WCLP 2013 in Canberra for two days

26 June 2013

Bridgid Connors, Department of Justice gives a brief outline of the WCLP 2013 Group's visit to Canberra.

The two days spent in Canberra was an amazing opportunity to be able to go behind the scenes and into the private areas of Parliament.

Our guide, Nick Reece (WCLP 2009), Public Policy Fellow, Centre for Public Policy, University of Melbourne, had so much knowledge and experience that he was able to give fantastic insights. As a former lawyer, journalist, party secretary and senior adviser to a Prime Minister and two State Premiers we definitely got the inside information.


We were able to sit in and listen during Question Time. For a lot of us we felt that it was only an opportunity for politicians to be rude and disrespectful until Nick informed us that this isn’t a platform for creating policy but more an opportunity to appeal to the media and to get the press coverage on an issue raised. I will always look at Question Time differently having this knowledge. 

Talking of media, we heard from Karen Middleton, Chief Political Correspondent for SBS. Karen talked to us about the changes in the media world with social media and the internet. When a journalist gets wind of a story these days they have about half an hour to get it out in the digital world whereas not so long ago there was time to get it ready for the 5 o’clock news.

Key politicians who presented to the group were Adam Bandt, Deputy Greens Leader and Federal Member for Melbourne and Bill Shorten, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. As the ‘man of the moment’ in terms of the Labor Leadership issue he was very tight lipped!

A panel of three Liberal MPs talked about how they got into politics and the upcoming election. Simon Banks, a lobbyist gave an overview of how important they are in getting a message forward if you don’t have direct access to Parliament.

One of the most interesting speakers was Peta Credlin, Chief of Staff, Leader of the Opposition, Hon Tony Abbott MP. Having worked her way up through the ranks in Canberra, her biggest insight was that as a leader you need to know the detail because if you don’t how can you defend it? The only way to do this effectively is to build great relationships with your staff.

The final visit was to the Timor-Leste Embassy which was built with the support of previous Williamson participants. After being in the magnificent buildings of Parliament and being provided with great food and accommodation it certainly brought us all back to reality. The biggest issue facing Timor-Leste is how to get second hand furniture for the schools in order to stop pupils having to sit on the floor.

It was a fabulous two days and for someone who works in Government I had initially thought that it wouldn’t be the best part of the program. It provided me with a lot more context about what it means to be a politician.