House debates

Wednesday, 3 February 2021



7:56 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Cyber Security) Share this | Hansard source

As the opportunity arises tonight, just a few minutes before the adjournment, I thought I might take the opportunity to say a few words about recent events in Washington DC and the violence we saw at the Capitol Building there. I, like many members of this chamber, have enormous love and affection for what some of you might think of as our big brother democracy in the United States.

Australia sometimes has a complex relationship with the United States. The United States contains things that both inspire and horrify the Australian mind, but I like to think of it in terms of that great US poet Walt Whitman, and to paraphrase him, he used to say: 'I can contradict myself very well. I contain multitudes.' And the United States does contain multitudes. It's a great inspiration to us all.

The violence at the Capitol Building I think is also a lesson to us. Something like that doesn't happen overnight. It's the result of an accumulation of actions and an accumulation of neglect of the norms and democratic values that we share with the United States. I was watching that over the Christmas break, over the summer break, and reflecting on the lessons for the Australian community from that incident. What I took from it was that we all in this country need to treat our democracy a little bit better, and by 'all' I mean members of parliament and this institution, certainly, but also all of us as citizens, as full participants in our democracy. It's too easy take our democracy for granted, to take the norms that make our democratic system work for granted—the shared respect that a lot of the institutions that we rely on in our democracy need in order to work.

I was listening earlier in this adjournment debate to the contribution of the member for Monash, a principled, heartfelt contribution in recognition of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and thought it's incumbent on me to stand up and recognise that contribution. I've done that in the past for the member for Monash, actually. He and I disagree on many things, but it is one of the great privileges of my time in this parliament to have an office that is next door to the member for Monash. He is significantly senior to me in experience, both in a parliamentary sense and in a life sense, and I value his counsel enormously and think the contribution that he makes to this building is something that I certainly value enormously and want to put on the record here today. Incidents in the United States recently did make me think of the comments of a recently departed great Democrat of this world, John Lewis, a great champion of democracy, who said:

Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world … at peace with itself.

It's a good thing for us to take away and work on in the Australian democracy here.

House adjourned at 20:00


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