When I was a kid, I wanted to be a journalist – a sports journalist, actually. I used to sit around writing stories about Pat Cash and Allan Border instead of practising the piano. I grew up and I became a lawyer. Ho hum.
Now I have kids of my own and they largely live the same life I did – different interests and different aspirations, of course, but basically a charmed life. Like my parents did before me, I drive them around to their activities, I help them with their homework, I cook their dinner. Their father is the coach of the local soccer team. After a normal day of that, like all Mums and Dads everywhere, I collapse into bed, exhausted.
A few years ago, I started waking up in the early hours of the morning, worrying. Worrying about my kids. Not about their current lives, but about their future. Worrying that it’s only so long that they will continue to have the same opportunities that I had when I was growing up. That all the driving, coaching, cooking, will all be for nought.
This is because, if something doesn’t change – and fast – the world they’ll be living in in their 40s, will be unrecognisable from the world that we live in now. The waterline of the beautiful Wonnie will be who knows how far up the hill and the Royal National Park will have been so badly hit with bushfires that there will be almost nothing left of it.
What really kills me about this, what keeps me up at night, what frustrates the hell out of me, is that it’s a fixable problem.
Humans have got this. Humans have already invented, manufactured and commercialised all of the technology that we need to get the planet back on track. Remember what it was like to be a world leader at something?
In those early morning sleepless hours, I’d ask myself whether I was doing enough. I had banned single-use plastics from the house, I had put solar panels on the roof, I’d bought a hybrid car. I’d even become a vegetarian. But somehow, it really didn’t seem enough.
Then it dawned on me. The problem is a political one. It requires a political solution. I’m a litigator. What great qualifications for being a politician! I can write. I can argue. I can persuade. I can negotiate. I can compromise. I can do that job. And surely that would be doing enough?
So, I said goodbye to the law. I put aside my dream of writing the great Australian novel, and I’ve decided to run for office. Because things need to change, and quickly. In 30 or 40 years’ time, when my kids come to me and say “Mum, how the hell did we let it get this bad?” I’ll genuinely be able to tell them that I did everything I could. With any luck, we won’t have to have that conversation at all.
So let’s do this. Let’s make Hughes #StrongerwithSteele.