Our Values in Action

04 October 2016

One thing my dad always said when the going got tough in politics was “The fight’s not over cos I’m not done fighting yet.” As I think a bit about my first term as an ACT representative, some of the things that make me proudest are the things we in Labor have had to fight hardest for.

I wish there didn’t have to be a fight, but politics always seems to find a way. Marriage equality, a decent go for refugees, a serious national response to domestic and family violence, school funding and the right of every worker to get home to their family at the end of the day. These are fundamental priorities for me. In a challenging national environment it’s been a privilege to be an ACT Labor minister working for fairness and equality in a community which holds these values just as strongly as I do.

As I’ve been chatting with neighbours and people around Belconnen in the lead up to the ACT election, I’ve been reminded plenty of times why this work is worth doing. Not even in Canberra are fairness or equality guaranteed. They are things good progressive governments work on with the community and every job I’ve taken on in politics has been about carrying these deep Labor principles forward.

ACT Labor made marriage equality the law on 22 October 2013, against the wishes of the Abbott government and against the advice of plenty of ‘experts’ but with the overwhelming support of our community. We soon found ourselves in the High Court and sadly our law was overturned. But look at the ruling we achieved. Never had it been so clearly stated that the Commonwealth Parliament could make marriage equality happen and the national movement we see today owes a lot to ACT Labor. More than that, it owes a lot to the many amazing couples who got married in the short time our law operated – and they’ll always be married in my eyes.

In January 2015 I became the multicultural affairs minister. One of my first acts was to declare the ACT a Refugee Welcome Zone – the first state or territory to be one. ACT Labor has worked through many troubling national policies to make sure that when people arrive in Canberra in need of safety and support, they get it. Through our Access Card, we offer support for people to access transport, education, English classes, health care and housing. Just two months ago, together with local refugee and asylum seeker advocates, we successfully lobbied to have the ACT declared a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) region, which will offer better protection still for people seeking safety in our community.

Safety in the home is probably an even more basic idea and an area where I have been very proud and very humbled while working as women’s minister. Australia has found a national consciousness on this terrible problem, yet national leadership and vital service funding has been lacking and further funding remains at risk for homelessness services who offer a place for women and children to turn. It’s ACT Labor that has led calls for this funding to be protected and who put together an unprecedented local response spanning four ministers, funding services for the long term and pushing the deep cultural change we need to achieve over a generation. Whatever role I might hold in a future Assembly, if I’m re-elected on 15 October this is a program I’ll do everything I can to continue and build on.

In Labor we continue to fight for full implementation of the Gonski school funding agreement. This fight isn’t over and ACT Labor’s education policy platform is set with the clear goal of having Gonski restored. It will be one of many more challenges coming in the next four years – plenty of people to stand up for (and others to stand up to). If I look again at dad’s old saying I think we might need to add that there’s always something worth fighting for – wherever somebody's fighting for a place to stand, or a decent job or a helping hand; wherever somebody's struggling to be free...