Almost 12 months ago to the day, voters reeling from the downfall of Daryl Maguire went to the ballot box and elected independent Joe McGirr to serve as the Member for Wagga Wagga.
Dr McGirr's narrow byelection victory was followed just six months later by a commanding win in the state election.
Reporter Jody Lindbeck sat down with Dr McGirr to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the rest of his term.
Does it feel like it's been a year since you were first elected in the byelection on September 8, 2018??
No, it doesn't feel like its been a year, absolutely.
What takes precedence - your own personal views on an issue, or what you perceive to be the electorate's position?
As a representative, you're clearly here to try and represent the views of the electorate.
Of course, on any particular issue, not everyone in the electorate is going to agree, so it's actually impossible to represent the views of everyone in the electorate.
I think what you've got to do when you're scrutinising legislation is you first of all got to assess the quality of the legislation.
Your responsibility in the parliament is to make sure that the legislation is as good as it can be and that you pick up how it's going to affect people in your electorate and and try and make sure that that impact is positive and certainly not negative. So there's that role as someone scrutinising legislation.
In terms of a vote on an issue, clearly the views of the electorate are absolutely fundamental on those issues, but you also, every parliamentarian brings to it their own views and their own perspectives and I think people are elected because they do bring that to the role.
Did your decision to vote against the abortion bill truly reflect the views of the electorate you were sworn in to serve?
I have received a lot of correspondence and I have been through the electorate, spoken to many people. It's a very divisive issue in the electorate and I think it would be quite difficult to get a consensus view on this and the electorate. But I'm actually confident that the position I took a significant proportion of the electorate would... I think it represented the views of a significant proportion of the electorate.
Can you conceive of an abortion bill that you would be prepared to support and if so, what would that look like?
Can I just say that I think most people don't want to see this as part of the criminal code. This legislation had significant issues with it. Those are currently being, I think, negotiated at the moment. I'll look forward to seeing what comes from that.
With no party line to fall back on, independents, in a sense, have nowhere to hide. Do you feel that adds extra scrutiny to each of your votes?
Well, I think there's no question that there is an extra scrutiny to the votes and I think that's a part of the advantage and responsibility of being an independent.
To help us understand your political leanings better, where would you place yourself on the political spectrum?
Well, I've always resisted being placed on the political spectrum and I'm going to continue to resist that because I'm an independent and I think that people who want to categorise me as one or the other are doing that because they've got an agenda around precisely that, saying that I'm in one camp or the other. They've got a political agenda.
I'd like to think we could have a discussion on issues that reflects the issues themselves rather than the positions that parties bring to them. And as I say, I've resisted that categorisation, I suppose.
Wagga is to continue to grow and prosper, what is the most pressing need that must be addressed?
As I said in the campaign, and I've said consistently since, we need to have growth, that is what I call responsible.
In other words, a target of 100,000 people by 2038 is very ambitious. But in the context of the times I've been here, if we don't grow as a community, we will slide backwards.
So I think there's no question we need to have growth. I remember when rural decline was a real threat here. That's all people talked about and people still talk about it in metropolitan areas, I think, and that came about because of agriculture requiring fewer people on farms and communities getting smaller and people going into the city and so on and so forth.
We have an opportunity now to grow this community and I think we need to grasp that. But we have moved from being a country town to being a city and we must make sure that we preserve the great things about Wagga: the lifestyle, the livability of Wagga. We need to keep those as we grow.
So that's what I mean by responsible growth. That means that as we grow, we get the education, health facilities that we need, community services that we need, roads and networks that we need.
I think there's a recognition that that's the case. But as a community we need to be vigilant about that.
And I think the second part of that is that we need to make sure our community is what I call safe and supported. And that's a bit about having enough police to deal with issues of crime which do concern people, but it's also about crime prevention and it's also about making sure that we have the social services and support that issues like ice dealt with and that we tackle I think a big issue which is youth unemployment. And that's in the context of skills shortage.
At this stage, do you intend to stand her second term in 2023?
I actually haven't turned my mind to that. I think there's a lot to consider. It's too early in the term.
Regardless of whether your political career extends beyond the next election or not, what do you hope you've achieved when you eventually finish?
I hope that we've established a framework for the future growth of the region so that we achieve that growth in a way that supports the community and that this continues to be a great place to live. I'd like to think that we've set out on that road that we've got a clear direction and the community is comfortable and aware of what is to be achieved.
And also I think I'd like to feel that the community continues to be politically engaged, active in debate, that it's an active and an engaged community, a robust, diverse community.
Based on your experiences over the past year, should people have confidence in the political process and the new South Wales parliament to serve their best interests?
Yeah, I think people should have confidence in the process. I think the people elected to it work hard and genuinely want the best outcome for the state.
That doesn't mean there wouldn't be improvements in the process. And I certainly think that the conduct of debates could be more sophisticated. Sophisticated is not quite the word.
At the moment, we have quite an adversarial system in parliament where there's a lot of focus on scoring points - 'gotcha' moments. And I think that's a shame because you've got a group of committed, hardworking, intelligent people in Macquarie Street and I think we should be trying to harness that talent for a more sophisticated discussion around some of the issues we're faced with. And at the moment I think it gets caught up in, you know, a contest ... mudslinging so on.
When you were first elected, you were almost nicknamed the 'accidental MP'. Did you really want to win the byelection?
Of course. Did I expect to win? I don't think I expected to win at the time, but certainly I wanted to win. I certainly wanted to make sure that people had a choice, that there was a contest, that we weren't taken for granted and as it turned out I was successful, which has been great and successful again in March, which has also been good and I think there's been an energy around political discourse since then that I wasn't aware of before. I think in a way, things have become quite energised
I think that's quite, it's self-gratifying and I think we're in a time now for the region where there's great potential for growth and great potential for prosperity.
So, something a little bit lighter now. Cats or dogs?
AFL or rugby league?
Tea or coffee?
Android or Apple?
Crisps or chocolate?
Oh my, that's a tough one...chocolate.