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Interview with Zoe Daniel

Updated: May 1, 2022

Friday 29th April 10am

Q: How old are you, if that’s not too personal?

Zoe: I’m 49.

Q: Have you lived in Goldstein all your life?

Zoe: No, I was born in Essendon, in Melbourne, and I grew up in Launceston in Tasmania. I’ve lived all over Australia and the world. My husband and I first moved to Goldstein after we bought our house in Hampton in 2013 so our kids went to Sandringham Primary School and in-between times we went over the to US for a few years and lived in Washington DC but we came back at the end of 2019 so we live in Hampton and my children now go to school in Brighton.

Q: How long have you been working as a politician?

Zoe: I only accepted a request to be a political candidate from a community organisation called Voices of Goldstein in October 2021, so not very long! I thought about it for quite a while as I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to be a politician, as it can be a quite tricky environment to work in. I decided I did and we started my campaign at the end of November 2021. It's almost six months now and it's been a busy time.

Q: When you were my age what did you want to be when you grew up?

Zoe: When I was your age I used to ride horses a lot and throughout my childhood I was very lucky that I had a pony, and I really loved horses and horse riding and I love animals, so I initially wanted to be a vet that specialised in looking after horses. But when I was in high school, about 15, my Science Teacher pointed out to me that my skills were really in writing and communication, so I decided that instead of being a vet I'd like to be a journalist. I focused on my writing and my communication and I did a journalism degree and I became a journalist. I've worked in most states of Australia as a journalist and then I became a foreign correspondent in three different countries as well.

Q: What was your most rewarding job?

Zoe: I think being a foreign correspondent in the places that I have worked has been really rewarding. I've learned lots of things about different places and different cultures, I've had some amazing adventures, but also being a foreign correspondent is quite a privilege in many ways because you get to see history unfolding as it happens and you get up close to major global events. For example, I covered the election of Donald Trump in the United States in 2016 and the Trump Administration, so I got to spend a lot of time at the Whitehouse covering what was happening in America, so that was a really exciting time, but I've also worked all over the world in developing countries so I've been able to, for example, meet people in refugee camps and meet people in conflict environments and cover natural disasters and to try to tell the stories of the people affected by those things. It can be really challenging work but it's also very fulfilling work because you feel like you're making a contribution in some way by telling the stories of people who need their stories told.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?

Zoe: Well I still like to ride horses when I have time but unfortunately I don't have a horse of my own anymore which is quite sad, I would love to one day. I really like spending time at the beach with my son who especially likes surfing so we try to spend time in the water, when we have time. In terms of what I do to do day-to-day I'm a runner so I really enjoy going for a run along the tracks along the bay. I live in Hampton so my most common run is to run from Hampton up to Black Rock and back. I try to do that three days a week if I have time, I don't have as much time at the moment as I like, but that's what I really enjoy doing and I think it's really good for my mental health to get out and do that exercise.

Q: Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Zoe: [Laughs] Well I'm an animal person generally, as I said. I did have a cat called Oliver who was a Burmese cat and I really loved Oliver. My husband, though, is very much not a cat person so we don't have a cat anymore, but we do have a dog. Her name is Tully, she's a golden retriever, so I guess I call myself an animal person generally, but I guess I'm more of a dog person that a cat person.

Q: Do you like children?

Zoe: I love children. I have two children. My children are teenagers now, it will be an interesting time when they leave home, I'm not quite ready for that. My son is 15 and my daughter is 13. I would have loved to have more children, actually. I really love babies and children and I love having conversations with children and hanging out with children, it's lots of fun and I learn a lot.

Q: Do you think children should have a vote?

Zoe: Well it's an interesting question, Grace! I've been thinking on this since I was warned that you would ask me that. I do think that children should be able to have more input into decision making so I don't know whether that comes in the form of being able to vote earlier, I kind of think maybe we've got it right with being able to vote at 18, but it would be great to think that there might be a way that children could have more input into our political process in some way. One of the things that I would like to do is a lot more listening to our young people so I can get a really clear perspective on what young people's priorities are.

Zoe: Do you think children should have a vote?

