THURSDAY, 9 MARCH 2017
KATE ELLIS, MEMBER FOR ADELAIDE: It is with a not insubstantial amount of sadness that today, I announced to the great local residents of Adelaide that I will not be standing as a candidate at the next election.
This was a really hard decision for me - I absolutely love my job. I love representing this community. I love being a part of the Labor team in the Federal Parliament. And I feel like, honestly, I still have much more to give.
However, it just became really apparent to me that I've been incredibly lucky that, since becoming a mother, when my child's been a baby, I've been able to travel with him. I've been able to have a sort of flexibility in this role that most people don't get.
But during the next Parliamentary term, he'll start school. And he'll need to be in Adelaide. And I will need to be in Canberra if I'm the member for Adelaide, and that's a really big problem for me and for our family.
It's really and honestly as simple as the fact that I just choose. I don't want to spend 20-21 weeks of the year on the opposite side of the country to my family and to my young son. And when I thought about all of the things that I would miss, I just decided that that would make me quite miserable. So I've made the decision that I've made, and I decided that I should announce that publicly.
Some people might say we still have quite a long way until the next election - why would you announce this now? And the reason is simply that I want to do what's right for Bill and the Labor team. I want him to have the team in place that he is going to take into government after the next election.
I want to do what is right by the local community. I think it's really important that we have time to make sure that we get the best possible candidates in place, and that they get the best possible member for Adelaide. But also, I just wanted to be up-front and honest with the community that I am so grateful to now that I've made a decision.
I really can't overstate just what an absolute privilege it is to represent this community. I can't overstate how much I love the residents who have put their faith in me and elected and re-elected me more times than I thought they would, and on occasions when I really questioned whether it was really going to happen. So, those are the reasons.
I did just want to say something - I know there has been a bit of commentary, and there's likely to be a bit of commentary, about what this says about women in politics and particularly in federal politics.
I know that John Howard last year claimed that our goal of getting 50 per cent of the Parliament made up of females might not be attainable because women are the carers and the mothers and, I have to say, despite the announcement that I am making today, I think that is absolute rubbish.
I am someone who has had a child as a Member of Parliament, who has benefited from the flexibility that we get in our workplace that most workers just don't get. I also work alongside countless colleagues who are great parents and who are great Members of Parliament and show each and every day that you can do both.
Ultimately, this is about what works for me and what works for my family. It is not a generalised reflection on the way it has to be for all women or for all parents. But, I should say to any young women who are thinking about a career in politics, I would say go for it. If you are thinking about having a child as a Member of Parliament, I think you will find that you will be blessed by a sort of flexibility that most people don't get.
But, ultimately, my decision isn't so much about having a child. It is about what happens later when they grow up. It is about being a parent. And this is something that every Member of Parliament, whether they are a mother or a father, has to juggle and has to make decisions with their family about what works for them.
Just today I have heard from many MPs or ex-MPs, male and female, who have had the same sort of pressures and some who wish they had made the same decision. That is up for individual families.
Just finally, I would say that I am not causing a by-election. I absolutely intend to work each and every day until the next election to represent this amazing community, but also to get out there and ensure that I am doing my bit to ensure that we elect a federal Labor government at the next election.
Previously, people might have thought I was saying it because he is my boss, but now I can say it just because he is my friend, I believe that Bill Shorten should be elected as the Prime Minister of Australia and I am absolutely committed to doing my bit to work towards ensuring that that happens.
I am so grateful to him for his support in me and for his support for families in our Parliament and Bill is someone who has understood that and, without going into the ins and outs, when I first spoke to Bill about this a couple of weeks ago, he pretty quickly said "I get it", he understood and I am really grateful for that.
