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Sebastian Zwalf

Australian Labor Party, Australia
© Maurice Weiss/Ostkreuz

What encouraged you to go into politics?

To make people’s lives better. History tells us that the world has changed for the better when people fought for that to be so. Change for the better won’t happen on its own.

What makes/made you do the right thing during your political career?

I think the best advice we can give to all people in public life is to remember why it is you got into politics and who it is you are there to represent. For many social democratic parties around the world right now, there seems to be a lot of much needed reflection about who they are and what they stand for. It’s important to renew the mandate.

In your opinion, what would a good life/good society look like?

I think if you imagined an ideal society, you would encourage people to be as independent as they could from government as they could be. But you would couple that up with strong safety nets to look after people who need a little help – and I think that’s most of us at one time or another. I think that’s the sort of society those of us in a social democratic world strive for.

What do you usually do to get your mind away from politics?

My partner and I have recently bought a much-neglected house in a neighbourhood we really like in Canberra. I find myself playing handyman most weekends.

What was the strangest thing that ever happened to you?

In my 20s I did a lot of long distance running. As any athlete knows, you try all sorts of things to aid recovery after events. To that end, I once found myself naked in a large Japanese-style bath with famous Australian actor, Chris Lilley. He was a nice guy to talk to.

If you could only change one thing in the world within seconds what would it be?

If I had to change one I wouldn’t, I’d change three. Alleviate poverty, find a lasting international peace and do something about unnecessary cruelty to animals.  

What is your driving force for your political work?

[I think this answered above]

What is your biggest wish for the future?

Right now concepts and institutions that we in the moderate part of the political spectrum hold dear like a healthy democracy, multilateralism, multiculturalism, faith in our institutions and evidence based decision making are all under threat from both the far left and the right. My hope is that the shallowness of both right and left populism is exposed for what it is. That takes work from our side of politics though and we need to keep striving to be relevant to the people we represent.

What advice did your parents give to you? Did you put it into practice?

Both my parents are incredibly humble and I think that’s a sound model for anyone.