Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Mornings with Lish Fejer

SUBJECTS: New electorate of Bean, new name and new boundaries, nomination for pre-selection, Norfolk Island

LISH FEJER: Canberra has officially welcomed a new electorate, and it goes by the name of Bean. Despite the number of objections raised to Bean, the Australian Electoral Commission confirmed the seat of  Bean as the third and final electorate to be commissioned. It will be contested in an upcoming federal election. With this name and boundaries confirmed, Gai Brodtmann has announced her intention to stand in the seat of Bean. The current Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, joins me now. Hello, Gai.


FEJER: What prompted your decision to stand in the seat of Bean as opposed to Canberra?

BRODTMANN: It will be subject to preselection, but I do intend to stand in the most southern seat. I do so for a number of reasons. Firstly, my office is in Tuggeranong and there has been a long connection with the valley through that office – through Ros Kelly, through Annette Ellis – and I want to continue that tradition, continue that connection and to continue to campaign for people in the valley.

Secondly, there are many families in the southern most communities doing it tougher than most, and they need a strong federal representative who makes a difference. I hope I've been doing that for the last eight years, and plan to do more in the future - subject to preselection.

Finally, I've been running a campaign – as you probably are very aware – on NBN. I've been campaigning very hard for Canberra to be on the rollout map – we achieved that last year – and now to get parts of Canberra prioritised on the NBN rollout map. That is particularly the case for the south-east Tuggeranong area, where you have speeds that are some of the worst in the world. There's some with one megabit per second upload and download and that's having a significant impact on educational opportunities, business opportunities, and citizenry opportunities. So I'm keen to continue that campaign.

FEJER: It's a big electorate. A lot in the south, but it includes Norfolk Island as well.

BRODTMANN: It does. I get up to Norfolk Island twice a year. They're going through a major reform program to integrate them into the Australian system, and I've been advocating very strongly on that too.

FEJER: In terms of what differs in this electorate to your current Canberra electorate, what issues do you think really matter down there?

BRODTMANN: The NBN is very much top of mind for the community. The NDIS definitely. Since Christmas we've had a tsunami of concerns and complaints about the NDIS and the rollout of that. Concerns about people having decisions made where they haven't been consulted - they've had their plans changed without any consultation. It’s very difficult to get in touch with people at the NDIA, people are passed from one case manager to another.

The NBN is definitely top of mind for those in the Tuggeranong valley and those in the southern most area of Canberra, the NDIS and a range of other issues. These are very much the top of mind issues when I have my mobile offices and coffee catch-ups.

FEJER: There was a lot of disagreement on the name Bean. What was your preference for the electorate's name, Gai?

BRODTMANN: I didn't have a preference. The ACT Labor Party made a submission to the redistribution process and that made it clear from the outset that any new electoral division should be given an Aboriginal name with input sought from the ACT community of First Australians.

There were also many submissions on the name of the electorate - I'm sure you're aware of those as well. There were 75 objections to it, and the AEC's website shows that 72 of those were about the actual name. Some of these objections recommend alternative names, such as naming it after a woman, or naming it after a First Australian. As I said, the ACT Labor submission was focused on naming it after an Aboriginal name.

FEJER: It's very good for alliteration for you Gai.

BRODTMANN: I think a lot of people are going to have a lot of fun with the name. It is subject to preselection, but I do intend to stand in that seat. When it was first announced, there were all sorts of interesting comments on Facebook and I'm sure Canberrans will continue to have fun with the name. We've got to remember, this acknowledges Charles Bean's strong connection to the Tuggeranong Homestead and the valley, and that he was instrumental in establishing the Australian War Memorial.

FEJER: Do you know of other people likely to run against you in the seat?

BRODTMANN: No, I'm not aware of that. We haven't started our preselection process, so I'm not aware of anyone who will run against me because the process hasn't been opened. I'm not sure on when those dates will happen. But anyone who followed my preselection process knows I will be taking up preselection with fervour.

FEJER: Will you endorse either of the two Labor candidates running for preselection in your old seat of Canberra?

BRODTMANN: Are you talking about the Senate, because I don't know which candidates have nominated at the moment?

FEJER: I think at the moment it is Kel Watt and Jacob Ingram who've thrown their hats in the ring.

BRODTMANN: There will be many more, I imagine. I'm not going to be endorsing anyone in that seat. I wasn't endorsed myself in my own preselection process, and I've made it abundantly clear that I will not be endorsing anyone for that seat.

FEJER: Norfolk Island. I'm just intrigued about its addition to the Bean electorate. You've said you've been up there. How do you plan to engage and address the specific concerns of the people on the Island rather than down in that greater Tuggeranong area?

BRODTMANN: I get up there twice a year, for a week each time. I have someone in my office who is devoted to looking after the issues of Norfolk Island as they come up each week. I am very closely connected to the community. I think I've been up there – since I was elected eight years ago – 15 times. I am on top of the issues. I regularly meet with the Minister to raise the issues of Norfolk Islanders with him, as well as other ministers.

There is an issue at the moment with the child care rebate and transitioning into that. There is an issue with getting people support for vocational education. There is an issue of biosecurity. There are a range of issues. There were a number of different issues last year in terms of the phased transition that Norfolk Island was going through, but they're the most immediate concerns at the moment.

I do like to think that I stay connected to the island. My office has regular contact with the Islanders, and just last week during the sitting period, I also met with the Mayor and the Managing Director of the regional council. I've been following the issues very closely since I was elected, and will continue to do so.

FEJER: Thank you so much for your time this morning, Gai.

BRODTMANN: Thanks very much, Lish.