FEDERAL POLITICS • West ward councillor Jessica O’Donnell has been chosen as Labor’s candidate for Monash (the likely new name for the seat of McMillan) at the next federal election.
First published in the 2 August 2018 edition of the Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy FREE from retailers across Baw Baw!
Ms O’Donnell will face incumbent Liberal MP Russell Broadbent and recently selected Greens candidate William Hornstra at the election, which could occur before or after Victoria’s November state election.
We caught up with Ms O’Donnell to discuss her candidacy.
Baw Baw Citizen: You’re already on the Baw Baw Shire Council. What prompted you to take a stand for a federal seat?
Jessica O’Donnell: It was never a thought when I ran for council, it wasn’t something I was even entertaining, however [then] the marriage equality postal vote happened. I have a lot of friends and close friends in the LGBTIQ community, and to see that heartbreak and a lot of the rhetoric that was around at the time was really, really hard for them, and me looking on that as someone who’s a really compassionate person, I thought ‘in 2018 it is not okay that this sort of thing is happening to a community.’ So instead of me complaining about it I thought ‘well, if I’m in a position where I can potentially change how things are done then why not get in there and do it instead of complaining about it?’
BBC: What are the key issues you will be campaigning on?
JO’D: One of the reasons I stood for council was Baw Baw Shire wasn’t providing any services for young people, and young people are definitely my focus going into this election. My issues don’t change, it’s just a different reason why I’m advocating for young people We have to realise that millennials, I’m a millennial, and the generations below myself, are the next generation of people who are going to be the leaders of the world, and without a voice, without a fair go, it’s just not okay.
I’m at uni as a student myself, and I have friends at uni who work part time within the casual workforce, working in hospitality, in cafes, in restaurants, and in bars on weekends and things like that. When you’re a uni student and can only work limited hours, when you get your penalty rates cut on weekends, that’s the difference between getting your food during the week [and not]. Fair enough there might be some economic benefits somewhere, however when you’re looking at people who are being paid a very poor amount of money towards their weekly wage, that extra money in the bank really does go toward food or school books. And I think some of the huge issues facing young people today are also having a really efficient and fully funded TAFE system, and not having exorbitant university fees, and then further down the track there’s housing affordability and cost of living.
BBC: You described yourself as a compassionate person. Are Labor’s refugee policies, including offshore detention under the Rudd/Gillard governments, a concern for you?
JO’D: A part of that compassion definitely goes to one thing I remember, when in the throws of people bringing people over here on boats. And I do remember that very horrendous incident occurred where a lot of people lost their lives at sea. For me, watching that as somebody who was watching the issue, I found that very, very heartbreaking and I was definitely in the throws of feeling absolutely broken watching that knowing that children had died.
So I think that it’s also really poignant to consider both sides of the issue, and I think looking at what can potentially happen in the future is something I’m really looking forward to having a conversation about if I am elected.
BBC: So, personally, you’re comfortable with the offshore camps?
JO’D: I don’t think the people who are sitting in Nauru and Manus Island being there for as long as they have been was ever the point of what Labor put in play, and it was very encouraging to hear and read […] some of the things Bill Shorten has said about looking at different countries that could potentially go to, and that was really really encouraging to see that.
BBC: The electorate is changing quite a bit with the upcoming redistribution – do you feel confident you can take this seat?
JO’D: I would never say that I’m going to be feeling confident, because I know that there’s a lot of work to do and a lot of people to talk to who aren’t aware of some of the really positive things Labor are trying to achieve, so I’m never going to say I feel confident. I think for me to be successful, I need to be a good person, a good candidate, and I need to get out there and talk to people and let them know what I’m all about and what I’m standing for, and at the end of the day it’s the decision of the voters and how they feel on the policy and how they feel about me.
BBC: Council can be a divisive level of government. Do you feel coming out of council into this will have any affect on your campaign?
JO’D: They’re two very, very separate things, and I do want to make it clear I will be treating them as two very, very separate things. Being in council has been a really, really rewarding experience, and I love being a councillor because some of the people I do get to talk to are absolutely amazing.
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