Aisling Salisbury MP? Member for . . .
It's got a nice ring to it don't you think? I doubt many will realise how close I was to becoming one of many stranded Australians overseas. Although, I actually still am since I can't return home freely and as such, I haven't seen my family, friends or boyfriend in nearly a year. I can't tell you how many colleagues have said to me:
"Ash I think you're homesick."
I am fortunate though that I still have a job and a roof over my head. But I was very close to not being able to renew my US Visa without spending a fortune. A fortune that would've been on par with just returning home and saying farewell to my US venture. Nevertheless, I found an option to renew the visa and could save thousands of dollars from not resigning and prematurely ending my contract.
While I was searching for an option I was often asked by many that if I went home, what would I do with my life? People were shocked when I said:
"I'm thinking of standing for a seat in Parliament"
Bender's response is generally the one I get and then it's generally one of support because they realise that I am actually serious and they then ask the million-dollar question:
"Why would you want to do that, surely you can't be serious about it?"
In fact, one American colleague last year in October, who knew about the destruction of my home city of Melbourne, said to me after hearing my passion for the topic.
"You know you should run for your State Legislature or whatever you call it."
To which I said, "funny you should say that". The fact is it was during my brief time back home last year that the seeds were planted in running as I couldn't believe the incompetence of our elected officials. If COVID has proven anything of late, it's that there has never been more of a polar opposite between the average person and our elected officials.
Now there is generally only one side of the political spectrum in Australia that has candidates and MPs that are actually either former businessmen who have an idea of the real world having come from the private sector. Whereas the other side is generally filled with career politicians who went to Uni, did political and union studies, worked for Unions and then made their way into the Political sphere. But there is one thing that unites the two sides of the political fence. Self-interest and lack of leadership. It's now all about the next election, focus groups and polls, not about making the tough decisions and focusing on the long term. Then if they make the tough decisions, because it's so rare, the decision is based on a focus group that is generally filled with those that are already of that side's political learnings aka "Yes Men".
I remember in 2016 telling people that Trump would win that election because he was saying what he intended to do about things. Even if it did sound whacked. You asked Trump in a debate about Immigration and he'd say:
Then adds that Mexico would pay for it. Yes, insanity! But you asked his Opponent in Senator Clinton and she'd basically just go "well that just proves this guy can't be President" and you'd think, "ok, but what are you going to do on Immigration?" and she'd turn the topic back on Trump and wouldn't answer the question. I firmly believe it's a massive contributing factor in the result of that election. Because Trump had a policy outline for America, even if you thought it was whacked, you knew where he stood.
When it comes closer to home the events of 2020 and the destruction of my home state of Victoria under the hand of Daniel Andrews just gets me so mad. The corruption, cover-ups and lack of accountability to the people is totally disgraceful, even before COVID. Yet apparently he is a God. Are you serious people? Then combine it with the fact that the Opposition is non-existent and have an element of the above, that right now, it's just about point-scoring. I have so many friends who right now are either unemployed or out of their profession doing other jobs that don't make ends meet but is just enough to weather a storm. A storm that is being prolonged in Australia the longer they keep themselves isolated from the world and more importantly from each other.
But according to polls and other State Election results apparently the masses love this stuff? Is it simply because of the Political Opponents not having a voice or is it something simpler?
I think it is something simpler, politicians no longer live in the real world. They might do their photo ops in the street talking to "the people" but ultimately they are poll-driven. Polls are like Twitter, it's not real life. Recently the Victorian Opposition Leader, Michael O'Brien, got accosted whilst doing a Press Conference. The woman started screaming at him about how he and Scott Morrison would've allowed COVID to run rampant because all they care about is the Economy and how wonderful that the state had Dan Andrews to protect them.
There was so much wrong with what she said and so much that could've been debated with her. Instead, the Opposition Leader just stood there like a deer in the headlights. This woman was hysterical and just wanted to be heard and thought she could go into bat for her God, sorry, Dan Andrews. There would've been no reasoning with her, she would've just screamed and have remained hysterical. I get it, this would be political handling 101, just ignore it and then continue on. But if we have learnt anything, it's that politics 101 isn't the way to go anymore. I was disappointed with O'Brien here. Victoria needs the Andrews' Government gone. Under politics 101 you are protected in your bubble, generally taken to places that would be "friendly" to you. Here you had someone against you, yelling things that are totally incorrect. If you wanted to prove to yourself and more importantly those watching at home that you are the one to lead the State then you could've calmly counterpointed with her. In turn, she probably would've stormed off not expecting facts to be thrown back at her. Now if she was able to debate and throw down with you, I get it that's a risk. But you aren't trying to convince her to vote for you, you are trying to convince those at home. It would've also have given you a chance to discuss issues with the other side.
