This weekend Australians vote for members of the federal parliament - we have heard lots of campaigning but we want to know if they are the right people for the job.
So the Gazette invited four students from Richmond High School to grill Macquarie political candidates for the position of Member of Parliament.
Monica Coddington and Alison Warters of year 11 interviewed Danielle Wheeler from The Greens.
Here is what she had to say to their questions:
Alison Warters: Why do you think you are the best person for the job?
Danielle Wheeler: I think it’s more than just a personal thing. I think it’s more about the party too. I guess both The Greens and I are fighters, but not in a negative sense, but from the point of view of taking what we believe is the best thing for the people that we represent. It is our job to represent the people that vote us in and the people that don’t vote us in, and take their concerns to parliament and really fight for their best outcomes. The Greens have a long history of that and I do too, locally.
AW: Why do you want to pursue a career in politics?
DW: As a Green in the seat of Macquarie my chances are really slim. But what motivates me is hoping for change and to affect change. And The Greens have done that a lot. We have policies in that we have not necessarily had credit for but have made big changes for Australia. So, John Howard’s gun laws are good example of that. The laws that John Howard put through were Christine Mills laws – The Greens leader. If the Tasmanian parliament had accepted Christine’s gun control laws, Port Arthur would never of happened. John Howard took those laws and put them into Federal Parliament and made a real change to Australia and that is what The Greens do. We push for what is right.
AW: What are your greatest strengths for the job?
DW: I’m well educated, which I think helps enormously. I think I’m a good listener and I like to take a fight to its conclusion. So, I like to take the views of the people forward, push for them and get a good outcome for all the people involved.
Monica Coddington: What are your weaknesses?
DW: I hate being photographed.
I certainly don’t like door knocking and have not done any door knocking in this campaign. I can’t think of anything worse than have a sleazy wannabe politician pop up at my house on a Sunday afternoon. So I haven’t done that.
I think I’m really good at pushing issues that are important but I’m not good at pushing myself.
MC: Why have you chosen to work for The Greens?
DW: The Greens are the party that are most in line with my values. If I laid all the parties down the table and had a look at what they stand for — and we have actually done that with party preferences because we had to work out who was closely aligned to our beliefs and who would we preference this election. We pulled out everybody’s party policy statements and it’s really only The Greens with their policies on social justice and the environment that are the most consistent with my ethics and values.
MC: What do you think will be the most difficult part of this job and how will you deal with it?
DW: The most difficult part will be balancing politics and family. I have a 12-year-old child who still needs his mother around, and it’s going to be really difficult to be in Canberra and still be needed here. I know politicians don’t actually work in Canberra for quite that long. They still have lots of time. But that’s time to spend in the electorate and getting to know the issues of the people. I think that’s another balancing act of the job – to do your job in parliament and also do your job in your electorate. How will I deal with it - all you can do is cut all the noise that is around you so you can get really focused. I will probably keep a better diary. I was never really good at keeping a diary or a homework diary. I don’t know if that has necessarily improved over the last 20 years. I’ll probably need staff for that. But I think you will have to be really organised and focused on what is important to you.
Thomas Randall and Griffin Taylor of year 11 interviewed Susan Templeman of the Labor Party.
Here is what she had to say to their questions:
Thomas Randall: Why do you think you are the best person for the job?
Susan Templeman: I think it’s a great area that we live in but I don’t think it’s been very well represented in recent years. My background is as a journalist for a decade and then a small businesswoman, and I think those are the sorts of things that this area needs to have a voice for. One reason that made me go into politics is that I’m a mum and raised kids. I’ve got a 19-year-old and a 22-year-old and sometimes when you are a mum your family goes through really tough times. My daughter suffered mental illness in her teens and to get through that experience it takes a lot. Not every family is able to get through it without help. The help can sometimes be hard to find. So, I would really like to get in there and make a difference for families, small businesses and help the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains to really make the most of what they have got.
TR: Why do you want to pursue a career in politics?
ST: I started out as a political reporter in the Canberra Press Gallery. One of the things that I experienced there were a lot of great politicians and there were some people who were out there for the right reasons. But it’s a tough life and I use to sit up in the press gallery, looking down on the politicians and if someone had of said to me that you’re going to do that I would have probably laughed at them. Being a journalist it might not have been a laugh and thrown in a few choice words as well. It wasn’t something that I’ve ever planned to do. But as you get older, and I’m 50 now, you recognise that you really bring about change by changing government policies. It might feel like the policy happens a long way away. But in fact those decisions that they make in Canberra in Parliament House, flow through, have an impact to everyone’s lives. I think if you really wanted to step up and help a community change, that’s the way to do it.
TR: What are your greatest strengths for the job?
ST: I think I love talking to people. But more than that, I think I love hearing their stories. It’s a bit about why I became a journalist. I love understanding issues and finding out why something is working or why something is not. The best thing about doing this job is that you really get to listen what people have to say. We are such a diverse community here. We have people who live in really rural areas; we’ve got people who live on the edge of world heritage national park; and people who live in suburban environments. You have different people with different experiences and I don’t think you could want to be a politician if you didn’t really like hearing what they had to say.
Griffin Taylor-Dalton: What are your weaknesses?
ST: I probably talk too much. It can be a strength and a weakness. When you are thinking about weaknesses and we do this when we are thinking about our kids or when I am employing people, I think it’s about making that work. One of the things that I know I’m not terrific at is remembering all the data and the details. I’ve always surrounded myself with people who are really good at that.
GT-D: Why have you chosen to work with the Labor Party?
ST: I didn’t join the Labor Party until I was in my mid thirties. I had a long time to think of the parties, what they stood for and what they represented. The Labor Party is about equality and it’s about the fact that no matter what suburb your in it doesn’t matter what your postcode is, you deserve the same high-class education as some other kid in another postcode. That also applies to transport, health services.
So for me it’s symbolic of what Labor is and it’s a fair go for everybody.
GT-D:What would you consider is your most significant accomplishment?
ST: I ran last election and I lost. Even though I was the loser last election, this community has still had millions and millions of dollars of infrastructure that were my election promises in 2010. That’s why the Windsor Wolves have a fabulous grandstand almost completed. $2.5 million dollars, that was my election promise and when I lost the Labor government said ‘that’s okay, we have budgeted for it and we are going to deliver it to that community even though they didn’t vote for Susan’. The same with the North Richmond bridge - we committed $2 million dollars to do a study so that mums and dads don’t have to sit in traffic. We still did that study and we’ve now got $18 million dollars to go to improvements to that bridge. I’ve already achieved things being a loser. Just think what I could achieve if I actually won.