House debates

Monday, 22 July 2019

Governor-General's Speech


3:39 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, very much, Mr Speaker. On the banks of the Brisbane River, in the heart of the Ryan electorate, stands Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Australia's first and largest koala sanctuary. It's a place that is familiar to thousands of Brisbane families, and for tens of thousands of international tourists a year it's their introduction to Australia and our iconic marsupial. During the 2011 Brisbane flood, it was also a place where the local community rallied at a time of great devastation. Last Australia Day, though, surrounded by tables loaded with lamingtons, and with a local choir belting out I Still Call Australia Home, it's the place where I had the privilege as a Brisbane City councillor to induct almost 50 new Australian citizens.

I know that most of the members in this House will have participated in similar ceremonies at some time, so you will understand the excitement of the candidates and their unabashed love for their new homeland. During my nine years as a Brisbane City councillor I loved the deep connections I forged with my community, but no duty gave me more pleasure than those ceremonies. The candidates for citizenship had all come to Australia for different reasons—work; family; after great hardship—but all were expressive in their desire to give something back to a community that had embraced them and which had already given them so much.

I think this is a fitting analogy for the excitement that I feel today. I am excited to be inducted into this place so that I can have the opportunity to give something back to the local community and the nation that I love, which has given my family so very much. It is a fitting display of the values that I am in this place to protect: a strong community made up of resilient families, whatever form those families take; a preparedness to roll up your sleeves, to support and serve your fellow residents; a willingness to work hard and make a positive impact for your community and your nation; and effective infrastructure, and that means both physical and social infrastructure that binds our communities together. If there is to be a single measure of the success of my time in this chamber, I intend it to be my contribution to ensuring that these values and institutions are strengthened. If I can help ensure that more Australians have the opportunity, as I have had, to be supported and fulfilled by a strong community, a secure family and a faith in their nation, then I will have made a worthwhile contribution.

I've lived my whole life in the Ryan electorate. It's where I grew up, where I went to school and university, where I got my first job, where I work. It's where I met my wife, where my son was born and baptised, and where I am now raising my own young family. It has grounded me and has shaped me, as I hope now to have a role in shaping it. It is home to some remarkable institutions, seats of great learning and innovation like the University of Queensland at St Lucia, considered to be in the world's top 50; places of great service to our nation, including the Gallipoli Barracks at Enoggera, home of the mighty 7th Brigade; training grounds for individual effort, like the John Carew Swim School at Chapel Hill, the nursery of some of our best Olympic swimmers; and places of extraordinary natural beauty, including Queensland's premier botanic gardens at Mount Coot-tha. And, of course, it's been home to the traditional custodians, the Jagera and Turrbal people, for millennia, and I pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

Like any community Ryan has its challenges, and like most urban communities many of those challenges revolve around population growth and its associated social impacts. You don't grow from pineapple farms to housing estates in just a few decades without feeling those impacts. To have a connected and functional community you need infrastructure that can deliver families homes sooner and safer. You need roads that don't clog and reach capacity just because families are travelling to sport on a Saturday morning.

As a local councillor I helped ensure council delivered new infrastructure, including congestion-busting intersection upgrades, bikeway missing links, new buses and upgraded ferry terminals. As Brisbane's youngest-ever Treasurer I was able to balance record infrastructure expenditure while reducing Brisbane's debt by 47 per cent, in part by recycling capital out of large projects. The Brisbane City Council continues to do more than its fair share of investing in vital infrastructure.

In contrast, the Queensland government's infrastructure funding over the forward estimates, as a share of total expenditure, sits at just 11.5 per cent, down on the decade average, and this means that motorists spend more time in traffic and less time with their families. As an example, Moggill Road, in the heart of the Ryan electorate, is No.1 in Queensland on the Australian Infrastructure Audit report for delay costs; $1.45 million is being lost due to time delays on every kilometre of that corridor every year.

I was delighted that the Morrison government committed a record $100 billion to ambitious infrastructure projects across Australia—in particular that the Treasurer quadrupled the funds to reduce urban road congestion from $1 billion to $4 billion. Projects that reduce urban congestion allow the taxpayer the most bang for their buck. Too often politicians are drawn to funding business case after business case in the hope of finding a big ticket, nation-defining silver bullet for infrastructure woes, yet tackling local projects with price tags of $10 million to $100 million in local communities would mean far more to the lives of Australian families.

I know that building a road is not an end in itself, but building a road builds a more connected community and it gets people home sooner to spend more time with their families. The SEQ city deal, which is currently being negotiated, is a unique opportunity to put this concept into practice. Particularly with such a large council as Brisbane, we can leverage federal funds and combine with local authorities to get much needed congestion-busting projects off the back burner and get them built.

