Tanya Plibersek on politics, feminism and being a mum.

Tanya Plibersek

Joining us at the dinner party this week is Tanya Plibersek, Federal Labor member for Sydney and Minister for Health. Tanya has made appearances on Mamamia before, talking about vaccination and abortion. This time we spoke to her about something a little different….

MM: What made you get interested in politics in the first place?

TP: I remember being interested in politics from a very early age, so even as a four-year-old sitting on my dad’s lap I used to see Gough Whitlam on the nightly news and I could recognise him. I had a good feeling about Gough and Margaret Whitlam even at that age.

I guess I’ve always been interested in fairness – I was the kind of annoying kid at school who was always making suggestions about improving the playground equipment or doing this or that at school, so it’s really grown out of that.

MM: You hold an inner-city seat that is increasingly under threat from the Greens.  Do you think Labor will be able to retain these seats in the future as the party seeks to maintain the centre ground as well?

TP: I never take my seat for granted. I’ve got a strong margin at the moment, my vote at the last election was high – but  I don’t for a second take it for granted, I think that it’s really important to campaign continuously so that the people in your seat know that you are available to them and that you’re listening to their concerns and acting on them. I think that my electorate know me pretty well by now and they know what I stand for.

I’m very fortunate that I represent an electorate that is a progressive electorate and they support progressive people like me. I think the local government elections probably are a good indication recently that there’s been a return to Labor in the areas that I represent. I think that’s a good sign that when you have strong local candidates and strong local campaigns that people support the Labor party in the inner city.

Tanya and her little one.

MM: How would you define your kind of feminism?

TP: I don’t know whether I would define it, I would say that I am a feminist, it’s one of my most fundamental identifications. I feel very strongly that men and women are equal and that their life choices should not be constrained by their gender. Certainly, women shouldn’t be forced to choose between a career and a family, nor restricted in their career choice.

They should be able to have decision-making control about their lives financially and socially and so on. I think that’s also true for men, I don’t think men should be restricted in their choice of career and I don’t think men that take a larger role in raising a family then other blokes should suffer in any way from that. Basically I’d say that my type of feminism is a feminism that says that men and women are equal and they should be able to make choices about their lives unconstrained by gender stereotyping.

I often look at women around the world and think in particular about how important it is that in Australia, in our own homes here and around the world women should be allowed to not only have choices about their careers and they way they live their lives but also be able to live free from the fear of violence. We know that sexual violence and domestic violence are still incredibly strong forces against women’s equality and I’d say that being free from the fear of violence is also a really important struggle for feminists.

MM: You’re a mum with young children. How have you managed to balance the hectic lifestyle of being a politician and constantly having to fly to Canberra or be away from home with being a mum?

TP: It’s not always easy. I don’t do much else other than work and look after my family. I don’t have what people call ‘me-time’ very much. But I really love my family and I really enjoy my work so it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.

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