House debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Parliamentary Representation


4:54 pm

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, on indulgence: today I have the privilege of giving my last speech in the House of Representatives. Some very good members who lose their seat at election time never get this chance. Thus is the nature of politics. I wish to speak a little about our nation, about the electorate I have represented and then about some personal matters.

I have given 10 years of my life to the service of regional Australia, first as the vice president and then the president of the Victorian Farmers Federation and then as the federal member for Mallee. When I started, I couldn't even tie a tie. I remember offering what inadequate support I could to communities in the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires as they grappled with the loss of livelihoods and loved ones. I assisted and fought for communities destroyed later by floods and have always defended hardworking rural Australians, who contribute so much to our culture, environment and economy and who often don't get adequate services in return.

I have always said that parliament is made up of less-than-perfect people governing less-than-perfect people. I mentioned Theodore Roosevelt in my first speech in this chamber, arguably one of the greatest presidents of the United States of America. Later in life, when reflecting upon his time as president, Roosevelt was reported to have said that he got it right about 50 per cent of the time. I don't know if I got it right 50 per cent of the time, but I've always tried to listen to both sides of any debate and make a considered judgement at that time.

I am proud of the fact that, during my six years in office, I have never been thrown out of this chamber. Some members appear to think that being thrown out is something to be proud of—there's still time! I would remind them that the children of Australia are watching and they expect and deserve better. This is a place for passion, however. The battle for ideas and the future direction of our country should be a place for rigorous debate—debate and then compromise, because we must govern for a result for everyone. I take personal satisfaction in the fact that I have friends on all sides of the political spectrum. When I was chair of the House of Representatives environment and energy committee, I oversaw a report into how to future-build Australia's electricity grid and reached a consensus report with the member for Melbourne, the member for Hughes and the member for Shortland—Liberal, National, Labor and Greens agreeing on energy policy.

I believe there are some areas of national policy that still need to be addressed. I remain concerned about the level of fuel reserve Australia holds for Defence. I have always felt uneasy about a ticketing-system approach to guarantee fuel supply if we encounter another major conflict. The defence of the Australian people is the most important role of the Australian parliament, and a military without enough fuel ceases to be effective.

I have always held to the belief that the resources of the Commonwealth are the wealth of the common people. The east coast of Australia should have a 15 per cent natural gas reservation policy, such as is implemented currently in Western Australia. Access to natural gas at a lower cost would fundamentally lower electricity prices and, due to the instant nature of gas generators, would allow for more renewable energy to reliably come onto our electricity grid.

The two essential elements for Australian people to prosper are the ability to get a job and to achieve homeownership. I am proud of our government for its strong focus on getting the economic settings right for job creation. In my electorate, the opportunities and jobs that have come through international trade agreements have produced a confidence that is very visible. We must reward those who take a risk and who get out of bed early and work harder than those who don't. A country is only wealthy when its citizens, through their private endeavours, become wealthy.

I do, however, remain concerned about the credit squeeze and the reluctance of banks to back families to buy a modest first home. There are many in my community whose rental payments exceed what their mortgage repayments would be if they were able to access finance. I believe that, if a family or an individual has a perfect three-year rental history, then this should reduce the initial deposit required to access finance. Getting Australians into homeownership sooner is the best way to ensure financial stability for our country.

I have always been a strong and forceful advocate for Australia's aid budget. I am disappointed that it was reduced from $5 billion annually to $3.8 billion before being increased to $4 billion. To many Australians this seems like a lot of money, but, put in context that the federal government's expenditure on all projects is $470 billion or thereabouts annually, our aid budget is less than one per cent of total expenditure. When I talk about our aid being used as medicine for children, microfinance for women and girls in developing countries, agricultural information exchange so people can grow their own food, law and order assistance so there is increased security, and food parcels so people don't starve and they stay in their own countries instead of joining the millions on the move seeking refuge, people tend to grasp why I have a passion for this area. I have refused to allow Australian aid to be Left or Right in politics. This is about who we are as a nation—a generous, compassionate people who believe that a fair go extends to all citizens of the world, not just Australians. Whatever we spend in this area must be done wisely, but we must celebrate and be proud of Australia's contribution to the poorer people of the world.

Whilst I come to Canberra, I prefer the sweeping wheat fields of the Wimmera-Mallee and the people who live there. I will miss being an advocate of the good people who live in these communities. In many ways, a member of parliament is their last line of defence when the system has failed them. My office staff and I often assisted with Centrelink, immigration and other personal problems. The best part of the job is being out in the electorate encouraging, assisting and gaining their ideas and bringing them back here. Australia-wide intervention orders for victims of family violence, Safe Haven Enterprise visas for refugees to live and work in the country and free continuous glucose monitors for children with type 1 diabetes are all policy ideas that came from the Wimmera-Mallee and are now national initiatives.

We have addressed many of the mobile phone blackspots across the electorate so people can run first-world businesses as well as feel connected and safe. We have three new headspace youth mental health facilities to support children; a cancer centre in Horsham; an irradiation bunker for cancer sufferers to be built in Mildura; better programs around attracting and training doctors for our regions; more money for roads, rail and bridges; a weather radar; new sports and community infrastructure under planning; and construction right across the Wimmera-Mallee. We're now into our second billion dollars of federal funding into our communities in the time that I've been their federal member. We now have modernised water infrastructure and a sense of prosperity and optimism that our communities haven't seen in a long time, and substantially more money going into the education of our children.

I took the view that I would work constructively with community groups, mayors and council CEOs in all 12 local government areas across the Wimmera-Mallee. I always had their list of priorities and projects. My office would use this as the basis to advocate for funding to ministers, and often we were successful. I thank those ministers for putting up with my painful advocacy and persistence. I have always maintained that, when each level of government—local, state and federal—works professionally together, we get the best outcome. I want to personally thank them for their cooperation and friendship.

I would often smile to myself when some energetic character on social media, often hiding under the cowardly banner of anonymity, would write, 'Broad doesn't do anything.' I would think to myself, 'Imagine if it was just me,' for I often had between seven and 10 staff working with me, and they all worked incredibly hard. I think I can speak on behalf of all members of this chamber when I say that the dedication of all our staff is truly amazing. Yours is a service to the people of Australia.

I have been so privileged to have such quality people in my team, often arguing furiously against my views on some issues—sometimes even changing my mind—but always loyal to serving the people who live in the Wimmera and the Mallee. Thank you so much. I want to pay particular attention to my chief of staff, who's in the gallery, Tracey Mooney. You are admired by all for your courage, loved by all for your decency and respected by all for your professionalism. Your dedication to me and Rachel is undeserved but greatly appreciated. Thank you, Tracey.

To the clerks and attendants of the parliament, to security and the Commonwealth car drivers: thank you for your service. There is a dignity maintained in this place by your presence and your conduct.

Now to my beautiful Isabelle. Upon telling my daughter that I would no longer be the federal member for Mallee, her first and instant reaction was, 'Yes! You'll be home.' Isabelle, I missed the first six years of your life through foster system and the last four through politics; I'm not going to miss any more.

It was said to me recently that, at the end of everyone's professional life, we each get to go to our place of work, pack up our things, put them in a box—I've done that; it all fitted in one box, actually!—and then to walk into our house and either find children who are estranged from us and a house that is empty, or a house with a welcoming family and a partner who still loves us, and this is when we can measure success.

My story is a story of redemption and grace. I look forward to living out many chapters ahead with my wonderful wife, who's in the gallery—long-suffering and very forgiving—and our daughter.

It has been an amazing privilege to serve the people of the Wimmera-Mallee and the Australian people.


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