From intern to Premier

Since 1994, 438 Monash University students have walked the corridors of Parliament and completed the Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program. Amongst the first cohort of politics students was a young...

Since 1994, 438 Monash University students have walked the corridors of Parliament and completed the Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program.

Amongst the first cohort of politics students was a young Daniel Andrews. His election as Premier of Victoria two decades later in 2014 highlights the impact of the Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program on students and the broader political process.

The Parliamentary internship allows each student to explore the inner workings of state politics whilst supporting a Member of Parliament. In addition to attending seminars hosted at Parliament, interns undertake a significant piece of research, evaluating current public policy developments, including a 6000 word Intern report which is kept at the Parliamentary Library.

For the young Premier, the Parliamentary internship presented a valuable opportunity to be an active part of the Australian political landscape.

The Premier was assigned to Pat Power, Member of the Victorian Legislative Council and Labor Member for Jika Jika. Elected in 1992, Power was the Shadow Minister for Local Government and Regional Development. The Premier recalls,  "he was somebody I learned a lot from. He was a very passionate, very committed person."

The Premier’s contribution to Power’s political achievements took place within a broader political context. In 1992, two years before the Premier became an intern, the then Kennett Government cut staffing allowances, accentuating the need for all junior staff to play a more critical role in the Opposition of that time. It was an opportune time for Members such as Power to utilise whatever research assistance they could muster to assist their important work on key issues. Daniel Andrews found himself in the role of assisting the Shadow Minister in the area of policy formulation.

In response, Andrews was asked by Power to look into compulsory competitive tendering and capital improved value ratings. His report analysed public sector monopoly issues around competitive tension and pressures created by the Government’s subjection to a competitive process. The Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program presented a tangible opportunity for the young Premier to be, to help steer alternative policy approaches.

In addition to being exposed to the public policy cycle, Pat Power and  Daniel Andrews travelled around the state, covering thousands of kilometres. They met with dozens of regional councils, unions, workers, local retailers and civic leaders from across the community.

Like many interns, the Premier used his Parliamentary internship experience as a stepping stone to future employment. After completing additional work with Power, the Premier worked for the Australian Labor Party with his local Federal Member of Parliament, Alan Griffin. For the Premier, the Parliamentary internship provided an early insight into the value of hard work, good policy and the need to listen to people whilst actively contributing to a broader political process.

The Premier also learned the necessity of resilience in the political arena – "To be any way connected with Labor opposition in 1994 was a tough thing to be a part of. When we had been defeated in 1992, Government looked so far away".

As a Member of Parliament, the Premier has maintained his involvement with the Parliamentary Internship Program. Under his supervision, his two interns explored the provision of appropriate services for Sudanese refugees in Noble Park and the effects of declining bulk billing rates. The reports informed the Premier’s representations made to Ministers.

The Premier encouraged his interns to better understand the impact of Parliament’s decision making processes on the public. The internship allows participants to sink their teeth into an issue, understand it, and research it deeply whilst engaging with a broad range of competing interests which direct the development of public policy. 

Monash University’s long-standing partnership with the Parliament of Victoria, now in its 21st year, builds upon the need to create an accessible, genuine and engaging conversation with young people in the community. For students, the internship presents a powerful opportunity to bridge the gap between their academic studies and practice by learning to navigate the interests of various stakeholders central to any political discussion.

In addition to creating an alumni network, the Victorian Parliament will be launching its 25-year history of the Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program at a special launch to celebrate this event held at Parliament House on 15  September 2015.

Tom Hvala was a 2014 Parliamentary intern, now assisting Parliament as a part-time researcher, whilst he completes his Arts/Law degree at Monash University.

The Parliament of Victoria wishes to invite all former Monash University interns to the launch. If you have participated in the program please contact Tom Hvala at tom.hvala@parliament.vic.gov.au.