The Slim Dusty tune Looking Forward Looking Back is an apt one to have stuck in my head as I write this piece to mark the six-month milestone of my time in the Senate.
What a fun, humbling, eventful and relatively successful ride it has been since I was sworn in to the Senate on 12 February 2018.
While it feels like my First Speech was given an age ago, Slim Dusty’s lines of I’ve come a long way down the track, Got a long way left to go ring true as I look back on the ride to date and into the future with Australians expected to go to the polls next year.
The one constant of the ride – whether it be looking forward or looking back – that has made it worth the while has been the people. Not just the people “dear to me”. Not just those I’ve met “down the track”. It has been all of the people I have and will represent in the Senate as I strive to make their lives better through the important decisions made in Canberra.
The impact of those decisions hit home recently when Joan called Brian Carlton’s Tasmania Talks radio program and explained how the announcement of the ex-HMAS Darwin coming to Tassie to be a dive wreck brought her to tears.
It was the personal pain and strength to tell her story about how her son, Leading Seaman Cameron Gurr, who was lost overboard from HMAS Darwin and how the decommissioned ship would be a fitting tribute to her son brought home how decisions impact people in powerful and profound ways.
Yes, reports about the ex-HMAS Darwin had focused on the economic, health, tourism, and recreational value to Tasmania. But it was people power, and Joan’s story, that will sit with me about a decision that had been almost four years in the making.
Looking back, the impact on people of the $47.5 million in funding I have personally secured for Tasmania since being sworn in to the Senate has been overwhelmingly positive.
Lives of Tasmanians will benefit from the announcements made for the Cradle Mountain Masterplan, the Cradle Coast Coastal Pathway, a fruit fly bio-security campaign, better netball courts for George Town, an agricultural export package, the Devonport Living City funding, upgraded Royal Flying Doctors Service programs, more mobile phone towers, and, of course, ex-HMAS Darwin.
The lives of Tasmanians are also benefitting from the personally inspired campaigns I’m pushing, including the #GrabATassie one encouraging shoppers to buy local produce, and the #PuttingTassieBackOnTheMap crusade to always put Tasmania front and centre of any decisions made by our leaders.
It is about making better outcomes for all Tasmanians, including the often forgotten ones in our regions, that keeps me striving for more equity when it comes to cheaper airfares to the Mainland, keeping exports rolling with an improved Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, and looking after farmers facing hardship with more funding of the Farm Household Allowance.
That’s why I have continued to push for better education outcomes through my charity work with Toast for Kids and Books for Babies. That’s why I’m encouraging other politicians, no matter their political colours, to donate a coat for Enormity Inc. to reach the 100,000 mark to help keep more homeless Australians warmer in the winter months.
That’s why I’m supporting the Save Our Churches campaign as the Anglican Church plans to sell scores of properties in Tasmania. That’s why I want Tassie to be the home of a Qantas Group Pilot Academy. That’s why I want AFL and AFLW teams based in Tasmania by 2023.
In the rough and tumble of politics, compliments don’t come along often but it was encouraging when a fellow politician said at a recent announcement that for someone who had only been in Parliament for “30 seconds” that many others were “jealous” of my achievements. The compliment made me smile and has inspired me to achieve even more for the Tasmanian people.
Looking forward, I realise there is still a lot of hard work to do to make the lives of Tasmanians even better and I hope to make even more politicians jealous of my achievements to come.
It is with the full weight of the National Party of Australia behind me that I know I can achieve even better outcomes for Tasmania. It is the Nationals that fully understand that people in regional areas can be the forgotten ones. It is the Nationals who best stand for rural communities. It is the Nationals that were the best fit for me as I strive for a better Tasmania.
It is the Nationals, through the Coalition Government alliance, that are delivering life-changing NDIS plans to more Tasmanians, giving greater access to sports programs for our kids through Sporting Schools, and working with communities through grants for volunteers.
Joining the Nationals made me realise that I couldn’t do it alone. It is taking a team effort to get things done for Tasmania. That’s why I especially want to thank my family, the electorate team, the Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, my fellow Nationals, and the many people I meet when I travel around Tasmania for making all of the hard work worth it.
It’s said that people make a place, and it’s Tasmanians that make this State one that the rest of the world envies. Thank you to all of the people who have made the journey of looking forward, looking back a worthwhile trip.
I’m under no illusions that I face a tough battle when it comes to earning another stint in the Senate. But I am a fighter. I love to prove doubters wrong when they say I can’t do something. That’s why my motto in life is “never give up”.
In the words of Slim Dusty, “I’ll be learning forward, to see what’s coming”.