Health, education and the environment are issues that matter to all Australians but the Labor Party's policies particularly resonate with voters in the ACT, Labor senator Katy Gallagher says.
After 14 months in the job Gallagher is gearing up for her first Senate election and despite her personal popularity promptingthe Greens to tip a swing towards Labor in the ACT Senate vote, she isn't taking her seat for granted.
"I've been out of the local limelight for a while now so I'm campaigning as though no one knows me," she says.
"Any politician, Senate or House of Reps, who considers their seat safe misunderstands how fragile support bases can be and how quickly they can turn."
While she says she's still finding her feet as a senator, and admits she's found it a "very different role" from local politics, she plans to continue being "a loud voice" for her home city if elected.
"In a way a senator from the ACT is very different to other places," she says. "We're more like a local member so I get a fair bit of constituent work which I really enjoy."
Gallagher says Canberrans had talked to her about GP shortages and the low rate of bulk-billing in the territory.
Others were interested in schools funding, wanting to see investments in education going to the schools most in need, while public service job cuts and support for the national capital remained perennial Canberra-centric concerns.
"From time to time efficiencies will have to be found in government … you should always make sure government services are running efficiently and effectively with good return for taxpayers' dollars," she says.
"But fundamental for me is the acknowledgment that Canberra has a particular role to play not just as the nation's capital but as the seat of government.
"[Voters are] wanting to make sure we keep jobs here in Canberra and also that we don't continue to slash the national institutions."
Gallagher says on the Labor side there's a "very good understanding" of how the "severe haircuts" had impacted the national cultural institutions, but there is little she could do.
"I've certainly been making some noises around that, but once the money is gone, and the Liberals' cuts have been implemented already, and those jobs are going, it's very difficult to reverse."
Gallagher says the previous Labor government had made the institutions exempt from efficiency dividends because of the difficulty for small organisations to find savings quickly and the important national role they played.
She hopes concern over the cuts could feed into a longer-term campaign to have federal governments and Parliament give greater recognition to Canberra as the national capital, something she began driving as chief minister.
"There's almost a sport in Canberra bashing, we have to ensure that … the specific role Canberra plays as the national capital is respected and you can only do that if you're ensuring the national institutions as custodians of our national story are being appropriately resourced," she says.
While she does not expect local issues such as opposition to light rail to impact her election chances, she acknowledged the progressive vote was splitting and says she is working hard to convince voters to stay with Labor rather than vote for the Greens.
Besides being a strong local voice in the upper house she sees her work in Senate estimates as one of her most important roles, keeping a close eye on what is happening in Canberra's public service.
She is also proud of co-sponsoring a territories rights bill, focused on euthanasia but putting in place equity across the territories and the states – part of her push to address issues where Canberra is treated unfairly.
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