Grace: It depends. They should have a test to see if they can have a vote [smiles].

Q: Voting is compulsory in Australia. Do you think that’s the best way?

Zoe: I do, and I say that because I spent a lot of time living in the United States where voting is not compulsory and I think that it creates a different situation because only the people who are really engaged in politics vote, so I think that becomes quite polarising. Only the people who are the most opinionated tend to vote so you potentially get more extreme views on the left and right of politics because the people who vote are the ones who really care about it, not just the average person. I think that the good thing about compulsory voting is that you get a perspective from the entire population about who they want to lead them rather than just the proportion of the population that's really engaged with politics and I think it's really important and really critical to our democracy and as an Australian I'm quite proud that we have compulsory voting. I think it's really important.

Q: Would you like to be prime minister one day?

Zoe: That’s not on my radar at all. I aim to be a genuine independent who will sincerely represent our community and listen to the concerns of the community and engage with the community and I think that's one thing about being an independent, I'm not ambitious to be a Minister or the Prime Minister as I'm not a member of a political party, so that's not part of the path that I have ahead of me. The path that I have ahead of me is just to talk to people, listen to people and try to take their views forward and give them a voice in the parliament as an independent and that's what I'm really hoping to do.

Q: Why should someone vote for you?

Zoe: My position is that the two party system is broken, that our two parties tend to just fight and argue with each other. They can't have conversations that are productive and what that means is that we don't get progress on the sort of policies that we need for our country. One of my policy pillars is better, faster action on climate change, for example, which I think is really important and I think our government has been far too slow in taking action on that, I don't think we have time to waste. As an Independent I hope to get on to the cross-bench and be an honest broker between the two major parties and to try to create some collaboration and get us away from that really combative environment that I was talking about so that we can get some really good policy in place with some problem solving to move things forward. It's a different way of doing politics and as I said, the idea is that it's a really grass roots approach so I'll spend a lot of time, as I have been over the last few months, speaking to people directly, getting the community's direct perspective and priorities clear in my head so that I can take those things forward. So it's a bit different to voting for a party politician but I think it's something that's needed to hold the politicians from the major parties to account for their decisions or their lack of action.

Q: How does being an Independent candidate, and not being supported by a political party, make you a better choice to vote for?

Zoe: I think the main thing is that the decisions that I make can be directly driven by our community and I don't have to vote according to the views of the Party, or along Party lines. What happens with a Party is that the Party as a whole will take a position and as a member of that Party when law is going to be passed you have to vote the way the Party thinks as a group and that doesn't necessarily represent the views of the people in our electorate of Goldstein. I think that we've seen that particularly in recent years, because we have a Liberal-National Party coalition, a lot of the policies of the coalition are driven by the priorities of the National Party and the people in National Party seats have very different priorities to the people of Goldstein. So with someone like me I offer an alternative to voters who can get their views directly communicated via me into the Parliament rather than get those views being combined with the views of everyone else in the party.

Q: What do you think are the most important things in Goldstein over the next few years?

Zoe: Well when I talk to people the main priority of a lot of people is faster action on climate change policy and that is because people worry about the future economic prosperity of our electorate, so what that means is, what jobs are our children going to be doing in the future with the sort of climate change we are seeing, and will we continue to be a prosperous happy place in the way that we are now? I think the other thing is recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. A lot of small businesses, as you know, have really struggled through that so that's going to be something that's really prominent in the electorate over the next few years. I think that for young people the sorts of issues that come up are housing affordability, housing is very expensive in the electorate of Goldstein, so a lot of young people talk to me about what policy changes might be able to happen to enable young people to be able to live in Goldstein. One of the other things that comes up a lot is mental health services for young people. After the pandemic a lot of young people need support and the mental health services just aren't available. So there's lots of priorities for the electorate but they're the sorts of things that come up a lot, especially with the younger voters that I speak to.

Q: All the time in Sandringham I see your name - on t shirts when people are walking on the beach path or picking up children from school, parties of your campaign team in the centre of Sandringham, campaign posters, a van that drives around…. so I’ve been really curious about you and am very grateful to meet you. Do you think this will help people decide to vote for you?

