Matt Kean – Our Youngest State MP
Matt Kean, the youngest State MP in NSW Parliament is like a breath of fresh air – he connects to everyone at a deep personal level and his infectious warm smile has already earned him many friends in the Indian community. A regular at most Indian functions, Matt Kean is one of the MPs in the O’Farrell Government who has taken upon himself to build deep connections with the Indian community. His easy going attitude and his love for cricket (Matt plays for Berowra Cricket Club) and Indian cuisine helps him make friends easily whenever he attends Indian functions. Matt Kean is also the Deputy Chair for the State Indian Ministerial Consultative Committee. Matt Kean celebrated his 31st birthday on 16th September.
Matt Kean has got a Bachelor of Business degree from the University of Technology, Sydney. He later completed a graduate diploma at the Institute of Chartered Accountants. While at University, Matt was elected to the UTS Student Representative Council and as the SRC Executive Member for the Haymarket Campus. Kean has been a member of the Liberal Party since 2001, and in 2008, he was elected Vice-President of the NSW Young Liberals.
Indian Herald Editor, Rohit Revo spoke to Matt Kean. Excerpts.
There seems to be a lot of scorn or apathy for politicians. Do you ever feel some of it?
I think there is a lot of scorn or apathy because some politicians have not met peoples’ expectations and let the community down. People will always be suspicious that when you promise things and don’t deliver them. From my perspective as a young MP it is very Important to deliver on the commitments you make, If you can’t fulfill them, then be upfront with people. Hopefully by being honest and acting with integrity you can change those community perceptions.
How does it feel to be the youngest State MP. Are you being taken seriously by your colleagues?
Sometimes I feel I am very old…(Laughs) I certainly got a lot less hair than when I started. We want our party room to reflect the diversity of our community. Young people need a to have a voice in the Parliament. I don’t pretend to speak for all young people but I certainly think that I understand the challenges and issues being faced by the young people in this state. We are very lucky to have a Premier who does listen to the views of his party room. He does listen to my views and I am delighted that I am able to deliver to some of my commitments to my community in Hornsby because of the access and support I have got from the Premier Barry O Farrell.
Tell us something about the Young NSW Liberals. You are part of that group.
Young Liberal Movement is where I learnt the skills to get into politics that have served me well now that I am now a State Member for Parliament. Young Liberal group is the nursery for young people and there is no better training ground than this. In fact in the young Liberal group we have found one of our best politicians. John Howard, Philip Ruddock, Joe Hockey and John Brodgen, who was my mentor, and today in the current parliament I have 5 of my young Liberal contemporaries in the Parliament. Young Liberal group provides a great training ground and a stepping stone for people who get active and get involved with the community.
At the age of 19 you got involved in fighting overdevelopment in your community. Where you successful then?
We were. Because the reason we formed the resident action group is because no one was standing for our interests and I learnt a very valuable lesson that decisions are made by those who turn up get involved in the political process and political dialogue. By being involved we were able to bring about a radical change that we wanted to see.
At 19, learning that lesson that we could make a decision not only for my community in Hornsby but for the whole state, was important. If you are not interested in it, then someone else will get involved who will make decisions that will ultimately affect your life. So I encourage anyone that cares about his community, State or Country, to get involved and have your say because decisions will be made by those who chose to get involved.
Were you able to change the overdevelopment?
Yes we successfully stopped the over development. That was a very great victory for our community. We live in a very beautiful part of the world. Right in the bush.. We are able to protect a special part of Sydney. Protect character and amenity of our area.
In your inaugural speech, you asked the government to spend money on suicide prevention as part of a safety campaign. Why is this topic close to your heart?
Well last year, a young friend of mine who worked on my campaign committed suicide and he was only 18 years old. He just left school last year. He was studying accounting at UTS. He had just joined the Price Waterhouse Coopers and had joined young liberal movement and was exactly going on the path that I trod on, when I left high school. So I felt a deep sense of loss, we lost someone who had everything to live for.
