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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 587


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (16:41): I begin this speech by acknowledging the traditional owners and thanking them for their continuing stewardship. It has been just over six years since we had the very first welcome to country in this parliament, under Prime Minister Rudd. It occurred before parliament started, out in the foyer, under the flag. It was a long time coming, but I am proud to say that that practice has continued. It happens every day in this parliament under a range of speakers.

Soon after that welcome to country was the apology to the stolen generations. When I look back on my six years here, I see that as my best day in parliament. There have been many good days since then, obviously. Today, welcoming into the parliament the new member for Griffith, Terri Butler—following in the footsteps of former Prime Minister Rudd—has been a good day. I welcome and look forward to working with the new member for Griffith. While acknowledging former friends, I also acknowledge the former member for Petrie, Yvette D'Ath, on her win on the weekend.

I would also like to acknowledge one of my constituents who is up in the gallery, Laurie Woods DFC, from Sunnybank. I know Laurie well. I will talk a little bit about Laurie in acknowledging him. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force in June 1942, at the tender age of 19. He only looks like he is in his late fifties; he is a little bit older. Laurie has some great books out. He is here on a book-selling tour at the moment. His books are great yarns about his time as a bomb aimer with No. 460 Squadron at RAAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire. He recalls that, by October 1944, only eight of the 49 air crew—who made up seven crews—posted to No. 460 Squadron were left alive. He tells the tale of a raid on Wanne-Eickel. When an aircraft was damaged and the pilot was wounded, Laurie had to fly the plane.

It is good to have a constituent here, Laurie. He is here having a bit of a look around Parliament House. I know him from the Sunnybank RSL. I know you were not the navigator, Laurie, but I will give you some orientation for Parliament House. We are on the eastern side. We have green carpet over here. Think of it like the military. There are 150 members of the House of Representatives, on this side of the flagpole. Think of them like the Army. The 150 House of Reps people do all the grunt work. Then, on the other side of the flagpole, on the western side, you have red carpet. It should really be white carpet, because they are like the Navy, the white ensign. We do not really know what they do over there, on the other side of the flagpole, but they are a bit like the Navy—they are important; they serve a role. But we all know, Laurie, that the most important part of Parliament House is not the front, where the public is and where you came in, but the blue-carpeted part out the back. That is just like the military; it is like the RAAF: everyone, whether they are on the green carpet or the red carpet—in the Reps or in the Senate—all want to be on the blue carpet. It is just like the ADF: everyone wants to be in the air force. Isn't that right, Laurie? I will take that interjection: 'The air force is the best!'

On a more serious note, I would like to thank you, Laurie, and the generation you represent, because not all of your flying comrades are here and not all of your military comrades are here with us today, but I do thank you and your generation for the bravery that you showed. Laurie is here with his and my publisher, Dan Kelly, who runs a printing business in my electorate. It is good to see you as well, Dan Kelly.

It really is a privilege to be able to speak in this 44th Parliament, and I am here today because of the incredible support I received from people like Laurie and the good people of Moreton, and from many volunteers, including people from the Australian Labor Party. So, to all of my friends and comrades from the union movement, to the community groups, to the organisations, to the branch members, and to my family: I thank you for the great work that you have done. I am going to mention some of those in particular: Julieanne Campbell from the AMWU, who was the volunteer coordinator, skilfully organised people to tell that Labor story. We did not have money for billboards like my opponent did; we did not have a lot of fundraising money coming our way, but we were able to go out and tell that Labor story of the things that we believe in: justice, equity and opportunity—three principles laid down on a base of dignity, employment and education. These are the things that we bring to the Australian story. I also thank Trent Abberfield from the CPSU who helped coordinate the ability to tell those stories to the people of Moreton.

I thank the community leaders. I know it is dangerous when you start mentioning some, and I will not cover all of them; I know I will not. But I would particularly like to mention Lewis Lee, who worked tirelessly throughout the campaign and has done so over the last decade or so for the people of the south side, irrespective of what political party they are connected with. I thank Melody Chen, Peter Kao, Professor Choui, Wayne Ko, Anthony Lin, Danny Yo, Peter Low, Stanley Hsu, Janeth Deen and Mustafa Ally, to name but a few.

I would also like to mention three of the hardest working Brisbane City councillors: my local councillor Steve Griffiths; Milton Dick, from the Richlands Ward; and also Nicole Johnston, who is actually not a member of the Labor Party—she is not from my tribe—but who is a great, fantastic local advocate who is always prepared to tell people what the truth is in her electorate, irrespective of the consequences. To all three of you: your support and advice on council issues was critical for the campaign we ran in Moreton.

