Interview with Richelle Hunt, Drive

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RICHELLE HUNT:

So Kelly O’Dwyer, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services. First of all, happy International Women’s Day.

KELLY O’DWYER:

And to you too Richelle, and to all of your listeners.

RICHELLE HUNT:

How have you spent your morning so far? How have you spent your day?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well this morning I got up bright and early because my little daughter, who is about 22 months of age, gets up at about 5 o’clock every morning. I gave her her milk before I waved goodbye and I jumped on a plane to head to Canberra for my first meeting of the day, which was with departmental officials, before heading into the Expenditure Review Committee, before heading into some other meetings following on from that.

RICHELLE HUNT:

So most of us that have a 22-month-old, and I know you’re pregnant at the moment as well, so sleep is possibly not a big thing in your life right now. And then you hear what you’re about to go and do. If that was me, I would be happy if I remembered to put on pants. How do you balance the two?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I do have to be very careful with sticky fingers after Olivia has consumed anything because she’s gorgeous, like every 22-month-old she loves cuddles. And I do find that I have to be quite careful if I’m walking out the door. But I think like a lot of working mums, it’s a challenge but it is a wonderful challenge and I feel blessed every day that I have got her in my life, she’s my heart’s joy, and I am really also very privileged to be serving in the job that I do. A lot of women have to really balance their work and career, whether they’re running a small business, whether they’re an employee in a medium sized business, or whether they’re an entrepreneur. The truth is, it’s always a balancing act and like everyone else, I do the best I can.

RICHELLE HUNT:

You say that but it’s such a big balancing act for most of us in our everyday lives. What sort of support network do you have? Who’s there to help you through when you can’t be there for that particular pick up when you said you were going to be, or when you’ve missed your flight or you have to work late. Who’s there supporting you as well as your family?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I have a brilliant husband who is terrific. I have a really wonderful family, my mum and my dad particularly spend a lot of time with Olivia, I use child care like a lot of people and you’re absolutely right to say that pick up or drop off can be a real challenge at times. And so I have had the stressful heart palpitations as I have been there to collect Olivia just before child care shuts, so I know the stress of that. But I’m fortunate to have a really terrific office, I utilise my family, I utilise child care and my husband and we just do our best to make it work.

RICHELLE HUNT:

I remember when my daughter was quite young, when she was only about eight months or something and a girlfriend said to me, Richelle, have you had your first experience of mother’s guilt yet? And I was like what, I don’t believe in that, I didn’t even know and no I haven’t even left her sight, how can I feel guilty? But as time goes on, when you return to work, as life just gets busy and crazy, I hate to say it but I feel guilt quite a lot for things where maybe I’m not as present physically, or as emotionally as I hoped I would be. It’s been harder than I expected to juggle both and there’s times where I feel more stress than I feel like I should feel. Have you been through anything like that?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t experienced mother’s guilt, I think it’s a pretty natural feeling to feel, particularly when I’ve had to drop her off at child care and there have been tears, that’s never a happy moment. But I console myself with the view that about two minute after I’ve left, she’s having a fantastic time and at the end of the day she does chat about all of the fabulous things that she has done and enjoyed. It is difficult at times and there are times where my job does take me away from home for quite a period, which means that I obviously don’t get the spend that time with her. But like I said, a lot of families make those sacrifices for the jobs that they do because it’s a balance, and the truth is I’ve got a fantastic husband who is an equal partner in parenting our daughter Olivia, so it’s not all down to me. I think the fabulous thing is that she has a great relationship, as I said before, with my broader family as well and that, for me, is actually something that I absolutely love and cherish.

RICHELLE HUNT:

Now you’re the first Cabinet Minister expected to give birth while actually serving in office. Now that surprised me, I couldn’t actually believe it. That makes you a trailblazer, is that something that shocked or surprised you, that you’re the first?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I was a little bit shocked when I was told this because I did think in today’s day and age that there must’ve been others who had already done this, but apparently not. And I suppose the message from that for the people who actually do aspire to commit their lives to public service, irrespective of what political party they align themselves with, I think that the good news is you can serve at the highest levels of government and you can be in different family relationships and have different arrangements and you can make it work and you can make a significant contribution. And so hopefully, that will mean that when I’m visited by schools that come up and visit from time to time up here in Parliament House and when there are little girls that look at the job that I do, hopefully there’ll be at least one amongst them who will say if she can do it, I can do it.

RICHELLE HUNT:

Kelly you mentioned before that you use the services of child care. We know that child care workers are striking today, many of them are stopping work at 3.20pm. What changes do you believe need to happen for what is predominately a female-led industry?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I think everybody should be paid a fair wage for the work that they do, and I hold childcare workers in the absolute highest regard. I’ve seen the great work that they do in a very personal capacity and every day I entrust my most precious person, well not every day but a number of days a week, I entrust my most precious person to child care workers who form a family environment for her when she’s out of her actual family environment. So all I would say is that I think everybody deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and obviously those people who are looking to increase their pay or to change the arrangements in some way will obviously make their case and that’s a matter for them.

RICHELLE HUNT:

Well Kelly O’Dwyer when you were little, I know most of us had, you know, when you’re about nine or ten, there’s someone in our lives, whether it be an aunt, an uncle or a teacher, that says to you when you’re so small, now Kelly O’Dwyer what do you want to be when you grow up? Did you always want to be a politician?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I actually wanted to be a lawyer. I know that sounds very unusual –

RICHELLE HUNT:

Even when you were little?

