House debates

Thursday, 28 October 2021

Statements on Indulgence

Member for Parramatta

3:25 pm

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Speaker. On indulgence: I am announcing today that I won't be re-contesting the seat of Parramatta at the next election.

An honourable member: Oh!

I didn't expect that! I am now in my 18th year as the member for Parramatta and I can honestly say that I've loved every single minute of it. Parramatta is home to the most fantastic people and I've been blessed to meet so many of them. It has been an honour to represent this diverse and endlessly fascinating community since 2004. But I'm approaching retirement age and the time has come for me to spend more time with my family, particularly my grandchildren—who don't necessarily think that being a politician is the best thing in the world, because they miss their grandma quite a lot!

To my community: I assure you that I will continue to work with you and represent you to the best of my ability right up to election day. My office will be there for you, just as it has been there for the past 18 years. It's not possible to thank all the amazing people and organisations that make Parramatta the best community in Australia in a short statement today, but I look forward to thanking you all properly before this parliament ends. We have much to talk about in coming weeks!

My goal in this job has always been to make my community stronger, because no one is better equipped to solve the problems that we face in the community and to build a better future for Parramatta than its community. Our local community and volunteer organisations need support to do this important work, so a small service my office has been providing over the past 18 years, which is a regular grant bulletin that tells people what grants are about to close, has turned out to be particularly effective. In fact, there probably isn't an electorate that anyone here represents which doesn't have a subscriber to my great bulletin now! There are literally thousands of subscribers and, strangely, no one unsubscribes—ever. I see its impact in the increase in the range of smaller organisations that are accessing funding, and it has been a joy to watch so many of those see themselves for the first time being recognised for their value and unique contributions, and growing.

This is a community asset that I'd like to see continued, so I will be holding one more grants forum, on 24 November at 7:30 pm, to outline how people can build their information systems in case, once the election is over, it doesn't continue. I will also be pulling together the figures on funding for various activities over a number of years as a baseline so that we can measure the impact of whatever we can set up after the election. I will pull together a group of people who can share the driving to build the information systems that can share the information on an ongoing basis. I happen to know how much it costs to do this and it's actually not very much. There are commercial solutions to provide this information to the community and I'm sure we can find one that will ensure this continues indefinitely.

But today I want to talk briefly about what comes next for Parramatta. I want to talk specifically to the branch members who have been with me in the community which we have served for every day for every one of the 17-plus years that I have spent in office. I want to talk to the people who gave me the opportunity to stand for Parramatta in the first place, before I met the people of Parramatta and we got to know each other and they gave me the honour of representing their voices here. I often say in my office that we see people on their best and worst days. They come in on a day when they're full of enthusiasm and want to do something—they have a great idea. Or they come in on their worst day, when they've been evicted. But if you really want to serve your community you need to understand their ordinary days, because it's the ordinary day that contributes to your health, to your financial security, to your relationships with your family, to your bonding with your children and to your knowledge of your community. It's the ordinary day, and how that unfolds for you, which actually determines whether you have the best days or the worst days.

I know there are exceptions, where we get hit by illness—and we've seen that in the last couple of years—but, generally, the ordinary day determines whether or not you have great ones.

That, for me, is where I have put my attention. I have spent literally hours, outside my office, doorknocking 76,000 houses. For the first eight or nine years, I did 10 mobile offices a month; I did the train stations eight times a week, at 6.30 or 5.30 in the morning; and with me for every one of those houses and every one of those mobile offices was a branch member—or more. There were a group of eight of us that did 35,000 houses in 2004. We did more houses between us than the entire Queensland caucus did in the last state election. We did it every day. The branch members that most of my community don't know have been there with me on this journey, and I would not know the ordinary day of the people in my community if it wasn't for them. I wouldn't. It's literally hundreds of hours that they have given me, and some of them, as you know—six life members—have been doing it for 40 or 50 years. They are remarkable people and I can't thank them enough for what they have done for me and for my community over this time.

Now, I also want to acknowledge that they gave me the opportunity to do this. At my preselection back in 2004, there were 165 of them that were voting, and I met 150 of them in their homes, and they gave me the opportunity to do this.

Last year the 'toilet paper brigade of 2020' was branch members literally delivering toilet paper; phoning everybody over the age of 70 in the electorate and delivering food—extraordinary people.

