House debates

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Governor-General's Speech


4:20 pm

Photo of Kelvin ThomsonKelvin Thomson (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In my view, honourable defeat is overrated. In my view there is little honour in avoidable failure. In my view those who want to save the environment, those who want to help workers and those who care about the future have a responsibility to succeed. Honour comes from success, from solving problems, from being able to proudly hand the baton over to the next generation.

In political debate people are very frightened about being called racist or xenophobic. This is true of prime ministers and it is true of ordinary people. Yes, there are racists out there. It is a pity; it is true. But the use of the term 'racism' has become a new kind of McCarthyism, used to stifle debate. Let me point out in response to the allegation of racism or xenophobia against people who want to contest our rapid population growth that, first, Australia is already a multiracial society—one-quarter born oversees, one-half with one or both parents born overseas. The bird has flown. No-one is trying to maintain Australia as a white Anglo Saxon outpost of the British empire. It cannot be done and I have not come across anyone who is trying.

Secondly, stopping rapid population growth will assist Australians of all backgrounds. For example, Broadmeadows has high unemployment. Many unemployed people in Broadmeadows are of Turkish background. They are entitled to our consideration, rather than running migrant worker programs that wreck their ability to find work.

Thirdly, if talking about population makes you a racist, you are in pretty good company. People do not usually think of Dr Martin Luther King as a white supremacist. What did he have to say about population?

Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary. Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess.

What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims.

People would not ordinarily think of David Suzuki as a puppet or fellow traveller of Pauline Hanson. What did he have to say about population? Dr Suzuki said:

Of course human numbers are at the very core of our crisis. The explosive rate of growth simply can't continue.

And, while we are at it, I will point out a couple more. In 1993, former US President Bill Clinton told the United Nations:

And to ensure a healthier and more abundant world, we simply must slow the world's explosive growth in population.

His vice-president, Al Gore, said:

I consider the dramatic growth in the world's population to be the greatest challenge currently facing the environment … The effects of this rapid increase are felt around the globe.

It is ironic in the extreme that we have a couple of agents provocateur out there accusing people who talk about population of trying to hijack the environmental movement when, in fact, they are the most fair dinkum environmentalists you will find. I defy anyone to challenge the environmental credentials of Jacques Cousteau, who has devoted his entire life to marine conservation, and who said:

Population growth is the primary source of environmental damage.

I defy anyone to challenge the environmental credentials of Captain Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who has spent his life risking injury and imprisonment to harass Japanese whalers. He said:

The accusation that a stand to reduce immigration is racist is music to the ears to those who profit from the cheap labor of immigrants. They are the same people who love to see environmentalists make fools of themselves. And there is no environmentalist more foolish than one who refuses to confront the fact that uncontrolled human population growth is the no. 1 cause of the world's increasing environmental problems.

And does anyone think Sir David Attenborough, with a lifetime behind him of educating and advocating for the protection of our rainforests and other wilderness areas, to be a bogus environmentalist? David Attenborough has described global population increase as frightening, and has said;

I've seen wildlife under mounting human pressure all over the world and it's not just from human economy or technology—behind every threat is the frightening explosion in human numbers.

And further:

I've never seen a problem that wouldn't be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more.

So what am I going to do about it? I am going to set up an NGO, an incorporated association, to pursue the cause. It will have a token membership fee and will not be a competitor organisation for Sustainable Population Australia or the environment NGOs. It will not be a political party; I am in one of those already! It will not try to have a policy on everything. It will try to avoid the divide and distract traps that I talked about earlier. It will try to set out a coherent and superior alternative to the path that we are on. I am going to launch it soon. It will be limited to Victoria, which may disappoint some in a national audience, but you have got to start somewhere. I may be able to work up associate membership for interstaters. The great 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill said:

Solitude, in the sense of being often alone, is essential to any depth of meditation or of character; and solitude in the presence of natural beauty and grandeur, is the cradle of thought and aspirations which are not only good for the individual, but which society could ill do without. Nor is there much satisfaction in contemplating the world with nothing left to the spontaneous activity of nature … every hedgerow or superfluous tree rooted out, and scarcely a place left where a wild shrub or flower could grow without being eradicated as a weed in the name of improved agriculture.

I hope people will join my NGO and will help me build it into a large movement of citizens dedicated to passing on to our children and our grandchildren a world in as good a condition as the one our parents and grandparents gave to us. Because population is not about race; it is about stewardship.

4:27 pm

Photo of Luke SimpkinsLuke Simpkins (Cowan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I begin my address-in-reply speech today in this 44th Parliament by expressing my great appreciation to the voters in Cowan for returning me to the House of Representatives, again, for a third term. I have contested four elections as the Liberal Party candidate for Cowan and won the last three. On every occasion the margin has improved. Before the 2004 election the Labor Party held the seat by 5.5 per cent. Now the margin is 7.46 per cent to me. So I do thank the electors of Cowan for entrusting me with the responsibility of representing them in parliament. It is a great honour. I know that, whatever happens as a member of parliament, my job is to always focus on making the lives of those in my electorate and the whole country better. It is not about us. We are the servants of our constituents and of the nation. We are not their masters.

Collectively in the last two parliaments I made 413 speeches in order to represent the people of Cowan and to say the things that needed to be said. My predecessor in Cowan made 174 speeches in three parliaments, but I want to assure my constituents that I will continue to speak and speak often on the things that matter. I have always spoken against the carbon tax, the ETS and the boats, and I have always spoken for human rights and freedoms in places such as Vietnam and Burma. These will continue to be themes I will pursue in this 44th Parliament. I will also pursue the things that matter more locally for the people of Cowan: federal roads and infrastructure such as the Swan Valley Bypass; national crime prevention initiatives such as the CCTV promise we made in Ballajura, to further secure the Kingfisher Oval precinct; and also the state government's promises of the Reid Highway interchange at Malaga Drive, the new Ballajura police station and the dualling of Gnangara Road. These are reminders to us that, whilst the primary responsibility and authority for these matters are state or local authorities, we in this place must also add our voices in support of these issues.

With regard to federal matters, the national issues are very clear. Essentially they are: getting rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax, stopping the boats and getting the economy back to where the elected government of this nation lives within its means and no longer spends against the future generations. This is why we were elected and this is what we always must do as members of this parliament.

Debate interrupted.