Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

First Speech

5:00 pm

Photo of Wendy AskewWendy Askew (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is with great pride that I rise to deliver my first speech in this place. I have spent many hours over recent years in this beautiful building and I have immense respect for all it represents. As a result, I am humbled to be standing in this chamber as a senator for Tasmania.

At the outset, I would like to acknowledge the welcome I have received from you, Mr President, together with the Clerk, the Black Rod and the other officers of the Senate. You have been ready with welcome advice and assistance in recent weeks, which is much appreciated. I also acknowledge the warmth I have received from honourable senators around the chamber.

It was a great honour to be sworn in yesterday as the 605th senator in the Australian parliament and the 85th senator for Tasmania since Federation. I am acutely aware of the level of expectation and responsibilities that accompany the oath of office, and I intend to use my best endeavours to live up to the commitment that I have given to the people of Australia.

As you know, Mr President, I am standing here today following the resignation of David Bushby. David represented Tasmania with dedication and commitment over the past 11½ years. He was a proactive and influential member of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team, and I believe that as both deputy whip and then chief government whip in the Senate he earned the respect of those around him.

Many who come to serve their country in parliament can often identify the one person who instilled the initial thought that one day we could ourselves be elected to serve. Interestingly, that person for me was David during a conversation as far back as 2006. He is not only my predecessor but also my brother, and we were both greatly influenced by a challenge from our father, shortly before he died, to get actively involved with politics.

Growing up in Tasmania, I am the third and middle child of Max and Elaine Bushby. My father, Max Bushby OBE, was a member of the House of Assembly in Tasmania from 1961 to 1986 and Speaker of that house for four of those years.

My dad was a proud Tasmanian, who during his life worked in real estate and property development. He was a United Nations war correspondent during the Korean War, a lay preacher, and also very involved in numerous church and community organisations. Sadly, we lost him to prostate cancer in August 1994 at the age of 67—a great man, lost to us far too soon.

With Dad regularly absent from home due to parliamentary commitments, my mother, Elaine, was the backbone of our family in our formative years. She was also involved in many church and community organisations, and we all grew up with a clear understanding of the importance of making a difference in the world through active participation and a strong expectation.

Mum, who cannot be here today due to her deteriorating health, was also politically active, particularly through her long involvement in the National Council of Women in the area of policies affecting women. She was awarded life membership of that council for her efforts spanning more than 40 years, and I have often thought that she should have followed my father into politics. They certainly were a strong team, both in their marriage and in public life.

If she had decided to run for office, that would certainly not have been unprecedented in Tasmania. The first woman to enter our Australian parliament did just that. Dame Enid Lyons, the widow of Prime Minister Joe Lyons, was elected to the House of Representatives in 1943, representing the original United Australia Party in the then Tasmanian seat of Darwin—since renamed Braddon—in North-West Tasmania. She remained an MP until ill health led to her resignation in 1951. Her time in parliament was short but distinguished, and she went on to be active in public organisations for another 30 years.

Dame Enid Lyons was the first conservative woman from Tasmania to enter the federal parliamentary scene and, as senators will know, the first woman to be appointed to cabinet. Regrettably, since Dame Enid, there have been only two other conservative Tasmanian women elected to the federal parliament, until now.

Interestingly, all four women to represent Tasmania in Canberra have had family links. Two succeeded their husbands in parliament, and the other two of us were the daughters of politicians.

Shirley Walters was the first woman elected as a senator for Tasmania, from any party. She served from 1975 until 1993. Shirley's father was Sir Eric Harrison, who was deputy leader first of the United Australia Party and then of the Liberal Party under Prime Minister Robert Menzies. A leader at the time, Senator Walters was an early champion of the right of women to choose to be in the workforce or not. Teamed with former Labor senator Pat Giles, they made a formidable duo in developing policies in the social services and community affairs areas which were adopted by both major political parties. Their joint contribution has not been recognised enough.

