House debates

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Parliamentary Representation


5:13 pm

Photo of Steve GibbonsSteve Gibbons (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I will not name them because I do not want to embarrass them! But then again, the former member for Corangamite used to do a great job of embarrassing himself. Particularly, I say to all of them and to those who I am referring to, that friends of mine are friends for life.

This 43rd parliament has been particularly difficult and we have all had to make sacrifices. I have had to refrain from enjoying that extra scotch before dinner for fear of knocking myself out and missing a division! But sacrifices had to be made.

Valedictory speeches are a time for reflection, and generally for reflection about the past. I am going to be serious for a minute and now would like to spend a few moments reflecting on our nation's future, in particular two of the challenges that will face my successor as the member for Bendigo and the 44th parliament as a whole.

The first of these is climate change. Scientists tell us that the actions that the world takes in the next decade will be critical; critical to whether we manage to slow the effects of man-made global warming during the 21st century, or whether we leave our children and grandchildren to contend with potentially catastrophic changes to their way of life. I am proud of the fact that Labor came into office in 2007 recognising the importance of this challenge, and I am proud that as I leave this House Australia is doing its part by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon-pricing scheme introduced into this parliament has placed Australia among the 35 countries and 13 regions that have implemented emissions trading schemes. Just yesterday, the city of Shenzhen in China launched an ETS that covers more emissions than Australia's entire carbon market. We have started doing our part, and it would be a tragedy if the anti-science attitude from the vested interests manages to divert us from that course.

The second great challenge for the next and subsequent parliaments is the shift of economic and political power from the Western nations to Asia. As the government's white paper recognises, the rise of Asia will be a defining feature of the 21st century. Within the life of the next couple of parliaments, Asia will not only be the world's largest producer of goods and services but will also be the world's largest consumer of them. It is already the most populous region in the world, and it will soon become home to most of the world's middle-class—I do not really like to use that term.

And we must not forget that there is more to Asia than India and China. Our nearest neighbour, Indonesia, is the fourth-largest country in the world. Its 17,000 islands command the air and sea approaches to Australia, yet still we know so little about this country that is on our own doorstep and which is already the 15th-largest economy in the world. It is somewhere we fly over on the way to somewhere else, or go to to enjoy the beaches. The changes going on to our north represent terrific opportunities for this country if we have the courage to take them.

But in order to do this, we must make some changes too. We have to be prepared to increase our engagement with the region. If we better understand its people and its cultures, we can be a major beneficiary of Asia's rising position in the world. Steering the country through these changes will be a major challenge for members of future parliaments. I leave this House optimistic about our nation's future; optimistic that we will be able to deal with the major challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that we face in the 21st century.

And that is probably an appropriate note on which to conclude my final speech in this place. I thank you all for attending.


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