I am going to hand over to Bill and then happy to take questions. I guess I would wrap up by saying this is an amazing privilege, not just to have served as the Member for Adelaide, but to get to stand down at a time of my choosing and I am really, really grateful that by the time of the next election, it may have been about 15 years that I have represented the people of Adelaide and over ten of that on the frontbench. That has been an amazing experience, a privilege that I will always be grateful for. I cannot thank the residents of Adelaide enough for their support. The only thing I can do is absolutely work for them for the months and years until the next election. Thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Kate. As much as I wish that Kate wasn't making the decision not to renominate for Adelaide at the next election, I just want to record my gratitude for the up to 15 years of service that Kate has provided our party and the electors in Adelaide.
Kate is, like all really modest people, I don't think she quite realises how much she is loved by the people who come in contact with her. She's been a trailblazer. She was the youngest woman elected at 27. She will have served 15 years.
She helped to put in place child care reforms in the last Labor government which means that for hundreds of thousands of Australian kids in those most important early years of learning, that they are getting a better deal and that the whole system works better.
In her local electorate she's been a trailblazer. She's accomplished so many things. She's changed the nature of this seat fundamentally from when she was first elected.
The most recent of her accomplishments, and there is a very long list, indeed, is the medical school at the university, something that Kate has campaigned for many years.
I just want to congratulate Kate on her years of service. For me and my colleagues in the Labor Party, we are very fortunate that we've had Kate's services for the best part of a decade-and-a-half. She does everything with a maximum of class. She's a great parent, she's a great local representative. She's been a great representative for the Labor Party and even the way which she's announced her departure reflects her classy values. She's going to serve out the term. The first people she wanted to let know were the voters and the people who sent her to Canberra on many different occasions.
She is well respected by her colleagues and I have got no doubt that right up until the next election she will do a great job as a local representative and I respect her choices and everything about the way that she's made today's decision.
She goes with our best wishes at the next election and we thank her for all of her service and, indeed, some which is still yet to come. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you first, before you sit down, will you be looking to replace Kate with another young female, given the gender balance?
SHORTEN: Well, I don't think you can replace Kate Ellis. We will certainly get someone different...
ELLIS: Oh, go on!
SHORTEN: I do hope that the Labor Party in South Australia sends us another talented woman. I am very pleased with the fact that we have 45 per cent of our Caucus who are women. I ambitious for this party to ensure equal representation for women and I hope that the South Australian Labor Party, sends us a woman candidate, but that will ultimately a matter for the South Australian branch and the rank and file of the Adelaide electorate though.
JOURNALIST: Kate , given the fact that you say it's sort of, you're doing it for your family, but politics is a great career for females, doesn't that send a mixed signal because I have known you for 15 or more years and you seem to be a tough character, but this has broken your spirit in terms of politics?
ELLIS: I don't know about that. It's just, I think that whatever job it is, we just need to realise that working parents have to find a way to juggle their responsibilities and that each family has a different way of doing that. For my family, and indeed for me, I just decided that I wanted to be where my child is. I wanted to be in the same state. I want to be able to tuck him in at night. I wanted to be there when he was sick. I wanted to be there at his first day at school. And that is not to say that I don't intend to work and balance work and family, but, for me, I just want to have a job where I can spend more time in Adelaide and more time with the people that I love. So it is an issue for individuals that, I have colleagues who do it and have done it for many years, but I just can't or, indeed, have chosen that that is not what I want.
JOURNALIST: Again, anyone who gets into federal politics is going to face the same, or any female who wants to be a young mum faces exactly the same...
ELLIS: And every male that is a young dad and that is something about the nature of the Federal Parliament. I don't think this is a gender thing. I have spoken to a number of my male colleagues, who find it really hard, but they have found a way. I have also spoken to a number of men who have decided not to go into the Federal Parliament for these reasons. It is a consideration, it is what people need to balance. I am just saying that I would hate for my legacy to be sending a message that you can't be a young woman and go into Federal Parliament because I've made this choice. There are countless examples of dynamic, inspiring, talented women who have made a different choice and who it is working for.
JOURNALIST: But it can be a career/family killer, that is the message you are sending?