Of course, it's not just the issues and places that make up a community but the people within. The beating heart of the Ryan electorate is its 39,162 families, including my own. I have been blessed to have grown up in a strong and close-knit family unit—a family where my grandmother, Gabrielle, had a formative impact on us seven young grandchildren. Growing up under the rationing of World War II, she is the reason, much to my wife's disgust, I can never bring myself to throw anything out! She taught me to have empathy for those who took positions that upset me. She taught me that, if something is worth doing, it's worth the hard work to do it well, and that everyone must roll up their sleeves and join in supporting their community. Lessons like these, so central to our nation's health and prosperity, can only be given by a family unit whose love is unconditional.

When John Howard described the family as 'the stabilising and cohering unit of our society', he understood that, while it is a truism, it is certainly not a forgone conclusion. That's why he devoted so much of his government's time and energy to supporting Australian families to be resilient. Since then, families have come under a range of new and increased pressures. The proportion of family households is declining. In 1986, just after I was born, families made up 77 per cent of Australia's households, but by 2016 this was down to just over 70 per cent. Over this same period, the number of single-person households increased to 24 per cent, or essentially a quarter of the nation's households. That 'cohering unit of our society' is under siege from every direction. We live in a world so interconnected that it is almost impossible to turn off and just be present. Kids can be bullied online in their own room while parents are less than 10 feet away, and families are finding disagreement harder to manage in a world where social media trains us to be outraged at everything. So we need to step up our efforts to support family units, whatever their makeup. They play such a central role in shaping the health and wellbeing of all immediate family members. We cannot allow more and more people to be alone and disconnected in this way.

I will be passionate and vocal in this place as we seek to tackle the many challenges that bedevil and chip away at families, including the cost-of-living pressures, domestic violence, bullying, isolation and relationship breakdowns.

My family is one of the lucky ones. My mum, Nanette, and Dad, Brett, who are in the gallery today, share a passion for their family and an ambition for their children. My success and that of my brother, Edward, and sister, Annabel, owes so much to their loving household and guiding hands. Like so many Australians, they used the well-worn but treacherous path of small business to ensure that their children were given every chance to succeed.

But to run a small business is to make sacrifices. Early on, Dad worked extra jobs to keep money coming in, before the shop turned over enough that he could start drawing a wage. Many a childhood picture has me playing on the floor of the shop as customers dodged my toys to reach the counter. With so many people using small business as a way to give their families a leg up, we must be ruthless in our dedication to ensuring that their individual efforts, their sacrifice, are supported. Whether it's through tax cuts, IR reform or reducing power prices, I will be working to ensure that small business, and its inevitable connection with the family, remains at the heart of this government's efforts.

This brings me to my wonderful wife, Madeline. She is the strongest person I know, fierce in protecting our family and my most trusted counsel. She is the reason I am in this place.

In the LNP values, which I hold so dear, we enshrined the principle that family is the indispensable forum where children are raised and nurtured, and the foundation of resilient communities and a cohesive society. But, for many, starting a family is not as straightforward as this would suggest. One in six couples struggle with infertility and miscarriage. Starting a family was a hell of a fight for Maddy and me, as it is for other families. It was an intensely private battle that spanned almost a decade—a battle that takes relationships right to the brink and back again. But to acknowledge it publicly is to discover suddenly that this is not a path you walk alone, that so many of your friends and contemporaries are also struggling with it. I look forward to using the opportunity this role affords me to support causes and initiatives that help couples through this heartbreaking battle, not just to improve the efficacy and availability of treatments related to IVF but also to support other ways families can come together, like foster care and adoption.

Despite those trials, though, we have our beautiful boy, Theodore, who is just two years old. Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, I thought I might speak directly to him for a moment. Theo, you won't remember being here today, but I'd like to think you'll read this speech in 10, 20 or even 50 years time to better understand your dad. The irony isn't lost on me that my speech is about communities, families and being better connected, because I know that by the time you read this it is certain that this job will have meant we missed out on a lot of time together—on a lot of special moments and even on a lot of ordinary moments as well. I want you to know that the choice of a career in public life was not one your mum and I took lightly. We understand that every moment I miss with you will be a small cut to our family, and we know that all those little cuts will leave scars on our hearts. But, rather than lament, I trust that you'll grasp the reason I went into politics in the first place, that I had to be in the fight to ensure that you grew up in a community and a nation that was the very best version of itself, and, given that our family—your family—was blessed with so very much, it was incumbent on us to roll up our sleeves and play our small part in helping facilitate similar opportunities for other families.

We need to talk about the challenges of declining service in our community. The historical trends in volunteering are that more people are volunteering but for less time, and it's uneven. Volunteering in sport has grown, but community service has declined. As a local councillor, I saw the life-changing effects of the electorate of Ryan's service groups up close. I started groups myself, like the Indooroopilly Men's Shed. I saw firsthand how this group prevented individuals from slipping into loneliness and isolation that might otherwise have seen them lost from society. With so many traditional service organisations in our community, like Rotary and Lions, struggling with ageing and declining memberships, it is time for the federal government to look hard at how we can better support service in our community.

