Inspiration and Reflection

Thirty years ago today, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of Britain. Her legacy still permeates centre-right politics across the world.

I mention this because I find Margaret Thatcher a political inspiration. She implemented a conservative revolution that revitalised Britain’s economy and helped to end the Cold War.

Her political philosophy has been described as free markets, reduced state intervention and encouraging entrepreneurialism. She was tough and forthright and determined to make a difference. These are the things I admire in politicians – past and present – and qualities I hope to emulate in my own political life.

I have a particular affinity with Thatcher though, not just because I am a strong admirer of her politics but also because the fourth of May (the date she became Prime Minister) was the same date that I became a Senator – albeit only three years ago.

It has been an amazing three years. To some it may seem longer than that given some of the events that have transpired during that time. I’ve been publicly applauded, derided, promoted and dismissed. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been lied about or lied to, but it hasn’t stopped me from loving every single moment of representing South Australia in the Senate.

I never fail to be humbled whenever I walk through the doors of Parliament House or sit in the Senate chamber and reflect that I am part of the process that guides the future of our nation. It is one of the greatest privileges that anyone interested in public life can experience.

I have often said that a politician needs to take their job seriously but can’t afford to take themselves too seriously. To do otherwise, especially in the face of public failure and success, is to unwisely subject yourself to the vicissitudes of allowing others to judge your self-worth.

One must always remember that a job defines what you do, not who you are.

There are also timely reminders that no one is indispensable to the institution of the Australian Parliament. Although often spoken of in jest, the five ‘Ds’ of parliamentary departure (defeated, disgraced, disillusioned, dead, dignified) act as a constant reminder that the show continues untrammelled by your departure. In only three years I have seen each of these have an impact on one or more of my colleagues.

I have also seen the direct impact that government policy settings have on Australian citizens. As I progressively visit 200 South Australian towns the message received is consistent. Whether in Ceduna or Coonawarra, Port Lincoln or Port Adelaide – Australians want a future filled with optimism.

They want to be able to chart their own course within the limits of our existing social structures. They want to have jobs and businesses where they are able to keep more of the money they earn. They want an environment that will sustain not just our lives today, but the lives of future generations.

In many ways, this message hasn’t changed since Margaret Thatcher’s day and I suspect that despite occasional changes in political direction, it is the message that will resonate strongly for generations to come.

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