Zoe: Well one thing that we've had to do, Grace, because I'm an independent candidate and I'm competing against someone who is from a major party and has been the local member for six years, is that I've had to try to get people to know who I am very quickly. Luckily I have a huge crew of volunteers , more than 1,000 people going around in t-shirts and severals thousands of supporters who are involved in the campaign and what they've been doing is helping me to get that awareness out, so that people know they don't have to vote for Liberal or Labor, that there is an Independent alternative. So we've been doing that with people putting signs up on their fences, billboards, the truck, we've also got bicycles riding around with signs on the back of them and people walking around in t-shirts. There's a few aspects to it, one is just for people to know my name, the next step is for people to know what I stand for, and the third step is for people to decide to vote for me. It's a pretty short period that we have to get all these steps in place and that 's really been helped a lot by the visibility of the campaign and people walking around in their teal t-shirts in places like Sandy, and I really appreciate that.

Q: Is it harder to be a woman in politics than a man?

Zoe: I think it is because there are less women in politics than men and that means that it can be more difficult for women because it's a male-dominated environment and sometimes in male-dominated environments it is more difficult for women to get their voices heard. I think it's very important we get more women involved in politics. Women make up 50% of the population so we need to really have 50% representation of women in our parliament so that the different priorities that women have get heard and are taken into account when major decisions are made for our country, and that includes, of course, not only everyone else but also women and girls, so that's one of the reasons that I have stepped forward to put myself up for this. I do feel that it adds something by bringing a different voice and a different perspective to the table and that will help empower our broader community and our families to achieve our full potential collectively, that means at a social level but also at an economic level as well, so that's really exciting!

Q: If yes, by the time I am old enough to be a politician do you think that will have changed?

Zoe: I really hope so and I'm trying to help work on that by doing this. The other thing that I think needs to change is that we need generally more diversity in our parliament. We need more gender diversity, so people who identify in different ways with regard to gender need to be in our parliament, but we also need to see people of all kinds in our parliament, people with disabilities, for example, and people from different cultural backgrounds because those voices bring different perspectives to our parliament. Let's say in ten years time when you're ready to vote, and after that, if you do decide to go into politics, I really hope we have more diversity not only in our federal parliament but also in our state governments across the country.

Grace: So, that's the end of my questions except today I just thought of two new questions that I didn't send through. Is it ok if I ask them?

Zoe: Sure!

Q: My friend says that you were planning to have a series of events at the yacht club. Is it true that another Goldstein candidate booked them all out? [Laughs].

Zoe: [Laughs] I don't know. We had an event at the Black Rock Yacht Club. It was really amazing. We were supposed to have 250 people and we had more than 400 people so it was standing room only and it was awesome! It's an amazing space at that yacht club. I understand that it is fully booked in the coming weeks so we'll need to find other places to have our events, but that's fine. There are lots of great places to have those sort of events around the electorate and we like to go to different places so that we can speak to different parts of our community and different parts of Goldstein.

Q: Do all of your volunteers know your policies?

Yes they do. We actually do training for our volunteers so that they are quite familiar with what my policies are so that when they talk to people at train stations or on the street or when they're out on a bike ride, or whatever it might be, that they're able to explain to people what I stand for. It's really quite important as I can't be everywhere all the time so often my volunteers have to speak for me and explain what I'm about so we really do quite formal training with the volunteers and I spend a lot of time with the volunteers also, talking to them about how I answer questions that are commonly asked of me and what my positions are on things so that they can then explain that to other people on my behalf.

Grace: Ok, thats all of my questions now.

Zoe: Can I ask you a question Grace?

Grace: Yes.

Zoe's Q: Why are you so interested in politics?

Grace: So it says it on my website so I was walking my dog and I saw your posters and I thought "What's that?" and Mum told me it was for the General Election and then the next day they were covered up with sheets so I asked her "Why are they covered up with sheets?" and she said 'Because it's too early' so I asked her "What's it too early for?' and she told me about the General Election.

Zoe: OK. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and it's really wonderful to see someone your age so interested and engaged, so thanks for taking the time.

Grace: Thank you!

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