FORMER Nationals Senator, deputy-leader and senior cabinet minister Fiona Nash has been spending time riding her horse and taking a break but is taking the reins in her new career beyond politics today.
“I’m taking up a position with Charles Sturt University as their strategic adviser, regional development,” she told Fairfax Media on her first day in the new job.
“I’m really excited to be going to CSU.
“In life after politics a number of options were in front of me but I had absolutely no hesitation taking up this role with CSU.
“Whatever I did next I wanted it to be something that could still make a difference for regional communities and that’s what this role will do and CSU do it every day.”
Ms Nash was Regional Development Minister and held other similar critical roles, including in regional communications, before she was disqualified from federal parliament late last year after 12-years as a Senator for NSW, due to dual citizenship.
Her new role at CSU will be based in Canberra and she says the job will involve lot of travel out into regional communities, where the University has campuses, and touring and working throughout the regions in general.
“It’ll be very about making sure the recognition is there for the enormous contribution that CSU makes to the regions,” she said.
“Economically and socially, they have a real focus on doing everything they can on making sure our regions are really strong into the future and it’s very genuine.
“I’ve been really impressed with the work they’ve been doing and this job will be about the partnerships with those communities and I’ll be working really closely with people in those regional communities.
“I know a lot of those people from my time, with 12 years in the Senate and several years as a minister, and as the Minister for Regional Development.
“It’s about making sure there’s that recognition for the University’s commitment and looking to see where we can strengthen that commitment for the future and the University’s role in that.”
Ms Nash said she definitely missed being a federal politician and wasn’t entirely ruling out a comeback, after her shock exit.
“When you get thrown out of parliament, in such an immediate way – we were in the High Court on the Friday and was packing up my office on the Saturday and gone – it really makes you focus on the fact it’s an absolute privilege being in parliament,” she said.
“And the opportunity to make people’s lives better is nowhere greater than it is as a political representative
“I miss being able to do that but that’s why I’m excited about taking on this role because CSU makes a difference for regional communities every day.
“I really wanted to do something next that was going to matter.
“In the mean time I’ve been riding my horse and not running to a dairy every day which has been unusual, but it has been great to take some time out, slow down and figure out what to do next.
“And now I’m just very pleased to be able to now be working with the CSU team.”
Ms Nash said it was “kind” when other people encouraged or still wanted her to return to politics and the Nationals fold one day, but for now her focus was on the new role at CSU.
“You never say never in politics but I always take my own advice,” she said.
“When people come to me and ask me about getting into politics I say to them ‘don’t change your life course; just make sure you can take opportunities that can present’.
“And that’s what I’ll be doing now - getting on with my life course - and that means this job at CSU; but you never say never.”
Senator Nash said all of her previous roles on the front bench for the Nationals in the Coalition would contribute in some way to her new position at CSU.
She said she also spent some time in opposition as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Education and spent a lot of time working in the regional university sector and focussed on youth education and training.
“And of course at CSU we do it brilliantly, in ensuring we train graduates to return and work in the regions,” she said.
“I also think back to when I was in that role and had a massive argument with the then government about the changes they wanted to make to Independent Youth Allowance which was going to really, really make things incredibly difficult for a whole lot of regional students.
“That was a really big fight and at the end of the day, the then Labor government changed their policy on that and did a backflip and all credit to the then (Education Minister) Chris Evans who actually listened and realised there would be disadvantage for regional students and he eventually did a backflip and changed it.
“That sort of experience and involvement previously with regional students and the university sector will stand me on good stead to do a good job for CSU.”
Senator Nash said the University had a separate director for government relations who would be doing any political lobbying, and that was not part of her new remit.
“My job very excitingly will be about ensuring the recognition is there for the contribution the community makes and looking how we can strengthen that commitment into the future,” she said.
“It’s very much about the people and also understanding the regions are different wherever you go – it’s not a one size fits all approach.
“And because I know these regional communities so well it’ll be a positive for the role.
“I always say, cities aren’t better than the regions; they‘re just different to the regions and it’s the same for universities.
“City universities aren’t better than regional universities, they’re just different, and CSU is a regional university that has a very strong focus on ensuring we have strong regions into the future and that’s also about their focus on ensuring they’re turning out graduates who will go back to work and practice their professions in the regions; particularly around health and medical related disciplines.
“And this is where the University’s doing a great job, in recognising we need those people and professionals to go out and work in the regions so we have strong regions and they’re targeting that by encouraging students to work in the regions or encouraging city graduates to work in the regions.”
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