I rise to pay tribute to our colleague Senator Kate Lundy. Kate formally called time on her role in federal politics yesterday, resigning as an ACT senator after nearly two decades in public office.
Kate entered politics in 1996 at the age of 28, replacing Bob McMullan when he moved to the lower house. She was Labor’s youngest female representative in the federal parliament at the time. Back in 1996 she turned up for work at the hill with her own PC and software. It was a time when politicians were not expected to use a computer, social media was non-existent and the ubiquity of the internet was still a few years off. I think this small example highlights what a trailblazer Kate was in many areas and her enthusiasm for new technology stayed with her over her 19 years in politics.
Kate’s story is not that of the average politician. She left school at 16 to start a career in the trades, manoeuvring her way through the somewhat blokey world of building and construction. She was attracted to the union movement soon after, pursuing the ideals of equality and a fair go for all that still hold true today. Soon Kate was working her way up to become a trade union organiser, helping to improve the lives of people like her who worked hard in blue-collar jobs.
Kate says her decision to move into politics was driven by her experience of working on building sites and a desire to contribute to the greater good. In her first speech, Kate cited the ability of Labor to put in place policies that go to the very heart of a just society that distinguishes us from other parties. I believe this ability still holds true today and Kate has played nothing short of a vital role in establishing such important policies over many years.
During her time in the Senate Kate made a significant contribution to her community, our community, the Labor Party and the country. Her passion for information technology, multiculturalism, sport and women drove a lot of her work and saw her move quickly into the shadow ministry, and later, under Julia Gillard, the ministry. In 2010 Kate was appointed the Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Citizenship, as well as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. In 2011 she was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.
In 2012 she was appointed to her own ministry portfolio, becoming the Minister for Sport and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, and the Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation. It was a perfect fit. In the last months of the Labor government, under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Kate retained the multicultural affairs portfolio, adding the digital economy, for which I know she was highly qualified.
As a fierce advocate for Labor’s national broadband network, Kate worked extremely hard to bring high-speed broadband to Canberra, and Gungahlin in particular. As Kate said in her valedictory speech in the Senate last night, she believes in technology; she believes in the people that create it and celebrates the disruption it causes.
In my first job in Canberra at the now defunct National Office for the Information Economy, Kate was the feared opposition senator, keeping us bureaucrats on our toes, and certainly taking it up to the minister, Richard Alston, who it is fair to say did not quite seem to have the same passion as Kate did for the potential of this new technology to transform our society and our economy. She also taught me about the effectiveness of parliamentarians who deeply understand their portfolio and can advocate a vision for change.
Kate was an early advocate for the NBN here in Canberra and attended many Gungahlin Community Council meetings with NBN Co to outline the plans for the rollout. She understood the bandwidth struggles of Gungahlin residents and the opportunities the NBN would bring to our growing community, and she understood the strong community desire for the NBN, passing on community feedback to NBN Co to ensure any questions Gungahlin residents and businesses had were answered.
On multiculturalism, Kate was a great campaigner. She saw it as an important element of the Canberra community. As both a federal representative and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Kate worked hard to celebrate and promote the contribution of all nationalities to our community. She knew that multiculturalism was something that should be embraced and acknowledged as one of the things that makes our cities so great.
Finally, I could not pay tribute to Kate without mentioning her love of sport—her early mornings on the lake. I know she worked hard to highlight the ability of sport to bring people together. I wish Kate all the very best in her new role on the NRMA board.
I know she will continue to advocate for the Canberra community for many years to come.
I recently spoke with Kate at the Multicultural Festival – she was still attending multiple community events in her last days as an Australian Senator. It struck me that she said simply that she’d loved every moment of her job. That she has left on her own terms, having achieved so much and having the enormous regard and affection in the Canberra community is a tribute to Kate.
I am also very excited to see our former Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, take her place in the Australian Senate to forge her own path but continue Kate’s legacy of standing up for our community and standing up for Labor values in our community.
I know Kate’s family will welcome this career change, and continue to support her in everything she does, as will her extended family – the Australian Labor Party.