After nine years, Steve Georganas’ days as a member of Federal Parliament are over – for now.
While Kevin Rudd’s return as PM arguably saved some of the ALP’s furniture, the political fate of the marginal seat of Hindmarsh was always going to be on a knife-edge.
On September 7 a swing to the Liberals of over 8 per cent ended Georganas’ long and fruitful association with the west Adelaide electorate, but is he downhearted? Not a bit of it.
“It would have been great to be returned, but being an MP isn’t a God-given right,” he told Neos Kosmos this week.
“You’re there to serve the people until they say they want a change, which is what happened.”
But there is a silver-lining. His family’s reaction to his defeat might even outweigh that of the victorious Liberals’ candidate Matt Williams.
“They’re quite happy. My son said ‘we’ve got you home again’,” says Steve, whose immediate plans include a well-earned rest.
“I’ve been working 15 hours a day for nine years, seven days a week, and that’s no exaggeration.
“I went to every community group, every function I was invited to. I never said no.”
Perhaps his exit from the cut and thrust of federal politics is perfectly timed. He’s just become a grandfather.
“I’m looking forward to spending time with my family, who have missed me dearly,” he says.
“I have two boys – George is 28 and Alex is 25 – who, when I first ran for Hindmarsh in 1998, were 9 and 12. They’ve missed out on heaps”
Reflecting on Labor’s election showing, Georganas says it was the party’s internal politics that doomed its chances from the start. A staunch supporter of Julia Gillard as PM until the leadership contest that toppled her, Georganas swapped sides.
Was it worth the change? “I think it was. Here in South Australia, polls I was privy to [before Rudd’s return as PM] showed that we would lose 3 to 4 seats, and in my seat they were predicting a massive swing, far greater than what I got.”
If he feels one over-riding reaction to Labor’s ejection from office, it is frustration at the party’s inability to promote its achievements.
“There were fantastic policies – like building the education revolution, but the best way I can put it is – imagine a huge hall, with ten of the best orchestras playing in each corner at the same time, and the cacophony that comes from that.”
Georganas says Labor’s record over the three terms he served was lost in the noise.
“I’m proud of the increase we gave to pensioners. We’re the only government to increase the pension in the history of Australia beyond CPI. That’s something I think a lot of people forgot.”
In his own electorate he points to the $68m development he pushed through during his first term – ensuring a sustainable water recycling system for Adelaide’s CBD – as an example of the kind of major infrastructure improvements he was able to deliver.
“No previous government wanted to touch this because they thought it was too expensive,” he says.
Having been a party member for 30 years, Labor is part of Georganas’ DNA. “I’ll still be involved and doing everything I can to ensure the next government is a Labor government – in any capacity that I can help,” he says.
As for the immediate future, he has already been approached with offers.
As a former advisor to South Australia’s Premier Jay Weatherill and other state ministers, Steve’s skills, experience and connections are in high demand.
Volunteering overseas is another possibility.
“One thing I’m looking at is a way to give something back,” he says. “Perhaps going overseas as an AusAid volunteer would be good for a while – helping people who are a lot worse off, and far more in need than myself and others.”
As for returning to some favourite hobbies, the golf course doesn’t beckon, rather some reading.
“I’ve read just about every Kazantzakis book there is, but Christ Recrucified is one I haven’t read yet, so that’s on the list.
“Campaigning was my hobby. That’s all I’ve done for years.”
Will he consider a return to fight the next federal election? “It’s too early to say, but you never say never.”