Vincent Tarzia, MP

October 06 2019 | by

WHY DID you decide to enter politics in 2010, and in the Liberal Party in particular?

I had an epiphany moment when I was in year 12 of secondary school. My mother at the time had breast cancer, and that was for me a real wake up call. I realised that life was short and that, while we are on this earth, we should help our fellow human beings.

God gives us many different gifts and abilities. As a student I was always very passionate about politics, especially in our local area. I always did a lot of public speaking, debating and so on.

Initially I approached a couple of politicians and told them that I was interested in running for Parliament. They advised me to run for local council first and see if I liked helping people deal with bureaucratic problems. I discovered that effectively in doing this job you become public property, that it’s not a job for everyone; that it’s almost like being a priest. You have to have that call and that sense of vocation because you are always on call, seven days a week. The 2010 elections, when I became Councillor of the City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters, was the first good opportunity to see if public life was suitable for me.

I chose the Liberal Party because my background was predominantly right wing. I had a grandfather who was right wing, but another grandfather who was a trade union member, and who had worked in the auto industry for over 30 years. His politics were centre left, but ultimately the ideology of the Liberal Party aligned itself better with my sense of values, especially in today’s day and age.

Scott Morrison, our current Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, is a Christian, and he is often attacked simply because of his Christianity. I like his style of leadership. I like his sense of freedom, his sense of the family and his sound Christian beliefs, and I have also tried to carry them through in my own political life. The Our Father is read at the start of every day in my Parliament, and I very much agree with this tradition.


In May 2018 you were elected the 35th Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly, becoming the youngest person to hold that office. Why did you accept that appointment?

When I was appointed speaker at such a young age, a lot of the older MPs told me that they had always aspired to that role, but had never obtained it. I was very humbled to accept that role.

In accepting that role I will try to counter certain negative trends. One is the real disconnection between the younger and the older generation in Parliament, and between young people and politics generally.

Secondly, there is a lot of cynicism around our political class, and I would like to overcome this cynicism by improving moral standards. I am also introducing Touch-screens into Parliament to improve security, as well as measures that will allow people to see Question Time in Parliament live, so that anyone will be able to see what’s happening in Parliament, thus opening up Parliament to new generations and overcome this disconnection.


What are the principal duties of the Speaker?

The Speaker is the person who has dealings with the Crown. This means that I have to visit the governor every few weeks, where I present to him the bills that have been signed by both Houses of Parliament. So I am the spokesperson for Parliament in dealing with the Crown, and I have to maintain the dignity of the Houses of Parliament.

I also look after the standing orders we apply in the day-to-day running of the House. I have to make sure that the House is running smoothly. I also look after staff issues in the House.

To use a biblical analogy, “you have to water the roots to get the fruit.” Now my roots are here in the Hartley Constituency, so foremost for me is the electorate I was elected to represent.

There is never a dull moment in my job. Every day there is something new, and the job can be quite challenging at times.


Experts say that an increase in far-right figures in mainstream media has led to a normalization of racism, and that it has encouraged these groups from out of the shadows. Do you agree?

There are extremes on both sides of politics, on the far left as well as on the far right.


What, in your opinion, are the greatest challenges facing Australia, and South Australia in particular, today?

For most people the cost of living is the most immediate concern. There are increases in council rates, electricity, water, fees of various sorts, and living in general.

Catholic schools are striving very hard to keep their fees low, but they have risen from the time when I was at school.

On the spiritual level, there are many elements in society that are attacking the family, the idea, the institution of the family. And these ideologies are very destructive to society because sound families are a great source of good in society. So this is a challenge we must overcome.


Do you think that in Australia there is an attack against the Christian faith, and in particular against Catholicism? For instance, what do you think of Cardinal George Pell’s failed appeal?

Cardinal Pell’s sentence was dealt by the Court system, so I won’t comment on that particular case.

I personally have been attacked a number of times because of my faith. For instance, when I opposed euthanasia I received a lot of hate mail accusing me of bringing my Catholic beliefs to bear on this issue.

I do think the Church should adapt to the way the media works, especially social media. Despite this, Pope Francis is doing a very good job. His public relations are excellent; the way he is conveying his messages of hope, love and humility is responding very well, especially with the next generation.

I certainly suffer when I see the Church being criticized, but it’s up to us Christians to counter this opposition. Scott Morrison, for instance, is a Christian, and he was attacked because of his Christianity during his campaign to remain Prime Minister in the 2019 federal elections.

Fortunately, Australia is one of the best places in the world in terms of religious freedom, but we must fight to keep our religious freedom because there are elements within society that would like to curtail this freedom.


