Backbench to the Future: Class of 2021

Backbench to the Future: Class of 2021

The 2021 WA state election saw a number of MPs elected who, one day, may hold positions of power or influence in the Western Australian Government. While these members will likely spend at least their first term focused on working for their electorates from the backbench, it’s worth getting to know the class of 2021 better. Here are just a few of the MPs that might end up at the cabinet table in the future.

Hannah Beazley – Member for Victoria Park

Hannah Beazley was raised in her electorate, having attended East Victoria Park Primary School, but her roots go back further than that. The daughter of WA Governor Kim Beazley, Hannah is the third Beazley to represent Victoria Park in an Australian Parliament and is the first female member in the seat’s 90-year history. Ms Beazley, 42, has long held an ambition to enter politics, running in 2013 and 2019 at the state and federal levels.

Ms Beazley is more than a legacy figure, having brought a great deal of experience both within and outside politics to the table. After completing a Bachelor of Arts in Arts Management, Ms Beazley commenced working for the Department of Premier and Cabinet as a Policy Officer, and later as a Senior Policy Advisor to Premier Geoff Gallop. Following her stint in the public sector, she ran a small business before taking on a number of communications and marketing positions in the private sector. Most recently, Ms Beazley was the Head of External Relations at WA Return Recycle Renew - a local not-for-profit delivering the container deposit scheme.

In her early 20s, Ms Beazley was diagnosed with a life-threatening rare blood disorder. She considers the healthcare she received at Charles Gairdner Hospital saved her life. Ms Beazley said this experience shaped her appreciation of the importance of a strong public health system.

Her local priorities include raising the rail line through Victoria Park and removing level crossings within her electorate. She is a member of the Public Accounts Committee and the Joint Standing Committee on Audit.

The history of the Victoria Park electorate suggests its representatives go on to big things in parliament. Filling the shoes of former treasurer Ben Wyatt is difficult, but if anyone can, it will be Ms Beazley.

Meredith Hammat – Member for Mirrabooka

Meredith Hammat’s parents moved to Western Australia in the early 1960s, with her father working as a farmhand and her mother as a midwife. Ms Hammat, 51, was raised in the Great Southern region in Western Australia, before moving to Perth to complete years 11 and 12. Ms Hammat credited this upbringing with shaping her values of community and solidarity which drew her to the union movement as a young woman and planted the seed of her career in politics.

Ms Hammat has a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and Industrial Relations) and a Masters of Labor and Industrial Relations from the University of Western Australia, which has aided her in almost three decades in the union movement. Ms Hammat began her career as an organiser at the Australian Services Union and moved up the ranks to serve as Assistant Branch Secretary.

Ms Hammat became UnionsWA secretary in 2012, leading the WA union movement until being selected as a WA Labor candidate and she remains highly regarded by within the union movement. In her time as UnionsWA secretary, she was critical of the McGowan Government’s public sector wages policy, but it remains to be seen whether this will continue now that she is a part of the State Government.

Ms Hammat begins her parliamentary career as a member of the Public Accounts Committee and the Joint Standing Committee on Audit.

Ms Hammat replaced Janine Freeman as the member for Mirrabooka – one of the most multicultural state electorates in Western Australia. It remains one of the safest seats in WA and places Ms Hammat in a strong position to enter cabinet in the future.

David Scaife – Member for Cockburn

At 32, David Scaife is one of the youngest members of Labor’s backbench – but he more than makes up for it with an impressive list of credentials. After finishing high school, Mr Scaife received a scholarship to attend the University of Western Australia, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. He also recently completed a Masters of Laws at University College London.

After graduating from UWA, he worked as a lawyer for Slater and Gordon and as a Legal Practice Director at Eureka Lawyers. Mr Scaife drew on his experience as a lawyer in his first speech. He used parliamentary privilege to label an employer he sued on behalf of a former client as a “lawbreaker, a bankrupt and an unfit person to operate a business”.

Mr Scaife is passionate about improving mental health services, which has been shaped by his own experience. He has openly spoken in parliament about being diagnosed with major depression and the ongoing treatment he receives. He notes that this is something he will continue to manage and treat throughout his life.

Mr Scaife’s political stripes are no coincidence. Having grown up in a staunchly Labor Party household, he regularly attended Labor events with his parents as a child. As he outlined in his inaugural speech, he declared he was “raised on a steady diet of politics”. Even today, it’s unlikely that politics is ever far from the dinner table. Mr Scaife is married to Ellie Whittaker, who is the Assistant State Secretary of WA Labor.

He is a proud member of the Left’s Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union. Local manufacturing and industry policy remain areas he is particularly passionate about and he will have an opportunity to contribute as a member of the Economics and Industry Standing Committee.

Mr Scaife unsuccessfully contested the seat of Murray-Wellington at the 2013 State Election. He was elected at the 2021 State Election as the member for Cockburn, following the retirement of former minister Fran Logan. Cockburn has only been held by the Labor Party and is considered a very safe seat.

Jodie Hanns – Member for Collie-Preston

Jodie Hanns is swapping the deputy principal’s chair for a seat in the Legislative Assembly. If she was hoping the chamber would be better behaved than the classroom, she might be disappointed.

Ms Hanns, 49, was born in Yarloop and attended Yarloop Primary School and Harvey Senior High School. Her family have deep connections to the South West region, with her grandparents operating a local shop in Yarloop. Her late father, who she credits as the driver for her Labor values, worked as a union official at Alcoa in Wagerup alongside the Member for Forrestfield Stephen Price.

If it were not for a life-changing experience in South Africa in 1990, Ms Hanns might not be sitting in parliament today. Jodie witnessed a country undergoing a political transition following Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Her hosts, two teachers living near Johannesburg, exposed Ms Hanns to how education could bring people out of poverty. As she noted in her inaugural speech, this “taught me the difference that the opportunity of an education can make, regardless of your race, your gender or how wealthy your family is”.

It’s no coincidence that upon her return to Australia, Ms Hanns commenced studying education and spent the next three decades teaching. In 2006, Jodie’s teaching career brought her to the town of Collie, where she served as a local councillor, on the Coal Miners’ Welfare Board of Western Australia and as CEO of the Collie Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Ms Hanns is pragmatic about the challenges and opportunities that face Collie. Among her local priorities are guiding her community through Collie’s Just Transition Plan. 

She replaces the colourful and popular Mick Murray, who served as a minister in the McGowan Government’s first term.  

Ms Beazley, Ms Hammat, Mr Scaife and Ms Hanns are just four of Labor’s deep 2021 class and they will have to wait their turn after a new generation of ministers recently ascended to the Cabinet. But even in the biggest backbenches in modern history, they stand out as some of the ones to watch for the future.

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