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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1691


Mr BYRNE (Holt) (09:33): It was put to me recently by some very good people that we live in a divided country that has a story that it is not telling right and that is not reflecting its best aspects, a country that has a story of talking about the political minutiae of fighting each day when people have got pretty large concerns outside of this place, like fighting the global financial crisis, dealing with paying their bills and taking their kids to school. In my view, what they are looking for is a united vision from this place for the future of this country, about what it can be, what it could be and what it is. Often when there is reporting about this place in this country it is pretty fragmented. I agree with the Crikey journalist Bernard Keane, who recently said that it is broken down into a 'sub atomic discussion'. Sometimes we need to lift our heads above the parapets of this place and think about what makes our country great. My view is that what makes our country great is our people. In this place, I want to in a small way make a contribution to the national debate by talking about our people. I have done this through various ceremonies, such as the Community Spirit Award. That is awarded before Christmas each year. Fifty schools participate. It is awarded to students who make an active contribution to improving the life of their community. It is a very successful ceremony, with a very large number of people attending. It is the community coming together to celebrate the students that make their schools a better place, working together for the common good.

We also have the Holt Australia Day Awards, which are also very successful. Reading the citations that are presented to the community members who we honour on that national day always amazes me. There is an incredible amount of work done, often underneath the radar, often unrecognised. These people do not put themselves forward for recognition; these are people who are achieving in a quintessential Australian way stuff that makes this country great. They are the glue that binds our community and our society together. I figure that what we need to do in this place is talk more often about them, because they are the people who make our country work in many instances.

What I am proposing to do as of today but for every week for the next 52 weeks is take a person from my electorate and put their details on Facebook, on Twitter and on my web page. I am going to tell their stories. I do not really care if the national media does or does not like it. It is not their job, but it is my job, and I am going to continue to talk about these people until people understand what makes this country great: its people united together for the common good.