I say so because one of the important issues was the 'Sardine City' plan which is being imposed on the people of the south side of Brisbane. I know that there is more work to be done and I am committed to carrying out more information and education campaigns about Lord Mayor Graham Quirk's 'Sardine City' plan. Also, the person who will actually be signing off on that plan when it goes to the state government will be the former lord mayor, the now premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman. He will be signing off on the 'Sardine City' plan and the incredible consequences it will have for people all over Brisbane, with much smaller backyards on much smaller lots. People will not even be consulted about what is taking place next door: you will not know that a set of units is going up until you see a tradesman's ute turn up. That is not the way that you consult with the community.

So there is more to be done. I know that we have to contact the state members connected with the south side of Brisbane—all over Brisbane, really—to make sure they understand that people are unhappy with this proposed Brisbane City plan, a plan that would forever change the character of the suburbs on the south side of Brisbane. If you have driven around that area, you know the old Queenslanders—the tin and timber that makes Queensland homes special. We will instead have no more verandahs or backyards to speak of.

I know that you need development—I am not one of those who is just focused on the 1950s—and I know that climate change is real, so we just cannot keep building further and further away from our community facilities, particularly when we have a federal government that has made a commitment not to fund public transport. That means that we cannot go further and further away. We have to have appropriate development. But it must be appropriate and it must be done in consultation with our communities. Do not hide from people like you are doing; you must have fair dinkum consultation—fair dinkum community meetings—to give people a chance to speak up, otherwise their communities will be changed forever, and we would not want it to happen in places like Moorooka or Chelmer or Graceville or Sherwood, or anywhere, basically, in Brisbane. We need to keep consulting and engaging with the community. It should not be something that people are scared of, even when it is an unpalatable discussion you are going to have. So we cannot let Campbell Newman and his white-shoe-brigade mates change our suburbs without any consultation or input from people on the south side.

I also thank the many wonderful activists from the 10 Labor Party branches that touch on Moreton. I am in the Walter Taylor branch, and I know that they are the best branch, but I also thank all of the other branches and the people who stepped up to do work: Sally from the Annerley branch was indefatigable, was seen everywhere, and really made sure that the Annerley branch continued that tradition of covering a much broader area than they actually represent. I will also mention some other activists: Cam Crowther; Rod Beisel; Sandeep Sarathy; Ricky Lee; Joan McGrath; Alice Orwat; Phil Day; Norm Bullen; Joanne Phillips; Jesse Thompson; Ines Almeida; Felix Gibson, who was the school captain of Nyanda State High School, the school that was closed down under the Newman government; Craig Wood; Jennifer and Dallas Elvery; Brendan Crotty; Sam Pigeon and all of the education people associated with those guys; Michael Oliver; Ken Boyne; Annamarie Newton; and former councillor Mark Bailey, who was also a great help with the 'Sardine City' campaign that I mentioned earlier. There are hundreds of other volunteers whose names I do not have time to go through—people who spent months and, in some cases, years going out and knocking on doors, telephoning people, and going out and doing street stalls. I was starting to think that Sally only lived on street stalls and did not have a home to go to, I saw her out so often!

I know that is a hard slog when you have policies that people have questions about, but obviously the Labor Party will only thrive when we have the ability to sit down and talk to people—to look into their eyes and say, 'This is the reasoning behind the policy; this is what we believe in; this is what we bring to the Southside.' The story in Moreton was tough. On election night 13 seats that had a bigger margin than mine fell, so it was a tough night for Labor with nearly 18 seats falling. I was fortunate enough to have a swing to me, and a lot of it goes back to the work of those volunteers in my electorate on a night when not many Labor people did have a swing to them.

I will mention my wonderful office staff: Kate, who comes to Canberra with me; Norma, who organises basically my entire life; Isaac, who, sadly, has gone back to university via Europe to become a schoolteacher and will not be in the office anymore; Peter, who always has time for individual complaints; Andrew, Melanie and Lee. I thank them and their families, because so many of their children and loved ones missed them during the election campaign because they were working above and beyond for Moreton. I make special mention of Lee Lunney, who is on maternity leave and actually delivered her baby the day before the election, probably one of the last babies in Queensland born under Prime Minister Rudd. Sid Coggins, I say hi to you. I hope you will not be too old before you get to experience another Labor Prime Minister—maybe before your third birthday even. I thank Terry Wood and Matt Jutsum especially, but the person with her hand firmly on the rudder of the good ship Moreton is my great friend and former union comrade Ros McLennan. Ros, your management of the campaign with Jules and Terry and the leadership team ensured that it ran precisely like a fine quality Swiss watch.

