“Was I bitter? Absolutely. Hurt? You bet your sweet ass I was hurt. Who doesn’t feel a part of their heart break at rejection. You ask yourself every question you can think of, what, why, how come, and then your sadness turns to anger. That’s my favorite part. It drives me, feeds me, and makes one hell of a story.”
― Jennifer Salaiz
The evening of Saturday, 25 November was a sombre one, as we gathered at the Balaclava Hotel to watch the votes come in.
Party membership provides a political meal-ticket for MPs. The rational part of my brain had already told me there was little chance of victory, having handed back my ALP membership two years earlier. However, when you are on the campaign trail talking with the people, it always increases your hopes.
I managed to out-poll The Greens and One Nation, but when their preferences were distributed I was only on 26.6 per cent, 10 per cent behind the major party candidates. I was gone!
Something not many people realise is when a Member of Parliament loses their job, their staff lose theirs as well. I had two full-time positions with Paul and Anthony working four days a week and Simon and Terri chipping in with a day each. Now I had lost my job they would be gone as well. In my mind I had let them down.
I also felt I had let down the cause for people with disabilities. Never at any point from the time I was elected to state parliament, through the term or during the 2017 election campaign had I made any reference to my disability. I felt this would be inappropriate and was sure my opponents would accuse me of using it as a crutch. However secretly one of my great fears was that should I fail to be re-elected, it would be taken as evidence that a person with a profound disability is not up to serving as an MP, quite simply we were not up to the job physically.
The following six months were one of the lowest periods of my life. I was physically, financially and emotionally a wreck. I found it so hard to cope with socialising, becoming a recluse and not leaving the house for weeks on end.
The fact I was campaigning so hard removed my focus away from looking after my health, so it was only after the election that I discovered I had a pressure sore on my backside (which can be quite dangerous for quadriplegics) and I had started sweating profusely for no apparent reason. I had also developed a chronic pain in my neck. On top of this there were a couple elective medical procedures that I had put on hold for ages. Over coming months it would become clear I would never work again.
It was fortunate for me that those important to me rallied around, especially my sister Joanne who help me financially and picked me up when I was down. The financial impact of not having an MP salary, was a bit like ‘back to the future’ as I have never had a lot of money anyway.
What was so time-consuming was the transition from an independent wage and are back into the disability system. Indeed, much of the first six months of 2018 was spent ordering and obtaining a new wheelchair, jumping through all the hoops for Centrelink to get back on the Disability Support Pension and negotiating the access to the NDIS National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
“In not a single one of these little campaigns was I victorious. In other words, in each case, I personally failed, but I have lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating vindicated. And what I very often say is that I’ve lived to see my lost causes found.”
― Pauli Murray
Three big events that cruelled me were:
• The stalker allegation I intimidated a female MP
• That I slandered Councils with false claims of corruption
• My focus on climate change and opposition to Adani
Vindication is an interesting concept to me. Say a batsman playing cricket is given out and on returning to the grandstand his mates agree he did not nick the ball? The fact he should not have been given out doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day the umpire is always right. Vindication holds little satisfaction for me.
The allegation that Petros Khalesirad was a stalker was thrown out of court and he was found not guilty in December of 2017. He was a concerned citizen who wanted to meet with an MP who would listen to him and never was a threat to anyone.
In 2018 we saw action on local government corruption resulting in further mayors being charged with fraud and corruption vindicating my position on this matter. This included the sacking of the Ipswich Council which further gave credence to the document I had lodged tabled in Parliament called “Ipswich Inc” and I was contacted by journalists from Fairfax and the Queensland Times who said that I must feel good to be vindicated.
On Climate change vindication will come when we are that far ‘past the point of no return’ that it will be cold comfort indeed. While Cairns may have above the average in terms of the number of ‘climate sceptics’ per head of population, there is no doubt climate change will be devastating for our city.
The tragedy is climate change is already affecting people with salt water intrusion of water supplies and tropical islands gradually descending into the water as sea level rise, and not to mention that the more devastating natural disasters we are experiencing now is resulting to increased loss of life. Climate change is our biggest problem right now.
I was and remain convinced that cities like Cairns will become ground zero for the impact of climate change. We will suffer a triple whammy. Firstly, we are a low-lying city so vulnerable to sea level rise and inundation. Secondly, tropical cyclones will become much more intense causing significantly more damage and loss of life. Thirdly we will experience massive coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef and the impact on our tourism industry will be devastating. I found it unbelievable that so many civic leaders just stuck their head in the ground when we could have made a real difference, when we could have done something about it.