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We spotted Andrew Gee in town and asked his minder for a two-minute interview...

The red vehicle on Peisley Street on Tuesday afternoon. Copyright: Orange News Examiner on-the-spot photo.

By Peter Holmes

I was driving around town looking for stories.

Some days you tootle about and see nothing newsworthy. The yarns are always out there - you just need to turn down the right street, or start a conversation with the right local as you buy a morning coffee.

Cruising along Peisley Street on Tuesday afternoon I noticed a striking red vintage ute parked in the area outside the old Tip Top factory. A large Andrew Gee poster had been secured to the back of the vehicle.

Then I noticed a tall man in a hat. Could it be? Yes it was - none other than the federal member for Calare, Andrew Gee.

The federal election hasn't been called, but given the large number of posters around town for independent candidate Kate Hook, I hadn't been surprised to see an Andrew Gee poster appear on someone's front lawn about a week ago.

And now here was another one. I turned around and drove back, but Gee had vanished. I pulled in near his bright red machine and walked over to take a photo and see if the MP was about.

A man was sitting in a car next to Gee's auto. As I took the photo he hopped out of his sedan and walked over to me.

I introduced myself as the editor of The Orange News Examiner and asked the man if he worked with Gee. He did. His name was Steve.

Andrew Gee and a novelty cheque for the Orange Chamber Music Festival.. Supplied.

My first thought had been that Gee was planning to leave the tasty old wheels on this busy road until the election. It would have been one of the stupidest political and automotive moves ever made west of the mountains, for the poster may not have even had time to be defaced before the car was nicked.

Or torched.

Or both.

But of course Gee was not planning to leave it there.

Steve told me that Gee had a bung light on the vintage car and was sorting it with a local auto type across the road. I know Gee, and have spoken to him at several media events. Most recently we exchanged hellos at the start of the running festival marathon. I was there to take photos and write a story, and he was there to sound the tooter to signal the start of the race.

I asked Steve if it was OK to hang about and have a quick interview with the MP about the posters and the forthcoming federal election.

Steve said he would need to check on the chances of this happening. He walked off and made a phone call. He walked back.

"So what's the go?" I asked. Steve explained that Gee was very busy and that he wouldn't have time for an interview.

I replied that I only needed two minutes. Just a few quick questions about the posters and the election. I was hoping that Gee would return while I was chatting to Steve so I could ask him directly for a brief interview. He didn't. Steve asked for my details and said he would call me and try to schedule me into Gee's diary.

I appreciate that as a federal MP and minister Gee has a lot on his plate. I appreciate that he has a lot more ground to cover than, say, the Orange mayor Jason Hamling, or the Orange state MP Phil Donato.

But there is a feeling from a number of people around town that Gee is not as available as he could be. That he'd rather play a low-key hand.

When I needed to speak to former mayor Reg Kidd, I phoned him. He answered or called back. His mobile number was freely available to the general public via the council website.

Donato has been known to put his mobile phone number at the bottom of press releases so the media can contact him directly. When I texted him recently about a story I was writing on the chances of Orange getting a hospice, he responded promptly.

To get a response from Gee on any given issue you need to go through his people. He has people in Orange and Canberra. They will respond to your questions. A written quote will likely be provided.

It seems to me that, for whatever reason, he doesn't particularly like engaging with the press. Maybe he is wary. Maybe he is shy. Maybe he has such a magnificent buffer in the seat of Calare that he doesn't need to take the risks that come with being readily accessible. In a way, who could blame him? Would you want to defend the government's scattergun Covid payments to businesses with increased profits, with no inbuilt mechanism to recoup? Or its inability to secure vaccines in good order?

Or sort quarantine facilities when they were most needed?

Or provide robust internet for the regions?

Or react quickly - and fairly - to the monstrous floods in and around Lismore and Ballina?

Or deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce's text describing the PM Scott Morrison as "a hypocrite and a liar"?

Andrew Gee with a novelty cheque for Pairtree Intelligence. Supplied.

Or the shambles in aged care - both before and during Covid? Or the unfulfilled promise of a federal corruption agency?

What could Gee possibly say to these questions that would increase his popularity?


Steve said Gee had to attend a meeting after organising for his taillight to be fixed, and that there was simply no time to speak to the media.

I think it's a shame Gee's people ruled that our local MP - who spends a fair chunk of the year in Canberra - didn't have two minutes to talk to locals via this website.


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