Senator Walters was joined in the Senate by Jocelyn Newman in 1986. Jocelyn's husband, Kevin Newman, was the member for Bass, from the famous Bass by-election, from 1975 until 1984, and he was a minister for most of that time. Senator Jocelyn Newman was the Minister for Social Security from 1996 to 1998, and then Minister for Family and Community Services from 1998 to 2001. She also held the Status of Women portfolio during the period 1998 to 2001. Jocelyn resigned in 2002, leaving a lasting legacy in reshaping the delivery of social security entitlements, and being recognised as the minister responsible for establishing Centrelink.

It has often disappointed me that the Liberal Party has not better celebrated its achievement in areas of social policy. It was the Menzies government that introduced child endowment, the first governmental recognition of the additional costs borne by families. It was also a Liberal government that recognised the importance of adequate housing in the postwar era, and the first Australian woman to administer a department was Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, who was appointed Minister for Housing by Harold Holt on Australia Day 1966. She held that ministry for the next five years before achieving another first, as the first Australian woman to be appointed head of a diplomatic mission, as High Commissioner to New Zealand.

It's important that we remember the achievements of these trail-blazing women: Enid Lyons, Shirley Walters, Jocelyn Newman and Annabelle Rankin—all of them able politicians and all of them Liberals. I feel honoured and inspired to be standing in the shadow of such highly regarded and respected women. They are, however, just some who have paved the way for women in politics today.

We often hear about the need to increase the representation of women in politics. I agree. The simple truth is that we live in a representative democracy and it is self-evident that women comprise around 50 per cent of our populace. However, this is only one part of the equation. I also believe that we need diversity in all areas, be that age, gender, religious belief or work background. We rightly trumpet that Australia is a multicultural country, and we can reasonably hold up our example to the rest of the world of welcoming people from across the globe to be part of our community. But do our state and federal parliaments reflect this fact? They are beginning to—slowly—but it is a long journey and we still have a long way to go. In this regard, it is worth noting that, with the re-election of Liberal member Joan Rylah to the Tasmanian House of Assembly, 14 members in that 25-member chamber are now women. I believe that is the highest percentage in any parliament since Federation.

But the media seems a little fixated on parliaments. What is often not properly acknowledged, and celebrated, is the large number of capable elected women representatives in local governments across Australia. In my own state, there are 29 local councils, 12 of which are led by women mayors, such as the George Town mayor, Bridget Archer, and there are many more women councillors. Most large businesses see the merit of increasing female representation on their boards, which is only logical since I think they will find that many of their shareholders are women, especially women who hold shares through managed superannuation funds. But, in this public debate, the women who head up other organisations are often overlooked, including those who lead local community organisations, not-for-profit bodies, professional associations and—dare a Liberal say it—even trade unions and employee bodies. They are all part of the superstructure that contributes to our Australian society.

My journey to this place has been interesting and may vary from that of many honourable senators. I left school following matriculation, and my later study was undertaken after having my family. I sincerely believe that I have valuable experience which I bring to the deliberations of the Senate and its committees. I worked in the banking and financial sector. I've worked in the not-for-profit sector, and I have been privileged to serve on charitable boards. I have also worked in public service alongside a number of politicians and ministers at both a state and federal government level.

Through my banking career, I have been fortunate to be offered many opportunities to grow and learn. I was encouraged to advance into leadership and management positions, and I am grateful to the managers and colleagues who believed in me. The business, retail and commercial knowledge I gained in that banking experience has underpinned my career. It is true that the banking royal commission, so ably chaired by former Justice Kenneth Hayne, has shed light on poor practice not only in banking but also in other financial institutions. As the old saying goes, sunlight is the best disinfectant. However, the exposure of poor practice by some people in some banks and finance companies does, I submit, not truly reflect the vital work banks do in securing and strengthening our economy.

