Gai Brodtmann is the incumbent member for the electorate of Canberra. She is a member of the Australian Labor Party and the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.
Canberra is considered a safe seat, having been held by Labor since 1996. Brodtmann has been its representative member for the past six years.
Brodtmann had a varied career before starting in politics. She ran her own business in a communications consultancy and worked in the public service, mostly in Foreign Affairs and Trade, but also at the Attorney General’s department. She was also a tutor at the University of Canberra.
Brodtmann believes that varied experience is the key to being a good politician.
“I’m of the view that politicians should have a depth and breadth of experience before they come into politics. I wanted to have a number of careers before politics but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been active in the Labor Party since 1983.”
A Melbourne native, Brodtmann first came to Canberra in the 1980s to study at the Australian National University. She returned to Melbourne but was back before long and has lived in Canberra for over twenty-five years.
Her ambition to become a politician came out of both a passion for making a difference to the people around her and a passion for her adopted city.
“I wanted to advocate for Canberra! I am a proud Canberran! I love this city, I love the people, and I love the community. I wanted to advocate for them and make sure that they get the best deal possible at the federal level and at a local level too. I also wanted to help people during tough times and help shape policy.”
One of the things Brodtmann is most known for is her participation in the local community. She has served as a volunteer director on both the Gift of Life and Our Wellness boards, and is a patron of many local organisations including the Tuggeranong Bulldogs Junior Football Club, Tuggeranong Netball Association, Kulture Break and Valley FM, among others.
Brodtmann believes that one of the biggest issues in her electorate is the omission of the city from the rollout of the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network.
“We’ve some of the worst [internet] speeds in the country here, 25kms from Parliament House.”
A majority of homes on the south side of Canberra are not on the current rollout map for the NBN, as the rollout has focused on newly developed areas in Canberra’s northern electorate of Fenner. Brodtmann has been campaigning to change this.
“We’ve got significant impediments to small business due to the lack of the NBN, significant impediments to educational opportunities, and significant impediments to what I call ‘active citizenry’. People can’t participate online, which is so much of where the engagement goes on—political engagement and community engagement.”
She is also concerned about the recent federal budget, which included further public sector cuts. Brodtmann believes this will jeopardise Canberra’s public sector, which employs a large proportion of the population.
“I lost my job in 1996 under the Howard government, when they got rid of 15,000 public servants here in Canberra and 30,000 nationally. So, I know what it’s like to lose your job.”