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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Page: 148

Mrs MARKUS (7:35 PM) —Elected office is nothing to be taken lightly. It calls for people with dedication to the community and a willingness and desire to make a positive contribution. What is disappointing for the Australian people is those members who are more interested in malicious and false personal attacks. Today in the Senate this ugliness manifested itself again through Senator Hutchins’s comments about me. Once more those members of the Australian Labor Party in Western Sydney who resent the choice made by the people of Greenway at the last election resorted to gutter politics and unsubstantiated attacks—attacks so malicious that the senator was forced to withdraw them.

Senator Hutchins cannot understand why Labor did not win Greenway in 2004. It was supposed to be ‘safe’. Well, guess what? It is exactly that brand of arrogance and complacency that is one of the core reasons that seats like mine fell to the coalition. Comments alleging that I had somehow corrupted the process of government, that ‘my guilt grows thicker’ and that I ensured a Hillsong Emerge project and other Community Partners projects received National Crime Prevention Program funding are plainly defamatory. It is an abuse of parliamentary privilege. He knows that should these comments be made outside the chamber they would be treated with the contempt they so richly deserve. But as long as the ALP continue these tactics in Western Sydney they will continue to be disappointed.

So let us get a few facts straight. Firstly, I will always fight for outcomes for my community. I did write a letter of support for that particular project—as I did for many other projects from Greenway that applied for funding, including a successful project from the Blacktown MRC. Secondly, as much as the ALP would like to blame an extravagant bankrolling from Hillsong for their loss in Greenway it is simply not the case. No funding was given to my election campaign by the Hillsong Church—none whatsoever. I urge the people of Greenway to look very closely at the tactics employed by the ALP. These tactics are used because they cannot come up with anything else—no positive policy debate, just ugly personal attacks.

Thirdly, I had no undue influence over the passage of this application. Time and again I have rebutted this accusation. I was at one stage employed by Hillsong Emerge as a social worker. I worked at the Blacktown centre providing services for the broad community. It is wrong to suggest that services were solely provided to members of the Hillsong congregation. Moreover, I have served my community for 23 years in government and non-government organisations, working closely with families and community members to achieve real outcomes and solutions. This is something that I have brought to my role as an elected representative with absolute commitment.

Finally, the senator, in his attempts to wrest the seat back, has even tried to suggest that I wrote a letter of support for an entirely different project—a project for which no such letter was written. His facts are wrong, his accusations are false and the people of Greenway deserve better. And ‘better’ is what I am delivering. I have achieved real outcomes for my community—outcomes such as: $716,000 in Investing in Our Schools funding, $3.2 million for one public school alone in capital infrastructure, an Australian technical college to foster the skills of our young people, a family relationships centre to work side by side with local families, community water grants, crime prevention funding for Sudanese refugees, transport infrastructure—the list goes on. And I will keep fighting for these outcomes.

But, if the senator wants to talk about service delivery for the people of Greenway, let us talk about the impact that political stunts such as this one—that he has perpetrated with Leo Kelly and Ian West—have. Let us talk about the community program that has been lost for the people of Riverstone and Blacktown. Let us talk about the Indigenous community members that have expressed their real concern at this loss. Important grassroots projects have been lost for the sake of political gain. But this gain is questionable. Even members of the ALP have recognised that this dirty brand of politics does not work. NSW Secretary Mark Arbib rang Leo Kelly to urge him to pull back on the baseless criticisms. Well, Mark, it is time for a phone call to Senator Hutchins.

The people of Hillsong and Hillsong Emerge are good people with real community interests in mind. They want to help. It is a trait commonly held by faith based organisations. Does this mean that the senator will extend his attacks to the Anglican Church, who have Anglicare; the Salvation Army; the Catholic Church, who have Centacare; the Uniting Church, who have Uniting Care; and Wesley Mission? But we should not be surprised by these antics. This is a man who has risen to the position of senator thanks to union deals. Mark Latham, in his diary at page 295, writes:

The union hacks and branch-stackers in Kingsford Smith are frustrated that their tireless work in rorting the books has not been rewarded. … Do we really need another Steve Hutchins in Caucus?

It is this kind of backroom deal that means the ALP is rarely able to field candidates who have an actual connection with their communities. (Time expired)