KELLY O’DWYER:

When I was little. Because you see, my mum and dad were the first of their families to go to university and they both did law and so I thought, well that’s what you do when you grow up. You become a lawyer. In fact, my husband jokes to me, he said that I, throughout my working life, he said I’ve been steadily working my way down the reader’s digest most trusted professions – lawyer, banker, and now parliamentarian. But I’ve got to say, this job is the greatest privilege because I get the opportunity to meet incredible people from all walks of life and I really get to be directly involved in shaping the direction of the nation. And I think for anybody who’s been given that opportunity, like I said, it’s a great privilege.

RICHELLE HUNT:

You must have to have, especially now, feels like it’s got worse than when I was younger or maybe it’s just that I’m working in a different world now, but it feels like your skin has to be so thick, male or female, in politics, because anyone and everyone is going to say something about you, about your work, about your personal life, about how you look potentially –

KELLY O’DWYER:

About your hair!

RICHELLE HUNT:

About your hair, something. It’s just got ridiculous. Does any of that, what level of frustration or at what point does it start to affect you, I guess?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Look, I’ll be honest. I don’t expend a lot of emotional energy worrying about that. I mean there are lots of worthwhile things you can expend energy on and I just don’t really find it a particularly positive thing to focus too much on.

RICHELLE HUNT:

And you probably wouldn’t have a lot of spare time to.

KELLY O’DWYER:

I don’t read anonymous twitters or anything like that because I don’t find it particularly helpful. Instead I just focus on getting on with my job and doing it to the best of my ability. And I think, to be honest, when people in political life or in public life or in any public role get criticised, the people who probably feel it most aren’t necessarily the individual themselves, but probably more their family, who often feel the slings and arrows much more keenly than the individual so I’m probably in that category.

RICHELLE HUNT:

And does that concern you as your daughter gets older and when she starts primary school, for example, do things like that ever start to worry you?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I think it will be very interesting to see. I hope that she’s her own person, she’ll have her own view of the world and she’ll live her life in the way that hopefully she chooses. And I hope that it doesn’t rebound on her in a positive or negative way but I think there are always challenges for children in the playground, whether it be who your mum and dad are, or it could be something else entirely, and I think part of life is being able to deal with those challenges.

RICHELLE HUNT:

You have to be so dedicated and hard working in order to achieve the level that you’ve achieved. So this, I guess, a two-pronged question. One, do you ever have the time to sit back, especially on days like today, on International Women’s Day, to sit back and look at what you’ve already achieved, the position that you’re in, the decisions that you can make and the lives that you can change and affect and feel proud of yourself?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I think you should always have reflective moments where you think about what you’re focused on and what you’re doing and whether you’ve delivered the outcomes that you want. There are times where I do get to sort of sit back and have a reflect on that. One of the very significant changes, for instance, in last year’s budget were some superannuation reforms and for the first time we’ve delivered additional flexibility, particularly for women who’d be returning to the workforce to be able to save for their future retirement income. And I’m very proud, for instance, of those flexibility changes that put women on a level playing field along with everyone else, regardless of your employment situation, you’ll be able to make a contribution to your superannuation if you have the ability to do that. So there are times where you do get to reflect and there are times, obviously, where you reflect on some of the decision that you made that you perhaps might’ve done a slightly different way.

RICHELLE HUNT:

And does that take up much of your energy? Because I know if I’ve had a bad day and I’ve said something on air that I think wasn’t appropriate or the way I wanted it to come across, I’ll play it over and over in my head and I’m awake at 3 o’clock, I should’ve done it like this, I should’ve done it like that. Do you just kind of just let it slide, move on to the next part of business? How do you deal with, maybe, regrets on comments or decisions that you’ve made?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I think you should treat everything in life as a learning opportunity and so long as you learn something from any potential negative experience and channel it the right way I think you can turn it into a positive for the next time round. So long as you don’t keep doing the same thing over and over again.

RICHELLE HUNT:

If you had two hours to yourself, so as a working mum it probably sounds like a fairytale right now, but if you had two hours to yourself, Kelly O’Dwyer, what would you do? No kids, no husband, no work.

KELLY O’DWYER:

No kids AND no husband?

RICHELLE HUNT:

No I’m talking you’re on your own, hun.

KELLY O’DWYER:

On my own…I think I’d probably just have a cup of tea by myself –

RICHELLE HUNT:

Would you watch something trashy?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I think I’d read a book.

RICHELLE HUNT:

When was the last time you read a book that wasn’t for work?

Probably some time ago. Probably the Christmas holidays when it wasn’t for work.

RICHELLE HUNT:

That’s not too bad.

KELLY O’DWYER:

I got to read a bit on the Christmas holidays but I was very clever, I actually took mum and dad along with husband on the Christmas holidays. So Jon and I actually did have the opportunity for two hours where we actually went to the movies, which was terribly decadent.

RICHELLE HUNT:

I know, isn’t it the simple things, all of a sudden, that feel so luxurious? What’s your favourite movie? What’s your secret shame favourite movie?

KELLY O’DWYER:

OK, this is really putting it out there, but I like really, really silly comedies. So Zoolander, I’ve got to say, I find very funny. It doesn’t appeal to everyone’s taste…

RICHELLE HUNT:

Love it.

KELLY O’DWYER:

…but it appeals to mine.

RICHELLE HUNT:

Had you said Weekend at Bernie’s there still would’ve been no judgement whatsoever from me. And we’ve asked you to select a song today, Kelly. A song that means something to you and there’s a little story behind it. What song have you chosen and what’s the story behind it?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well ever since I was little, I was always a massive fan of ABBA. And we used to play records, my sister and I, because my mother had quite a number of records, and one of them was an ABBA record and we would play it over and over again because we just loved the music. And one of my favourite songs, and it reminds me of that time, was Mamma Mia, and so that’s the song that I’ve chosen.

RICHELLE HUNT:

Kelly O’Dwyer thanks for joining us on Drive and happy International Women’s Day.

KELLY O’DWYER:

You too Richelle.