Earlier than transferring into federal politics in 2016, she was chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory for 5 years, succeeding her mentor, Jon Stanhope. She’d been within the legislative meeting since 2002.
Gallagher has the higher hand in her residence city. In 2019, she collected 106,330 first preferences, or 39 per cent.
It’s a state of affairs that’s unlikely to repeat itself.
Gallagher is dressed impeccably in a superbly minimize black pantsuit and a fragile cream shirt with a ruffled neckline. She has chunky silver rings and manicured nails.
She has introduced me to A Chunk to Eat as a result of that is the native purchasing space the place her mom, when she arrived from the UK by way of New Zealand, got here to make use of the general public payphone. On the time, she was pushing a pram with two babies, from the treeless, serviceless new suburb of Waramanga that was rising out of an previous sheep paddock.
If the polls are right and Labor wins nearly all of seats within the Might 21 election as is being predicted, Gallagher will turn into Australia’s best-credentialed finance minister since former NSW premier John Fahey held the job within the mid-Nineties.
Having run the territory’s economic system efficiently for 5 years, she has the expertise that few finance ministers can deliver to the portfolio. However it is going to be her potential to handle colleagues’ expectations, as they arrive cap in hand for an additional handful of cash from the general public purse, that can be examined like by no means earlier than.
Being chief minister was a wonderful apprenticeship, says the 52-year-old Gallagher, however it was a stroll within the park in contrast with the federal area.
“It was good coaching by way of getting expertise in working and administering issues and understanding how authorities works,” she says. “That was helpful.
“However by way of the velocity and the voraciousness of federal politics, being chief minister was a bloody stroll within the park. I don’t even know why I misplaced sleep throughout these occasions.”
The waiter involves take our order. A Chunk To Eat has an all-day menu that’s trans-global in strategy: cured salmon and pickles, lamb kofta, pumpkin risotto, rooster burger, and eggs on toast.
Gallagher, a vegetarian, elects for avocado on toast and a pot of Earl Gray tea. I go for the harvest bowl and an iced latte.
Pocock’s the new matter
The dialog turns to the subject de jour: David Pocock. The previous Wallabies captain has turned his appreciable abilities to politics and is contesting the election within the ACT Senate.
Does he pose a risk? On present polling, Pocock might simply displace Liberal senator Zed Seselja.
Pocock, Gallagher says, will “clip everybody’s tickets” together with her personal “as a result of progressive voters have choices”.
The Greens are prone to acquire between 15 per cent and 17 per cent of the vote. Human rights activist Kim Rubenstein may even get a handful. Though the Liberals are normally assured of about 30 per cent of the vote in Canberra, Pocock would possibly be capable to pull that again to 26 per cent, maybe much less, which might make Seselja exit the race.
As a result of Labor has at all times been a shoo-in for one of many two Senate seats, Gallagher is worried that individuals will select Pocock over her.
“He’s in with an opportunity, an actual probability,” she says.
“We’ve had folks with profile run for the Senate earlier than and so they haven’t come shut. However David doesn’t strike me as somebody who goes right into a race he can’t win. That’s simply not his factor. Apart from, he’s an extremely respectable particular person and would make a improbable senator.”
Gallagher is pure Canberran. Born right here, attended faculty and college right here, labored right here, fell in love right here – she has by no means lived wherever else.
Nevertheless, she was disqualified from federal parliament underneath part 44 of the structure in 2018 due to her immigrant dad and mom.
It was a bitter blow, on condition that Gallagher had taken steps earlier than the 2016 election to surrender her citizenship. However the UK Residence Workplace stuffed up and didn’t formally register this till after the election.
Her household had moved to Australia when her father was supplied a job on the parliamentary library. Her English dad and mom, Charlie and Betsy Gallagher, had met and fallen in love on a ship to New Zealand. Charlie was in search of respite from the chilly and polluted skies of Stoke Metropolis, the place potteries blasted bilious fumes from chimneys. Betsy was going to go to her household to flee the ache of a damaged relationship.
“Speak about remoted. She went from dwelling and dealing in London and holidaying in Europe to this new suburb in Canberra with nothing: no pals, no household, no automotive, no companies.”
To manage, her mom turned a pillar of the local people, gathering folks round her, forming childcare teams, and founding neighborhood service centres and girls’s refuges. Betsy is included in a big mural of native heroes on certainly one of Woden’s principal transit routes.
