Grievance Debate: The Whitlam Electorate

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (19:09): There are many things that my constituents are aggrieved about: the pathetic broadband that is being rolled out through the suburbs relying on rotten and outdated copper technology, the seeming indifference of the government to the creation of full-time and decent jobs, the underfunding of schools in the area or the Prime Minister who seems to have a tin ear to what the needs and aspirations of people in regional Australia are.

But tonight I am going to depart from all of these things. I will have plenty of opportunities in the coming months to talk about those. Tonight my grievance is about the fact that the mismanagement of the affairs of the parliament has meant I have not had the opportunity in the four months since the federal election to pay tribute to the people who returned me here and to say a few words about the changes that have occurred in my electorate. It is a privilege, and one that I do not take lightly, to be elected to the House of Representatives in the Australian parliament as the first member for Whitlam. The name of the seat of Throsby was changed at the 2016 election, and a redistribution occurred. The seat was renamed in honour of one of Australia's greatest prime ministers, the late Hon. Edward Gough Whitlam. There is a longstanding tradition—as you would know, Madam Deputy Speaker—that federal seats are often named in tribute to past prime minister once they pass from this earth. The seats of Barton, Curtin, Chifley, Menzies, Gorton and McMahon come to mind. So it is entirely appropriate that we acknowledge a person who has done so much to profoundly change the fabric and the soul of this country.

But before I come to talk about the man Whitlam I would like to say a few words about Dr Charles Throsby, whom my electorate was previously named after. He was a pioneer and a settler after whom the seat was named. Charles Throsby began his career as a naval surgeon before he came to New South Wales in 1802 to take up a position as a medical officer and a magistrate. Six years later, he took up the opportunities offered in a newly formed colony and became a new adventurer, an explorer and a pastoralist. Throsby's energy drove him to explore and open up the areas in the Illawarra, Moss Vale, the Shoalhaven and even the Canberra region, where we are today. His estate, Throsby Park in the Moss Vale area of the Southern Highlands, was granted to him by Governor Macquarie, who greatly valued his exploratory ventures. Throsby became a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1828, but failing health and financial problems unfortunately led to his death just a year later. Interestingly, the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Charles Throsby refers to his enlightened position towards Australia's Indigenous people and his belief, remarkable for that time, in living harmoniously with the First Australians. I think it is fair to say that Throsby was a man of some courage and vision—a man who shared Governor Macquarie's forward-thinking view that this new settlement could be a great and flourishing place for all people.

While I was proud to represent a seat named in honour of Dr Charles Throsby, as a Labor member of parliament I am both humbled and honoured to be elected as the first member for a seat named after Whitlam, one of our most esteemed former party leaders. Among the tributes that were offered on the death of Gough Whitlam in 2014, I recall Paul Keating's words: 'There was an Australia before Whitlam and there was a very different Australia after Whitlam.' In three short and tumultuous years of his prime ministership, Gough Whitlam changed our nation forever. There was a new Australia—a modern Australia. It was an Australia the postwar baby boom generation and the newly arrived migrant community could truly reflected them and celebrated their culture.

Before Whitlam there was no universal health care. Before Whitlam access to university education was predominantly reserved for wealthy white men. Before Whitlam Australia's foreign policy clung unquestioningly to the apron strings of the United States and Great Britain. Before Whitlam women were denied equal pay for equal work, and single mothers and the homeless had no supporting benefits. But after Whitlam a truly progressive platform of legislative change had been established: no-fault divorce, federal funding for education, territory representation in the Senate, 18-year-olds given the vote, and federal funding for regional councils. After Whitlam we had our own national anthem, after Whitlam we had our own Order of Australia honours system, and after Whitlam we had a Racial Discrimination Act to bind our governments to equality before the law. Under Whitlam's prime ministership, the historical and cultural maturity of Australia was recognised and valued with the establishment of the National Heritage Commission, the National Gallery and the Australia Council.

Both Charles Throsby and Gough Whitlam shared a belief in the need for Australians to live in peace with Indigenous Australians. Both Throsby and Whitlam wanted that harmony, and as Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was in a position to do something about it. As the member for Whitlam, I humbly follow in their huge footsteps by supporting the movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution.

Prime Minister Whitlam was dedicated to this parliament's traditions and processes and took pride in the principles and values of parliamentary representation. In Whitlam we had an exemplar of respect for the political life. To represent people in a seat named after Gough Whitlam is a tremendous privilege, but it also carries a weight of obligation and challenge. It is an obligation I will do my very best to meet. Like every member in this place, I could not hope to do this work and rise to this challenge without the generosity of spirit, shared commitment to Labor values and, frankly, the hard endeavours of a number of people within my electorate who I would like to thank.

In the last election, literally countless volunteers—hundreds of volunteers—were engaged in my campaign. It would be impossible to name them all, but I will have a go: Philip Brown, Gary Ismail, Bilal Aydemir, Jay Windsor, Anne Miller, Jarrod Dellapina and John Kewa. There were the activists from Young Labor, Alex Costello and her amazing and dedicated team—to name just a few, there were Caitlin Roodenrys, Damon Vavros, Blake Horcicka, Eamonn Cleary, Rita Andraos, Adrian Zorzut and Kyle Waples. There was strong support of the federal electorate council, including from the immediate past president, Ross Hannah. I am very pleased to say that we have got our very first female president of the Whitlam Federal Electorate Council in Danna Nelse—a wonderful woman she is.

There were the local party members of the Port Kembla branch: Michael Wilson, Norma Wilson, Tom Ward, Bob Turner, Viky King, Charlie Habazin, Petar Bubevski, Charlie and Maria Gibbs, and Russell Abbott. There were my friends in the Southern Highlands Labor: Warren Glase and Graham McLaughlin. Then in Warilla and Mount Warrigal Labor we had Alex Macleod, Marianne Saliba—a fantastic local mayor—and Ilce and Rajna Stefanovski. In Shellharbour and Barrack Heights Labor we had Robert Petreski, Lou Stefanovski and all the activists there. From Dapto Labor we had Mary Johnston, Bob and Wendy Turford, Chris Dawson, Marguerite Kennedy and Allan Cunnynghame, and down at Albion Park there were all the activists, including Tom Hawker.

The unions are copping a bagging from the other side in the other place, but I want to pay tribute to the work they do day in, day out representing people, including in this place. I want to pay tribute to my friends in the CPSU, the USU team, the MUA—my mate Garry 'Hollywood' Keane and his crew—the ANMF and all of the unions who rallied to support me. But particularly I want to support the people who provide support to us not just during a tough election campaign but day in, day out. I know all of us in this House want to find the opportunity to pay tribute to our wonderful staff, and I have been blessed with fantastic staff: Megan Kelly, Allyson Dutton, John Ronan, Jane Mulligan, Boris Baraldi, Benita Andrews, Jarrod and Ben. In fact, all of the staff and all of the activists have done so much to help me to do the work that I do in this place.

We have got some real challenges ahead of us. The people of Whitlam have sent me to this place to champion their cause: decent jobs, full-time jobs, secure jobs which provide hope and opportunity for them and their families into the future; well-funded quality schools that are blind to the postcode of the people who walk through their gates day in, day out, seeking the opportunity of a better life; and those railways of the future, the National Broadband Network. The people of Whitlam require—no, they need—a decent National Broadband Network to educate their kids, communicate with their family around the world, do their day-to-day business, interact with government and run their small businesses. I will be championing these issues over the course of the next 12 months, but between now and then, Merry Christmas to all in this place.