A CAREER in politics seemed natural for Candice Burch who, as a 14-year-old, would read the paper daily and become “worked up” about what the government of the day was or wasn’t doing.
So when Candice, 29, of Kingston, was elected in a count back for the inner seat of Kurrajong in December, following the death of Liberal incumbent Steve Doszpot, she was surprised but not unprepared.
She left the Department of Finance last July and went to Canada for a couple of months [on a two-year working visa], not expecting to be entering politics so soon.
Candice’s South African parents fell in love with Australia when visiting her grandparents in the early ’80s.
“They were just mind blown by the different life. It was the simple stuff that you could go down to the park on a Saturday morning with your child and you would be perfectly safe,” she says.
“They always say they got on the plane to go home and mum turned to dad and said: ‘So we’re applying to emigrate?’ and dad said: ‘Yep!’ It was the easiest decision they ever made.”
The family initially lived in Kalgoorlie, where toddler Candice’s only sibling, her sister, was born, before moving to Sydney where they grew up.
Candice moved to Canberra about 11 years ago to study economics and political science at ANU and during that time joined the ANU Liberal Club, the Young Liberals and then the Canberra Liberals.
Following the recent shadow ministry reshuffle by Opposition Leader Alistair Coe, Candice hopes to bring new ideas and new perspectives under her portfolios of Transport and Public Sector Management.
“I want to be able to question, ‘why do we do it that way?’ and, ‘is there a better way of doing things?’,” she says.
One unavoidable item under her new transport portfolio, which Candice wants to question is the light rail.
“In many ways the last election was a referendum on the tram and we accept that we lost that,” she says.
“So it’s about putting all options on the table and figuring out how to best integrate the tram into the transport system and what the best transport system is for Canberra, moving forward 10 or 20 years.
“For a lot of people [such as families dropping children to school before work], something like the tram into the city is just never going to be accessible, it’s never going to suit them.
“So I think it’s about making sure that there’s facilities to get people on to the tram in the first place.
“Now that we have the tram, I want to see people using it. I want to see us getting value for money out of it.”
In order to do this, Candice plans on consulting the community as much as possible which, she says, the ACT government is lacking.
“When I’m out and about in the community that’s the most common complaint we hear, is that they’re just not listening,” she says.
The ACT government has ignored complaints from the Mitchell community, who are outraged that the tram is bypassing their suburb, which Candice says is “absurd”.
“The impact that it’s having on businesses at the moment with traffic and congestion, and then the fact that they’re losing out because they’re not getting a stop shows that they’re completely neglected.”
Candice also wants to highlight the many parts of Canberra that are completely underserviced by buses, such as new areas such as the Molonglo Valley.
“And I still cannot believe Oaks Estate still doesn’t have a bus out there,” she says.
“I also find it mind-boggling that if you want to get from Tuggeranong to Belconnen, you have to go through the Woden town centre and the city town centre along the way.
“Given that we live in a city where people don’t go into the city for work and go home again, there’s a lot of movement across the city.
“There are probably a lot of people that could be using transport, that would prefer to be using public transport but it’s just not reliable or convenient.”
Under Candice’s portfolio of Public Sector Management, she is passionate about enabling the public service to do the best job that it can do.
“Making sure we have the right skills and technology so the public sector can be the best it can be going forward,” she says.
“It’s not about job cuts, it’s about making sure we’re investing in the right skills and technology today to take our public service through the next 10 or 20 years.
“And also that service delivery component in making sure that government is easy and accessible to people,” she says.
“I want to make sure it’s easy to navigate and make sure there’s a bit more of a client focus.”
But portfolios aside, representing her local area is really important and something that Candice will be focusing on.