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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31775

Mr ORGAN (11:59 AM) —As the House adjourns for the winter recess and members return to their electorates, it is timely to reflect upon the work of this place, upon the needs of the people of Cunningham, upon those who support the work of members of this place and upon the increasing importance of the Greens in the political landscape of this nation. A lot has been achieved since I was elected on 19 October 2002, and I look forward at the next election to being joined in this House by more Greens and also to the number of Greens senators increasing substantially.

The Australian public continues to look to the Greens as the third major force in Australian politics, and the differentiation between us and the major parties continues to be striking. We only have to look at the Prime Minister's so-called green energy statement last week to realise that the future wellbeing of this nation does not lie with the LiberalNational coalition. They are too tied to vested interests to develop a broad enough vision which puts at its head the wellbeing and prosperity of every Australian, not just a few. Likewise, we have seen the opposition under a new leader go into small target mode prior to an election and stand behind the government on major issues. How many backflips have we seen this week? Labor have backflipped on the FTA and there is the disgraceful sell-out of the PBS, increasing the copayment by $4.90 for every script in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich as part of one of their pre-election promises. The differentiation between the Greens and the major parties continues to be stark, and the voters of Australia know this. The Greens are a party of principle, and we have seen a decided abandonment of principle by the opposition in this place in recent months. The government are, however, true to form and the sooner we get rid of them the better.

As I said, the winter break gives us a chance to work in our electorates, talk to people, find out their concerns and bring those concerns to the attention of government and bureaucracy. As every member of this place knows, our staff play a vital role in ensuring that we remain focused on serving the needs of our constituents. I have been privileged to have some wonderful staff working with me over the past 19 months, and I would like to make reference to some of them. They include Ian Miles, my first campaign manager, and my original staff, Nadine Torney, Allison Gibbons and Lorraine Woods, who helped me through the first three hectic months amidst a sharp learning curve. My present and most recent staff include Allan Clark, Carol Berry, Kristian Bolwell, Theresa Huxtable, Sharon Callaghan, Stewart Jackson and Jason Hart, not to mention the many volunteers who have enthusiastically given of their time, such as Sue Sergent. Also of great assistance have been numerous people in the Greens who have provided their time, energy, enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge to help support the historic Cunningham election victory. I would most especially like to mention Senators Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle and former staffer Ben Oquist.

The other big element in our lives as members of this place is our families. Their love, help and guidance, usually on a daily basis, are integral in ensuring that we are able to best serve the people of Australia. I want to thank my wife Jeanette, my sons Andrew and Kyle, my mother Roma, my sister Denise, my brother Terry and my many nieces and nephews, all of whom have played a role in support and in areas such as babysitting so that the time constraints inherent in the role of a federal member of parliament do not completely subsume the needs of the family. Countless friends and supporters also play an important role.

It is sobering to remember that, as we discuss matters of national and international import in this place, it is to the local electorate—our local community—that we must answer. As I speak, my community, my friends, are going about their normal lives and also fighting to ensure that the quality of life they enjoy is passed down to their children and their children's children, to ensure that we make the world a better place to live in. For example, the people of the northern Illawarra are once more fighting Wollongong City Council to ensure that the Sandon Point Aboriginal tent embassy and the Sandon Point community picket are not forcibly closed or removed by Wollongong City Council. The fight for Sandon Point—to protect, for example, its nationally significant Aboriginal burial sites and other culturally significant areas—has been going on since the late 1980s. The federal, state and local governments have continually worked against the local community and let them down, but the fight continues and many issues remain unresolved.

A jackbooted approach by Wollongong City Council at this point in time will solve nothing. Council is supposed to represent the community, yet with regard to Sandon Point it has been an abject failure. It has merely represented the interests of the developers, who care nought for the cultural and environmental heritage values of the site or the quality of life of the local people. It is issues such as Sandon Point and, for example, the increase to the PBS announced just yesterday which impact harshly on the people of Cunningham and which it is my clear role to address. I am honoured by this opportunity to be the federal member for Cunningham, and I look forward to continuing in that role and working hard with my staff, supporters and the people of Cunningham in the months and years ahead. (Time expired)