As NSW voters get ready for the poll on March 23, seven candidates have put their hands up for the seat of Wagga. Independent Joe McGirr, the current Member for Wagga, has drawn the number four position on the ballot paper.
Just six months ago, Joe McGirr's ended the Liberal Party's six-decade hold on the electorate with a byelection win. He is now standing for a full parliamentary term.
Dr McGirr's election followed the resignation of former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire. Scott Morrison also replaced Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister during the campaign.
"I thought it was important at the time to stand up and give people an option. The circumstances that evolved, particularly with the change of PM, clearly created this enormous feeling of discontent," Dr McGirr said. "Was I expecting to win? Absolutely not."
Dr McGirr believes the Coalition government underestimated the level of voter dissatisfaction in both the lead-up and during the election campaign.
"It’s party political and I think people are saying ‘we want you to connect with us. We don’t want to be told, we want to be listened to’ and I don’t think they’ve got that. I don’t think they’ve learned that lesson. They are still lecturing to people," he said.
I thought it was important at the time to stand up and give people an option.
"On top of that, I think the parties and the parties structures have lost contact locally. In the past the party branches were an effective means by which the community and members of the community kept the government in touch with what was going on."
The timing of the byelection meant Dr McGirr found himself sitting in parliament just days after being declared the poll winner. Voting was so close, it took nearly a week for counting to be completed.
"I can remember sitting in the antechamber and Premier Gladys Berejiklian came out, welcomed me, and then I walked into the chamber and there was applause and then I realised what a momentous occasion it was and how privileged and humbled I was to be there," he said.
Dr McGirr, 58, admits he would be "bitterly disappointed" if he was not re-elected.
"We have had the government recommit to its promises, we have also raised issues directly with the government. Coronial autopsies is one. People can see that I’m not afraid to criticise the government and speak on their behalf, but I try to do that in a sensible and balanced way," he said,
"The first thing is that people want to feel their concerns are being listened to. They actually don’t want to be told. They want to be listened to, and that’s actually extraordinarily powerful and that comes through a lot," he said.
"I think people are concerned about growth. I think there is a recognition that we do need to grow as a region. I remember the 1980s and 90s when there was declining rural populations. People spoke about rural decline and communities fought back,and they are still fighting back.
"But to fight back, we still need to grow. But we need to have the services and the facilities to support that: Schools, hospitals, community services, transport, roads, social infrastructure. I call this responsible growth.
"The second issue that is a bit concerning is community safety, and this is clearly complicated, but let me make this clear. There is no doubt we don’t have enough police officers and it’s very marked when you look at the statistics from my point of view. I have spoken to the Premier about that.
"At the same time, we all know that crime is the product of social circumstances and that we need to do a lot to provide the correct pathways and education for our children.
"I think that TAFE is absolutely critical to that, but I think we can do a lot better on social housing.
"The third component is that we need to work at preventing crime. Both the police numbers and the need for the government agencies to work together, so we need housing, health, education, the police, community services all to work together to look at ways we can prevent crime."
With the likelihood of a tight race between Labor and the Coalition, a re-elected Dr McGirr may have to decide which to back for government.
"As an independent, giving any indication on which side of the aisle would just make me not an independent," he said.
Dr McGirr and his wife, orthopaedic surgeon Kerin Fielding, have three daughters and a son.
Dr Fielding says that when their children were growing up, her husband emphasised the "three Fs": Focus, feedback and follow-up.
"He spent a lot of time when the children were little doing their homework, and to this day with their uni stuff, saying 'come on guys, you've got to do the three Fs. Focus, take my feedback and follow-up," she said.
"When they would complain, he would say 'you have to remember that feedback is the breakfast of champions."
While Dr Fielding says her husband also uses the "three Fs" approach in his own life, he isn't always keen to hear his family's feedback on his fondness for "dad jokes".
'He absolutely loves dad jokes. Every Christmas Joe would go and collect all the jokes from the Christmas crackers. We were never allowed to have crackers without jokes.
"He would collect them and save for the next year. So after the cracker jokes had finished, he would open his wallet and bring out this enormous pile of dad jokes that he has been collecting for years. He still does it to this day. Every single dad joke to Joe is just as funny as the first time he heard it."