GOOD thing former Portlander Rod McGarvie spent 12 years working in east Africa. The challenge of unseating Labor heavyweight Wayne Swan in the Brisbane electorate of Lilley could prove as daunting as turning back the charge of a thousand startled wildebeests.
But Rod McGarvie reckons he’s ready to win.
“We took five points off Wayne Swan (the local member and Australia’s treasurer) last time,” he said. “People in this electorate are unhappy about costs of living, especially resulting from the carbon tax. They are ready for a change.”
Private polling appears to bear out the Liberal National Party challenger’s optimism. According to one leaked poll, if the election (due before November 30, 2013) were held tomorrow, the government would lose every Queensland seat, including the Treasurer’s in the northern Brisbane suburbs. That would mean a trip to Canberra for Mr McGarvie, once a Portland South Primary School and Portland High School student.
It’s been a long and winding road for the former army corporal, a path with a couple of detours to Africa.
“In Portland I worked as a builder for Baulch’s,” he recalled. “Then the Falklands War was on the TV news (1982) and I thought ‘hmmm…the military looks like an interesting life.’ I enlisted in the army’s Corps of Engineers, where you learned to build things and sometimes to blow other things up. With a United Nations peacekeeping force, I had a posting to Namibia and that’s where I fell in love with Africa.”
In all Mr McGarvie served in the Australian Army from June 1983 to May 1991, with service at two Queensland posts. He made friends there and began attending a local church with which he is still affiliated today, 23 years later. But the lure of Africa was so strong, he and his family knew they had to return.
“I got a job working in languages and literacy training in Uganda and Tanzania,” he said. “We were there for 12 years. I witnessed the poverty of the people first-hand but I also experienced the great beauty of east Africa.”
In recent years, he’s been working as a disability services provider and is studying for his Masters in Business Administration. It’s that varied background, he reckons, that’s prepared him well for a potential new career representing the people of Lilley in Parliament.
Read more in Friday’s edition of the Portland Observer.