Kevin Hogan is a busy man. I meet him over morning coffee on his way to a radio interview, before he heads into work during a week when he’s not in Canberra.
The Federal Member for Page has a lot of ground to cover, representing an electorate that goes from the QLD border to just north of the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour. For 20 weeks each year, Kevin is in Canberra attending parliament, and for the rest of the time he’s in the electorate.
“This is seriously a 7 day a week job” Kevin says. On weekends there’s always an event to attend or a cause to support, but it’s also the time when a lot of people manage to speak with him.
“They’re busy during their work week as well, so they can’t ring me up or come to see me, so it’s at those weekend community events that people do get access to you,” Kevin says.
Kevin grew up in the regional town of Port Augusta, South Australia, before studying Economics at university in Adelaide, and then worked in the financial markets in Sydney where he met his wife, Karen. The couple have raised their three children, Bridget, Sean and Rosie, in Clunes, where Karen also grew up. Her parents, Kevin and Pat Webber, have lived in the same house on Main Street for 60 years.
After the birth of Sean, Kevin and Karen wanted to move back to a regional area to raise their family. That was 1998.
“We made a lifestyle choice that we wanted our children to grow up here,” Kevin says. They bought a property on the edge of Clunes where they still live today. “I couldn’t get Karen to go too far,” Kevin jokes.
While the financial sector had been quite rewarding and great fun, Kevin says that once children came into the picture his focus shifted. Besides, jobs for bond traders were hard to come by outside the city.
“I really wanted a job where I could be of service and I thought teaching I could do that.”
Kevin completed his Diploma of Education and went on to teach business studies and economics at St Mary’s High School in Casino.
Through his teaching connections, Kevin became involved in the Catholic schools’ industry superannuation fund. Initially a board director, Kevin went on to run the fund’s investments, which led to him leaving the classroom and travelling to Sydney for work each week and mingling with politicians.
When Kevin first stood for parliament in 2010, he lost. “Karen and I put a lot into that and really enjoyed that process, and I said would put my hand up if the party preselected me again,” he says.
He’d joined The Nationals the year before, citing their grass-roots, community-based feel as his reason for picking that party over others.
Being a politician has had a significant impact on his family, Kevin says, but his children have never been targeted as a result of his job.
“The community is protective. I know certainly everyone doesn’t vote for me, in Clunes or everywhere else, but it’s a protective community in the sense that no-one was ever going to attack [them],” Kevin says.
While in the electorate, Kevin often spends more time out of the office than in it. He has two electorate offices, in Lismore and Grafton, and he travels constantly, clocking up 2,000kms a week in his car.
It’s a huge contrast to his time in Canberra, where, he was surprised to find, on parliamentary sitting days, everyone is stuck inside the walls of Parliament House all day.
“You actually can’t, from 9 until 8.30 at night, leave the building, because if there’s a division you’re gonna have to be 5 minutes away. I couldn’t even go outside to get a sandwich!”
Kevin greets a friend passing by the cafe, a tennis buddy from Clunes. He and Karen have been playing in the weekly competitions since they moved here. Those friends keep him in check, Kevin says, no matter what job he’s doing.
While he has the chance, Kevin is enjoying representing his fellow citizens on a federal stage. “I love this role. You have great availability, great opportunity to actually help people.”