As someone who has spent the vast bulk of my working life in retail banking, I am the first to say that poor practices should be exposed and those undertaking them should be held to account. But it is important not to overlook the diligent work being undertaken by tens of thousands of loyal and committed staff who get great job satisfaction in assisting Australians with their everyday banking needs. The only thing that separates a bank officer from a bank customer is a counter. We all share the same pressures of home budgets, making ends meet, working out how to buy a house, planning for retirement and dealing with unexpected expenses which can arise. My experience with former banking colleagues and with senior managers is that almost everyone I met approached their job and their responsibilities with integrity and care for the circumstances of the individual customer. With this background, I welcome the Treasurer's announcement, delivered yesterday in the budget, of $35 million to support a corporate criminal jurisdiction in the Federal Court to address referrals for prosecutions stemming from the royal commission.

Another part of my career was working in the not-for-profit sector. For a short time I had the privilege of working with the StGiles Society in Tasmania, a disability provider originally formed to care for children affected by the polio outbreak in the 1930s. Eighty years later, StGiles now assists thousands of children and adults with disabilities each year across Tasmania. Growing up, our family lived quite close to the original StGiles complex. I remember as a young child attending the annual fete at StGiles with my parents and participating in the primary school choir when we visited to sing for the children. I always came away moved by that experience and inspired by the children, who were so positive and excited, despite the physical difficulties they faced and living in what was then a residential-style institution.

The future is certainly vastly different for people with disabilities. The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has changed the lives of so many people, giving them greater control over the services they use, and ownership and certainty over their future. This initiative, which was developed with bipartisan support, is a classic example of what can be done when we as politicians work together to achieve the best outcomes for the people of Australia.

As I alluded to earlier, I have worked with several members of parliament at a state and federal level. I would like to place on record my personal thanks to each of them for the opportunities they afforded me and their encouragement as I have pursued my aspirations over recent years. I particularly mention Guy Barnett, Michael Ferguson, Will Hodgman, Andrew Nikolic, Sarah Courtney and Dan Tehan. One thing they all have in common is a commitment to hard work and public service, which I may say has been my consistent experience in almost all of my interactions with members of parliament over the years, regardless of their political allegiance.

As a fifth-generation Tasmanian, I am enormously proud of my home state. It has been a great pleasure to see Tasmania flourish under the leadership of Premier Will Hodgman and his government since 2014. With the influence of strong fiscal leadership, the state has turned around and is leading in many indicators, including business confidence and investment, tourism growth and, most importantly, reversal of population decline. With world-leading ecotourism ventures, internationally acclaimed mountain bike trails and golf courses rated in the top 10 in the world, who wouldn't want to visit there or, even better still, move there. Tasmania's hidden secrets have been discovered, and our beautiful state is now attracting record numbers of tourists, with international tourist numbers up 15 per cent last year alone. Our population is growing, and many people from mainland states are making 'the Tassie change'—selling up and moving to Tasmania to enjoy our relaxed, healthy and very enticing lifestyle.

Of course, renewable energy is nothing new to any Tasmanian. We grew up thinking it was the norm. And it is worth remembering that, for all the spectacular achievements of the Snowy Mountains scheme, the Tasmanian network of dams and power generation built by the Hydro-Electric Commission and its successor is larger still. The federal government's recent announcement of the Battery of the Nation will significantly enhance this asset and Tasmania's status as a home of renewable energy.

I welcomed the Prime Minister's recent announcement that migrants will be encouraged to settle in regional Australia and that will be an incentive for them on the path to achieve permanent residency. It is a truism that our major cities on Australia's eastern seaboard are becoming overcrowded, with the associated infrastructure pressures that go with fast-increasing populations, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. It is also true that the Tasmanian government and employers in my state welcome new arrivals with open arms. I think my colleagues from South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory would echo those views. It is essential that our population policy recognises where the needs are and that the migration framework caters for that.

In welcoming permanent migrants, I think it is important for us to remind ourselves just why people choose to come to live in Australia. When asked, one of the common points they make is the stability of our government and our institutions. We might understand that Australians have a healthy cynicism about politicians, part of the tall poppy syndrome which may be seen to be part of our national make-up. But it is important to reflect that many in the waves of postwar migrants, who came to Australia because of the disruption in Europe of the two world wars, and many who have come in recent years from Asia expressed the same view about yearning for a country with stability, not only in government but in our courts and institutions; stability in gainful employment; and an education system they can rely on for their children. I believe it is a mistake to jettison the bedrock values that have been the foundation of Australia since European settlement, based on the misplaced view that this is what new migrants want.

