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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Fighting for Canberra’s family battlers: Leanne Castley’s first speech

Leanne Castley, the new Canberra Liberals member for Yerrabi, wants to prove that someone from an average background can be elected to parliament and succeed.

“If I can show … that this gig of politics is not just for the most marvellous capacity, but for the hard-working ordinary family battlers like me, I’d see that as an achievement indeed,” Ms Castley said in her inaugural speech in the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday 3 December.

Leanne Castley hails from Belconnen and identifies as a “proud chick from Charnie (Charnwood)”.

“Think 1980s V8 Commodores, beat-up Datsuns, footy shorts, mullets, flannel shirts, and hanging out at the Charnie shops in desert boots and black jeans,” she said.

Before entering politics, she was an IT project manager with the AFP and Defence, and is a professional country music singer with more than 25 years’ experience in the music industry. She grew up in a single parent family and has worked since the age of 14: in sewing shops, as a dental assistant, an office cleaner, an accounts clerk at Holden (where she met her first husband), as a Tupperware lady and beautician, a singing teacher, a paid tuckshop lady, and a mechanic’s trade assistant.

“When it comes to politics, this chick from Charnie does not fit the mould,” Leanne Castley said. “I may have smashed the mould – which I think would be a good thing. Not for me any union official background, blooding it as a political staffer, raging and recruiting in the Young Liberal or Labor movement.”

Leanne Castley MLA, Member for Yerrabi, delivers her inaugural speech in the Assembly chamber, watched by fellow Canberra Liberal Peter Cain MLA. Picture: ACT Legislative Assembly.

Politics, Ms Castley said, had become toxic, split between ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’ – labels that were meaningless in her part of town.

“Why do we in politics put ourselves in such limiting groups and play political games behind factional walls eyeing each other with suspicion? Not to mention the greed and corruption we all too often see and read about: the ego trips, power plays, and dirt sheets; the so-called political kingmakers who know how to sharpen knives but not much else. … No wonder ordinary people have had a gutful.”

She was concerned that the Labor government had been in power so long it had lost touch with the Canberra battlers.

“There are many out in the ’burbs like me – just proud hard-working people and parents wanting to better themselves and their lives: mums and dads and partners who want their kids to have a good education, to learn good manners and values, and have good jobs and opportunities that they didn’t have. Robert Menzies famously called them the forgotten people, the backbone of Australia, too often taken for granted by government, and effectively powerless because they lack connections.”

Her electorate of Yerrabi weren’t public servants, Ms Castley said; they were clerical staff, community workers, technicians, tradies, salespeople, and labourers – many of them migrants with kids and a mortgage.

“All family-minded people who want to work hard and want to improve their communities,” she said.

“The issues, views, and aspirations of my electorate – that’s what matters to me. Yerrabi residents and families do not want politicians telling them what to do or how to live their lives. They can do that perfectly well on their own.

“But they do want politicians to be honest: to listen and to fix problems, whether it’s potholes in the street, keeping our reserves clean, providing facilities where family can enjoy barbecues and being outdoors with public park benches; improving our environment and reducing carbon emissions with sensible policies that don’t break the bank.”

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