and “need the extra money” fall victim to wage theft is due to work restrictions stipulated by the visa. He supports offering international students unlimited work rights with the condition that they pass their courses.
Mr Wallis is also pushing for a pardon of up to three years of HECS and VET Student Loan debts, as well as to limit the fees charged by universities. “I’ve always been on scholarships which explains my outlook on education,” he said.
He added that currently students are saddled with a debt even prior to completing their education which is a large burden to bear. He thinks this discourages people wanting to pursue higher education.
Commenting on whether Macnamara is supportive of independent candidates, Mr Wallis said there is a “hunger for independents” in Macnamara, in order to “be away from all the crap we’ve endured for the past 12 years.”
On Michael Danby’s retirement he said, “I think one of his achievements is being known as the Minister for Israel. Another achievement is never having served on the front bench.”
He also pointed out that the pre-selection committee that kept Michael Danby in power for 21 years was the one that nominated Josh Burns.
“How can we have any faith that they know what they’re doing this time?” he asked of the Labor Party.
Commenting on Kate Ashmor’s candidacy, Mr Wallis said, “the story is that the Liberal party has abandoned her. I’ve heard it around the streets so many times.”
He also pointed out that it was “odd” that she was the last candidate to be registered even though she comes from a major party.
He said he is independently funding his campaign but wants to raise funds.
“Everybody’s been really pleasant. There are 53,000 households in the division and I’ve personally done leaflet drops at 26,500 of them on my bike,” he said.
Mr Wallis also said he is in support of real-time disclosure of donations.
“I know that what gets disclosed is nothing like what’s chipped in. It goes into funnels as contributions to charities, unions and the like and finds its way to the parties,” he said, “I am no party patsy.”
Mr Wallis added that he does not have to attend party meetings or play faction politics. “I’ve got a hundred per cent of my time available to work for constituents. I don’t owe anything to anyone. No one can come pull favours here and that’s what I mean by not being a party patsy,” he said.