Life after politics

Today I had the privilege of having a coffee and a chat with one of my favourite people, the honorable David Bartlett, former Tasmanian premier.

I say privilege because to me, David Bartlett is one of the few. One of the few who is honest and down to earth, one of the few who actually made a difference in politics in Tasmania and one of the few who is passionate about so many causes that need passion.

David Bartlett, I am proud to say, is my friend. We met by chance several years ago when he was premier and have been friends ever since. Mind you, I am sure I nag him a bit, and still he continues to be one of the nicest friends I have.

As I stood outside the local coffee shop waiting for my coffee date, a Honda motorcycle turned the corner and pulled up in the parking space across from me.The rider removed his helmet and there he was, my date, the honorable David Bartlett. I was impressed but not surprised. David enjoys everything about life, so it is only natural he’d try his hand at motorbikes.

“His new midlife crises”, he said laughing.

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David was the 43rd premier of Tasmania, taking over after Jim Bacon contracted cancer. It was always David’s ambition to become premier, even before he got into politics and in his early time as a politician. Circumstances allowed him to live that dream before he had though he would, but he made the most of it.

David was a labor politician, young and passionate about his state. He was premier from May 2008 until January 2011. I met him while he was visiting the town of Burnie in Tasmania, where I was working at a call centre at the time. The call centre employed the second largest contingent of workers on the north-west coast then, but was in financial difficulty. I approached David and asked for his help. The rest is history, the call centre is still functioning years later.

David studied and obtained a science degree and later a diploma of business at the University of Tasmania. He was the minister for education and skills, minister for innovation science and technology and attorney-general. He was always searching for ways to make Tasmania better.

As I chatted to David over toast and coffee, I noticed how different he was from the man, the premier, I had met years before. He looked healthier, was more relaxed and seemed happy within himself, happy with his life after politics. He is an all-round nice guy, a husband to Larissa and has two gorgeous children. He calls them his greatest achievements. He has the patience of Job and needs it with me as a friend. We talked about his early years in politics, his successes and his regrets.

David was instrumental in the launch of the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation, which enabled all children from birth to school age, access the necessary things to help them start school on an even keel with the “more privileged” families. He says this as his biggest and proudest achievement while premier. His involvement in a better working Integrity Commission and the fibre optic lines to Tasmania were among the ticks next to his name.

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David had many good and bad days as premier. The single worst day he confided was August 6, 2008 just three months after becoming the leader of Tasmania. His colleague and friend Paula Wriedt was admitted to hospital and was up there with many political disasters of that day. David admits this tested him, but he came out the other side stronger.

I asked David if he had an opinion on Jacqui Lambie. He says he doesn’t always agree with her but believes she calls it as she sees it. He states she no longer makes the mistakes of her early time in politics and should be respected.

I learned things about my friend that I didn’t know before and found a new respect for the former premier this morning. Davis is the chairman of The Brave Foundation for single and pregnant teens. He attacks this role with passion and understanding. He’s also on the board of other organisations and loves his role with the basketball team, The Hobart Charges.

To me the ‘honorable’ title in front of David Bartlett’s name suits this man to a tee. He resigned from his role and politics on January 23, 2011, stating family reasons. His children were and are the most important part of his life and they needed their father. David and Larissa Bartlett, along with their children, Hudson and Matilda are as close a family as I have ever encountered.

Today David spends his time as a consultant, is an IT innovation guru and has positions on several boards. His biggest job though is his family. His greatest wish is that no child misses out on the basics of growing up.

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David Bartlett is happy with life after politics.

To me, David is my friend who just happened to be the 43rd premier of Tasmania. He was a great Premier in my opinion. He has grabbed life after politics by the horns and learned to live it to its fullest. I am grateful that I met such a man and developed a lasting friendship with him and his family.

I asked him two final questions: out of every politician he knows, who would he like to see as prime minister and his favourite quote.

He told me Tanya Plibersek was his PM of choice. I will leave you with his favourite quote. It is from Eleanor Rooseveldt — “The future Belongs to those who believe in the Beauty of their Dreams.”

Do you have any ‘friends in high places’? How have they influenced your life?

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