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Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Page: 1004


Mr SIMPKINS (7:39 PM) —Back home in Cowan I speak a lot about personal responsibility and about being the best person that you can be. I speak a lot about confronting one’s own problems by asking the questions: what part did I play in this adversity? What decisions did I make that may have caused this problem or made the circumstances worse? This is a lesson that I try to get local teachers to impart to young people within the electorate of Cowan.

These are important questions to ask so that you can move on and improve yourself. The last thing we should be doing is focusing narrowly on the part others may have played in our problems. After all, we are not in control of others, only ourselves. This is a key to being positive rather than negative. I believe that, if you concentrate on how you are a victim of bad luck, how there is a conspiracy against you or how society is against you, it is nothing more than an excuse for not trying and only accepting easy options.

To help make the point, I will mention my time in the sport of rowing. At high school, before I made the first eight, we used to train three times a week for the two terms of the rowing season. One of those days was regatta or competition day, and there was very little cross-training, such as running or weight training. On each regatta day we would come last or second last. We used to concentrate on the age-old error of wearing our lucky socks, confident that it would be all right on the day. Relying on luck is like relying on superstition: there is no basis for it. If we said we were unlucky or that the other crews were bigger than us, I now acknowledge that we were in fact looking for excuses for our unwillingness to train harder and longer. We were seeking to shift the blame for our poor performances. In other words, it was not our mistake or lack of effort; it was our opponents having an unfair advantage or another excuse to hide behind a poor attitude.

The point therefore is that, if you try hard and make the effort, you can succeed. This was a lesson I learnt when I was 16 years old. Achievement and success come through hard work and not luck. I sometimes wonder how many people have learnt that lesson in life. Every time a person with limited money buys a lotto ticket or goes to a casino, I suspect that they have surrendered their hope to luck or superstition. They do not trust in their own hard work, their own commitment, but rather they are saying, ‘I’m no longer in control of my destiny.’ They are saying that they surrender control of their future to a game of chance. This is a tragedy made worse when children grow up in households where parents provide this sort of example.

This brings me to my main point. As adults, we are in leadership positions. Everything we do or say is an example to our children and those around us of how to live our lives. Some months ago I met a 12-year-old girl whilst breaking up a fight between young Somalian and Maori people. After 15 years in the Army, I had still not heard such swearing as I heard from that girl. Whilst at a primary school graduation in December I heard that the same girl’s mother had taken the one-off payments for her children and had gone back to New Zealand for a holiday. I worry for the future of that girl, given the leadership example she has in her life.

Similarly, I had a conversation with the mother of a young Indigenous woman who had been arrested for breaking and entering and making a threat to kill as part of a feud. The mother had encouraged her daughter to go to a house to confront another young woman. The mother believed that the aggression and violence were appropriate. With regard to the fight, she even said to the local police sergeant, ‘This is the way we sort things out in our culture.’ I do not believe that that is true. In the end, this mother wanted to make a complaint about the police. Clearly, she saw the problem as being the reaction of the police. I worry about this sort of leadership, when children see adults blaming others for their problems. They blame the police or society, instead of looking in the mirror and being critical of their own actions.

Each of us is in control of our destiny and, particularly as parents, we exercise great control over our children’s futures. Our children’s attitudes and commitment to hard work and education are being developed by what they see their parents do from the time they are toddlers. Parents who put themselves first, promote aggressive behaviour or put their faith in luck or superstition provide nothing more than bad examples that undermine their children’s futures and the future of our country. If you are looking for who is at fault in times of personal adversity then you should start by looking in the mirror, not by looking for someone to blame. This is the way we can be the best people we can be. We should encourage those around us to take responsibility for themselves and be the very best people that they can be.