He felt that things we so dark that there was no other way through it. I figured we lose more deaths through suicide than people that die on our roads. Yet we invest little money in tackling what is a national disgrace. Six people every day will take their own life. If 6 people drowned in our beaches everyday there would be a national outcry. So if I can’t make a difference as a member of parliament on these things then I’m wasting everyone’s time being here. And this is something that I am determined to have an impact on.
Most migrants to this country don’t have the advantage of getting into a lot of local politics at the age of 19, like you did. So when they try they are told they have not spent time in local branch politics. How can the cycle be broken, it’s more of the chicken and egg story, what’s the best advice for them?
That’s a great question. I think that people shouldn’t think that it’s too hard. That they need to get involved no matter what age. And set a goal and work towards making that happen. So for a new migrant they have just as much to offer the liberal party or the political process as a young person involved with the liberals or whatever. So I would encourage people interested in politics to get involved. If they are interested in parliamentary career then join a political party and build relationships and links within that party. That will see them hopefully selected to go into Parliament. And I would particularly like to encourage many people in the Indian community to be involved. These are people that are hardworking, industrious, and enterprising and will bring so much to the political process and in particular the Liberal party.
There’s a lot of talk happening about the northwest rail corridor and the transport master plan seems to be generating a lot of debate and you have formed a group within coalition government.
So you are fighting the Government for the F3-M2 link?
What’s going on?
Well our part of Sydney has missed out on infrastructure and funding. So we we’re basically penalized by the labor government which wasn’t where we lived. Now there is an opportunity for us to finally deliver health services and education services to communities that missed out on it for 16 years. And important part of that in ensuring we have a viable public transport solution for the residents of North West Sydney.
Some in my community of Cherrybrook have been waiting a long time for a rail line and we are finally delivering that. So communities right through my electorate wait and sit for hours each day in traffic on Pennant Hills Road which is a nightmare. So we need to solve that problem by getting on with the job of building a tunnel and an alternative route between the F3 and the M2. So that people can spend more time with their families instead of sitting in traffic.
Like any democratic organization we need to make sure that the government and the premier and the people who make decisions in the cabinet know that this is a priority of the government. That there are enough members of the government that are concerned about that issue for action to occur. By binding together and voicing our concerns it’s not just one MP saying that this is an issue, its 12 senior MP’s saying that we want this issue considered and we want action on it.
How do you see the role of Indian Australians here?
I recently celebrated Indian Independence Day and the Indian community knows how to throw party, that’s for sure. One of the greatest achievements of Australia as a nation is that we have been able to build a more diverse and multicultural community. And the role of Indian-Australians has been so important in building the modern Australia. I say as a young politician, as a young Australian I see Australia’s future very much linked to the success of India. And that’s why I think we need to build stronger relationships with India. I mean this is a country that has so much power. We both are subjects of British rule, we have secular pluralistic democracies, our values are very similar and the success of India as a growing nation. And Australia can work with India to make sure that our mutual futures are assured. And that’s the message that I want to send to the government . I want my government to take the relationship with India, to prioritize the relationship with India where it should be.
Tell us something about your Indian community in your area?
I’m so lucky to represent such a large Indian community in fact 4.7% of my electorate are of Indian descent and they make an enormous contribution to our community. Not just through the families and the values and the work ethic but also the way they contribute to building a stronger community through the multi-cultural fair we have, the support services they provide. So the Indian community is a significant contributor to our way of life in Hornsby. And I think one of the reasons my electorate is so special is because we have that wonderful diversity and lots of people who see themselves not just as Indians but also as Australians. And again I think that’s the great success of our community. That we bring together people from many different nationalities and cultures.
Tell us about your highest cricket score?
Since I have been elected, I must admit my batting average has dropped. Everyone wants to hit me for 6 and the ball bounces at me.
My best batting score is 99 knock outs. I ran out of partners. And that was a while ago, it was probably 2005. And my best bowling figures was 9 for 50. That was three years ago.
So who’s you’re favorite opening bowler?
My favorite opening baller… Well I grew up wanting to be Craig McDermott. I was a big Ishant Sharma fan but his test series in Australia was just woeful. So I’d have to say today I love Peter Sidlle because he just does bowling with a great heart.