One topical example comes to mind. Our system of government and laws is based on Judeo-Christian principles, and we begin the day's proceedings with a Christian prayer. Senators do not have to say the prayer or even be present in the chamber when it's said. There is no compulsion, but it has been a part of our parliamentary proceedings since the first meeting in 1901. There has been a proposal in Victoria to abolish the Lord's Prayer in that parliament. It was made by a minor party in that state's upper house. I want to place on record that it seems to me to be a particularly poorly timed proposal in the wake of the awful events in Christchurch. A response to intolerance should never, logically, be more intolerance. We respect those of all faiths who have come to Australia, or indeed those of no faith, just as we respect Australians born here according to their creed or belief. I have never heard one leader of a non-Christian faith call for the abolition of the Lord's Prayer in our parliament. These suggestions always come from other quarters, and, as I say, when unpacked, aren't at their core really about inclusion at all—quite the opposite.

On the theme of stamping out intolerance, one of the campaigns I look forward to supporting in the Senate is the initiative against cyberbullying. Every generation has its bullies, but the electronic age has given bullying a devastating and sinister new dimension. All of us have been shocked by examples of young Australians who have taken their own lives or who have been profoundly affected by bullying on social media, with their parents and other friends often totally oblivious. We as a parliament need to support all endeavours to stamp out this type of behaviour and at the same time establish safe-haven structures for those who are being bullied.

It is a great privilege to be standing here today representing the people of Tasmania on behalf of the Liberal Party. I thank the members of the party for the confidence they have shown in me; my Liberal Senate team colleagues Senators Abetz, Colbeck and Duniam; and the leadership of the Tasmanian division, especially state president Geoff Page and state director Sam McQuestin—I have known and worked with them for many years in a variety of capacities, and I thank them for their consistent advice and support.

I am very fortunate to have a wide circle of friends and colleagues, many of whom work in this building and some of whom are here today. There really are too many to mention by name. However, please accept my thanks for your guidance, support and friendship over many years. Having said that, I would like to acknowledge just two: Phil Connole and Don Morris. They are not just long-term friends but also mentors, and I thank them for their valued advice over many years.

To my staff, who, despite our short time together, are already a strong, cohesive team: thank you for your commitment, dedication and hard work, and thanks in anticipation for what I am going to ask you to do! None of us here could operate without the support of our staff.

I would also like to recognise those of my family who have joined me here today: my brothers, Peter and Michael, my sister, Helen, and sisters-in law Debbie, Janine and Jan, with her partner John. I am proud to see my son, Thomas, and his partner, Hannah. And I'd like, of course, to thank my husband, John. The encouragement and support you have all given to me is appreciated more than you will ever know. As a family, we are so fortunate to have such a close and supportive relationship, despite our geographical spread.

Although my mother could not join us today, I am sure that she is watching me from the Sandhill nursing home in Launceston, accompanied by my daughter, Amanda. I am confident that, like all mothers, she will be my greatest critic, but I know she will also be my most vocal supporter. Mum, you have always been an inspiration to me, demonstrating your Christian faith through the life you have lived and showering us with your unconditional love. We could not have asked for more.

Only a few months ago, I could not have contemplated being sworn in yesterday as a senator for Tasmania. None of us knows what the future holds. Whether my time in this place is long or short, I commit to serving the people of Tasmania to the best of my ability and to representing their views and aspirations in this place. I thank the Senate.

5:25 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! I remind senators this is the first speech of Senator Spender, and I ask them to maintain the normal courtesies.

Photo of Duncan SpenderDuncan Spender (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, senators, for indulging me with this opportunity, at the busy time that it is, to deliver my maiden speech. Like many of you, I will be facing the electorate in a matter of weeks. So, if I don't win, this speech will double as a maiden speech and a valedictory speech, which might be a first, so I might even get into Odgers, which is great.

