Politicians: where do they come from?

WHERE did our politicians come from before they entered the Assembly?

“CityNews” put the question of their past, their present and their future to all 14 MLAs and got some fascinating answers.

Unsurprisingly, most come from the public service, unions and community services. One’s out of the Army, another a lawyer and only three have private sector experience at a senior level. But there was interestingly some student work experience including working in a T-shirt shop, stacking supermarket shelves and office cleaning.

Katy Gallagher, Chief Minister

What were you doing before politics?

I was working as a union organiser and before that I had worked in the community sector.

How has this helped?

I have used all the skills I learnt in my previous employment, particularly the ability to listen and work with others to solve problems.

Any plans for life after politics?

Not sure at all, but when the time comes I’m sure it will be interesting and hopefully a little calmer.

Andrew Barr, Deputy Chief Minister

Before politics?

Sales, account management and media analysis.

How has this helped?

An understanding of how the media works.

After politics?

Most likely running a small business and some voluntary community work.

Simon Corbell, Labor

Before politics?

I was an adviser to then-Member for Fraser John Langmore.

How has this helped?

My knowledge of planning and environment policy, with a particular focus on the National Capital, as well as a commitment to social justice and human rights principles.

After politics?

I’m focused on delivering for Canberra as part of the Gallagher Labor Government, so I don’t have plans outside of the Assembly at this time.

Joy Burch, Labor

Before politics?

I was working as a nurse, managing a community service in Victoria, and recruiting and training health professionals for NT and rural areas.

How has this helped?

I have worked in health, education and childcare, areas that affect all of us.

After politics?

Since I started working as a nurse, I have served the community to make sure things can be made better. After politics I don’t see that changing, but maybe with time for looking after my garden and taking the dog for longer walks.

John Hargreaves, Labor

Before politics?

I was a public servant for 29 years, serving in the Departments of Treasury, Education and Health, in the Commonwealth and the ACT, receiving the Long and Dedicated Service Award in 1994.

How has this helped?

My previous professional service was in financial administration and I brought this expertise to my positions as a member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and to the roles of minister in various portfolios

After politics?

I intend to immerse myself in my family, indulge my passion for the Collingwood Football Club, music and fishing, and most of all, travel.

Mary Porter, Labor

Before politics?

I was a nursing sister in Arnhem Land, NT. In Canberra, I was involved with Communities@Work, was CEO of Volunteering ACT and I have been a Red Cross volunteer since I was eight.

How has this helped?

My time working in remote indigenous communities and the not-for-profit sector has given me the capacity to listen to people, appreciate their experiences and understand that we all approach our world from our own cultural experience.

After politics?

I am intending to run again for election in 2012. I will continue to work hard for my community, so that is what I continue to be focused on.

Zed Seselja, Opposition Leader

Before politics?

I was a lawyer and a policy officer. Before full-time work, I worked at Woolworths and in cleaning jobs and fast food during high school and university.

How has this helped?

A legal background certainly helps when it comes to legislation and argument.

After politics?

I have no plans for a life beyond politics at this stage. However, whenever the time comes, more time with family and friends will feature prominently.

Brendan Smyth, Deputy Opposition Leader

Before politics?

I ran the sales and distribution service and the National Library Shop, was the manager of the Questacon shop and worked in my family-owned Cooleman Court newsagency.

How has this helped?

The ability to listen to people, to serve them and to meet their needs.

After politics?

I am going to distill whiskey and other spirits.  Snowy River Scotch, McAuleys Irish Whiskey, Mount Buffalo Bourbon, Brindabella Brandy as well as having a go at developing an Australian liqueur to name a few.

Jeremy Hanson, Liberal

Before politics?

I served for 22 years as an infantry officer in the Army. That service included the command of a unit in Iraq, and peacekeeping in East Timor. I also completed a master’s degree in management.

How has this helped?

The Army prepared me well for the combative nature of politics and taught me to stand my ground on matters of principle.

After politics?

Life after politics will include more time with my family and hopefully getting better at playing the guitar.

Vicki Dunne, Liberal

Before politics?

I was a Commonwealth public servant for about 17 years, in education and then in the policy area. I’ve also been a political adviser.

How has this helped?

I know how the bureaucracy works and I know how governments should work. I have high expectations about the quality of service that people should get from their government.

After politics?  

I want to combine my love of travel with my commitment to democratic institutions. I want to work in useful ways in emerging democracies – perhaps as an election monitor.

Steve Doszpot, Liberal

Before politics?

I was ACT general manager of several international ICT companies.

How has this helped?

A better understanding of the interface between the bureaucracy and the commercial sector.

After politics?

I would like to resume a role similar to that before politics – to be an interface between government agencies, research institutions and the commercial sector.  If we are talking 20 years time, I hope to be sipping Pina Coladas enjoying a well-earned rest with my wife and spending time with my grandchildren, in Canberra.

Alistair Coe, Liberal

Before politics?

I worked at the RSL as an adviser to the national secretary.

How has this helped?

My work demonstrated that while government has a very important role to play in the development of public policy, it is important that politicians look to the experience of advocacy groups, community organisations and businesses for knowledge and ideas about solving problems.

After politics?

Taking a holiday driving across America.

Meredith Hunter, Greens

Before politics?

My first job at uni was in a T-shirt shop.  After that I  worked in the community sector for 25 years. I was director of the Youth Coalition of the ACT.

How has this helped?

I participated on committees, boards and advisory groups. I was active in lobbying the ACT Government and MLAs on a range of matters and lodged submissions and gave evidence at Assembly inquiries.

After politics?  

Not so fast… I’m really enjoying continuing my public service as the Member for Ginninderra and will definitely be seeking to stand again. When I do retire I look forward to filling my time with family, friends, volunteering and the occasional sleep-in!

Shane Rattenbury, Greens

Before politics?

Head of oceans campaign at Greenpeace International in Amsterdam, responsible for global co-ordination of Greenpeace’s work on fisheries, whaling and ocean pollution.

How has this helped?

My work as an environmental advocate taught me to be persistent and adaptable in pursuing a goal or outcome. I also learnt that ideas that are perceived as new or radical at the beginning often become mainstream very quickly.

After politics?

To be honest, it is not something I have contemplated too much, but I do know I don’t plan to be a politician for “life”, and will only stay as long as I feel I am continuing to make a contribution (and, of course, if people keep voting for me!).

Caroline Le Couteur, Greens

Before politics?

I was an executive director and IT manager of Australian Ethical Investment Limited, which is an ASX-listed company based in Canberra.

How has this helped?

I have found my business and boardroom experience useful for working in small groups that don’t always agree – such as the Assembly.

And seeing the results of government regulations from the outside helps me make them in the Assembly.

Any plans for life after politics?

I’m hoping to get re-elected. But whether or not, I intend to keep working for social-justice outcomes and to help prevent climate change.

Amanda Bresnan, Greens

Before politics?

Acting director of Policy and Projects, Mental Health Council of Australia.

How has this helped?

It has given me a strong awareness and understanding of the need for cross-government policy and programs that don’t work in “silos”, as this isn’t how people work. We shouldn’t be making the person fit the system, but the system fit them.

After politics?

Working in an area related to human rights either here or overseas.

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