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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 2993

Mr HILL (Bruce) (19:30): I would like to share with the House a little of what I did and learnt in two weeks away from this place. I have only been elected and here for a few months, but in that time I have already come to realise the incredible diversity of the privileged work which we undertake and the things we get to do—from local community issues, talking with desperate and sometimes difficult people to wonderful people doing great things with great ideas in our communities, to national and international policy issues in our work here.

Surely, one of the most privileged things that we can do here is to engage with our Defence Forces. I said in my first speech to this place that politics is the alternative that we choose to violence and that war as state-sponsored violence is surely the greatest failure of politics. I apologise for being Mayor Quimby in quoting myself—that is my Simpsons reference for the day. I saw in the two-week break how true those words are.

I visited the Middle East region as part of the ADF Parliamentary Program, which includes Afghanistan, too long a troubled place. For the first time in my life, I donned the uniform of our troops and lived amongst them, talking, seeing and learning firsthand the professionalism, the dedication, the commitment and the skill of our women and men in the ADF and the work they are doing in our name to help create a more peaceful and stable world. And it is no easy task; it is slow, difficult and necessary work with others. I have learnt that there can ultimately be no military solution—you cannot kill your way to peace. It will require a political solution one day, but that has to be negotiated, in my view, from a position of strength and stability. We are contributing to that work.

Whilst living amongst them, our work as MPs was transient. We are not of that world while we are in it. I could never really claim and would not claim to understand and know the sacrifice that is putting your life at risk, but I pay tribute with heightened respect to those who are serving and in this week, as we approach Remembrance Day, those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. The member for Kingston was there with me and observed as we were leaving that she has never been prouder to be Australian. I understand and share that sentiment and know the truth of it. I record my thanks to Major Brianna Stirling at the ADF, our escort officer.

Back here now in parliament, despite the bad rap we too often get—sometimes for our behaviour in question time, and I will take that as a collective 'we' which has nothing to do with this corner of the chamber—I confess to a fondness and respect for this institution. It is where our nation bestows our power and has a great responsibility to debate and legislate, not to plebiscite. It is privileged but sometimes it is unreal and too easy to forget and lose touch in this oppositional bubble with what everyday Australians are saying and thinking. So I, like others, try to keep in touch.

On Saturday I conducted a number of street stalls in my electorate, including in Noble Park and Mulgrave, and spoke with dozens and dozens of people. Some would say I am a strange person because I love street stalls—that is once you get over the shock of being the guy carrying the sign with your head on it through the market and setting up shop. You talk to people and you learn stuff and return recharged and grounded with the voices of people from the community ringing in your head.

I will report to the House the top issues. It is fair to say, and the minister is here, that the top issue was that basic services matter. There were many complaints about Centrelink and Medicare and the failure of the government to do basic services properly. It is not a welfare crackdown. Waiting times and cruel tests affect not just people on welfare; but also working families who spend hours on the phone simply trying to get an answer. People are not stupid, and unfairness is also making them really angry. There is visceral anger that ordinary people are being asked to bear the brunt of governments budget savings, like the three-dollar cuts to pensions that the government is still trying to put through the parliament while promoting tax cuts to the top one per cent—a $50 billion tax cut to multinational companies. That is actually quite amazing, given that so many of them pay no tax.

There is anger about the pension cuts that come in on 1 January and the loss of utilities and other discounts that flow. There is not a lot of love for politicians by pensioners. I do remind everyone that I was elected after 2004 and do not get a pension—for the record. There is also concern about the next generation and about our future economy and how people will afford to buy a house. Funnily enough, it is also interesting to reflect on what people did not say. Not one person came up to me and said that their greatest national priority, wish or desire was that they would be able to say more racist things to their fellow citizens—that it should be a national priority for the parliament to weaken our race laws. There is a desire for us to do our jobs respectfully, listening to each other, remembering everyday decent folk— (Time expired)