Within the Gallagher family – which included elder sister Claire and their two adopted brothers, Richard and Matt – politics and neighborhood activism had been mentioned across the dinner desk.
“I grew up in a household of lefties,” Gallagher laughs. “My mum was left of my dad. She drove round with nuclear disarmament stickers on the automotive, which drove dad mad.
“Dad had these humorous cut-through sayings like, “If [Malcolm] Fraser will get his razor gang out, we’re off to New Zealand.” I bear in mind pondering, ‘Wow, that sounds horrible! A razor gang. No matter that’s.’”
To grasp Katy Gallagher, one should know that profound tragedy reshaped her life’s trajectory. When she was 27 and 13 weeks pregnant, her fiance, Brett Seaman, was biking on a highway close to the NSW south coast city of Merimbula when an 87-year-old girl in a automotive hit him at 110km/h. He died immediately.
“I used to be utterly destroyed,” she says. “It was so surprising. So traumatic and so the other of what I anticipated my life to be. It completely smashed me. For a very long time.”
Gallagher’s coping mechanism was to close down. She by no means went again to the home in Lyneham the place the couple lived. She didn’t go into the suburb for 10 years. She by no means went again to her job. She stopped consuming and ingesting and was hospitalised for dehydration a few weeks after the tragedy.
“I used to be utterly disconnected from the being pregnant. I used to be not concerned in it in any respect,” she says.
Household and pals would drag her to appointments and purchase the mandatory gear for the newborn’s arrival. She was placed on anti-depressants.
“An obstetrician, who was very type, simply took a have a look at me and stated: ‘I get it, however you’ve bought a human to take care of in a couple of weeks and you’re in no form to do it. You’ve got to get some assist.’ That minimize by.”
Child Abby was born in 1997.
“She was there and he or she wasn’t summary any extra,” Gallagher says. “I had a cause to stand up within the morning.
“I bear in mind my sister dropping me and Abby off at residence from hospital. I used to be sitting on the couch and he or she’s in a kind of carry baggage and I’m simply taking a look at her and pondering, ‘Oh, OK, right here we go.’”
I ask if Abby saved her. “I don’t wish to put that type of accountability on her,” she says.
“However we’re very shut. I’m shut with all my children, however the umbilical twine [with Abby] was by no means snapped, let’s simply say that. And she or he has been good to me, as a result of the accident modified me without end.”
Abby, she says, feels a way of mutual accountability, at all times touching base so Gallagher is aware of the place she is. On a niche yr in Europe, she phoned in twice a day.
“Individuals say issues like, ‘Don’t fear, that’ll by no means occur’ or ‘She’s advantageous’. However I’ve a really clear instance in my life the place that’s bullshit. And a part of the lasting damage you get from going by one thing like that’s catastrophic pondering. Nicely, it’s catastrophic, however it’s been normalised by private expertise. It’s not an unreasonable place on your mind to go.”
Gallagher ultimately discovered a companion – fellow unionist Dave Skinner – with whom she has two kids, Charlie and Evie. They reside in Lyneham.
“I used to be cautious and cautious, however Dave was there for the lengthy haul,” she says.
Gallagher describes herself as “an unintentional politician”. When her fiance died, she was working within the incapacity sector. The Group and Public Sector Union – for which Brett was working – discovered a job for her to assist her out.
She was working as an organiser for the CPSU in 2001 when it was advised that a number of ladies ought to stand for the ACT legislative meeting.
“A few them got here and stated, “Look, we’ve been wanting round for individuals who might run and principally it’s not that flash. We predict you must have a crack.”
She had joined the Labor Occasion a couple of years earlier than, having been impressed by her father’s loyalty and the sensible work of federal politicians corresponding to Susan Ryan, additionally from the ACT. Ryan had launched the intercourse discrimination invoice, funded advocacy companies and thrown her assist behind disabled and deprived folks.
“I’d by no means even spoken at a department assembly. I believe my power was the truth that nobody actually knew me, so nobody actually disliked me,” Gallagher says.
She was assured that she wouldn’t win however was informed it was essential symbolism that ladies be put up. Amazingly, eight of the 17 ladies who stood bought elected, together with Gallagher, with simply 4.38 per cent of first preferences.
