Parliamentary speeches


October 16, 2019

Giles: I'm pleased to make a contribution to this debate on the address-in-reply. I was here for much of the contribution of the member for Hughes, and let me say this: there is no more urgent task facing Australia's government than to take action on climate change. There is no more urgent change—

Mr Craig Kelly interjecting

Giles: You can shout all you like.

Mr Craig Kelly interjecting

Giles: Your contributions are utterly unworthy.

Mr Craig Kelly interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Member for Hughes, he did the courtesy of listening to you.

Giles: They are utterly unworthy and destructive, not just of what happens in this place but of the future of all of us. In the Labor Party, we take very seriously the science—

Mr Craig Kelly interjecting

Giles: The overwhelming scientific consensus, and no amount of shouting by you can get away from that. You make the same speeches over and over again.

Mr Craig Kelly: You don't read the science.

Giles: You make the same speeches, the same ignorant and ill-considered speeches over and over again. Let's be very clear, we on this side of the House are committed to doing what the government has said it would do, which is to take action on the basis of the science, Member for Hughes, and consistent—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I would remind the member that his comments should be directed through the chair.

Giles: I can also address the member for Hughes, who's addressing me, who's been interjecting consistently, Chair.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I've called him to order.

Giles: Through you, Chair, can I say that we are also acting consistently with the obligations Australia entered into through the government headed by Tony Abbott in making international agreements. Members of this government keep talking after that extraordinary speech by the Prime Minister about negative globalism. What we actually need is constructive international engagement. What we need to do is keep our word on the promise we made to the international community and the promise we made to the future. We on this side of the House will do that. We will also recognise something that the government has to do, and that is, under its series of quite extraordinary and comprehensive failures when it comes to energy policy—16 policies and prices going up—more fundamentally, emissions continue to go up under this government. Emissions continue to rise because, fundamentally, there is no policy certainty. That is something that industry is telling us.

Mr Craig Kelly interjecting

Giles: The thing is, Member for Hughes, you have a view, which I understand. You put it to this place time and time again, but it's not the view the government formally espouses, and the government should keep its word. The government of course should do more than that. I was proud to join my Labor colleagues in supporting in the House yesterday recognition of what most Australians want our government to recognise, that we are experiencing a climate emergency, and this is a call for action. This is a call for urgent action which we must respond to. This is a matter that my constituents have urged me to take seriously, and I do. I urge government members to do just the same.

Can I go back to 18 May and say to the electors of Scullin, thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity again to speak for you in this place. It is an extraordinary privilege and a great honour. I think all of us who are here, particularly when we contribute to this debate, ordinarily reflect on the privilege and the opportunity we have to serve. I think that, for all of us, this is an extremely humbling moment. Of course, I had hoped to be serving as part of a Shorten Labor government, and that is not the case. That disappoints me personally, but I know it is devastating for so many of the people I represent. I want to say to them here that the struggle in the federal Labor team continues for a more equal country, a good society and a kinder and more inclusive politics. We're now committed on this side of the House to doing much more than simply holding the government to account—although, of course, we must. We are also committed to remaking the case for change, listening more closely electorate and more broadly to the country and applying our enduring Labor values to the challenges of tomorrow.

I know—and this wounds me, and I think the member for Bendigo would agree with me in saying this—we are very proud to be here, but we know the things that we want for our community can only be delivered through a Labor government. Every day I commit myself to doing all I can to see that change, to secure the election of an Albanese Labor government to restore those sort of values that the people for Scullin want and need.

I'd also like to acknowledge that many people in my electorate did not vote for me, no doubt for a variety of reasons. I say to them: I hope that we can continue dialogue. I hope that you will see me as someone who listens to your concerns, even if I do not always act in accordance with them. I take seriously my responsibility to represent everyone in the electorate, and I will do my best to do so.

I'd like to thank, beyond the electorate, a large number of people in particular for their support over the term and through the election campaign. I thank my staff, of course, and I think all of us in this place know that we are nothing without the efforts of our staff to support us, but, more importantly, to support the communities we represent. I feel incredibly lucky to work with people like Lori Faraone, Sally-Ann Delaney and Jim Tilkeridis, Nick Kagorski, Alice Smith, Alexander Column, Jonathan Garry and, more recently, Lachlan Poulter. I'm in awe of the contribution you make to the cause of Labor and to the communities that we represent. It is, again, a great privilege to work with you, and I was humbled by your determination to do everything you could through the election campaign to secure a strong result for Labor in Scullin and around the country.