ELLIS: I guess I am sending the message that for me, I am also incredibly lucky that I was elected, arguably before I was ready, but I was elected young and I've had a number of years in the Parliament. For me, this is the right time for me and for my family. But as I said, for other people they'll make a different decision.
JOURNALIST: If it means tucking your son in at night and being there for those milestone events, why not stand down now and have a by election? Because you've potentially got another two years of going back and forth to Canberra?
ELLIS: Yes. Well I've also got a son who is about to turn two. So he doesn't, I guess for me it's been when he starts school is the time when he needs to be here in Adelaide in a stable place. For better or worse, my son since his very early weeks has travelled around the countryside and he can do that for a bit longer. He can go to child care in Canberra when I am there. That is something that works for us, but it is not going to work forever. And for me, when he starts school, that is when it is a crunch time and that doesn't happen until after this term.
JOURNALIST: If you look at it coming the other way, you love politics, you don't want to be too far away from ...
ELLIS: I can see where you are going with this, Mike. (LAUGHS)
JOURNALIST: I thought you might be able to, what is the seat that you want in State Parliament?
ELLIS: No, I can assure you, I don't have a back-up plan. Obviously, as I have said, I am not causing a by election. I intend to see this Parliamentary term through and I also intend to see many, many of my Labor colleagues elected and re-elected next March taking up the South Australian seats. For me, this will be a time after the next election when I'll stop and think about what career I pursue next. I mean, I am really lucky in that I've made and can announce this decision before I turn 40. I think that there is time for me to consider other careers and other opportunities and I do think that I've picked up a number of experiences and skills in the Federal Parliament that I hope to be able to apply somewhere else. So, I am not locked in on only working in politics for the rest of my life and, you know, at the moment I am concentrating on the job that I have been elected to do. But after that, I will be considering my options and seeing where we go from there.
JOURNALIST: But what if Jay Weatherill came to you later today or tomorrow or something and said, "Kate, we need you."
ELLIS: Well, I made a commitment to the people of Adelaide at the last election. I know that politicians say this from time to time but I hope that, given that I am not going to be asking them for their vote at the next election, you will trust me when I tell you that being the local Member for Adelaide has always been the most important part of my job to me. Representing this community, standing up for these residents, is what I am so proud to do and what I ask the community to trust me at the last election to do and I intend to see that through. There will not be a by election.
JOURNALIST: Would you consider given the work you've done in the Federal Parliament, would you consider returning to teaching or the education sector?
ELLIS: I can tell you the thought of what I am going to do after the next election is one that I also find quite interesting and quite terrifying, but I haven't made any decisions or really thought about it too much. My focus is on Federal Parliament and it will be for the next couple of years.
JOURNALIST: Will you consider standing for state politics after the next Federal Election?
ELLIS: (LAUGHS) I think I said this morning "you never say never" and I am not saying that because I have some secret plan. I would be surprised if I ended up in a different parliament, but I am just saying that my focus is on now and the job that I have and we will look at future options when we get there.
JOURNALIST: Do you think you'll return to your modelling career?
ELLIS: (LAUGHS) You are very kind, Mike. Either that or you are having a big laugh. I am not sure I ever had a modelling career and even if I did, I am pretty sure that those days would be a long, long way behind me.
JOURNALIST: Do you have plenty of support at home, especially if you are taking your son to Canberra, back and forth. Can you leave him in Adelaide and go to Canberra without him?
ELLIS: I could do that. I haven't done that to this point and I said to someone earlier today, jokingly, I didn't know that I was going to have the most adorable child that ever has been born, but I did, so that is a bit of a burden as well as an opportunity and I haven't wanted to leave him. I like being with him. He's travelled with me to date and I have been very, very lucky that we have been able to do that. So, there will be a point when he can't travel anymore and of course I have support at home. Our home, you know, I am really blessed that I have got two amazing step children, we have a teen, a tween, a toddler and two cavoodles. There is a fair bit of chaos going on there. We just decided that I don't want to be travelling anymore. I want to be back with the family that I love.