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Swap of ideas

IN A FIRST for Australian politics, our local Federal MP ‘swapped’ electorates with an inner-city MP for one week during January.

By Christian Zahra - 7th June 2001 - Back to News

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IN A FIRST for Australian politics, our local Federal MP ‘swapped’ electorates with an inner-city MP for one week during January.

Christian Zahra and Federal Labor Member for Gellibrand Nicola Roxon swapped electorates, offices and houses I an attempt to learn more about the issues confronting their very different electorates.

Each MP carefully planned an itinerary for the other to follow. They were designed to give each visiting MP a chance to get some first-hand experience of the issues and challenges facing the electorate.

So, while Christian visited Don Smallgoods, Smorgon’s steel mill, Maribyrnong City Council and an inner-suburban youth access centre, Ms Roxon went to an abattoir in Trafalgar, a sawmill in Noojee, a cheese factory, a power station and Monash University Gippsland.

Both programs also included workplace visits and meetings with service providers, economic development groups and community organisations.

“It was an exercise in gathering knowledge, experience and understanding, which I think is important for all members of parliament, no matter how long they’ve been in the job,” Christian says.

What we tried to do was give each other a feel for the issues that are important to people in the areas we represent.”

“We wanted to focus not only on the differences between the city and the country, but also on the similarities. After all, we’re all people and we share a lot of the same concerns, no matter where we live.”

Christian said that the week-long exchange was also a great opportunity for him to showcase the Gippsland area and improve understanding of our region.

“It’s really only when people physically come to our area that they get any sort of real understanding of the things that are important to us,”Says Christian

“We hear a lot about the so-called ‘city-country divide’ and it’s true that our two regions face many different challenges.”

“But I think we need to start doing something to close that divide if we’re ever going to get anywhere with regional development.”

“It’s no good just saying ‘well, for the city area we’ll do this and for the country areas we’ll do that’. That approach takes no account of the individual needs of particular regions and it’s been spectacularly unsuccessful it the past.”

“In many ways, Nicola’s electorate has a lot more in common with our region that it does with other suburbs of Melbourne, such as South Yarra, Toorak and Malvern.”

“This swap has really shown us that, although the two environments are very different, the problems and challengers we face are really quite similar. There’s a it we can learn from each other.”

Following the electorate swap, Christian and Nicola proposed a number of initiatives aimed at breaking down the city-country divide and promoting regional development.


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