Senate debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018


Wattle Day

7:19 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in the shadow of the great date 1 September that is rapidly approaching, known as Wattle Day for Australia. I notice, as many of my colleagues have noticed, the wattle already in bloom along the great highways that bring politicians to this place, to acknowledge our Australianness in this parliament.

Today in my speech I call on Australians, in particular young Australian women, to think about what this date, 1 September, Wattle Day, can mean for them in our time. This 1 September is a gathering date for people who support the Australian Republican movement. My point in making this contribution to the adjournment debate this evening in the Senate is to highlight that young women have a vital role to play in the making of our nation right now. A conversation is being reinvigorated about what sort country we are to be. What sort of country are we to be for young women who are looking down the barrel of 50 to 60 wonderful years of being an Australian?

The question is: do we really need to have a head of state who inherits the title to rule over this nation and who lives on the other side of the world? I will make the comment that how I don't care how lovely their shoes are. I'm still happy to look at Kate Middleton and the 'nude shoe' movement that she started, and Meghan Markle and the wedding. I'm also interested in Princess Mary from Denmark and in royal fashion, which might be something that entices young women and is interesting. It is certainly presented up to them on a regular basis.

But, as an Australian, I don't need a family on the other side of the world to rule over this country. It's time for all Australians, particularly the young leaders in our community, to stand up and say: 'We're grown up enough now to leave the nest. We don't need the burden of the connection to a country on the other side of the world. We need an opportunity to find, amongst our own, a great Australian to become the president of this nation.'

Last Saturday evening, I attended the Daniel Deniehy Oration, which has occurred in Goulburn on an annual basis now for about five years. It is facilitated by a wonderful former senator who sat in this chamber with all of us for a period of time, Senator Ursula Stephens. I acknowledge that she is running for the state seat of Goulburn, and I sincerely hope that she will be elected to the Parliament of New South Wales and bring her considerable talent to that place. Like me, former Senator Stephens has a passion for the establishment of a republic in this country. Perhaps it's the Irish heritage that we share. It was an 800-year-long struggle for Ireland to declare itself a republic. In my remarks on Saturday night in response to a wonderful oration by the former Premier of Western Australia, Geoff Gallop, I indicated that I hoped it might not take us 800 years to get to the point where we, too, become a republic.

We have an opportunity now. I urge young women in Australia to think about the possibility of your contribution to making Australia an independent nation—to know in your hearts and desire in your practical action to bring about the change that will deliver a different perspective on Australia in the world at large, and to bring about in your actions and your desire the opportunity for an Australian to be our head of state. That is what we can achieve, collectively, in our desire to become a republic. Young women of Australia, we should not leave it to the men, who are predominant in this debate. Young women of Australia, there's a moment when you know that it's time to move on. As a former teacher, I have confidence in the young people of this nation. On 1 September, get your friends together, have a high tea, have a barbecue, or get together on a beach. Make sure you support a republic on 1 September. (Time expired)