In 1819 Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The Constitutional Freedom of Religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.” Do you agree?

Absolutely, and we have to continue to fight for this freedom to be maintained, not only in our country, but in other places around the world.


In Australia there is talk of requiring priests to break the seal of confession in order to fight the sexual abuse crisis more effectively. As a Catholic, do you believe the government will actually go ahead with this request?

I’ve talked it over with some priests, and I understand the Church’s view. However, it is important that the Church does all it can to learn from its past mistakes, and make sure that those things don’t happen again.

Are you concerned by the growth of Islamic fundamentalism?

I have friends who are Islamic, and they are peaceful, law-abiding, wonderful citizens. Extremism in all its forms has to be carefully monitored, whether of the right or left. For instance, an Australian recently committed heinous crimes against Muslims in New Zealand, and he certainly was not an Islamic fundamentalist; apparently he was a Christian, but it was certainly not a Christian act.


Who is God for you? What image do you have of Him?

God is a divine being, a divine presence who is perfect, who has a plan for all of us. I feel this presence very close to me. I call out to this presence very often for guidance and support, especially in the role of MP and of Speaker. I see God as a leader who helps me to help others. He helps me to carry out my duties with love.


Some people consider God more as a judge than as a father. Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt him to be a judge?

Whenever those conscience and life issues come up in Parliament I certainly feel the judgment; call it Catholic guilt if you like. As a MP you have your personal beliefs; what you think should be done, but then you also have the beliefs of people in your electorate, and you have to balance them up with those of others and bring them all into some sort of harmonious unity, but this can be quite challenging. You have to consider, “If I vote this way, there will be this and that consequence, and if I vote the other way there will be other consequences.”

The euthanasia debate is certainly one where I felt that I would have been judged by God if I had approved it. In voting in favor of euthanasia what you are effectively doing is legalising the killing of your own citizens.


Has your faith ever helped you to make a decision in your life?

All the time. I found that it was a blessing to go to a Catholic school. When I was a year 6 student in primary school I did not know that other Christian churches existed, like the Anglican, Pentecostal or United Churches, etc. Later on in high school I understood the similarity between these Churches, but at the same time it made my Catholic faith grow stronger.

My faith has also given me a new appreciation for the Word of God and newfound zeal for the Bible, and it has made me read much more of it. I sometimes ask my staff, “What would Jesus do?” because we are tried and tested all the time.


You are of Italian heritage. Have you or your parents ever been discriminated against because of your Italian background?

I am the first Speaker of non Anglo-Saxon origin. From my mother’s side my grandparents stem from the city of Avellino, while from my father’s side they stem from Calabria. For my grandparents it was a very tough time, especially because they didn’t know the English language. During the time when my parents were young I know that people of Italian origin did get called names at times, but Australia is now a very different place from those times; there was much more prejudice then. Our society has become very harmonious in this regard.


Has St Anthony ever played any particular role in your life?

There has always been a strong devotion to St Anthony in my family. My father, for instance, is called Antonio, and my own middle name is Anthony. I remember that, as a young man, my grandmother would give my father a gift for St Anthony’s feast day; then we would go to Mass and participate in the St Anthony’s Bread liturgy and support that charity.

St Anthony was a big deal for us; it was a family celebration with the sharing of gifts to honor the Saint. My parents often prayed for the Saint’s intercession, and I myself pray to him whenever I lose anything, as well as for guidance and support.


BORN IN 1986, Vincent Anthony Tarzia is an Australian politician representing the South Australian House of Assembly seat of Hartley for the South Australian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia since the 2014 state election.

Vincent Tarzia attended St Joseph’s School Payneham and Rostrevor College. During his time at Rostrevor, he was Head Prefect and Dux of the college. He then went on to obtain law and commerce degrees at the University of Adelaide. He was a solicitor and worked in Funds Management, Legal and Commercial sectors.

Vincent Tarzia entered politics in 2010, serving as a Councillor of the City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters. He then won the seat of Hartley at the 2014 state election. In January 2016 Tarzia was appointed Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Business Start-ups, and in January 2017, he became Shadow Cabinet Parliamentary Secretary.

Vincent Tarzia managed to retain his Hartley seat convincingly in the January 2018 election. His victory was key in helping the Liberals win government for the first time since 2002.

On 3 May 2018 he was elected the 35th Speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly, becoming the youngest person to hold the office of Speaker in South Australian history and first of Italian Heritage.

Vincent is active in many local community and sporting groups, including Neighbourhood Watch, the Campbelltown Rotary Club, Norwood Football Club and Payneham RSL. He has been married to Charissa Duffy since September 2018.

Updated on October 06 2019