Traditionally, it's the branch members who choose who will stand for the election again, and they will decide who has the extraordinary opportunity to try to ask the community to give them the opportunity to represent them in this House, and it's a role they take very, very, very seriously. They've been out there for years, getting to know who in their ranks knows how to work, who's consistent, who's honest, who volunteers, who genuinely cares about the community, who has flaws that would negatively impact on their job. They staff the booths. They do it all. And they know the branch members. They know each other very, very well, and they are well placed to make a decision about who will represent Labor in the forthcoming election. And we do have remarkable people who represent the community so well, including a number of women, and I look forward to working with whoever the branch select and introducing them to the community.

You might have known who that person already was, but, when the assistant secretary came to my office earlier this year to open preselections, I was still making up my mind, so we delayed for quite some time. But now I have made up my mind; I've spoken to the leader, who knows my preference for rank and file; I've written to the general secretary; and it's my fervent hope that we hold the rank-and-file preselection very soon. I hope we're on our way. The date of the election is firmly in the bailiwick of the Prime Minister, so I don't know how long I've got in this position now, but I guarantee that I'll be working every day until the election day, and I thank all the people of Parramatta for giving me the privilege of serving you all these years.

3:33 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—I'm sure there will be events in the great electorate of Parramatta where we will have an opportunity to pay tribute on a very broad basis to Julie Owens and her magnificent representation of the people of Parramatta that she has undertaken diligently, with commitment and passion, since 2004.

Parramatta is an extraordinary community. It has a CBD that's bigger than the CBDs of some of our capital cities. It is also a diverse and multicultural community. What that does is bring challenges. You've had significant development along the riverfront, significant urban consolidation, a significant change in the mix of people who live in Parramatta and significant employment changes—and that has brought with it a responsibility from their representative, in Julie Owens, to ensure that that development has occurred sustainably and that traditional residents in Parramatta haven't been left behind, and she has done that.

There is no member of the caucus who has knocked on my door more about the needs of her electorate than Julie Owens, for Parramatta. I've got to know Julie a lot, as a fellow Sydneysider, over that period since 2004. Indeed, before then Julie Owens ran, somewhat more optimistically, for the electorate of North Sydney on not just one but two occasions for the Australian Labor Party. That's a task which is always difficult, for those of us who get asked to run for seats where there is less chance of success.

In 2004, Julie Owens of course was one of the very few people who took a seat off the then government during that 2004 election, and that is a tribute to her. That is something that is a part of her legacy. She has many friends in this place, and those friendships will continue, and I regard myself as one of them. I know that she has friends across the parliament as well. To Julie and her relatively new husband—and they're very much a long-term relationship—I know that we have discussed over a period of time what you hope to do post retirement. It won't be retiring from activism in trying to make a difference to this country, I know that. In the next phase of her life, I wish Julie and all of her family all the very best on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, and I thank you for her service.

3:38 pm

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—Can I join the Leader of the Opposition and members of the House in congratulating the member for Parramatta for her dedicated service to this place and her dedicated service to her community. She is a hard campaigner—we know that on this side of the House. When she was going through the tireless work that she has done in her community and campaigning on the ground, we've noticed that, and that, I think, is a true expression of her passion for being here and the things that she passionately believes in.

We know that she is an accomplished musician and she studied at the conservatorium as a pianist, much like the musical accomplishment of the member for Moncrieff. We're privileged to have them both in our ranks, and many others, I'm sure. I just do the ukulele. I know the member for Watson has a go at the guitar, but I don't think he goes anywhere near the skills possessed by the member for Parramatta.

We listen to a lot of people in this place, and we get counsel from them as we seek to live our lives through this place. Those of us who came into the parliament in 2007—the member for Maribyrnong will remember; the member for Corio, many members here and the member for Fadden—I remember it was the member for Parramatta who was asked by the Speaker to come and speak to us as new members and give us a few tips about how you can live life here and try and make your contribution most effectively. And I'll never forget what the member for Parramatta said. She said: 'Stay close to the people you knew outside of this place. Invest in your relationships. Make sure you keep calling them and stay connected, because they're the people who will be there long after you go, they were there long before you came, and you must make a conscious effort to maintain that balance in your life.' I want to thank the member for Parramatta for that. It certainly had a big impression on me, and it's certainly been something I've sought to follow. It was wise counsel. She's been a formidable opponent, but, most importantly, she's been a diligent servant of the community and of this House, and I wish her all the very best for her future.

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

Can I join in the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister. I also thank the member for Parramatta for all the work she's done here in this House, particularly on issues that don't get a lot of attention. On behalf of our House committee, she was deployed by us to go and try and get the Senate to see some sense on some issues to do with the building. So that was a tough task, but ultimately one you succeeded in. We wish you all the best.