Finally, to my own family, to my boys Leo and Stanley and my wife Lea: thank you for the sacrifice that you have made because of my political career. I believe that every politician who is a parent is selfish. You have to be to be a politician who is connected with your electorate. Obviously our families make the sacrifice because of our commitment to our electorates, and I know the people of Moreton appreciate the fact that you were able to let me spend so much time with them rather than with you. I know that that is a sad part of being a politician. Not a day goes by in this chamber and in my office when I do not remember the sacrifices made by the hundreds of hard-working volunteers, and I will never forget those who gave so much. I say that because when I walk down the hall going to my office I have an entire wall of photographs of all the volunteers, so I know you are watching me making sure that I do my job well. I promise that I won't let you down.

I won't let you down, because I believe in striving for a brighter future—I believe in that light on the hill. It is what the Labor Party is about. We look to the future, not behind us with rose-coloured glasses dreaming about a past that never existed. I believe in tomorrow and what it can bring for all, not just looking at the past. When I first rose in this House six years ago, I promised to deliver for the people of Moreton. The best way to check on whether a politician has met their KPIs is to look at their first speech. I had a look at my first speech, and in that I made a commitment to rolling out sound barriers on Riawena Road, and that was delivered in 2008. I talked about the Toohey Road bike path, and that was delivered on 3 June 2009. The Acacia Ridge Elizabeth Street rail overpass, something that I had been campaigning on since 2003, was delivered on 5 June 2009. I also made mention of the Chinese war memorial, which Laurie would know all about because it is at the Sunnybank RSL, in consultation with the Chinese diaspora. The first sod was turned by Ralph Seeto, representing the Chinese community, and Phil Lep, representing Sunnybank RSL, on 16 July 2010. It is still a wonderful part of the community and the legacy continues every year where there is a student from local schools who also tells the story of those Chinese Australians, who were not citizens but were able to die in the service of their country. A big commitment I made going way back to 2003 was the Kessels and Mains Road upgrade. If you are in Moreton today you can actually drive under that overpass. It has taken forever and it still has a long way to go, but you can drive under the overpass today. The first sod was turned in January 2012 with the member for Grayndler after it was announced in the 2011 May budget. It should even finish early. The Southside community centre has been purchased and opened and is now being renovated in Marooka.

Six years ago I also spoke in my first speech about the importance of organ donation, because a friend of mine had just died. The Rudd government's reform of the organ donor system is one of the most significant yet one of the least-talked-about achievements of the previous government. When we assumed the government benches, organ donation was sitting at around 10 donors per million of the population, which I think everyone would agree is disgraceful. Since then, the rate has steadily risen to 15.6 and it is heading north. There is more to be done and it is bipartisan; there is a joint ticket on that one. Despite this outstanding achievement, Australia still has one of the lowest levels of organ donation in the developed world. Organ donation saves lives, and I remain committed to ensuring that this trend continues.

Another topic I mentioned in my speech was racism and the Racial Discrimination Act. I think I was elected by the people of Moreton, which is a very multicultural electorate, because I represent their values. In 2007, I ran in an election against a sitting member who had said in a radio interview: 'My community is being exhausted by African refugees.' Surely this was an opportunity to appeal to the lesser angels in Australian society. In my first speech, I made my position on racism and hate very clear:

Contrary to earlier misguided statements, I do not see an exhausted community. Instead, I see suburbs full of people who are committed to getting on with and helping their neighbours.

I think that we need to be eternally vigilant to make sure that the people of Moreton and the people of Australia understand racism.

I am concerned about the Attorney-General's intention to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. I think that is misguided. I think that bigoted and vitriolic abuse can seriously damage one's mental health, break down community cohesion and sometimes lead to acts of physical violence. That can start with that sort of behaviour. We too often see people fanning the flames, like Alan Jones did back around the time of the Cronulla riots when he called those young men 'vermin' and 'mongrels'. That sort of stuff should never be tolerated. I am disappointed with the Attorney-General for taking this approach.

I also made a commitment to the people in my electorate that I would take steps to introduce religion as a ground of discrimination so that you can make a complaint. You can do it in Queensland under the anti-discrimination laws, and the world has not ended in Queensland because of the people's capacity to do that. So I reassert my commitment to the constituents who approached me about that, and I will work with my community to make sure that we advance that.

Obviously, what we are as the Labor Party always takes a bit of a recalibration after an election. We need to be the party of vision. We need to do the heavy lifting when it comes to making sure that Australia has a way forward. Recognising Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in the Constitution is a good start. Signs and symbols represent the real world beyond. I know that we can appeal to the better angels—we have done it with refugees in the past—and not to the lesser angels, which occurs when racism and riots break out. (Time expired)