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Interview with Zoe Daniel MP

Wednesday 1st June 8:30am

Q: In the US the president has a plan for their first 100 days. Do you have one for your first 100 days in your job as MP?

Yes, I think there's a few aspects to that and as you know we are only just getting the final numbers but the first things will be holding the Labor government to account on their promises and also trying to push them a little bit harder particularly on climate policy. So as you know they have a 2030 target of 43% emissions reduction and as you know mine is quite a bit higher than that so there will be some talks with the government on being a bit more ambitious and how to do that. Another thing that is important is the integrity commission but also the integrity system that we talked about to create some more accountability for politicians and leaders so we will wait for the ALP bill on integrity and take a close look at that in the first couple of months. The third aspect for me is equality for women and girls, so safety in the workplace and in the community but also starting to work on those things that improve women's economic empowerment to try to, especially in the environment that we are in at the moment where the economy is looking quite challenging, empower as many women to enter the workforce as possible and to support those women through expanded childcare and other things.

Q: You have called for a National Integrity Committee. What do you now do to make this happen?

We need to see exactly what Labour has in mind when it comes to an Integrity Commission and they have to table their bill for debate. As I've always said, I think it's about more than just the Corruption Commission which would hold leaders to account when it comes to wrongdoing. I think we need things like the Code of Conduct for Elected Representatives, we need transparency of political donations and potentially caps, we need truth in political advertising, I think that's really important after the election that we have seen, there was a lot of misinformation and disinformation put about previous to the election that wasn't true so that's something to work on, but also protection of things like whistle blowers. Given that it's not going to be a hung parliament it will be to do with behind the scenes conversations with the Labor party and talking to them about the fact that communities like Goldstein voted for me because they wanted to see real substantive action on those issues and that the government needs to really listen and consider that when it's putting forward it's legislation.

Q: You support a 60% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030 and a commitment to 80% renewable energy by 2030. What do you now do to make this happen?

The Labor party has a target of 43% by 2030 and they've indicated that they will be reluctant to change that as that's the number they went to election on. The thing is though, I think we can afford to be a little more subtle than that. I'm not convinced that focussing on the number is productive at this point, I think we just need to get on with it. If you look at what the NSW government is doing for example, they're trying to take politics out of climate policy and just get on with taking action and I think the Federal Government needs to do the same. So without necessarily changing that headline number I think conversations need to be had about how we can afford to be more ambitious and what we can do apart from things like upgrading the electricity grid but what we can do in regard to, for example, fostering community energy projects in some of our shopping villages to try to accelerate that path to net zero, increasing the number of electric vehicles and incentivising people to take those up, encouraging people to take up rooftop solar and all those pieces that fit together to speed up that process. I think there's going to be some conversations in the background with the Environment Minister particularly, but also with the Prime Minister, about just how to speed up that process so that we can exceed that 43% by 2030 target that they have but also hit that 80% renewables target.

Q: In three years time, if you look back, what would you want to have achieved for Goldstein and for Australia to feel like you had done a good job?

There's a set of national things that we have been talking about, the faster action on climate policy to put us on track for lower emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050, getting that Integrity system in place, the really large piece on Gender Equality, getting the respect at work recommendations implemented to make sure women are safe in the workplace, getting the parliamentary behaviour recommendations implemented so that parliament sets the standard for the rest of the country and also taking some structural actions on childcare, superannuation and parental leave to enable women to step more into work but also to work more. We see in unemployment figures a false narrative where it appears that women are working a lot more than they are because if they're only working one hour a week they're counted as employed whereas I think we need to enable women to work a lot more. So that's the national issues which obviously affect us but I think the thing that I really want to make sure that we do in Goldstein is to continue that community building that we're doing here in Goldstein. It's really brought people together in a wonderful way. People have met people that they never would have met before, they've been part of a movement, they've really been sincerely and genuinely invested in being involved in something together and something I really want to work on is continuing that so my team and I, as we go through this transition process, are working on lots of community events and activities that I can do as the Member, with my team, to continue that involvement of the community. Its about all of us, its not just about me, it's about US taking our view to the parliament.

Q: What committees would you like to be on?

That's a good question. We haven't received a list of the committees yet. There are some committees that are always there and there are some that change from parliament to parliament. I'd be interested in being on a committee around employment, particularly in relation to the women's employment issues that I've talked about. I think there's an interest in Environment and Climate Change from my perspective, I think a lot of people will want to be on that committee and then also my background in Foreign Affairs and Media lends some skills to a couple of other committees. I do want to be really careful that I keep my primary focus on my engagement with people in Goldstein so I'm not planning to overload myself too much in the first instance. I also have to learn how to do a new job and figure out all the processes in the parliament, so that's important.

Q: Will you feel alone in parliament being an independent and not part of a political party?

Maybe. I think it's a very different dynamic than being part of a party as you don't have a system to fallback on and you don't have an off-the-shelf set of policies to form your positions but I think if I put a good team around me then it will also be a really empowering and invigorating process to look at policy on its merits and form positions on the views of the Goldstein community. There's also a larger than usual cross bench with a substantial number of independents and more than the usual number of Greens so I think that there will be some interesting and productive conversations within that group, both about the policy legislation but also about supporting each other through the process.

Q: Does not having a hung parliament make your job harder?

It depends. Having a hung parliament would also be very difficult as it would put a lot of pressure on the various independents who might be in a position to have to make big decisions for the entire country and that's a huge responsibility especially for independents who don't have a lot of staff resources, for example, compared to ministers, so that's it's own kind of pressure. I think that with it not being a hung parliament it's a more subtle form of pressure, lobbying, collaboration and involvement with the government to create a situation where the government understands that it needs to listen to communities, providing an ear on the ground as a community independent, to some degree, and also being able to directly deliver the views of the community back to the government. We've seen Anthony Albanese promising to be a different kind of Prime Minister and promising to create a different kind of scene that's not as combative. I really hope that is the case because I think that's the way to get things done.

