A New England man, who quit the Liberal Party as COVID-19 restrictions hurt businesses, is running as an independent in next month's federal election.
Matt Sharpham said he was only a member of the party briefly, but was left disappointed, and now he wants to follow in the footsteps of Tony Windsor, Richard Torbay and Peter Draper by giving people in New England an independent local member.
"I just found them to be, I don't want to say weak, but they weren't willing to listen to people who were hurting in the community through all the lockdowns and the mandates," Mr Sharpham said.
"The community's hurting, a lot of people are in a lot of pain and the people that are making the decisions aren't even acknowledging that.
"Businesses are now worth a lot less than they were two years ago, because being locked down and restricting who can come in, restricting opening hours has affected their bottom line, so as a result banks won't lend for people to buy them.
"As a result their businesses are worth less and that needs to be acknowledged," he said.
For the last 15 years Mr Sharpham had been employed with NSW Police as a supervisor overseeing information, communications and technology. He said his work took him to communities right around the electorate, from Tenterfield down to Scone.
But he said he was now seeing our region's towns suffering at a time when more people were moving from the city.
"These regional towns should be thriving. There's people coming up from Sydney and Melbourne and some coming down from Brisbane, they should just be thriving," he said.
The Tamworth man, who grew up in the region and is married with two kids, said he had started getting around meeting people, talking to business owners and people on the street.
He said the reason he had gone independent was he did not want to answer to anyone except the voters.
"I don't have to have a party breathing down my neck because I only answer to people here, and I think that's what New England needs, it's what we had, and we need to move back to being an independent electorate."
Mr Sharpham said he has tried to contact the former independent MP Tony Windsor, who held New England between 2001 and 2013, and had also been in contact with former state independent Peter Draper, as well as Armidale businessman Rob Taber who stood as an independent at the last four elections in New England.
"I'm certainly meeting up with people who know what they're doing and can help," he said.
Meanwhile, he said the big issues he was hearing concerns about were the environment, crime - particularly domestic violence - and the need for a federal anti-corruption body.
"I think we need to keep our politicians to account and at the moment they have free reign, and I support having a body in place to keep them in check," he said.
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