Wednesday, 14 June 2017
I am going to be fairly brief tonight, but I do want to take this opportunity—and I know that there will be a more formal opportunity next week—to congratulate you, Mr Acting Deputy President Back, on the incredible service you have had in this chamber and in this Senate. We were all shocked and saddened to see your decision to retire from politics, which I know you made for your reasons. I do not understand why anyone would ever want to leave this place! The idea that you would want to retire strikes me as very odd and strange behaviour. But apparently there is a world outside this place—hopefully, I will never have to experience it!
Tonight I briefly want to touch on something that is very hard for a Sydneysider like me to do, and that is to talk about another city. I want to talk about the City of Launceston, that I was privileged to be able to visit with Ross Hart, the local MP, and with Senator Helen Polley, who is the shadow assistant minister for ageing and the shadow assistant minister to the leader for Tasmania, a few Fridays ago.
The City of Launceston—it is very hard for us—
Senator Polley and I have an ongoing joke about this. We made a social media video about it. It is on a thing called the internet—it is very new; it will catch up with you in Western Australia soon, Senator Smith. It will be about three hours late but it will catch up with you eventually!
It is very hard for those of us from Sydney to be able to praise another city, because when you live in perfection being somewhere else and seeing somewhere else is always a case of, 'What's wrong about this place?' The fact is that there you have city where the housing is affordable, the public transport is accessible, you do not have to spend three hours in a car to go seven kilometres, the air is clean and it is quite a beautiful place. I would have to say that—
Senator Smith makes the observation that it is all those things because of WA's money. I will leave that to him and to others.
I believe that places like Sydney have more to learn from these cities than these cities have to learn from Sydney. In one day we were able to have a look at some of the infrastructure projects that still need to be funded in that city, we were able to sit down and talk about the health of the Tamar River and we were able to spend some time with the editor of the local paper, talking about how it is that they could have a regional paper in a city like that surviving so well when large mastheads in places like Sydney are actually struggling to survive. How is it that these smaller papers are so profitable when something as large as The Sydney Morning Herald, with the base that it should have, is not actually commercially viable in its current printed form?
We were able to spend some time at the Saint John Craft Beer Bar, a local brewery. Again, if you look at the liquor industry in a place like Tasmania it is new and it is growing. It is fantastic. There is the big scotch industry, the gin industry and a craft beer industry, which are all growing. Frankly, I could spend all day there and be a very happy man!
After that we visited some students from Launceston College and spoke to them about their future and the decisions they are making to go to university. Finally, we looked at some of the infrastructure spending and opportunities that are there. And we spent time at Definium Technologies so I particularly want to thank Mike Cruse, who took us on a tour.
Ross Hart, the local member of parliament for that area, and Senator Polley were very keen to broaden some of my experiences. They had the view, and said in jest on several occasions, 'Sam, the whole world is not Sydney!' I think that was a lie! But if you want to understand opportunities and what can happen perhaps spending a bit more time outside Sydney and in regional Tasmania—not on a Bill Shorten bus!—is perhaps the more appropriate way to try to see things. I want to thank them for that opportunity. I was able to walk away from that experience with a much better understanding of not just regional Tasmania, but also how is it that a city like Sydney can actually benefit from learning from a city like theirs.
I do want to touch on one matter that I want to clarify. In the morning I did a radio interview with Brian Carlton from Tasmania Talks. It was a long, lengthy interview that covered a range of topics. During that interview, I spoke specifically around matters to do with fundraising and other matters, and I made some references to Senator Abetz. Senator Abetz contacted me afterwards and felt that, in the review of it that he was given, I had been unkind and made untoward remarks about him. Again, I think in the full context of the interview that certainly was not the intention, but Senator Abetz is right: having a look at a snippet of that would certainly leave you with that opinion. I have privately apologised to Senator Abetz for that. I want to take the opportunity, formally, in the chamber, to express those apologies. Look, Senator Abetz and I have had many arguments about policy in this place. He is a very distinguished senator. He was Leader of the Government in the Senate—an incredibly important position—and even though, from a policy perspective, he and I have always seen things very, very differently, he is a person of incredible personal integrity and I would never want to wrongfully leave an impression of anything other than that. I do not know what the formal language is, but I have apologised to Senator Abetz. You can never really withdraw comments you have made in the public arena, but you can apologise for them. So, Senator Abetz, I want to formally acknowledge the high regard that I hold you in.
That being said, again, it is a great city. It was a great experience. I learnt more about Sydney from being there than perhaps they learnt from me. Maybe that is what makes us Sydneysiders so proud, that we can even go to another city and still take more than we give. Thank you.