Funding for our local community organisations is a good start, but I believe we need to think about how we as a nation rebuild the ebbing belief that we have a broader duty to our communities and our fellow citizens, because it's not gone. You don't have to scratch the surface in the Ryan electorate very hard to find examples of good Samaritans, great neighbours who will go out of their way to help their fellow human beings. Brisbane's 'Mud Army' after the 2011 flood springs immediately to mind.

But in this increasingly time-poor, disconnected world it's harder to find the everyday version of that story. I don't profess to have the answers. But, just as building a stronger and more resilient community has been the hallmark of my life as a councillor, so too will it be a priority for me in this place.

Of course, almost all of us come to this place because of our involvement in a community organisation—a political party. I joined the Liberal party, and now the LNP, in 2003, and I have never wavered. It has given me opportunities to serve my community, for which I am forever grateful, and has allowed me to live my values of individual responsibility for your own circumstance and for your own community. Robert Menzies observed:

… the greatest element in a strong people is a fierce independence of spirit. This is the only real freedom …

And with it, he said, comes 'a brave acceptance of unclouded individual responsibility'. Put more succinctly by another great leader of our party: 'If you have a go, you get a go.'

I always assume that people I meet are keen to get a go, that they are as ambitious for their family and their community as I am ambitious for mine. Ambition for our nation, our electorate and for ourselves to exert positive change is what ensures that this parliament does not stagnate or lack new perspectives. And I feel a genuine energy as a member of this fresh Morrison government. With the injection of so many new members, I see a generational shift that, with hard work, will allow us to deliver on the ambition that the quiet Australians have for our nation.

I want to record my deep appreciation for the many people who put their own lives on hold to help me. For all these people to whom untold appreciation is owed, words can never be enough. So it is through tireless effort every day that I vow to repay your faith in me.

Thank you to my previous staff, who have assisted me in this journey, including Matt Adams, Kirsti Schwartz, Justine Froud, Sara Humphries, Caitlin Bales, Hannah Williams, Matt Tapsall, Chris Kelly, Lucy Smith, Gemma Long and Athena Brunt.

Thank you to my political mentors, Jane Prentice, Graham Quirk and Adrian Schrinner, for the opportunity to learn at your side.

Thank you to the wise heads who have encouraged me along the way, including Bernie Mack, Leigh Warren, Fraser Stephens, Scott Emerson, Malcolm Cole, Mark Brodie, Tim Forrester, Damien Cavalluci, John Cotter, Vu Nguyen, Will Griffin, Geoff McIntyre, Margaret deWit and Ann McKenzie.

Thank you to my campaign team, especially my awesome campaign director and wife, Maddy; for the tireless efforts of Mitch Andrews, and to my campaign manager Rob Shearman, along with Simon Ingram, Greg Adermann, Paul McMonagle, Christen Duffy, Craig Ray, Nick Elston, Adam Dwyer, Barbara and Graham Leis and Ruth and Bernie Finnigan.

Thank you to the dedicated team at LNP HQ—especially president David Hutchinson and campaign director Lincoln Folo. These two contributed far more to the 2019 election result in Queensland than most will ever realise. But also the efforts of Alyson, Brodie, Leighton, Collier, Geordie, MOD, Sallyann, Bec, Angela and Janelle cannot go unremarked.

Thank you to my colleagues who have invested so much of themselves in my success, especially James McGrath, Peter Dutton, Trevor Evans, Christian Rowan, Steve Toomey, Peter Matic, Matt Bourke, Andrew Wines, Vicki Howard, Kate Richards, James MacKay and Kim Marx.

Finally, thank you to my extended family—all of you—for your love and support, particularly Maddy but also my Grandpa, Mum and Dad, Julie, Sean, Teds and Aimee, Annabel and Andi, Lily, Phoebe, Charlotte and Uncles and Aunties Megan, Sean, Lauren, John, Terry and Teresa.

Let me conclude by going back to the very start of this speech, back to Lone Pine to that beautiful green sanctuary on the banks of the Brisbane River in the heart of Ryan, back to those unmistakable positive images of our nation that remain seared in my memory—koalas, lamingtons, 50 new citizens just bursting with pride in our nation, bursting with excitement at all the possibilities that flow simply from being an Australian. As long as I am in this place, I hope never to forget the sense of excitement that those people felt just to be Australians. And as long as I am in this place, I hope never to forget the sense of excitement that I feel today just to represent them and all the residents of Ryan. It is a truly great honour and I won't let them down. Thank you.

Photo of Kevin AndrewsKevin Andrews (Menzies, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the address be agreed to. Before I call the honourable member for Macnamara, I remind the House that this is the honourable member's first speech and I ask members to extend to him the usual courtesies.

4:03 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm extremely grateful to be standing here in this place to represent the people of Macnamara. It is my privilege to stand here on the lands of the Ngunawal and Ngambri people, the traditional owners of this place, and I pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.

The electorate of Macnamara is set by the Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne on lands walked on for thousands of years by the Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation. Today I come with a message for our parliament from the Boonwurrung. With your indulgence, I'd like to share their words:

We, the Boonwurrung, acknowledge that we as Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians share similar values and aspirations.

