“Politicians are tools! Don’t laugh, say it with me: politicians are TOOLS!”
That’s just one message from the inaugural speech of Brindabella MLA Laura Nuttall on Tuesday (6 February).
While they may not be words politicians want to hear during an election year, Ms Nuttall’s speech implied it was the perfect time for the community to know MLAs are meant to work for them.
“We should be hyper-accessible, functional and helpful to you, the community,” she said.
“Tuggeranites, I’m a tool. I really hope you use me. My office can case-manage and advocate on your behalf. We can sponsor petitions, we can deep dive into issues that directly affect your life and campaign for change. We have opportunities in hearings to ask the questions you’d like to hear the answers to, to keep those government processes transparent and honest, like they should be.
“We are, and should be, directed by you. So use me.”
The speech was also Ms Nuttall’s first chance to publicly let all Canberrans know exactly what she stands for.
Besides believing politicians should “serve and work” for their communities, Ms Nuttall highlighted the climate crisis as another key issue, particularly from a youth perspective.
“I’m a kid of the climate crisis, and I can put my hand on my heart and say that the impending, existential threat of climate change underpins pretty well everything that I do,” she said.
“I really want kids, but I don’t know if I should because I don’t know if I could guarantee them the same quality of life that we and our previous generations have enjoyed.
“I don’t want my kids to be scared by the ever-intensifying storms, bushfires and other natural disasters.”
Ms Nuttall also detailed her own challenges navigating Canberra’s housing landscape and how the cost of living pressures had caused her to alter how she was living.
“Once [my housemates and I found a house], I quickly realised how bloody expensive it is to provide for yourself,” she said.
“Even splitting rent, it was almost half my income gone before I’d even got my groceries. I was often putting off getting my ADHD medication, opting for instant noodle dinners and skipping breakfast.
“And if any of that depresses you, it’s not like counselling was cheap either. And if it was bad for me, it’s gotta be way worse for others.”
Ms Nuttall’s main message throughout her inaugural speech was that she hoped to be accessible.
She felt people become disengaged from politics when they feel nothing can be changed or are not feeling listened to, and she wanted that to change.
“Here in the ACT, we possess a lot of levers to influence areas like housing, education, emissions reductions, transport and the other really practical things that make a real difference to Canberrans’ lives. Politicians make the perfect advocates in that space,” Ms Nuttall said.
“The stuff I’ve been dealing with on a day-to-day basis will affect your life. So, if you do think we could be doing better, making your education, your mental health, your housing situation better, message me.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know you over the next nine months. I know we can do some good.”