Election campaigns, of course, are fuelled by people, particularly on our side of the House. I'd like to acknowledge some of the many hundreds of people who made a contribution to Labor's effort in the seat of Scullin. I'd like to speak in this place of the contributions of just a few who made efforts above and beyond the call of duty to seek the change of government that they so strongly believed in and strong Labor representation in the seat of Scullin. I think of Trish Mackin; David Cannavo; Lisa Simons; John Fry; Joe Petrucci; Gurpreet Singh; Armen Emirzian; Maureen Corrigan; Joe Caruso; John Pathinathan; Sasha Nackovski; Nessie Sayar; Yogi Thurairatnam; Samil Demir, who chaired my campaign committee so well; Sucettin Unal; Rob Sonza; Takara Musgrove; Lani Sprague; Ray Fordham; Anthony Mancuso, Jim Bannan; Imran Khan; Helen Said; Pam McLeod and Shorsh Ahmad. I thank also the Labor Whittlesea councillors who I worked closely with through the campaign and beyond: Lawrie Cox, then the mayor; Stevan Kozmevski; Sam Alessi; and Kris Pavlidis for all their efforts and their advice. It's a great pleasure to work with fantastic state Labor colleagues: Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D'Ambrosio, Bronwyn Halfpenny and Danielle Green. Working with them in the service of the communities that make up Melbourne's north is always a pleasure, but to have their experience and enthusiasm for campaigning is a great thing. I acknowledge the support of a number of trade unions, in particular my own, the Australian Services Union, and United Voice, which supported me very strongly in the campaign, and I am indebted to them.

All of us are here at a great cost to those closest to us, and perhaps we don't recognise that in this place as often as we should. I am very conscious of the challenges of life at home this week, when there is a lot happening in my family and I am away. So I'd like to say thank you so much to Jill, my wife, and to Daniel and Alice, our wonderful children, for putting up with this role that I have and supporting me in it. It is wonderful to enjoy your support and humbling to see the sacrifices you put up with and the many inconveniences you suffer while I am here and elsewhere working, hopefully, for a better nation.

Before the last election, there was a very significant redistribution in the state of Victoria, and that significantly changed the Scullin electorate. I now represent new elements of the suburb of Bundoora and also some part of the suburb of Mernda that I had not previously. I'm indebted to the conversations I had with residents in both of those communities, perhaps particularly in those bits of Mernda, a very new part of Melbourne with new families arriving and seeking to make their lives. I'm indebted for the insights they shared about the challenges they faced and the opportunities they saw in their communities. It's a particular privilege to represent these people for the first time.

On the other hand, there are many suburbs I no longer represent after five and a bit years. I think anyone in this circumstance feels somewhat wistful. I say to people in Diamond Creek, in Plenty, in Apollo Parkways, in Wattle Glen, in Yarrambat and in Hurstbridge: thank you for giving me the chance to speak for you in this place for two terms. It was a great privilege and I learned a lot from you. I'm devastated that I won't be the local member when the Hurstbridge to Diamond Creek Trail extension is finally opened—amongst many other things—but I'm hopeful I can continue my connection to those beautiful communities in the shire of Nillumbik in Melbourne's green wedge. I think also of those bits of Watsonia North and Bundoora in the city of Banyule that I have previously represented that I won't anymore. I was particularly touched by a couple of residents there who expressed to me their disappointment that they will no longer be Scullin electors. It's those things that really bring home the privilege it is to have been a local representative.

I was also pleased to spend much of the election working alongside my Labor colleagues Rob Mitchell, Ged Kearney—and what an extraordinary result Ged Kearney had—and our new colleague, the new member for Jagajaga, Kate Thwaites. In recognising Kate's election to this House and congratulating her, I acknowledge that this House is a very different place without the former member for Jagajaga, Jenny Macklin, a giant of Australian politics as well as Labor politics and a great mentor and friend to me. I know I miss her. I know a number of people on all sides of the House miss her dearly and acknowledge her contribution, her passion, her depth of energy and her commitment to always seeking the right answer, however difficult it might be.

It was a privilege in the last parliament to be shadow assistant minister in the education team, and I'd like to thank Tanya Plibersek and Bill Shorten for giving me the opportunity to work as the shadow assistant minister for schools and particularly for giving me the opportunity to engage closely with policies designed to better support students with disabilities. It's my great regret that policy effort and the conversations I had around the country will not produce a change in policy over the life of this parliament, but I know the education team will continue to work, and I remain hopeful that perhaps we can see a greater measure of bipartisanship on this most important area of building a more inclusive approach to schools and education, ensuring really that everyone gets every chance to succeed in school and in life.

