Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Statements by Senators
John Lennon Educational Tour Bus
As we round off this year—and this could possibly be my last contribution for this year or, who knows, the last one for this parliament, I don't know; Senator Cash might have a fairer idea than me—I want to go out on a happy note. I want to share with the Senate and those who are listening a magnificent project that we are going to have in this country very soon. It was brought to my attention in 2016 through a very, very close friend of mine, the one and only Robbie Williams—not the part-time singer that has recorded millions and millions of dollars worth of music, but my mate Robbie Williams from Fremantle—through a good mate of his, Mr John Goldsmith: the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. This is a multimillion dollar, multifaceted mobile recording studio that runs through the roads of the United States. It's been going for 21 years. There is one in Europe that's been running since 2013. It gives the opportunity for kids in schools to put down music, write songs, make recordings, tell stories, make short films—all sorts of things—as it rolls around the United States and Europe.
I got on the bus in September of 2016 in New York. I was at the Come Together New York tenancy launch of the Lennon bus, where I had the pleasure of meeting the co-founder and CEO, Mr Brian Rothschild, and also got to meet Yoko Ono. There was a thought that maybe we could borrow the European bus for a three-year tenancy here in Australia.
Yes, that's correct, Senator Farrell—in Iceland. I looked at it and thought, 'What a great idea.' Imagine something like this rolling through the highways and byways of Australia, giving Australian kids in remote and rural communities what American kids have been experiencing for 21 years and Europeans now for five or six.
I have to say this. I don't have a lot of time, and there's so much to say. I will have a lot more to talk about as we come closer and closer. When I came back to Australia, my first mission was to reach out to the other side of the chamber about such a wonderful project as this and what it could mean for rural and regional kids. My first port of call was my good mate Senator Barry O'Sullivan from Queensland. We don't agree politically on very much most of the time, but one thing we do agree on is the opportunity for kids in the bush to advance their skills and their education. So Senator O'Sullivan partnered with my good self and off we went. We were on a mission to get an Australian build.
Our first port of call was one of the biggest supporters apart from Senator O'Sullivan and me: Senator Nigel Scullion, the minister. The minister could actually see what that would mean not only to his part of the world in the Northern Territory but to all the remote communities. So Senator Scullion has been a dynamo on this, assisting us to try to get the funding to get this project off the ground. I must also congratulate Minister Ken Wyatt, the Minister for Indigenous Health. Mr Wyatt, as we would all know, is passionate about giving Aboriginal children and kids in the bush the opportunity to develop their skills, their educational learning and all sorts of stuff.
I'm really pleased that, when I asked Yoko if we could do the Australian bus, she said of course we could. There are absolutely no problems. Part of the work of the bus is not only to give the kids the opportunity to put down their music, to write songs and tell stories, incorporating culture, history and all sorts of things; it is also the ability for the kids to learn of the work of John and Yoko. Those of us who are here in this building with a little bit of grey in their hair and those who haven't got grey but were blessed to grow up with the music of the Beatles are mindful of their fine work not only in music and recordings but with John and peace and love. Part of the kids' teaching and recording opportunities is learning of the work of John and Yoko on racial integration, peace, harmony, activism, love—all of it.
As we roll through, there are times in this place when we can have some fierce debates. There are times, particularly towards the end of the year, when people are tired and want to get home and get out of the madness of the Senate and the House of Representatives, but, I am pleased to say, with the constant support of Senator O'Sullivan at my side, the light at the end of the tunnel is not another train coming. I'm pleased to say that we've got two ministers who are very keen to see this project happen and to see that this bus is built. Then it will be up to the John Lennon foundation Australia to head off and start raising the money to get this thing rolling out. The bus will be crewed by Australians. It will be built by Australians. It will be operated by Australians. Part of the work of Senator O'Sullivan and me was to say we needed some credibility—not only for the Lennon bus but about with who would be the face of the Lennon bus in Australia. To get the opportunity from Yoko to have John's name and his image is no mean feat, let me tell you, for us music lovers and those of us who grew up with the Beatles' and John's work. This is the most highly regarded franchise in the world, and Yoko, through Brian Rothschild, has put her faith in Senator O'Sullivan and me, and the Australian government, to carry this through. It is wonderful.
Senator O'Sullivan tells me he does a great 'Amazing Grace' in the shower, as long as he's got his face in the corner. I'm happy to say he could pick a lot of songs, but, anyway, that's his choice. He'll probably get the opportunity to record along with me. I don't know how the kids are going to get time when we're there, Senator O'Sullivan. What Senator O'Sullivan and I agreed on was to get some musical credibility. In this land, we couldn't think of anyone more fitting than one Michael Chugg. We approached Chuggy, and we're happy to say that Chuggy is more than happy to come on board. I don't think anyone doesn't know Chuggy—thank you, Chuggy, for that, mate. We look forward to your experience and to your passion for Australian music and for giving kids the opportunity to get the music out there. We've also got Mark Pope on board as part of our team. You can google Mark: he's got a very extensive history of band management, managing the ARIAs and a host of other things that I don't have time to go through. They are two of the finest that I could get. Senator O'Sullivan and my wish is not only for the kids. Can you imagine the opportunity, the experience, for musicians out there who haven't got records in the charts to have members of the industry brought in on the bus and sharing their wealth of experience and knowledge with kids in the bush? We are seriously out there with the hand of friendship, as well. We know that businesses will want to get on board. We know that because a lot of businesses have said: 'What a magnificent idea that is. How do we get involved?' That's up to the foundation to work out.
I wasn't satisfied with just one visit to the bus. Brian Rothschild invited Senator O'Sullivan, Chuggy and me to New York—last year?—this year. Time does fly when you're having fun! We attended the 2018 Come Together New York City launch of the bus. We were pleased to be in the presence of Ringo Starr. We think we're pretty important, but when you're around the likes of Ringo Starr and Yoko Ono, we pale into insignificance in about one minute. We were happy to see the wonderful feeling around the bus. Not only that, they re-enacted the 1969 bed-in. That was interesting. We didn't get an invite, Senator O'Sullivan and I—we had to stand by the bus and watch. For those of you who may be interested, Senator O'Sullivan and I did an interview on the Beatles Facebook page, didn't we, mate? We actually hit the big time. I'm sure most of the people watching that interview probably thought, when they looked at Ringo: 'Geez, that face is familiar. Who's that bloke standing next to Sully and Sterly?'
In closing, it is a magnificent feeling when you can put down the political bulldust that goes on between us in these chambers and ask: 'What can we as senators do together to improve our nation, to improve opportunity for our kids, and'—in Senator O'Sullivan and my case—'to improve opportunity in rural and regional Australia?' I know that Senator O'Sullivan and I have made this very clear as we've travelled and traversed our states and gone into the remote areas. We have garnered support from a myriad of organisations—I know how hard Senator O'Sullivan has worked; it will be up to him to share the good news—of the like of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and others, but I know the Aboriginal corporations and the educators that I have worked with extensively in the Kimberley can't wait for the opportunity to have this big blue bus roll through their town. Nothing would give me even greater pleasure than, one day, Senator O'Sullivan and me being somewhere and a young lady or a young man coming up to us and saying: 'You know what, you two? I never knew I could sing or play a musical instrument. I didn't realise I could get my creativity out. But it happened the day the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus rolled into my town in outback Queensland,' or WA. Thank you very much to the ministers who are supporting this project. It is an absolutely wonderful opportunity for kids in the bush.