I thought I’d grab some particularly interesting maiden speeches by politicians. To what extent can a person radically change their views while sitting in the chambers of parliament? I don’t know. But it’s still enlightening that these are the sorts of people that we somehow manage to ‘elect’ (it seems to be an abuse of language to use that word about the Senate in particular).
Thank you, Mr President. Firstly, I would like to acknowledge my parents who brought me into this world, my wife, Natalie, and children Bridgette, Julia, Caroline and Odette who support me in this world, and my God who oversees all and who hopefully I will meet in the next. I read this speech to my wife in the TV room at home and was impressed how diligently she listened until I realised she was asleep.
To the people of Queensland, I am your senator and your servant. In serving you to my best ability I will be fulfilling the best role for our country and fulfilling the constitutional role laid out for our nation at its inception and after years of deliberation. For all Queenslanders who are here for the first time, you might be surprised to know that the colour scheme was once blue in this chamber but we have since had it changed to maroon and I hope you are happy with the result.
What cannot be changed and is still the dilemma is that politics talks in riddles and packs with verbiage what is absolutely crystal clear at the mothers morning tea or the local hotel. Politics appears to be the art of telling half the story and your followers guess the rest while using the absence of the complete message as a defence against the implication drawn by your deriders.
When things get contentious we blame our faction or the joint party room as a reason that plasters over a personal political ambition. As with human nature, this is not unique to Australia but leaves a political monoculture that can be less than inspiring and does not give credit to the public’s ability to hear all sides
of the debate and understand that a decision which favours one side has to be made.
I know it may be truly naive but it would be nice to see the debate unencumbered in this chamber, not in the caucus room or in the joint party room. Neither of these are mentioned in the Constitution and it is a convenient appendix designed by political parties that was specifically not entertained in the Constitution.
Our nation stands at the edge of a new epoch. Together in this house we have all been given the immense honour and responsibility to navigate our Australia in a world tormented or governed by new elements—elements such as new diseases, including the H5M1 virus which could decimate our country’s social and economic fabric; Islamic or other fundamentalism; or, as mentioned here earlier tonight, the emergence of China as a new superpower. Managed well, these issues will drive our nation’s sails to a new destiny or, alternatively, not managed, cast us upon the savage rocks. Eternal vigilance alone will not sustain us. It has to be a partner of considered but resolute action. There will be as much in amendments to the rules of this century as there was between the turmoil of the 20th century and its antecedent.
There is more in common between the centres of south-east Queensland than between the south-east of our state and the north. Perceptions on issues such as vegetation management, although predominantly a state issue, are one of many indications of this. A free and unencumbered vote by those from different states or different areas within states may reflect this. It also includes perceptions on issues such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the feeling that many have that the yoke of environmental conscience has been foisted on them without fair compensation of the loss of income or loss of asset. This is an eternal and justifiable complaint. Brick-and-tile suburbia of the capital cities have to be mindful of the encumbrances they place on the property of others, as it works to the detriment of the value of landed assets—the calibrator of personal wealth so fundamental to our freedom. It also detracts from the capacity of our nation to produce export income, which is the calibrator of our standard of living.
Likewise, the anomaly that we have managed to package the cessation of compulsory student unionism with sporting infrastructure—a long-held, accepted part of university life—is something to behold. That some believe it is abominable that you have to reach into your pocket for $100 for the football, cricket and netball courts, but are apparently at ease with the fact that the nation reaches into its pockets for tens of thousands of dollars per year per student to keep the vast majority of university students in tuition is perplexing to say the least. These are two different issues. It is obvious that they are, and they should be
treated as such.
Debate on these and other issues will be the case whilst the coalition has a majority in both houses. It shows the Australian people there is nothing to fear from the coalition having a majority in both houses when the senators fulfil their duty their Constitution gives them to represent their state as the best means of representing their nation.
Away from partisan politics, I would dearly love to have this house open its heart and have the courage to have a broader debate on when we attain our right to be nurtured, protected and supported to our full potential. At what point between conception and when we leave the moorings of our family as an independent adult do we attain the rights of a human with the protection it affords, and what is the philosophical premise of this position? I believe, if we are brave enough to have a respectful, non-politically-aligned debate on this, the most important of all issues, then we will have already grown by reason of this and as such be on the road to being a greater nation.
Abortion is the slavery debate of our time. It is brokered by good people on both sides. Long after the annals of time have forgotten that there ever was a National Party, a Liberal Party or a Labor Party, the immutable argument of the worth of human life will prevail and the acknowledgment of those who stood
to defend it. My debate is with the action, not with the qualities or attributes of the person. There are no winners on abortion; all are left scarred and hurt, and there has to be a better way.
In summary to my purpose, I reflect on that of my grandmother Troy Roche, who left me with this piece from Kipling, and I conclude by leaving all here with the same. I hope that it may serve all of us in some fashion in the aspirations it lays out. It says:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them ‘hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that is in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a man my son.