We are all unique with different stories, history and perspectives—

And that important fact should be recognised and understood.

For thousands of years, our community has maintained our strong links to our own unique culture, language and stories.

But we, the Boonwurrung, believe that we should focus on what binds us together as a wider community.

And what we can achieve together is more than what we can achieve as individuals.

In our language, we value the concept of 'tjanabi', the coming together for a common purpose despite our differences.

It is through tjanabi that we can unify by celebrating the things we have in common, while also valuing the knowledge of what our diverse cultures add to the Australian way of life.

We can achieve a better tomorrow, a shared future that we can all be proud of.

I thank the Boonwurrung for allowing me to carry their generous and warm message in this place.

It is a message that reaffirms my belief that we have something completely rare and unique about our country. We are home to 65,000 years of history and more than 65,000 years of wisdom, continuous culture and language. We are home to a people who have more than 65,000 years of deep connection to our land and to our water. It is up to each of us to look after our precious environment and to heed the lessons of sustainability from our planet's first conservationists: Australia's Indigenous people. I stand ready, like so many people here today, to take my place on the right side of history. I stand ready to help ensure that our First Nations people are duly recognised in Australia's Constitution.

From the wharfies who worked and built our beautiful Port Melbourne to the modern multiculturalism that is South Melbourne, to the beauty and evolution of Albert Park, to the coffee and culture of St Kilda, to the picture-perfect streets of Elwood, to the cool new addition of Windsor and to the place where I was born and raised in Caulfield, the electorate of Macnamara is as diverse as it is iconic. But for all our differences in background, birthplace and beliefs, there is something much greater that binds us. Having spoken with thousands of locals over the course of the campaign—on street corners, front verandas or the other end of the phone—it is clear that the people of Macnamara know that our local community, our little corner of world, is a truly special place.

For some, the change from our federation name of Melbourne Ports to Macnamara meant moving away from history; but I think that this change was an inspired choice and, from my family's own perspective, a fortuitous one too. Dame Annie Jean Macnamara, for whom my electorate was named, was a great Australian. She was one of the first pioneering female doctors at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. She specialised in treating polio, a crippling disease that was particularly devastating for young children. As if that were not enough, Dame Jean was also a leading scientist, devoting her days to ending Australia's early rabbit plagues and, with it, the disastrous impact upon our environment. She was also responsible for leading and shaping some of our nation's great medical minds. It is that point that proves that life is sometimes full of unexpected surprises.

At a campaign function just before the election, my grandfather found himself in conversation with Dame Jean's daughter, Merran Samuel. What we learnt that night was that, as a young medical student, my grandfather, Dr Hershal Cohen, was taught by the great Dame Jean Macnamara. My grandfather is watching from Melbourne right now. In preparing for today, I asked for his thoughts on his university teacher. He told me:

[Back then], not many women got into the position of medical leadership, very few. But she had a determination. And she valued the importance of looking after these people that had polio—and that was the driver. She was respected because she was the leader in her field and she was a leader in the treatment of those who were suffering.

As my grandfather's words illustrate, Dame Jean Macnamara was brilliant; but that's not what made her special. She made kids who were going through the most unimaginable pain feel just a little bit brighter. She gave families the precious knowledge that their loved ones were being looked after. When her young patients were facing that very terrifying diagnosis, she made sure that they had every care and comfort. Dame Jean had a mind to tackle the most difficult problems of her generation, but she had a heart for those who needed help the most. If that is not a good example for us in this place, I'm not sure what is. It is why it is truly my pleasure to acknowledge Dame Jean Macnamara's daughter, Merran Samuel; her granddaughter, Dr Josephine Samuel-King; and Jo's partner, Marcus Gwynne, who are all with us in the gallery today.

I also take this opportunity to acknowledge Michael Danby, who served as the member for Melbourne Ports for 21 years. Michael Danby loved this place. He loved being here, and he loved talking about big ideas. Many didn't agree with Michael, which is probably a sign of his willingness to challenge the status quo. Michael's time in this place was full of courage. I would like to wish him and Amanda the very best for the next chapter.

Like so many others in this place, I am only able to stand here because of the sacrifices of those who came before me. My story starts with a young boy who grew up in the poorest suburbs of London. In order to help support his family, he left school at age 14 to take up an apprenticeship as a pastry chef, until the Second World War broke out. During that war, this boy witnessed one of the darkest episodes of human history and, with it, the attempted destruction of his people. Following the end of that bloody conflict, and after a brief period living and serving in the newly formed state of Israel, it was eventually Melbourne, Australia where he found the peace he was searching for with his wife and young children.

In Melbourne, as a pastry chef, he would wake up at 4 am to do a hard day's work, putting in backbreaking hours but never making that much money. Instead he relied on public schools for his kids and public health care for his family. And in his retirement he relied on a modest pension that somehow always had enough in it for gifts for his grandchildren. His entire life he worked hard and he told everyone that he was a rich man, but his fortune was not in wealth but in family. He was a humble giant of our nation, and he was my grandfather, Jerry Burns. On 7 September 2013, I too woke up at 4 am, just like my grandfather used to do. It was the day of the federal election and it was the culmination of months of hard work to get Michael Danby re-elected for the sixth time. It was also the day that my grandfather, Jerry Burns, passed away.

My grandfather told me to do two things with my life. The first was to marry my wife, Zoe, and the second was to run as a Labor candidate. Thankfully, Zoe agreed to the first and we have been blessed with our beautiful daughter, Tia. Unfortunately my grandfather never got to meet Tia or see me run as a Labor candidate, but it is his example that has led me here today. My grandfather taught me to work hard and to look after hardworking people. He came to this country with very little, and it was this great nation that gifted him not only a good life but the possibility of building a better life for his children too.

His wife, my amazing grandmother Dinah, was barely five feet tall, but she too, in almost every sense of the word, was a giant. She was born in Edinburgh, in Scotland, to a generation without security or opportunity for poor, working-class women. But Dinah overcame a world full of hurdles and hypocrisy to find safety and happiness with her beloved Jerry in Elwood, in the heart of my electorate, all the while instilling in us—her granddaughters and her grandsons—that our abilities and our ambitions were not bound by pink or blue.

On my mother's side, my grandmother, Gerda Cohen, was also forced to leave her homeland, considered a threat because of nothing more than her family's faith. Throughout my time at university, I had the privilege of working as a teacher's aid, assisting children at the start of their education, full of energy and innocence. And yet at the same age, just four years old, my grandmother was somehow deemed an enemy of the Third Reich. My grandmother was born to a world that deemed her unequal before she even learnt to read. Thankfully, she was able to escape with her parents to make that long journey across the world as an asylum seeker to Australia, but even in her home, in the decades that followed, Gerda would always remind us that she was one of the lucky ones. While she was able to escape and build a life here in Australia, much of my family did not escape and perished in the darkest hour of mankind.

It is the lessons from each of my grandparents, Jerry, Dinah, Hershal and Gerda, that guide my policy ambitions in this place. Their stories today are as important as ever. My grandfather Jerry, who built a life for his family with nothing more than his two hands, reminds me that we must find new ways to help more Australians find financial security. The eight-hour day is disappearing. Australians are working longer hours than ever before, while at the same time the number of those who are able to afford their own home is plummeting. Thirty years ago, six out of 10 people my age owned their own home. Today that number is closer to four and rapidly diminishing. It's clear the old road to financial security is closed for too many Australians. People are working harder than ever, but they are finding it more and more difficult to find financial security. It's why we as a nation need to be willing to have an honest conversation about the way our economy is working and exactly who it is working for. Because, just as my grandfather and his generation understood, being Australian shouldn't mean you are granted a life of privilege; it should mean that you can work hard to achieve financial security for yourself and for your family.

My grandmother Dinah's story reminds me that we must continue our work to ensure that women in Australia are getting the fair share that they deserve in their life choices, in their workplaces and in their fight for equal pay. We've taken some great strides but, in the decades on from my grandmother's experience, it's clear we have a long way to go. As a father, a friend, a husband but, fundamentally, as a human being, I acknowledge my responsibility in securing that better, fairer future for Australian women.

My grandfather Hershal's life as a doctor instilled in me that having access to world-class health care is part of what it is to be Australian. It means access to health care regardless of your background or bank balance but it should also mean universal access to mental health care—something that we are still a long way from achieving. My family, like so many others, has been impacted by mental illness. As a society, on so many accounts, we are making good progress, but while people continue to slip through the cracks there is still so much more to do—just one example: the current arrangement of only being able to access 10 mental health sessions a year via Medicare should be increased. For anyone who has watched a loved one suffer, you know that on every measure 10 sessions is woefully inadequate. Simply put: we can, and we must, do better. As a nation and as a parliament we owe it to those Australians and their families.

Finally, my grandmother Gerda's story—a story of persecution and prejudice—has etched in me a fierce opposition to bigotry in all its forms. I was born in Bob Hawke's Australia in an era when the Australian identity was perhaps at its proudest but never at the exclusion of others. In more recent times, we've seen the rise of something new—a sinister element that argues that this nation belongs only to a core few and that by virtue of nothing more than background, birthplace, race or religion, others must reside on the outer.

Only months before the election in the heart of my electorate, we saw that racist underbelly march on St Kilda Beach. Of course, it's not the only instance with a rise in bigotry seen the world over. The question for us here in this place is: how can we fight what feels like a rising tide? I believe, as is so often the case, the answer lies with Bob Hawke and his unique brand of patriotism: taking pride in our nation while continuing to be persistent in our defence against discrimination and ignorance. It is up to all of us in this place to ensure Australia is a country that celebrates our differences and our diversity. It is up to all of us in this place to say strongly and without fear that no matter your gender, sexuality, race or religion, here in Australia you are one of us.

Just before I finish, if you will indulge me briefly, I wish to acknowledge some of the other people who have helped me get here today. At the top of my list is my beautiful wife Zoe—thank you for your love and for doing more than you should to support me. I love coming home to you and sharing our lives, and I couldn't do this without you. To my beautiful daughter, Tia: being away from you is the hardest part of my day, and I hope you'll forgive me for my time in this place but know that I love you more than I thought I could love anyone. To my incredible parents, Leanne and Phil: you are both fierce campaigners and have helped me achieve far more than my high school teachers thought possible. You have both given me nothing but love and support, and I consider myself very lucky to be your son. To my humble and brilliant little sister Bec and my wise and gentle little brother David, I am truly blessed to be part of our trio. To my former boss Daniel Andrews, my former colleagues and in particular Jessie McCrone and Lissie Ratcliff, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for your friendship and help.

To Ari Suss and Mark Dreyfus for your guidance and advice; to Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek and the entire Labor team who helped us win in Macnamara; to the Labor true believers who are part of a hopeful and ambitious campaign; and to my entire campaign team who worked so hard, especially Dean, Millie, Micky, Simon, Dakota, Thomas, Adam, Sam, Julia, Louise, you're all worthy of being etched into Hansard as outstanding political professionals and I couldn't be prouder to have campaigned alongside you.

To my friends and family who have made the journey up to Canberra today; to Anthony Albanese, my good friend Richard Marles and every member of the Labor caucus for their warm welcome; and, most importantly, to the people of Macnamara who put their trust in me: thank you all so much.

So, Mr Speaker, I stand here with humility, ready to honour those who have come before me; I stand here with gratitude to a nation that has given my family safety and opportunity; I stand here proudly as a member of the mighty Australian Labor Party; and I stand here, in this place, as the first member for Macnamara, ready to work hard and ready to look after hardworking people. Thank you very much.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the honourable member for Lilley, I remind the House that this is the honourable member's first speech and I ask the House to extend to her the usual courtesies.

4:24 pm

Photo of Anika WellsAnika Wells (Lilley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As we stand on this ground and take our seats in this chamber, we must be forever mindful that we are being carried on the shoulders of 1,600 generations of Indigenous people. Scientists and artists and parents and children have been here for millennia. Our First Nations people are the world's oldest astronomers. Their connection between land and sky and people allowed them to navigate and predict the patterns of seasons, weather, flora and fauna. Both Indigenous knowledge and modern Western science strive to understand how our world works. Both our First Nations and our nation's scientists value collaboration in a shared pursuit of higher knowledge. So, then, do these Australians signpost our way forward as we take our seats in this new parliament, connecting land, sky and people with evidence and hope. I have high hopes. Our future needs hope. Australians need hope, and we who are standing in this parliament need to bring hope now.

I am grateful to be here and for this opportunity. I want to thank the Lilley campaign team, particularly those who lived and died by the count in that warehouse in Zillmere. I want to thank my colleagues who have given me their time and their guidance: the members for Maribyrnong and Sydney, my good friend the member for Rankin, and the member for Grayndler—who, in his own words mused during the election campaign, 'If he'd spent any more time in Lilley, he would have had to enrol there.'

I want to thank the people for Lilley for the trust they have placed in me. I am here for you all, from the Greens voter in Stafford, to the One Nation voter in Deagon and everyone else—however you cast your vote in May. I am grateful that you have given me three years to prove myself to you and to win over the 49.35 per cent two-party-preferred voters who didn't quite vote for me last time.

I am here for the people of Lilley who grew up in St Vincent's orphanage in Nudgee, a significant number of whom are still dealing with the effects of the abuse they suffered there. I am here for Alexina, who lives there now, and for Denae, who works there, with the site now converted to Mercy Community aged care—part of a recent, nation-leading trial for geriatrician led services specialised for acutely unwell age-care residents.

I am here for the people in Lilley who have been in the electorate long enough to remember when the Shorncliffe Pier bathing sheds were used by the Sandgate Ladies Life Saving Club, the first women's lifesaving club in Queensland. And I am here for the people who arrived just in time to see Tidelands—the first all-Australian Netflix series filmed in Shorncliffe last year.

So, what do I bring to this place? Yes, my CV includes a law degree and, yes, I have worked here before in the ministerial wing, and the election campaign made it very clear to me what a gift those things are to any opponent wanting to betray someone as the Labor candidate from central casting. But I am not here to be anyone's stereotype. I am here to be me. I was born while this building was being constructed. 2019 is the first year in which we have more Australians born after 1980 than before, and more millennials in the workforce than baby boomers and gen Xers combined, and yet we form only 10 per cent of this parliament. Millennials will be left dealing with the consequences of the choices this parliament makes. More millennials need a seat at the table. This table—or near this table.

