Tim Hammond’s decision to quit the Australian parliament has been hailed an honourable and courageous one. With two young children, the Labor Member for Perth has said he wants to put his family first.
It is a peculiar decision, as he is only in his first term. I don’t know Tim Hammond but as someone who follows the deliberations of our nation’s capital, I did observe from afar that he was one of Labor’s better frontbench performers on the floor of the house. It’s a shame he will give it all away.
As someone who has stood for public office six times by the time I was 27, I can relate to the onerous challenge of a work/life balance in politics. Hammond today likened the process as trying to “wrestle it to the ground”.
Hammond has also pointed to the long constant travel to and from Canberra being an overarching burden on his family. In addition to this the night meetings, weekend events and constant phone calls add to the huge invasion of one’s family life. Don’t mention the large array of party and branch commitments.
There is no doubt that political life can be a horrible life. You need to always be looking over your back and every time the phone rings, you dread it be some journalist with a career breaking scandal to reveal to the world. That stress can be nauseating. The articles that do get reported impact on your family and anything your family does can impact on you. It never ends.
That is the sacrifice a politician makes. It is a brutal one. Families suffer and sometimes they fall apart. The highs can be very high and the lows can be very low. They usually happen on the same day. Any major achievements rarely get noticed. A lot of hard work takes place behind the scenes.
However, another way of looking at it is that by becoming a good, effective and principled politician, a father or mother can be a source of inspiration for their children. After all, the families of politicians see them up close and have a real-time running commentary on their careers. They know the good work that gets done and can be comforted that all the family strain in not experienced in vain.
Now more than ever, Australia needs politicians who can become role models for the younger generation. Decisions are made by those who show up. No one should go into politics without knowing exactly what they are getting into. However, no one should shy away from getting into politics just because of that challenge. People should always be encouraged.
The duty and purpose that comes with being in the arena can shape our nation. So I urge people interested in a political career to not be discouraged. Plan ahead, be organised, get involved and put service above all.
Theo Zographos is a Monash Councillor and former Liberal Party candidate.
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