In the last parliament, I also served as Deputy Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. I see my friend the member for Bennelong is here. He, like a few of us, had to reflect on some of the constitutional challenges that arose in the last parliament.

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters will also have very a critical role in this parliament, and I think it is important that all of us, as we go through the difficult and often rancorous policy debates—appropriately part of our role in this building—think about how we can work together to raise the standard of our politics and our political institutions. Our ideas and our ideologies are nothing if we can't convince the Australian public that formal politics matters, and we have some work to do in that regard. Of all the things I hope for over the life of this parliament, most of all I hope we can find more ways to work together in rebuilding trust in our politics.

Of the local issues that were significant in the election, I'd like to touch on two in particular. Firstly, I am pleased that work on the O'Herns Road interchange with the Hume Freeway is finally underway. It's something I have been campaigning for since before I was elected. It's too late, but it's a project that is vitally important to people in the growing areas north of Cooper Street in Epping North and Wollert. I'm pleased to finally see these works underway. I'm disappointed, however, that we're not going to see realised the commitment Labor made under the then shadow minister for infrastructure and cities, the now leader of the Labor Party, to investigate rail to Wollert. Better public transport options are absolutely critical in the northern suburbs to better connect residents of the Scullin electorate to work opportunities, which, in Melbourne, are overwhelmingly concentrated in and around the CBD. These growing areas need much, much better public transport options. I note also that it would be good to see some congestion-busting in the northern suburbs under this government, rather than plans principally located in the south-eastern suburbs. It would also be good to see more consultation with local government and affected communities, rather than after the fact, as has been the case with some proposals in connection to the South Morang train station.

Earlier, I touched on my deep regret that the people of Scullin are hurting because of the failure of people like me to convince Australians to support the Labor team. I think about the loss in schools and early years and early youth workers and I think about the pensioners dental scheme. These are things that really matter to people in my electorate, and I am committed to working my way through all of these issues over the life of this parliament in the team. A lot of the challenges continue. Across Melbourne's north, people are grappling with the cost of congestion, the cost to our economy of the drag in productivity, and the cost to people's lives and health. It's absolutely shocking that, of moneys earmarked in the urban congestion fund, despite the triumphalism of the minister, not a cent was spent that was allocated out of that fund in the last budget, with one exception: the $11 million for advertising was all spent. That seems to symbolise a government that is all about marketing and not about delivery.

I am pleased to have been appointed to the shadow ministry with three portfolios, and I'll touch briefly on each as I finish. The portfolio of cities and urban infrastructure was previously held by the leader and is critically important to this country—the most urbanised nation in the world. I think it is an area where we can reach across the aisle, as we have seen some measure of consensus in recognising the national imperative of having a cities policy. Again, I acknowledge the leadership that the member for Bennelong has shown in this place, but there is so much more to do particularly to realise the potential of city deals as genuine partnerships around shared objectives. Too few of the deals announced do that. Too little work has gone into doing what we have long aspired to do on this side of politics: to ensure that we have separated the infrastructure cycle from the political cycle. Long-term city partnerships around shared objectives are a critical way of doing this.

Being appointed shadow minister for multicultural affairs is particularly pleasing, as I represent a very multicultural community. I am concerned that too many Australians—and they tell me this—do not feel fully included in Australian society because of their faith and because of racism. We're not doing enough to support them. Recent research by Deloitte, commissioned by SBS, shows us the great cost of our failure to harness our diversity. I think it's a great challenge, and it should be a great national mission, to build a renewed sense of what it means to be Australian which gives everyone equal space, which recognises the unique nature of our society, our First People and our access through their generosity to the oldest continuing culture in the world, and then to successive waves of migration, but also to recognise that we haven't done enough to fully harness everyone's capacity to contribute for themselves into our society. Like a voice and like completing our Constitution, making the most of our multiculturalism is all of our unfinished business.

I am also very pleased to support Senator Keneally in her role in the immigration and citizenship portfolios for many of the reasons I have set out in terms of multiculturalism. But there is so much more to do in a society where more than 200,000 people are waiting on their citizenship and where we face ridiculous delays over visa processing—things that really matter in a country like ours. We can and should do so much better by appropriately valuing everyone's capacity and by recognising that we need a genuine debate about immigration in this country and a mature debate about population, without the rhetoric, without the dog whistling.