Some Aussies living in other capital cities believe Canberra is boring.
Certainly, the city doesn’t have the striking physical beauty of Sydney, or the hipster chic of Melbourne.
Even its election campaigns aren’t particularly awe-inspiring. There are few slick, highly produced TV ads and billboards, fiery public debates or political punch-ups.
Most electors are concerned with ‘backyard’ issues – public transport, rubbish collection, household rates. Important issues, to be sure, but hardly ones that get the pulse racing.
The legislative assembly has just 17 seats, and covers traditional state areas of concern, as well as local government ones. The Hare-Clark, or single transferable vote system, means candidates are often well-known in their electorates.
For Katy Gallagher that level of recognition is a double-edged sword. The woman who has been Chief Minister for the last 18 months says the smiles, handshakes and outright stares she gets from members of the public are enough to make her 5-year old daughter think she’s a celebrity.
Ms Gallagher told SBS that 95 per cent of people who recognise her are friendly and polite – whether they agree with her politics or not. The other 5 per cent are “ratbags”.
The Labor leader was a long-time member of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) before entering politics. In 1997, her fiancé Brett Seaman was killed in a cycling accident. Ms Gallagher was pregnant with the couple’s first child at the time of his death. The union provided moral and financial support during that difficult time. That inspired her to seek Labor pre-selection in 2001 ACT election.
Ms Gallagher has told SBS that heckling and unsavoury comments like “you shouldn’t be in politics, you should be making me a casserole” are to be expected when undertaking the job of Chief Minister. She just wishes people wouldn’t do it when her kids are around.
Opposition Leader Zed Seselja agrees that having a thick skin is necessary in politics. He says the number of people who react positively to him in public far outweigh the number of creeps he encounters.
The former Department of Transport lawyer, whose full name is Zdenko, personally door-knocks homes in his electorate. He can handle it when people are unpleasant to him, but says his Croatian blood means he gets riled-up when they’re rude to his party volunteers. His background gives him “fire in the belly”, he told SBS.
Greens leader Meredith Hunter gets fired up not when people are rude to her – she told SBS that’s a part of life in politics – but when voters are apathetic. She dislikes it when people say politics has nothing to do with them. The former youth advocate says politics permeates all aspects of life, and people have no excuse not to get involved and affect change.
Watch Shalailah Medhora’s report on YouTube: