House debates

Monday, 21 June 2021


Parliamentary Representation

7:34 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As the representative for Goldstein now for five years and two terms in, and seeking a third, I believe it's important to refresh the trust of representation as headier waters form on the horizon. Going into preselection, I made a promise to myself, knowing that I could never live with losing if I'd pretended to be someone else and that if I'd won on those terms it would always haunt the full longevity of my service, whereas living with losing when you're true to yourself only comes from accepting that others were looking for something else and that, upon winning, you needn't contort yourself because they always knew that they supported you and why. I've taken the same approach to each federal election: to not hide or deceive but to be candid and forthright with electors, which is rarely the foundation for agreement but often for trust. But this came with the added promise that, if successful, my decisions would be made on a hierarchy: Australia first, Goldstein second, party third, self always last.

Edmund Burke astutely observed in his 1774 speech to the electors of Bristol:

Parliament is not a Congress of Ambassadors from different and hostile interests … Parliament is a deliberative Assembly of one Nation, with one Interest, that of the whole.

We are community representatives, but we vote for the nation. The issues present when we put ourselves to the mercy of the ballot needn't be those that define the term. None of us have an inherent right to be here, and if your incentive is longevity you should question why you are here, as, if it comes to that matter, should an MP who cannot successfully drive change here without persuading at least 75 others and 39 in the other place. Nimble compromise is necessary to be effective and to know which hills are worthy of sacrifice. It is from principle that policy must derive, least of all because we should want our elected representatives to show the courage of their convictions in pursuit of the national interest. But neither exists unless underpinned by core belief.

There is no common opinion that unites communities, but there can be common values; therefore, we should not be blinded by temporary policy challenges when compared to the influence of eternal values that inform our judgements. Burke also correctly identified:

Your Representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

In parliament we are rarely faced with binary choices. All require the weighing of competing considerations that necessitate judgement to make considered decisions that advance Australia. All members know those who seek to assert power over them by saying, 'Do as I wish or I won't vote for you.' MPs should respond by saying, 'If I did, you should not.'

Should a community elect a populist, they elect a weathervane which swings in their direction only until the wind changes. Populism may make a representative popular temporarily, but that is a false charm, as they will inevitably trade national interest for self-interest. Our relationship to the community is to fulfil the trust afforded by listening. But to truly honour it, the relationship must be founded on respect derived from honesty and candour. Others will judge, but, to date, that's the basis upon which I have sought to represent the good people of Goldstein, and it is the one upon which I will continue to do so in the future, with their favour.

In my lifetime, the long moral arc of history has bent favourably, but Australia and the world will need representatives with moral courage for it to continue. That comes from core belief—core belief that they take to the people, seeking trust to implement it into policy that advances our nation. That will sometimes depend on withstanding prevailing winds and upon a constituency that appreciates that principled stands serve a higher purpose. I know that Goldstein values such principles and such service and that we must always seek to make a stronger Australia.