Previous generations have grown up with world wars, the Depression and the threat of nuclear war. Millennials have grown up with our own keen sense that the apocalypse is always possible. We are the generation of 9/11, of school shootings and of the global financial crisis. We are the generation that has not brought about, but that is witnessing, a growing extinction event as species after species disappear forever at a rate unprecedented in human history.

Earlier this year, while we were gearing up to fight the election, Australia became the first country to lose a mammal to climate change. It has been lost and that loss has changed nothing. It was news until it stopped being news just hours later. In the near future, the North Pole will cease to be covered with ice in summer; it will be a dark ocean absorbing heat instead of a vast sea of white ice reflecting it. It will be time to colour in the top of the globe. Two things distinguish humans from other mammals. Our imagination and our capacity to render the planet the unlivable. The first can either remedy the second or enable it—that's up to us. Let's choose to find the collective will to use our imaginations for the betterment of the place we live in, a place with ice at the poles and fish in the seas and rivers, a place where people wake up each day thinking that they are valued and that they have prospects, a place where people can wake up feeling safe and that they are likely to receive a reasonable return for any work that day might bring.

Our imaginations, if we let them, take us into the future and allow us to build it. Our imaginations, if we let them, take us into the lives and shoes and hearts of others and lead us to make decisions for their good and for the common good. Or, we can choose not to imagine. We can live in the moment, and in our own moment, and to our own short-term advantage. We can shut out the cries for help; we can shut out the evidence that calls for change. I am here because I want to live a better life than that.

Many big debates aren't right versus left; they're short term versus long term. We cannot prioritise one at the expense of the other, even at a time when a new cycle—the electoral cycle—and the bills coming in all draw us to short-term-ism. It must never be beyond us to get the long term right, too.

I am here to be a good member of my community, to be a good parent and, as Jonas Salk said, to be a good ancestor. I am here because nothing has more power to make or dismantle this nation's future than this House. The work this House does shapes lives now and long into the future. This parliament has at times done great things. Our very first parliament in its second year passed the bill that made Australia the first independent country to give women a vote in national elections. The 26th Parliament brought about the referendum that righted the wrong of Indigenous noncitizenship. The Hawke and Keating years are well remembered for bringing us economic reforms that have increased long-term national prosperity and for bringing universal health care in the form of Medicare—an extraordinary achievement that has made our health system among the best in the world.

More recently still, in the 42nd and 43rd parliaments my predecessor as the member for Lilley, Wayne Swan, in his role as Treasurer, took Australia through the global financial crisis as the only developed nation not to experience a recession. While the rest of the developed world went under that juggernaut, policy decisions made in this place pulled Australia out of the way. Too little credit is given for that. You don't think twice about the train that doesn't run you over and simply passes by.

But there is, of course, more work to do. In my time in the private sector as a workers comp lawyer I assisted and represented people who had been injured at work. This reinforced something that I already knew to be true: not everyone who has a go gets a go. Life is not that simple or that reliably benevolent. We are not as good as we should be at fighting disadvantage sensibly and collaboratively and with regard to the evidence of what works and what does not. We also are not great at making space for people who don't fit.

When I was at school and my friends and I used to play handball by the tuckshop, there were four squares, and they were labelled Ace, King, Queen and Joker. But one of my friends didn't like any of those. She wanted to be in a square for Ninja Turtles. We wouldn't let her, and she wandered off. She didn't play; she opted out. We need to be a parliament and a community that does more for our Ninja Turtles, that values difference and includes it.

We should be measured by how we treat those who don't fit the squares, those without advantage, those not enfranchised, those who don't understand the paperwork, those who are shut out by the system, those who cast their votes reluctantly or not at all. We need to be here at least as much for the people who have stopped believing in this parliament as we are for those who still do believe. We need to convince them that this place is relevant to them, has their interests at heart and will about accordingly. And we need to do that by actually being relevant to them, having their interests at heart and acting accordingly.

You all know that I had to wait a little longer to book my ticket here than most of you did. In the recent election I did not step into a safe seat and see it stay safe on my watch. In the days after the election, when the count was close and nothing was decided, many people reached out to me saying how tough that must be. But I had three little girls of Lilley giving me a sense of perspective. Skye gave me perspective. At four, Skye is trapped in her own body, born with a one-of-a-kind genetic condition that renders her mentally astute but unable to sit, stand, walk or crawl on her own. When Skye's family was told that she would need a walking frame, they were told to wait for the NDIS to source one. Eighteen months later, and in the last weeks of the campaign, Skye's mum, Vanessa, hit the final hurdles of that process. When the news reached me, it took one phone call to get Skye the approval for the walking frame she needed. I want to be part of a parliament that does better by Skye and that goes after the unknowns of pregnancy, stillbirth and child and maternal health.

Sasha gave me perspective. Six days after the election, as the count continued, I attended the Kalinga Park Sorry Day ceremony. I didn't meet Sasha but I met her parents. Somewhere, Sasha is 40 now but still a baby girl to them, as she was taken from them in infancy, and they have not found her since. Sasha is a member of the stolen generations, and I want to be part of a parliament that does better by Sasha and that continues the work of the Rudd government to own up to and addresses wrong, that closes the gap and that enables an Indigenous voice to parliament on Indigenous terms.

