Could this man be the joker in the Batman pack?

February 28, 2018

Australian Conservatives' Kevin Bailey trained with the SAS to survive in hostile territory and operate behind enemy lines.

The Age newspaper reports the man from Cory Bernardi's fledgling political outfit is going to need all of that know-how in the next few weeks as he campaigns for the byelection in federal seat of Batman, "Australia's most progressive electorate".

With Labor and the Greens' struggling for the political soul of Melbourne's inner north, the Conservative may have taken on a mission impossible, but he is enjoying himself already.

"If we're going to be fighting anywhere, this is a great place to start the fight," Mr Bailey says.

"If we're going to win the battle of ideas, then what's the point in going to nice leafy suburbs and trying to talk just to like-minded people?"

The Conservatives' candidate is a hard man to stereotype; an ex-soldier who was a leading light in the East Timor independence movement in Australia and later consul general for the fledgling nation.

He is an independently wealthy businessman who says he gives most of his money to good causes and who grew up in a Sydney housing commission home with seven siblings and joined the army as a teenager because he could not afford to finish school.

Batman voters expecting a resentful grievance-lister might be a little suprised by the friendly and very chatty 57-year-old who says he has friends across the political, social and cultural spectrum and hates it when politics get personal.

But he doesn't entirely disappoint and will talk without much prompting about "ideologues, trendies" and "the inner-city politically corrects."

Predictably, Mr Bailey has no time for Labor or Greens politics -  "they've lost the plot" - but his harshest words are reserved for the Victorian Liberals and their decision not to contest Batman, abandoning the electorate's conservative voters.

"It's despicable that the Liberal Party just leaves the field, because it's too hard and because there's nothing in for them," Mr Bailey told The Age.

"It is a dumb decision and they will live to regret it.

"There's no principle in that and I said to Cory (Bernardi) that if we're going to be a party of principles and values then we have to stand someone."

With the Greens campaigning hard in Batman on the Adani mine in Queensland and Labor trying to walk both sides of the street on the issue,  Mr Bailey says he is the candidate who will stand for the people in Batman who like the idea of the mine, citing a recent poll that puts support in the electorate for the project at 24 per cent.

"Twenty-four per cent of people living here, do want the Adani mine and they have the right to have an opinion," Mr Bailey says.

"That 24 per cent needs to be represented and needs to have their case argued."

The Conservatives know they are not contenders for the win in Batman, but the party is playing a longer game, convinced that a strong primary vote in the high-profile poll will announce their arrival as a political force in Victoria.

If they attract a primary vote strong enough to influence the outcome - they have put The Greens last on their how-to-vote material - then so much the better, they say.

"I reckon we can get 10 per cent [of the vote]," Mr Bailey said.

"Ten per cent will capture people's imagination, 10 per cent will have them saying 'oh, what happened there'?"

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