As I stood next to Labor South Australian Senate candidate, Michael Allison, handing out how-to-vote cards at a local pre-polling booth, we had a chat about what inspired him to run for government. As we were chatting, I noticed the Nick Xenophon Team volunteer was wearing a traffic-light-sized badge claiming a vote for his party is a vote for a real person. Xenophon’s claim that his candidates are ‘real’, and the major party candidates are not, is a typical ‘pox on both their houses’ tactic which allows minor parties and independents to claim they’re better than the majors without having to actually reveal their own ideas and values. The media lap this stuff up. But as I chatted to Michael, and found out more about his values, it was clear his values are Labor through and through.
Simply, Michael was inspired to run for the Senate to ensure his success in life is accessible to future generations of Australians. Growing up with his mum in public housing in regional South Australia, Michael says the policies which he hopes to fight for in a Labor government are the same ones which ensured he got where he is. A good public education, access to healthcare and vocational training at TAFE are what Michael believes led him to success in life. He seems exasperated that still the Turnbull Liberal government cuts from education and health, when these cuts will destroy the chance for more young-Michaels to reach their full potential.
I’ve met people who have come from similar backgrounds to Michael, who have gone on to success in their lives, who have very different ideas about the source of their success. To put in bluntly, there’s another perspective which goes something like this: I am successful because I worked hard. Even though I wasn’t rich, it was my motivation, drive and intelligence which got me where I am, and the only reason other people from poor backgrounds don’t get to where I have got is because they haven’t worked as hard as I have. To me, this attitude denies the role the community played in that person’s life. Sure, it takes commitment to get a good education, and well done to anyone who takes advantage of the opportunities a good education presented to them. But at the end of the day, motivation, drive and intelligence is wasted if it’s not nurtured with a good education, in a safe community, with access to vital services like healthcare. Michael gets this. He is grateful to the government policies which gave him the right foundation for him to succeed in life, and now he is motivated to ensure everyone else gets the same.
After training as an electrician, Michael joined a union. His passion for community values were soon transferred into his working life, where he supported his union in defending pay and conditions for his fellow workers. A Labor government, Michael explained, is as valuable to every Australian as a union is to its members; just as a union has their workers’ backs, a Labor government has the backs of every Australian whether they be workers, business owners, students, children, retirees, everyone.
Although some people might say Michael is a fairly typical Australian bloke, working in a trade, father of young children, living on a large block a long commute from the city, watching footy on weekends and passionate about his community, Michael doesn’t think there is such a thing as a typical Australian. The only typical thing about Australians, he told me, is that we’re all different. Young or old, born here or somewhere else, rich or poor, gay or straight, worker or business owner, retiree, student, male or female, Michael says the Labor party represents all people, equally. That’s when I realised why Nick Xenophon’s accusation of Labor candidates being ‘not real’ was even more unfair. The outcomes Michael wants to achieve in a Labor government are real outcomes for real people just like him. No stunts. No slogans. No protest votes. Michael is passionate about outcomes for real people, for real change, for real progress. What could be more authentic than that?