Q: How do you feel about being the first non- coalition candidate to win the seat of Goldstein since 1909? And how do you feel about being the first ever woman?

Well it's a huge moment for the community Grace, and I think what's really exciting about it is that it comes from a community organisation that asked me to be an Independent and then that created a movement where lots and lots of people wanted to get involved because they found it really positive and really exciting. I think from that perspective it's something really different and it gives us an opportunity as a community to make it the way we want it to be. I've been elected as the MP and me and my team have created some systems so that I can continue to have that direct engagement with the community but I also want to be led by the community so it will be very much a two way conversation between myself and the people of Goldstein around how we do this and that's a very exciting position to be in, I think, to be able to create our own way of doing politics differently.

It's exciting to be the first woman in this seat especially as it's named after Vida Goldstein, a very strong woman who was one of those who was instrumental in Australian women getting the vote. She was unable to get elected into Parliament, she ran twice for the Senate and twice for the House of Representatives as an Independent and didn't get elected so there is some pride to be taken in getting elected in the seat that's in Vida Goldstein's name. I think that what it proves too though, is that just getting the vote is not enough. I think that for myself, and for many of the other independent women who ran at this election, there was a realisation that we needed to get into the room to influence decision making from the inside rather than from the outside. We've taken that next step now, individually as Independents, but in doing so we've created more women in the parliament, in the House of Representatives, than ever before, and you've seen that the Prime Minister has got more women in the Cabinet than ever before too, so that's a big step for women and girls.

Q: How do you feel about going to Canberra? Will you have to spend a lot of time away from home? Will your family be going with you?

We still haven't received the parliamentary calendar but it's usually about 18-20 weeks per year in Canberra but it's spread out across the year so I'll be going up to Canberra for a week or two at a time and coming back for the weekend in the middle. It will mean a lot of time away from my family. I suppose as a foreign correspondent my family is quite used to me being away a bit. This will be a bit different as it's planned travel and we'll know exactly when I'll be away so it's something to get used to, being away a lot. That was probably one of the things that was least attractive about doing the job, spending a lot of time away from my family, but that said, I know that there's important things in Canberra and I'm sure I will be immersed in the job up there to the extent that that time will go very fast. One thing about being away a lot is that you really value where you live and time with your family when you are at home so it creates a different dynamic but in general my family won't come with me other than perhaps my first speech and a few things like that. Generally I'll go up on my own to Canberra and I'll be up there three or four days a week in sitting weeks.

Q: How will you stay connected to the Goldstein community while you are away in Canberra?

I will have an office with several staff who will be doing community outreach, continuing to do coordination with our volunteers and our supporters for the events that we want to run and I'll be doing things like putting out newsletters, giving updates on social media and trying to remain as connected as I can with the community while I'm in Canberra. When I'm back in Goldstein that's when I'll do my best to run as many community events as possible so that I can have that direct engagement with people.

Q: What will your working hours be?

Parliament sits Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and these can be long days, I think Parliament opens at 9:30am and on these days it can sit until late into the evening. On a Thursday it finishes at 5pm so that Parliamentarians can get home on a Thursday night so I'll have to figure out whether I fly out to Canberra on a Sunday evening or whether I take a very, very early flight on a Monday morning. I'll probably do a bit of both. It will be busy and long days in Canberra. When I'm back in Melbourne I'll work in the office here in Goldstein during the week and I'll attend the various community events and things, some will be in the evenings, some will be at the weekends and I'm already attending a few of those, I'm going to a citizenship ceremony tonight. As a local Member I'll attend a lot of those sorts of events.

Q: As an 8 year old girl you inspire me to believe that anything is possible with self-belief, dedication and hard work. What message do you have for me, and other girls and young women?

The main thing Grace, is take opportunities as they arise. Not always can you plan what your life might look like and sometimes things that you don't expect might come up and it's a good idea to consider those things as you go, rather than being too rigid in your expectations of what you want to be or what you think might happen next. I've had this experience happen quite a lot in my previous career as a journalist where I've accepted opportunities as they've arisen rather than having a really rigid path or set of expectations. The other thing is that even when things look really difficult, challenging or even impossible, usually they aren't. If you work really hard, if you focus and put the right team around you, as I did in the campaign, then amazing things can happen. I think the things that I have learned over my thirty year career in journalism and over this campaign is you learn a lot from just being your true self and listening to people and trying to use those conversations to try to support the process you're going through, especially when we're talking about the campaign and going into politics. So it's been an incredibly positive thing for me and I think that for young girls, I would just say, you can be whatever you want to be, you can do whatever you want to do if you have an open mind to opportunities and sometimes you will be trying to go through a door and the door won't open and that might feel quite hard, but sometimes a window might open or a new path will open that you didn't expect and it's important to explore opportunities so that you can find your path.

Q: Please can I ask an additional question as it's Reconciliation week? Could you make it that every school in Goldstein has a lesson for children to learn their local Aboriginal language?

That's a great idea. I like that idea a lot. I'm note sure if the schools can resource that. I imagine that I'll be talking to, and at, a lot of schools in the coming months so I'll have a talk to some of the principals about what sort of indigenous education they're doing. Apart from the language I think there's some great education to be done about our first nations people and the amazing contribution that they've made, and continue to make, to this country. The other thing Grace is that it looks like we'll have a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament perhaps in twelve months time so I think there's going to be a big place for educating not only kids in our schools but also parents about why that's important and that's something I'll be trying to get involved in as much as I can, to research that process and then to help people to understand just what that means.

Wishing Zoe all the best of luck as our new MP!

Grace :)

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