O'Brien could've come back with things like:
"Ok we only care about the economy you say, well have you spoken with small business owners of late? How they can't make ends meet, having to shut up shop after years of operation? I have. It's not about prioritising health over the economy the two go hand in hand."
"You said that if it was up to us and Scott Morrison that COVID would've run rampant. Is this why the Federal Government instituted a closure of the international border? A closure that right now is still in place and restricts our own citizens from coming back? A tough closure like that doesn't sound like someone who wants COVID to run rampant in the community."
"You say Victoria is the best state. Are you saying we are the best because we are the only state to have had one of the longest and harshes lockdowns? Even before the Quarantine breach? Is it for the 800 deaths perhaps? Now you might go 'well that's a Federal Government issue' but if it was then all other states would've had these issues would they not?"
"You say that we are corrupt. So are you ok with a Government that spends $1Billion on a road never built? Can't balance a budget on major infrastructure to the point that they have to sell out our infrastructure to a foreign government? A government that spends tens of thousands of dollars on Facebook likes and friends? A government that spends millions on an inquiry that finds nothing? This is your money, it's your state! How are you ok with a Government that does this?"
A number of those points could've been used to counter what she was screaming about to you and if you had done it calmly it would've made you look far better to the audience at home. People would go, "hmm he has a bit of a spark to him". It would show that you are wanting to fight for not just your cause but for your State, you had a chance to show that you have a fighting spirit. A spirit that could in turn work for the benefit of your State. Also at any point, you could have highlighted your plans to fix any of the above.
So yes if I returned to Australia, it was State Parliament that I was setting my sights on. What would I have brought to the roll? Well quite simply, myself. Which involves a heap of common sense. I have spent all of my life in Aviation and I know the importance of setting a goal/task and working to achieve it. To be a good team player in Aviation it's about achieving goals whilst appreciating and recognising the people around you and their contributions. It's also about messaging and being accountable and explaining your actions to everyone so we all get on the same page. Right now the State is the most divided (or deluded?) I have ever seen it.
When it comes to election time it's simply "oh I wasn't happy about it but they are the lesser of two evils". Voting for Politicians right now is simply that, compromising and just accepting it. It shouldn't be like that. Standing for public office and representing your electorate should be the greatest privilege of your life. It also means understanding your electorate and doing what's right for the State (or Nation for Federal Parliament). Now we see it as only about your self-interests. If you vote for something that goes against your beliefs or angers your constituents then it's about being upfront with them as to why. In Aviation, this is called Crew Resource Management. Explaining why a decision was made and not keeping people in the dark. It's about being accountable, these are things that are lacking right now.
Alright Ash, so are you going to run? Is this why I have read up until this point? Is this your political manifesto?
Well, the answer is, never say never, however, I doubt I'm going to be able to make a tilt for 2022. If I did, well I'd have to be home right now. My understanding is that you can only stand as an Independent if you actually reside in that electorate. Well when it comes to the State Election, my local seat and MP, I wouldn't want to topple. He is actually a good bloke, with a lot of common sense. Therefore I would have to stand for a neighbouring seat, such as the seats of Bentleigh or Oakleigh (actually used to live in this electorate until a recent redistribution). Two electorates that I have spent a lot of my life in, I just reside on the wrong side of the street to be in those electorates. Therefore, in order to run for those seats, I would have to be nominated by a party. So if I was serious about this I would have to be home right now trying to get a political party's nomination. Although I currently have two Liberal State MPs following my social platforms, so guys I'd be happy to possibly have a chat. But the thing is, without a doubt, there would be long-serving party folk in those electorates who are fighting for the nomination. To have an outsider just waltz in, especially if they don't live in that seat just means infighting.
The other thing too that causes me much hesitation in running is simply because I'm a transwoman. For those that know me, I don't let "Trans" define me as a person. Yet any public position would always mean that I would always be "That Transwoman in Parliament". It's one of the reasons why I hate this whole premise of "labelling" and quotas. That person could be the greatest person ever but you will always go "are they really there on merit?" As one commentator put it so greatly:
"It's like being at work and the son of the boss gets a job with the firm. They could be a great guy and amazing at the role, but at the start you're always going to say they're just the boss's son."
Therefore the window of making a political tilt is probably gone, as the window of opportunity is closing right now especially with myself staying in America right now until at least the start of next year. Although I did see that a recently elected Upper House member of the WA Parliament, Wilson Tucker, is in the US right now.
Ultimately I doubt it's going to happen for me in 2022, but don't say no to maybe 2026 as the thought of running is growing each day. As I say, what do you want to do, just sit on the sideline and complain or actually stand up and do something? I generally always favour the latter option.