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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4389

Mrs GASH (Gilmore) (19:40): Just before the break, Jessica Cohen from my electorate of Gilmore came and did some work experience. Tonight, I would like to relate how she found Parliament House. Just before I relate her words, I would like to say that I wish Jessica well. It was a pleasure to have her here and she certainly fitted in with our office. She said:

My name is Jessica Cohen and I recently completed a degree in international relations at UNSW. I am now currently at the stage of my life where I am searching for a career. Considering my major was in development studies, I am keen to have a career that involves working with the community.

A few weeks ago a close friend of mine suggested that a career in the political sector could be very rewarding. It would allow me to work on issues that affect our community and it also relates closely to my degree. The suggestion motivated me to contact Joanna Gash my local MP, in order to gain work experience and a comprehensive understanding on how our political system works.

Like most politicians I understand that Joanna is a very busy woman and I was delighted to receive her prompt reply. She kindly invited me to Parliament House to introduce me to the internal workings of our parliament.

A day in the life of an MP is quite a diverse and active one. In the morning I accompanied Joanna to a meeting on international trade. Senators, members of DFAT and MP's all attended this meeting to discuss Australia's options in regards to trade policies with particular countries. The meeting was interrupted with a siren from a nearby clock flashing green, signaling a division in the House of Representatives. Without delay, a third of the people in the boardroom left to vote. Divisions in the House of Representatives and the Senate occur frequently when parliament sits. For me, it was quite exciting to watch. The meeting was interrupted a total of three times due to the division in the House of Representatives, however the people adapted to deal with the disturbance and the meeting continued.

Joanna offered me practical experience too by asking me to write media releases and to draft letters to the community. This practical experience has not only equipped me for future jobs, it also has given me a personal insight to the day-to-day workings of a local MP's office.

After lunch I was able to acquire tickets to the House of Representatives question time. Although question time is always covered by the media, it was quite a different experience watching it live. The arguments can get quite heated at times with people in the benches bickering in the background. A politician must have a lot of skill and focus when speaking in Parliament as they can speak clearly and confidently even though a group of opposing people are verbally disputing their position.

In the afternoon Joanna invited me to sit in on a proposal from a non-government organisation appealing for support for their medical research. Equipped with a PowerPoint presentation, this non-government organisation detailed the actions they are taking to assist in the management of some of the world's most deadly diseases. Senators and MP's from different parties attended this meeting and each person had a different stance on the subject at hand. Although everyone supported the motion of the eradication of HIV, each person raised issues from different standing points during question time.

The most thought provoking question from my perspective was simply "how will you be able to determine the success of your project?" As I have learnt in development studies, every development project must have an effective monitoring system that can measure the success of your actions.

One specific thing I noticed from my experience at Parliament is that contrary to the popular belief that parliament can be filled with a range of parties, opposing each other for the media, behind the scenes, many of them have good working relationships. I feel as if they are aware that there is a benefit to an opposition when it comes to decision and policy making.

After my work experience at Parliament House, my interest in a political career has grown. Working in this sector exposes you to a range of relevant issues that are faced by our community, and it provides you with a chance to improve the way people live. The work of a politician is a meaningful career.

If any member is looking for a talented, able person for their office, then you cannot go past Jessica.

In the spare time that I have, could I add that having students, regardless of their age or experience, has been very rewarding for me. We often have a perception of young people that can be negative. However, when you have students like Jessica and others we have had in our office it is, as I have said, very rewarding to be able to read their stories into the Hansard to show that we should not be so quick to judge from what we perceive.