The gnarled talon like fingers of Tim Watts provide a reasonable metaphor for his attitude toward his service as Member for Gellibrand. He was a wicketkeeper with safe hands when he played cricket. He provided support with his strong hands for his teammates back then and he now believes the community can retain confidence he has their back and will continue to work hard for them in the parliament – just like any good backstop.
Cricket provided a major turning point in Tim’s life. He wanted to play cricket and had dreams of playing at the local white picket fenced oval of the prestigious private school in Toowoomba, but he never did, attending the state school instead. This education inequality he felt denied him opportunity and steeled him to focus on the unfairness in the community. At seventeen he joined the Labor Party and he volunteered for his first election campaign in 2001 which further shaped his thinking – he was annoyed by the inequality within the community and he wanted to ensure opportunities for those who struggled to gain access to education and work prospects.
Tim considers himself fortunate to have won a scholarship to Bond University and he studied competition law whilst an undergraduate. After graduating Tim moved to Melbourne to take a position in a senior law firm specialising in corporate law within the telecommunications sector.
Still wanting to expand his opportunities Tim extended his education to a Master’s degree at Monash and a Master’s degree at London School of Economics during a 12 month overseas stint. Prior to leaving for London Tim worked as an adviser to Senator Stephen Conroy for over 2 years and when he returned he was appointed to the office of the premier John Brumby as an adviser. Very soon after he was appointed as the corporate affairs manager at Telstra to handle the NBN transition. Coincidentally, Senator Conroy was the Minister with responsibility of negotiating with Telstra the new arrangements at the time.
In 2013, after what many in the media suggested a significant political fight amongst the ALP factions following the retirement of Nicola Roxon, Senator Conroy’s faction won the day and Tim won preselection. He then concentrated on winning Gellibrand, many decades a safe Labor seat, and has worked hard serving the electorate since.
His commitment to the electorate is focused on the many challenges from a diverse community seeking help with accessing government services. Many of his parliamentary contributions have highlighted the diverse makeup of the community and he states some two thirds of the electorate are either immigrants or families of new immigrants to Australia. Whilst he does not overtly state ambition to progress to a more senior role in government he is more than willing to consider any opportunity that may be offered to him, so that he can expand his policy service.
During his first term in the parliament, with a colleague, he co-authored a book with its premise in looking to the future. He wrote about the importance of 3-year-old education and raised this issue in the parliament in October last year:
“If we’re serious about fighting intergenerational inequality, we need to start at kinder. We need to start with kids at three and four years of age, and we need to ensure that every kid in Australia gets every opportunity to reach their full potential in life.”
Tim believes if politicians can bring big ideas to the parliament then they are worthy of debate for the benefit of all Australians and it seems one of his brightest ideas will come to fruition with a new Shorten government.
Tim’s passion for the community has lead him to join parliamentary delegations to Israel and Kenya and he has seen first-hand the benefits of Australian Aid overseas which he believes strongly in and vigorously supports.
He would like to see residents reach their full potential and he likes the opportunity of providing a real impact to people’s lives within the parliament and with his work in the electorate. He believes the good citizens of Gellibrand are his first responsibility and has reaffirmed his commitment within his election material to be a strong voice in the parliament speaking on their issues.
A quick scan of Hansard to note Tim’s contribution to the federal parliament over the last three years has him asking one question in 2016, speaking on 22 legislative bills over the last three years, presenting one petition with 9 signatories to the parliament, speaking on 9 matters of public importance, and 11 five-minute adjournment speeches.
His greatest speaking effort in the parliament has been with member statements – these are the 90 second statements usually before question time on Mondays – where he was on his feet talking about all sorts of things 58 times, some of which included issues relating to the electorate of Gellibrand. Tim also delivered two condolence speeches, one for US Senator John McCain and the other for the victims of the Christchurch murders.
Other mentions in the Hansard, the official record of the parliament, included his interesting relationship with the Speaker who banned him from parliament on 18 occasions, warned him for unparliamentary behaviour on 15 occasions, mentioned by the Speaker on 10 occasions to modify his behaviour, prompting the Speaker to say on the 1 March 2018, that the Member for Gellibrand “never misses an opportunity to have himself thrown out”.
When asked about the current campaign, Tim said his third federal election was just as exhausting as the others and with the redistribution of the boundaries adding the anxiety of uncertainty to the campaign. He has been working hard especially early mornings at various train stations as his social media can attest. He mentioned that sometimes he was called upon to help out his neighbour Bill Shorten and attend events on his behalf and was willing to help if the party needed his support but Gellibrand was his priority.
According to Tim’s social media he has been working hard campaigning in various seats on the other side of the city. He visited Aston and was seen at Knox; he was campaigning in Ashburton which is the seat of Higgins; Tim was also campaigning in Goldstein which is safe Liberal seat; and he was in Casey, the seat of the parliamentary Speaker where he helped announce a $900 million upgrade for a local oval. Should the Labor party win the seat, the Speaker, who has tossed Tim out of parliament for misbehaviour many times, will be tossed out of the parliament – a touch of quirky political irony, no doubt.
Tim has also been doorknocking in Fraser the newly formed safe seat for Labor introducing the new candidate. He says being a politician means having a genuine desire to meet people and he loves meeting constituents. He does bemoan the 20 weeks away from his family when he is in Canberra each year and even when he’s home he is usually out most evenings supporting the community or meeting with constituents.
In Gellibrand Tim has announced a new music hub in Footscray which is a significant addition to the western suburbs and a safe cycle path to reduce the danger for cyclists in busy Footscray Streets. He also took the Labor campaign bus to Whitten oval before heading off to the eastern suburbs.
Tim may or may not be a career politician, but he certainly is passionate about the western suburbs and hopes to continue representing them in a Shorten Government. He wants to increase debate on hydrogen cars and eyes the Toyota plant as a possible location for an exciting initiative. He believes more could be done with Gellibrand’s rivers and wetlands and believes more could be done to accommodate safe cycling paths.
When asked if he is likely to move his office to a more central location in the electorate, given his current office is on the border at its most northern point, he said that decision was in the hands of the department responsible. He did mention his campaign launch was held in Newport which is the central transport hub of the electorate.