“It was an entire fluke. I bought elected by 70 votes out of about 70,000 because the final member. I used to be listening to it on the radio and so they go, ‘Katie Gallagher is elected.’ And I used to be like, ‘Oh, Jesus!’”
Regardless of her lack of ambition, Gallagher rapidly rose by the ranks. She moved by a raft of portfolios, together with these of schooling, youth and household companies, ladies, and industrial relations, earlier than turning into deputy chief minister in 2006 underneath Jon Stanhope. She turned the ACT’s third feminine chief minister in 2011, after Stanhope resigned.
‘I like being in an orchestra’
Gallagher has an analogy that she returns to a number of occasions throughout our dialog. She’s a cellist and likes to assume that’s how she approaches life and politics.
“At college, I used to be by no means the entrance particular person,” she says. “I used to be by no means the principle focus. I appreciated being a part of one thing however not the principle attraction.
“That’s why I like being in an orchestra. I don’t wish to be the primary violin, I’m glad to play the bass line, holding all of it collectively.”
Gallagher’s resolution to maneuver from the place of ACT chief minister to federal politics was not premeditated.
“There isn’t any pure finish to those jobs. There’s no proper time to depart. I had been there for 14 years, I had three kids, together with two small ones and whereas I cherished being chief minister, it wasn’t actually my jam.”
Once more, we arrive on the orchestra analogy.
“I cherished working with Jon [Stanhope], he was not there,” she says. “I by no means actually needed to be first violin and I at all times felt my abilities had been higher as a deputy.”
Tony Abbott was prime minister on the time. Horrified that within the 2014 price range, he and treasurer Joe Hockey had minimize funding to schooling and well being in addition to to the ABC, Gallagher was approached to interchange Kate Lundy as a Labor senator for the ACT.
“I needed to be a part of the federal government that changed Tony Abbott,” she says.
“Invoice [Shorten] rang me and was fairly persuasive. I needed to make a fast resolution and there was no turning again. I felt the minute I began considering leaving as chief minister was the second I bought out.”
She made the choice that morning and introduced it that afternoon.
“It was finished. The caravan strikes on.”
The tragedy that reshaped her life additionally formed her politics.
“Possibly that’s certainly one of my abilities in politics. I transfer past the sound chunk. I like to grasp points in an emotional manner, perceive what’s actually happening.”
Like the remainder of the opposition entrance bench, she has been out and about throughout the marketing campaign, spruiking Labor’s financial credentials, taking part in the cello to Jim Chalmers’ first violin.
The ‘mansplaining’ incident
The limelight shouldn’t be her glad place. However it’s the place she has discovered herself at the very least twice since her transfer to federal politics.
The primary time was when, throughout a Senate estimates listening to, she accused then Liberal senator Mitch Fifield of “mansplaining”. The newer occasion was when she and fellow Labor senators Penny Wong and Kristina Keneally had been accused of bullying their colleague, Kimberley Kitching.
The aftermath of each incidents left her shaken – she was hit by a barrage of “disagreeable” emails and her voters workplace was vandalised.
I ask if she ever feels unsafe as a politician.
“God, the net abuse for saying that one phrase [mansplaining] was unbelievable and it escalated into, ‘I’m going to rape your daughter’. It’s not price it.”
Her workers know to not inform her what is going on on the market within the wild west of social media.
“It simply brings you down and frightens you,” she says.
“Principally they’re innocent. There’s numerous the keyboard warriors. However there’s numerous work going into holding us protected as a result of in the future there’s going to be one thing terrible that occurs to a politician right here.”
Gallagher’s Twitter profile describes her as a “proud Canberran, mom of three, canine lover & Labor Senator for the ACT”. I ask her if that’s so as of precedence.
“Possibly I ought to have put the youngsters first,” she laughs.
It’s 2pm and Gallagher is checking her cellphone. “When is it going to be introduced?” she asks, considerably rhetorically.
I’m going to pay and Gallagher heads out to attend for her automotive, cellphone open, refreshing the RBA web page. As I go away, I see one other native has approached and engaged her in dialog, proving – once more – that it’s onerous to not be first violin in a politics-obsessed city.
A Chunk to Eat, 8 Chifley Place, Chifley, ACT
Smashed avocado toast, $17
Harvest bowl, $19
Tall iced latte, $5
Earl Gray tea, $5.50