Celeste gave me perspective. She's my daughter. Celeste was two when Australians voted and she did not care about the election, but I cared about the world that I want for her. In 2016, 20 weeks into my pregnancy with Celeste, I became ill. I was diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease at 26 weeks and, with Celeste on board, all the good drugs weren't an option. Celeste was born three weeks early and underweight, and as I lay there with her in one arm and an IV in the other, finally giving me the treatment I needed, I saw coverage of the women's marches in America that had happened a few days before. For many of the marching women, those marches were their first political act. Until then, they had thought that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats and decency would prevail. In my hospital bed in Brisbane, I felt like one of them. Like them, to borrow from Martin Luther King, who borrowed from Theodore Parker, I had assumed that the arc of the moral universe would always continue to bend towards justice, and in that moment I worried that I was wrong. I resolved then not to take that arc for granted anymore.

We cannot leave the future to fend for itself. I want to be part of a parliament that prioritises the making of a better world for Celeste; for the young people in all of those lives; for their children who have not yet been born; for their grandchildren who have not yet been contemplated; and for their descendants who, in the centuries ahead, will live on this land and gather in this place and do their own work, making the future. I believe in them, just as I believe in us and all that we can yet achieve in this place.

I realise that the future is not just a vision of something imprecisely better than the present. Like the present, it too will be made of an uncountable number of complex and interlocking details. Let's make our differences in detail a healthy contest of ideas, of reason and evidence designed to take us to robust solutions. To take the lead of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we can strive to disagree without being disagreeable. We should model the way for Australians to debate complex issues. We will not serve them well if we win the 6 pm skirmish but we fail to win the era.

Like all of us, I cannot be here without support, and I am so grateful for the chance to honour my wolf pack: Best Friends Club and the Northside Massive—many of whom are here today. To all the little wolf cubs, Harriet and Alby and Archie and Ivy and Charlie and Anna and Rafi and Sebby and Abigail and Gwenny and Margot and Macsen and Arianwen and our littlest cub Maxwell: just like Moana, one day you are going to look around and realise happiness is right where you are. May this be the first but not the last time that your impact gives you cause to appear in the Australian Hansard.

I want to thank my husband, Finn, and my daughter, Celeste, for what they do for me every day. There's a Banjo Paterson poem that makes me think of them:

For the locks may bleach, and the cheeks of peach

May be reft of their golden hue;

But, my own sweetheart, I shall love you still,

Just as long as your eyes are blue.

Celeste, you are a reminder every day of how much the future matters and of how much love matters. Finn, you make sacrifices to allow me to be here, because you live your values. When I stand up for more women in leadership I know you stand beside me, even if you're standing at a change table in Chermside and I am standing in the parliament near this table. It is because we both know we will live in a better world when women are freer to lead, men are freer to embrace parenting and all are freer to take turns and share.

For those of us given the opportunity to parent, it is a chance to meet the future face to face. Turning our girls into strong women with the freedom to act and to choose and to be makes all of us better. Turning our boys into great men is a journey of a million steps too. Every person who reads a young boy a book with a female protagonist or makes a teenage boy do his own washing or teaches a young man that it is structurally harder for his female counterpart to progress is doing their part for our collective hope that together we can forge a fairer community of the future.

I want to thank my parents, Deb and Kent, whose unending love and support rendered me to be the questioning, questing and determined person I am. I want to thank my blood brothers, Adam and Kym, and my brothers in arms, Mitchell and Jared. I hope everything I put you through feels worthwhile! I can never repay you all for what you've done for me.

I want to thank my most indefatigable local branch member, Wayne Swan; my most loyal local constituent, Anthony Chisholm; Julie-Ann Campbell; Mark Bellaver; Steve Baker; Chris Gazenbeek; Gary O'Halloran and polling booth 'hander-outer-er', Peter Biagini—all great enablers on my journey here, all of whom encouraged me to see myself as a fitting successor to Wayne's local legacy. For mum, dad and Wayne, all fans of 'the Boss', I will now invoke Bruce Springsteen, whose version of the song High Hopes Finn and I played as the recessional at our wedding.

I want to finish today as we did then and as I mean to continue: with high hopes. There have been 1,600 generations that have come before us in this country, and it is up to us to prepare it for generations ahead. It is up to us to prepare it now, to take action now and to set the course now, because we can't leave this work undone for some unborn others to pick up and fix, and because now is the only moment we have. We don't have time to squander or to sacrifice to pettiness. I am determined to be a good ancestor, but I only have now to be one. We all only have now. But here in this place we have the privilege of shaping the now that will decide the long future. Now is the cornerstone the future is built on. Now is when we craft the world we want for our descendants. Let's do it with high hopes. I thank the House.

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The debate is adjourned and resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for a later hour.