In perhaps another first for a maiden speech, I will be promoting some policies that I know are unpopular. But that's because the Liberal Democrats craft policies intentionally not to maximise popularity but out of empathy for all people affected, including those people who are often dismissed or ignored in Australian politics.

By way of introduction, I admit to being a policy wonk. In 2001, when I was in the federal treasury department, a colleague, John Humphreys, and I created this libertarian party that we sneakily called the Liberal Democrats. It wasn't actually us being sneaky. We just read a lot of books about liberal democracy and we thought it was a good idea—honest. I've devoted all my adult life to studying and working in government, learning its many failings and trying to restrict it. For the past five years I've been former senator David Leyonhjelm's right-hand man, so I'll take credit for all the things that he said and did that you liked, and for everything else I'll leave the blame with David!

I'm a libertarian, which I think means we think about others when we think about policy. I'm a man, so I'll never need an abortion, but I think they should be legal. I'll never need breastfeeding aids, but I think they should be GST-free, just like water, milk and medical devices. And I'll never choose to carry pepper spray, but if others want to take up that option, they should be free to do so to defend themselves against vile thugs. I'm not really a drinker, but I think you should be free to drink at all hours. I've never been addicted to nicotine, but I think you should be able to vape instead of smoke cigarettes. I'm not a regular shooter, but I think shooting is a great pastime and sport that is constantly subject to unthought-out policy change. I'm more at home in front of a book than in the great outdoors, but I think that enthusiasts of four-wheel driving and other outdoor pursuits should be able to access public lands and waterways. And—unlike David Leyonhjelm—you'll never catch me on a motorbike, but if you and your mates like jumping on a motorbike, I will not declare you to be an outlaw bikie gang. This is typical of all libertarians. It's a live and let live philosophy. I'm not pretending that politicians from the Liberal Democrats are the only politicians that can show empathy; it's just that our political party is so naive that we let our politicians show their empathy even when it is politically suicidal to do so.

I acknowledge the Ngunawal people, whose ancestors owned this land. To me, land rights continues to represent a fantastic opportunity for self-determination, prosperity and security. I think our governments can do even better on land rights than what we've done in the past. We can avoid imposing conditions on land rights and we can remove the conditions that we've imposed in the past. If the Indigenous owners of Uluru want to stop people climbing Uluru, they should be free to do so. I believe that land rights should always be provided as freehold so that Indigenous owners have the security to make long-term investments. And I believe that land rights should be alienable so that Indigenous owners can borrow against the land and, if they choose, even sell land. And I believe that governments should assist with converting large land-holding bodies into smaller, separate land-holding bodies if Indigenous members wish for that.

I support a First Nations voice enshrined in our Constitution. The First Nations voice proposal is a modest proposal. It is a body that could be routinely ignored, and tasked with nothing, so it would be hardly a new ATSIC and it would be hardly a third chamber of parliament. Think about the Indigenous voices we most often hear. They are often associated with the delivery of existing government policies and have a vested interest in the continuation of those particular policies. If we had Indigenous leaders directly elected by Indigenous Australians, they could end up being the same people, in which case we would have gained nothing and lost nothing. But they could end up being different, in which case they could help us move on from the current failing status quo of policy.

Let me also just raise an alternative to having a standalone Indigenous body. We could provide those who identify as Indigenous Australians with the option at federal elections of voting in an Indigenous electorate rather than their local electorate, as New Zealand provides. This would conform with the important principle of one vote one value and it would also mean that Indigenous leaders elected by Indigenous Australians would be in the parliament, in the main game. Again, there is the risk that we would have uninspiring parliamentarians just asking for more taxpayer funds for existing Indigenous programs. But there is a chance that we could end up with leaders who are more inspirational and visionary than that.

