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Catholic values serve Speaker well

Features

In the cut and thrust of heated political debate, SA Parliamentary Speaker Vincent Tarzia says he often has cause to draw on the Christian values he grew up with at home and at school.

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The former Rostrevor College Dux and Head Prefect says a sense of justice, integrity and service to others has held him in good stead in his first year in the high-profile role.

And he is encouraging like-minded young leaders to put their doubts aside and take the bold step into a political career.

“Having young people in the political process is a good thing,” the State’s youngest Speaker told Rostrevor’s Year 12 prefects at Parliament House recently.

“We need that diversity and politics is very much a young person’s game.”

Mr Tarzia said the modern politician needed to be a good “problem solver” who could handle an 85-hour-a-week workload and think on their feet in the Parliament while maintaining a strong moral compass and a grass-roots, service-for-others ethos.

Vincent, who was elected to Parliament in 2014 at age 27 and in 2018 became the youngest Speaker of the House of Assembly at age 31, urged potential proteges not to be put off by the questionable standards of some politicians.

“We’ve seen recent events where there has been appalling behaviour. It doesn’t help and sometimes it drags down, quite frankly, a lot of Members of Parliament who do the right thing,” he said.

“You’ve got to run your own race and stay in your lane,” Mr Tarzia said. “You can’t be disheartened by what everyone else is doing. Politics is a battle of ideals and sometimes those ideals will clash and that’s healthy.”

One Year 12 student eyeing a career in politics or public service, prefect Jack Myers, said he was passionate about helping others and enjoyed debating and public speaking.

For the past three years, Jack has volunteered at St John Paul Village, Klemzig, taking part in activities with elderly residents and helping young people with a disability at the St Morris Unit at Trinity Gardens School.

He sees addressing climate change and caring for the environment and the disadvantaged as personal priorities.

Jack says the blatant self-interest and poor standards of some politicians as well as the intense media focus on them were deterring potential young leaders.

“It’s not the best look,” Jack says. “It does drive young people away from looking into political career pathways.

“But, I like the political arena and the opportunity it provides to shape the future of your State or your country.”

Mr Tarzia said despite the inevitable flare ups, he felt he had been able to preserve the dignity and decorum of the Parliament.

 

“Obviously it’s a place where Members feel very passionate and, sometimes, I need to remove Members for a certain amount of time to allow things to cool down a little bit. There’s never a dull day, especially during Question Time.

“I think I can bring an impartiality to the Parliament. I think it’s less adversarial than it has been in the past. “There’s an old saying: ‘You should only speak if you improve the silence’, and I think that’s very true.

Mr Tarzia said a strong sense of justice and a willingness to advocate for those needing help had been instilled in him from a young age by his family and his school.

He was grateful for the guidance he received at Rostrevor and was a strong advocate for a well-supported and sustainable Catholic education system.

“It would be impossible for the State system to carry the load of educating all students; we need to see a strong public, Catholic and private school system,” Mr Tarzia said.

“Obviously, Rostrevor was a very good school to me. My father went to Rostrevor, I went to Rostrevor and, if I have a son, I would like him to go to Rostrevor.

“There is a strong sense of pride and tradition at Rostrevor College and having that Edmund Rice philosophy gives you a good Christian framework.

“The Brothers come from that ethos of service for others and being men for others and it’s very important to have those good Christian values of love and justice and mercy.

“In politics it’s often the small things that are important, like helping someone get into a school they like or assisting with a visa application if someone has hit a speed hump, or helping an organisation get a community grant they desperately need,” Mr Tarzia said.

“The reason for so much cynicism in our politicians is I think some politicians have really forgotten what they are there for – and that is to be an advocate for the people who put you there.”

Mr Tarzia’s advice to Jack and his peers is to be a “man for others” and take advantage of the opportunities they are being given.

“I remember preparing for Rostrevor’s debating team on a Friday night, where I knew nothing of the topic and had to research it quick and had to think on my feet,” Mr Tarzia said. “I’m very grateful for that training because, I tell you what, some Members of Parliament would certainly benefit from that!”

Mr Tarzia said in addition to encouraging young people to become community leaders, he was working to modernise and “open up the Parliament for young people” with touch screens at the entrance and the live-streaming of Question Time on Facebook.

“I’d love to see more members of Parliament on both sides that come from Rostrevor (hopefully on my side), that would be a very proud moment,” he said.

“There are great opportunities and career paths for young people…..as long as they don’t run against me.”

 

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