The Other Side of Andrew Gee
There is clearly a general feeling at this time that our political scene is, to put in very mildly, most disappointing. Others would use stronger words.
It's for that reason that I thought doing 'a rather different article' on our Federal Member Andrew Gee could be a bit of fun. I've got a bit of time for Andrew and based on my dealings with him, politician aside, I consider him to be a good decent bloke.
Before I get to his other side, which I think you'll find both fun and interesting, it's worth mentioning a little about his political achievements.
Andrew grew up in the Hunter Valley, he moved to Orange roughly 13 years ago, he was a Barrister. He's married with four children aged 10 - 18, one is at Uni. Andrew stood for the State seat of Orange and won it 8 years ago. Since then he decided to have a go at Federal politics, he stood and won the Federal seat of Calare over two years back. Just recently he was promoted to the front bench as Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Andrew is quite pleased about this as Michael McCormack's portfolio is for Transport Infrastructure and Regional Development, areas that Andrew is greatly interested in and says are highly appropriate for him.
OK, let's change pace and get to know a bit more about the man behind the Federal seat.
To get started I asked him to tell us a bit about his job and workplace, it's obviously not your average work situation. Andrew's workplace covers nearly 33,000 square kilometres and includes Bathurst, Lithgow, Dubbo, Wellington and Blayney as well as Orange, some 113,000 people. Orange is his base, but he attends offices in the other main centres as well.
Next, I asked him what he does to relax and immediately hit a brick wall. He said the job doesn't allow him much downtime, it's 7 days a week. When I pushed him, and I noticed him straining to think of something, he said I do like listening to country music. Boy! I thought, and my wife reckons I'm a workaholic. He later added that he enjoyed watching his kids play sport when he could but that electorate commitments could often make that difficult.
I decided to change tack and do the old quick question thing. Here's a few of Andrew's quick answers to some trivia questions. Favourite movie? The Great Escape, I just like it! Favourite Food? Spaghetti…pause…spaghetti bolognaise, and I like apple pie. Favourite holiday spot? Yamba, I enjoy surfing. Favourite car? A VW beetle I once owned. Favourite TV show? The Office. Favourite sport you play? I like surfing (on holidays) and although I'm new to the sport, I've been roped into a few Golden Oldies rugby games with local team, the Emulators. Favourite sport you watch? Cricket. Someone you admire? Hmmmn, let me think about that. What about big thrills in your life? Getting married and the birth of the children of course. I did meet Australian cricket greats Doug Walters and Len Pascoe once and that was special at the time. They were boyhood idols of mine.
By now Andrew seemed to be getting more into the spirit of our chat so I branched out a bit further. I asked again about someone he admired and this time he quickly mentioned a school friend, over in the Newcastle area, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer 2 -3 years back. It has been pretty serious and he's constantly in hospital but what impresses Andrew is his positivity and determinism. It's inspiring he said. Winston Churchill once said “When going through hell, keep going,” And that’s what he’s doing.
I was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma
and was given a 50/50 chance
It was here that Andrew casually mentioned his own battle with cancer. Really, I said, tell me about that? "In late 2010, right around my first political campaign I was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma and was given a 50/50 chance of it coming back, which back then, basically meant it would be terminal. I was initially a bit down about the odds of survival coming down to a toss of the coin but my sister, who is a doctor, told me that 50/50 were good odds and to take them and run with them – and to go out and live life and do everything I could to end up on the right side of the ledger. It was good advice. I'm still here and going well and the odds have improved dramatically since then, but the return threat is always there in the back of your mind." I said, you look well, albeit a bit tired, but it is late Friday afternoon.
What's on your bucket list was my next question? Andrew said he hadn't really thought much about it.
OK, so after politics, anything you'd like to do? "I don't think I'd go back to Law. I'd like to do something that I could enjoy, something I could be passionate about and that allowed me to be creative. One thing I do enjoy, even now, is radio. I enjoy being on radio." His face lit up as he shared his thoughts on his secret radio bent.
I do have one deep and meaningful question for you to finish on, but before I ask that, can I ask this? Do you have any claims to fame? "I make scones!" Pardon? "I make scones." At this point he called up a video on his phone and showed me him in the kitchen, apron and all, making scones. Move over Jamie Oliver I thought, if only I could put this video in our magazine.
Anything else? "I'm a two-time Chuck Akubra Champion at the Mumbil Black Wattle Fair and I have been known to sing Country Music at times, I've also done a few duets with local entertainer Neil Gill." I knew if I talked long enough, I'd get some fun stuff out of Andrew.
I decided to push my luck a bit further and asked him if any embarrassing moments came to mind?
“There have been a few but that’d be a good question for my family. One they’d be sure to mention was a few years ago I went to see American country music duo Brooks & Dunn in concert in Sydney with my brothers. My wife Tina could not be described as a country music fan. At best it could be said she tolerates it. The following day I rang Tina to tell her about the concert and thought she could get a better appreciation if I simply sang her a bit of it. So as soon as the voice on the other end of the line said “Hello” I launched into the Brooks & Dunn hit “Neon Moon”. I thought it was going pretty well, but after I’d belted through the chorus there was a bit of a pause and an amused voice on the line said “Andrew, this isn’t Tina.” It turned out I’d forgotten that Tina was at work that day and I’d just serenaded the lovely lady who was helping mind our kids. I was so embarrassed and to this day still wince when the kids remind me of it.”
Now, on a more serious note, I asked him if there was one piece of wisdom he'd give to his kids as they face this changing world of ours? He said simply "Don't get bogged down in things that aren't important and follow your dreams".
So, that's a bit about Andrew Gee the man and after talking to him for roughly an hour, I couldn't help thinking about what it must be like for him, juggling such a demanding job as a political career, while still trying to be the husband and father his family deserves and needs. As a politician, I'm sure an endless stream of people from across the vast area he is responsible for want a piece of him. Then there's the travel, the personal appearances he's expected to make, and the expectations placed on him by his constituents. How does he manage it all and still keep the balance right?
I really can't imagine what it's like but after talking to him in pretty candid terms, and irrespective of my political persuasion, I have no reason to change my earlier view of him, first and foremost he's an ordinary, good and decent bloke.