The Liberal Democrats base their policies on empathy, but a political philosophy based on empathy is not a recipe for popularity because most policies have two sides. If your policies recognise that, they end up being based on tolerance and compromise rather than trying to attract the extreme. Think of the issue of environmental protection. Like many others, I believe that land clearing should stop, that habitats should be protected and that land should be reforested. But people who share these views invariably do not own the land that we are concerned about. It is lazy and inconsiderate to just wipe out the rights of landowners. Instead, concerned Australians should put their money where their mouths are and pay for the preservation and reforestation of land themselves. If we did this, Australia could be covered with conservation covenants, which are agreements where landholders are paid by concerned Australians to preserve and reforest their land. If we did this, the amount of land that would be protected would depend on how much we truly care about the environment.

Another way to assist in environmental protection would be to slow population growth. Unfortunately, the current population debate is mired in the immigration debate. But if we are serious about slowing population growth, we need to consider home-grown population growth. It might not be popular to say so but we need to think how we assist those with children. Australians should be free to have as many kids as they wish, but governments should not encourage people to have children, which they currently do by providing family payments of up to $10,000 per year per child. This is on top of parenting payments designed to keep low-income families out of poverty.

I propose that per-child family payments should continue for families with children and for those about to have children, but they should be phased out for those in the future who have children. This would only make a small contribution to slowing population growth, because it would be rare for financial assistance to contribute to determine how many children to have. But the contribution would be important and warranted. This approach would have regard to Australians without children, including those Australians who desperately want to have children but can't—those Australians who are paying money, through their taxes, to fortunate people like me who have received the gift of children. Unfortunately, in Australian politics Australians without children are forgotten. They are invisible.

Political parties also tend to fail to empathise with taxpayers in general, because parties get benefits from big-spending policy announcements where the costs are spread out across all taxpayers, and the taxes are hidden. But the Liberal Democrats will fight new spending proposals anyway.

A highly concerning new area of government spending is the millions of dollars of corporate welfare going to the private defence export industry. This is our very own grubby and creepy attempt to have our own military industrial complex. Right now, Australian taxpayers are subsidising companies to provide materiel, including remote weapons systems, to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—those repressive dictatorships that favour torture over freedom and human rights. It is absolutely galling that taxpayers are forced to support this putrid dealing with the devil.

Closer to home, a less extreme form of taxpayer abuse is the provision of age pensions to families and households that own million-dollar houses. This is the major parties buying votes by extending a payment intended for those who need it to those who don't. Another form of taxpayer abuse is the various policies to attempt to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, particularly the coalition's direct action plan, which involves paying emitters who promise, hand on heart, to emit at a level less than some arbitrary level.

I'm not pretending that the Liberal Democrats will be able to determine energy and greenhouse policy in Australia, but if the Liberal Democrats are re-elected to this crossbench and the coalition is re-elected to the government benches, the Liberal Democrats will vote against all extensions of the direct action plan to waste taxpayers' funds. And if Labor forms government, we will vote under their scheme that any money from emissions-intensive generators, like coal-fired generators, doesn't end up in the pockets of less emissions-intensive generators, like wind farms, but instead ends up in the pockets of Australians through income tax cuts and lower fuel taxes.

And any deal that we strike will involve the abolition of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and will involve the legalisation and regulation of nuclear power, the safest form of power there is.

Housing affordability

The Liberal Democrats' concern for households facing high electricity prices and high income taxes and fuel taxes also extends to households facing stamp duties.

Stamp duties are oppressive. They keep renters out of the housing market. In Sydney you need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to the state government, for nothing in return, to buy a house

If we abolished stamp duties, we would help renters without hurting existing homeowners, and existing homeowners would be helped, because they could move houses when they change jobs, rather than live their life in commuting hell.

The only way we could get of stamp duties is through Commonwealth leadership, because the states are addicted to stamp duty revenues.

I used to own my own house, and it was fantastic to do so. I could put up pictures on my own walls and I could dig up my backyard to my heart's content. More Australians should have this opportunity, but it will take leadership in this place to achieve it.


