Drive

I grew up on a Dairy farm, the youngest of seven children, six boys and a girl. It was a very basic, modest life, but good fun.

We went to school in Shepparton. I’d catch the school bus each morning and home again in the afternoon. It would take an hour for the 30km trip once everyone had been picked up and dropped off. There was always work to do on the farm and there was always food on the table.

Looking back, and thinking about some of the tougher upbringings I see now, I feel more and more grateful each day for the modest upbringing that I had. You realise that there are so many other people that haven’t been given basic care, and love, and haven’t had the fantastic role models that I had and still have to this day. When you see young adults and adolescents that aren’t tracking very well, and you look at their support structures and families, it becomes apparent that they aren’t getting the right tutoring and guidance. They might not have role models around them to insist that they drag themselves out of bed to go to work or to finish their schooling. They don’t learn the basic manners that I learned at home and at Boarding School. Going through my own childhood, I didn’t think it was anything special, but when you turn out half normal you realise that you were taught a set of very strong ethics. You learned that: if you want to succeed you have to be driven, if things go wrong you need to be resilient and if you want to make something of your life you simply have to put in an awful lot of work.

Looking back, and thinking about some of the tougher upbringings I see now, I feel more and more grateful each day for the modest upbringing that I had.

There’s no great mystery to any of this. It’s a straightforward equation that I have learned and relearned all through my life. As the naive young owner of a shed construction business, the realisation hit me that there’s only one way to pay your bills and that’s to make another sale and get another shed built; long hours, hard physical work, rain, hail, heat or shine. As a newly drafted VFL footballer with Geelong I realised that I was limited in almost every way. I never had the skills of Greg Williams, the talent of Gary Ablett or the speed of Michael Turner, not to mention the pure football nous of Gary Hocking. So, I had to work a hell of a lot harder than those around me, just to make the team for sixty three senior games. But along the way I liked having that dose of reality you get from football coaches. Before the game, after the game, you always knew where you stood.

After finishing up as an AFL player I moved into coaching. I always had within me a natural instinct to try and find a better way of doing things. Coaching took me to Bendigo, Sydney and then across the country to Western Australia as the Fremantle Dockers Senior Coach. Throughout this time I was always politically aware and interested. I’d always been conservative, particularly as a small business owner during the ‘recession we had to have’. That attitude didn’t sit well with me, having substantial loans and confronting 20% interest rates. I had a bit of fire in me about the way small businesses were being treated. It hardened the country boy conservative in me. In 2002 I had the opportunity to run for State Parliament in Victoria and was fortunate to be elected as a Member of the Legislative Council. As a politician, I’m not the most articulate speaker and I don’t claim to be; Yr 11 education, no law degree, no engineering degree, but I am driven to work hard on the legislative process.

None of the individual steps I’ve taken seemed monumental at the time. They were often disruptive but when you see an opportunity you take it.

Moving into politics broadened my scope dramatically. It enabled me to get involved in education delivery models, allocation of road funding, the different roles of government, regional development and much more. It was an awakening that has never stopped. With every piece of legislation comes new learning and renewed awareness of the practical impact on people’s lives of the decisions we make in Canberra or in Spring St.

In 2016 I made the leap into Federal Parliament winning the lower house seat of Murray. I had a relatively safe spot in the upper house of the Victorian Parliament but I had the drive to give Canberra a shot. I wanted to make a difference and add to the stock of quality and well intentioned members. The opportunity to work with Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash was also very exciting. It would have been an area of significant regret if I didn’t have a crack. I would’ve felt that I hadn’t fulfilled myself. It was a risk and when you take a risk you have to be prepared to lose. My odds blew out at one point but it worked out okay.

None of the individual steps I’ve taken seemed monumental at the time. They were often disruptive but when you see an opportunity you take it. I didn’t want to go to University so I looked for a trade. I wanted to be an AFL player so I trained hard, built myself up and snuck onto the back end of the Geelong playing list. When it became apparent that my playing days were coming to an end I developed my skills to be a coach. Then, as a sacked AFL coach, I made the leap into politics. All of these moves required an accurate self-assessment and huge amount of drive. We are each responsible for our actions and our actions have consequences, both positive and negative. None of us can afford to waste time. In life, and in politics, it’s always later than you think!