First time for family man

Stephen Austin, United Australia Party, Dickson


“I mostly voted for LNP,” Dickson’s United Australia Party candidate Stephen Austin says. Photo contributed

It’s not every day that a down-to-earth Aussie bloke with no political experience and a past history of voting for the LNP walks out of Clive Palmer’s office as a candidate for the United Australia Party. But that’s exactly what happened to Stephen Austin.

Mr Austin is a run-of-the-mill kind of guy, a family man and a hard worker who was never a fan of Mr Palmer and his party. As a steady LNP supporter he was not impressed with the in-house bickering and back-stabbing displayed in the recent leadership spills, encouraging him to look elsewhere. “That’s just wrong and they are just not listening to what the average person wants to have happen,” he says.

With the election approaching, Mr Austin says his research found that most political parties are “all over the shop”. However, he was surprised with the policies Mr Palmer had developed for the United Australia Party. “The policies that he had for helping the elderly people, farmers and younger people who are trying to buy home, I thought he had some really good policies in there,” he said.

In the spur of the moment, Mr Austin decided that he would nominate himself for the seat of Dickson. A month after this spontaneous decision, Mr Austin walked into an interview with Mr Palmer and walked out as the candidate. As he left the meeting he looked at his reflection in the elevator, realising just how shocked he was that this was actually happening.

If he is successful, MP for Dickson will be yet another job to add to Mr Austin’s already impressive list. After rattling off a few of his 30-odd professional positions it was clear that he had a passion for helping people. One of his jobs was a gym owner, and Mr Austin helped a young man with a disability improving his confidence, strength and overall quality of life. “I like it when people with a disability … turn up at the gym … and then you design a program around them,” Mr Austin says. “If they do it properly the results are amazing and that’s a real buzz.”

Further cementing his love for helping people, Mr Austin mentored Hungarian immigrant Tibor Benko, helping him maintain his citizenship and settle into Australian culture by establishing a successful painting business for him. Mr Benko regards Mr Austin as his “father figure and best friend”, but is dubious about his foray into politics.

“I don’t think that he would be a good politician to tell you the truth because he is a too good-hearted guy and also too honest for that,” Mr Benko says. “But what would make him a good candidate for Dickson are his life and business experience and his people skills which are amazing, and also his extreme energy. Knowing him for 10 years and looking at his successful life and beautiful family, I think he could only add positive things to anything that he touches.”

Mr Austin is a loving husband to Jane, father to Jessamy, Callum and Shelby, and grandfather to two boys. He has been a Queenslander for 40 years after hailing from New South Wales, and now resides in Samford with his wife.

He is welcoming, warm and kind on this autumn day, where he is house-, pet- and baby-sitting at his eldest daughter’s home: one house, five dogs, two cats and two grandchildren. His beloved dogs are comfortably laying at our feet and licking us. His elder grandson is looking for bees and playing in his outdoor cubby house, his toys scattered everywhere.

Mr Austin wants a face-to-face approach in contrast to how he sees Peter Dutton. “I’ve never met Peter Dutton, I’ve never been invited to any of his things,” Mr Austin says.

One of the notable differences between Mr Austin and the other candidates is his willingness to be directly involved with the community. He endeavours to have monthly meetings where the people of the electorate bring forward their most pressing issues.

“[I’d] take that back to Clive … and say, ‘look our constituents want this’, and if you don’t get it over then hey that’s a numbers game but at least you’re trying and listening to the people who are paying you to be there,” Mr Austin says. Although he is a candidate for the United Australia Party, he says the controversies surrounding Mr Palmer will impact on his ability to lead as “dirt sticks”.

However, as their candidate, Mr Austin says he will do anything the party wants him to do. “Whatever they tell me to do, I don’t know anything about this,” he says regarding his personal campaign.

Mr Austin has owned gyms and trained clients, been a self-defence instructor, worked as a barista, on an oil rig, owned a successful painting business and owns a registered training organisation in the construction industry. Time will tell if this down-to-earth Aussie bloke will soon put that wealth of experience to work in Parliament House in Canberra.