As well as dealing with the First World problem of getting Australians into their own homes, we should confront the reality that there are millions of refugees who would love to call Australia their home.

And we need to confront the reality that there are millions of Australians who don't want one more refugee in this country.

How do we deal with those two realities? How do we show empathy for refugees and empathy for those Australians who don't want a bar of them?

We need to reinvigorate the policy where concerned Australians, rather than taxpayer funded government agencies, fund, support and house refugees.

Think of all the cars emblazoned with the bumper sticker 'say yes to refugees'. Imagine if all those car owners said yes to housing in their own home and covering the expenses of, for as long as required, a refugee or refugee family.

We need to be the change we want to see in the world.

Western civilisation

In my last few minutes let me speak about liberal democracy, this system of Western civilisation based on empathy; where our friends have freedom of speech, religion, association, assembly and movement, and—more importantly—our enemies have freedom of speech, religion, assembly, association and movement; where laws apply to all equally regardless of colour and creed, where laws are made by elected officials, where laws apply from the moment they are enacted and not before and where laws do not seize property without just compensation; where you cannot be searched, you cannot be arrested and your property cannot be seized without probable cause; where you cannot be imprisoned unless your criminal act and your guilty mind are proved beyond reasonable doubt in a single trial not based on self-incrimination but based on evidence that you can criticise and scrutinise; and where contracts are routinely respected because of mutual trust, but, where disputes arise, contracts are enforceable by courts.

This is our liberal democracy, and it is often referred to as Western civilisation, even though there are great liberal democracies in the East. Some amongst us say they support Western civilisation but say that Western civilisation is under threat from external forces and that we need to compromise Western civilisation in order to save it. On each count they are wrong. Liberal democracy and Western civilisation is thriving. It is winning and it has been winning for decades. Those who seem to doubt this don't seem to realise how intoxicating liberal democracy is. People come from far and wide to liberal democracies and immediately love the tenets of liberal democracy and defend it. They become the staunchest defenders of liberal democracy.

Some decades ago Pauline Hanson, whom I wish a speedy recovery, said that we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Well, the Asians came and it was an absolute triumph. It was possibly the best decision Australia ever made. Australians of Asian descent are marching in our streets demanding action on climate change, and Australians of Asian descent are in our police forces supervising those protests. Australians of Asian descent are prosecuting criminals in our courts, and they're defending them as well. Australians of Asian descent are working in our businesses, and owning them as well. And, in a couple of weeks time, Australians of Asian descent will be manning our polling booths, sometimes in shirts of blue and sometimes in shirts of red. Liberal democracy won and keeps on winning.

More recently, Senator Hanson said that we were in danger of being swamped by Muslims and suggested that we ban immigration from certain Muslim majority countries. But the overwhelming majority of Muslim migrants are already converts to liberal democracy, not radical Islam. In fact, many of them are fleeing radical Islam. We have well-resourced security agencies to pre-empt and detect attacks from radical Islam, but the absolute strongest defence we have is the overwhelming support in our communities for the opposing philosophy, liberal democracy. Those who fear radical Islam sometimes suggest that we should do away with tenets of liberal democracy, like non-discriminatory immigration, freedom of association and freedom from arbitrary detention. But, out of fear of radical Islam, they are providing a lifeline to radical Islam. Instead, we should support our liberal democracy because liberal democracy will always beat the unattractive weakling that is radical Islam.

Mr President, I, hopefully, have conveyed to you how the Liberal Democrats stand for liberal values and how, no matter who the Liberal Democrat politician is, we all share the same principles. We are a force for stability where other parties are subject to the whims of focus groups and changing leaders. The Liberal Democrats will always fight for free speech, a lower tax burden, the end of the nanny state, the end of the police state and the end of the war on drugs. We will fight for power so we can leave you alone.

Unlike other maiden speeches, I won't be thanking a list of people who have helped me in my achievements, simply because I'm a casual appointee and I haven't achieved anything to date. I will just again thank the senators for indulging me with this opportunity, and I wish the best of luck to those senators who are facing re-election. Thank you.