DON’T expect Ben Morton to be your best pal on Facebook: the newly endorsed Liberal candidate for the ridiculously safe seat of Tangney isn’t all that into social media, and has no intention of tweeting what he had for breakfast.
“I believe it’s not the job of MPs to be commentators and if elected I won’t be,” the conservative 34-year-old says.
“It’s the job of MPs to work hard and to represent the people that elect them.”
Last year he told the party’s state conference delegates that social media and the demands of a never-ending news cycle meant “what” politicians were doing was getting reported much more often than “why”.
He intends to be hands-on out in the electorate, not stuck in front of a computer or a smartphone.
“Yes, I have been very critical in the past where MPs become inward-looking commentators, communicating only to those within the political bubble,” he says. “I won’t take that approach, I intend to be a very accessible and grassroots local MP if elected.”
As to Dennis Jensen, the incumbent Tangney MP completely trousered at preselection, Mr Morton has no comment. And he says he doesn’t know who leaked the story about the MP’s steamy, unpublished novel, that was the death rattle in Dr Jensen’s 12-year parliamentary career.
Dr Jensen reckons the resulting media storm cost him the votes of religiously conservative preselectors, but the Herald had reported a month beforehand that party insiders considered the MP a “dead man walking” given the formidable support behind Mr Morton.
Dr Jensen is considering seeking re-election as an independent. That decision would cost voters an extra $35,000 in wages (MPs who retire stop being paid when writs are issued; MPs who contest their seats are paid till the election).
Mr Morton, who as the WA Liberals’ state director oversaw two election victories and never conceded a seat, is sticking on-message and reckons the Perth Freight Link is “a big win for locals in Tangney”.
“It will mean fewer trucks and cars on Leach Highway, as well as less traffic on Stock Road and South Street.
“The project is great for our community as it takes cars and trucks off our local roads. I also believe it will make our streets safer.”
It’s not his first tilt at political office: in 2007 the then 25-year-old was dragooned into contesting the NSW state seat of Wyong after candidate Brenton Pavier was caught texting a sex joke and was disendorsed.
Mr Morton failed to win the Labor seat, but his campaigning managed to help secure funding for a child abuse support service.
“Our campaign resulted in the NSW ALP premier Bob Carr visiting that organisation and committing funding to it,” he says. “This was a very proud moment for me as a young candidate. I did not win my campaign to become our local state MP, but I learnt what can be achieved by effectively representing local people and organisations.”
Since resigning as state director in 2015, Mr Morton has worked in the private sector and is currently a senior manager at BGC.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK