Luke Gosling (ALP-Solomon) – Maiden Speech

Luke Gosling, the new ALP member for the Northern Territory electorate of Solomon, has delivered his maiden speech to the House of Representatives.

Gosling

Gosling, 44, is a former member of the Australian Defence Force.

He won the normally CLP seat, based on Darwin and Palmerston, with a swing of 7.40%. He secured 40.87% of the primary vote and 56.00% of the two-party-preferred vote.

  • Listen to Gosling’s speech (22m – transcript below)
  • Watch Gosling (22m)

Hansard transcript of maiden speech to the House of Representatives by Luke Gosling, ALP member for Solomon, in the Northern Territory.

Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (17:15): My name is Luke John Anthony Gosling and mine is the great privilege of representing the people of Solomon, the northern capital of Australia. In Darwin and Palmerston we have people from over 100 countries that have been welcomed by the Larrakia Aboriginal traditional owners to make the Top End of Australia their home, including me and my family.

I stand here today a very proud Territorian and Australian with a progressive view of our place in the world and our responsibilities as global citizens. I am here because of the path that lies behind me, so I will touch on some of that before moving to the path that lies before me.

Gosling

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that we meet on today, the Ngunawal people, and acknowledge their elders past, present and emerging. I thank them for their warm welcome yesterday at the opening of this parliament. I live on Larrakia country, but I was born in Wiradjuri country, the first born son of John and Christine Gosling. Dad is here today—a legend! From a western suburbs working family, the son of a World War II veteran, dad was just 20 when he was conscripted to fight in Vietnam. Luckily for me, not before he met a beautiful girl from Abbotsford, who lived not far from Victoria Park. I know mum is watching today from Tassie where she is visiting with my sisters Lee and Elisabeth—mum, I love you so much. You are the reason I exist and also the reason that I am Collingwood. Let me be clear, everything I have been able to do in my life is because of the unconditional love and the values imparted by those two extraordinary people: my mum and dad.

I am a grandson to Dick and Bertha Gosling, and Percy and Cath Wellard on my mum’s side—all gone to God now but with us still. I am a brother to Elisabeth, Thomas, Samuel, Xavier, Christian, Lee-Kathryn and Daniel. We were all brought up to love each other, to love our community, to love our country and to cherish life on this earth. I am the father of Frank and Sally and husband to my amazing best friend and life partner, Kathryn.

Kate and I met in Timor-Leste on Anzac Day 2008 playing two-up with the troops. I was living in Darwin and had taken a job as an adviser to President Jose Ramos-Horta. Kate was visiting the troops with her boss at that time, who is in fact now the father of this House, the member for Lingiari, the Hon. Warren Snowden, so thank you, Wazza!

I went to school in your electorate, Mr Speaker, before our family moved to the city. I joined the Army straight from school. I spent my first four years here in Canberra, graduating from the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Royal Military College Duntroon before serving around Australia and overseas with the infantry, commandos and in training roles and then finally with the Territory’s own NORFORCE.

I travelled and worked around the world before settling in Darwin. I have sailed the Timor Sea to Timor-Leste and witnessed the birthing of that new country. I have worked with Pashtun elders in Afghanistan as we ran an election process together, even whilst being actively targeted by the Taliban. I have worked with Yolngu country men and women on their country in north-east Arnhem Land. I have made the most of tier 2 diplomacy opportunities that have come up for me in Asia that helped me develop a clearer view of our place in the nation, our region and the world.

But living the dream in Darwin is where I wanted to be. Of course, I had fallen in love with the Territory and the Top End well before that. It was in the heady days of 1986 when, as a 14-year-old, mum and dad pulled us all out of school to see our magnificent country. Off we headed, the 10 of us, in a HiAce van towing a trailer with all our camping gear, and every night we camped. We headed for Adelaide and through Coober Pedy. We crossed the border into the Territory, arriving at Uluru near dusk. The very first thing that we saw was a dingo coming out of a tent with a full bag of groceries in its mouth. We piled out of the bus and tried to track the dingo but, of course, it had disappeared into the sand dunes.

Next it was Kata Tjuta, which left an enormous impression on my 14-year-old self. It was the space, the light from the colours and the grandeur. I actually said to myself at that time, ‘If I die tomorrow at least I’ve seen this.’ We went on to the amazing parks and waterfalls further north up the track and then into Darwin, where the Royal Darwin Show was underway. I love our show so much. I know it is daggy, but I do. The seed was sown on that trip, and not just for me but for my sister, who, with her husband, nursed in the Northern Territory; for my youngest brother, who worked as a teacher in both Arnhem and the Red Centre; for yet another brother, who is currently a Territory firefighter; and for yet another, who served with NORFORCE in the Army.

Gosling

The Army prepared me for a life of challenges. I served with the 3rd Battalion, Old Faithful, at that time a parachute infantry battalion, and set my sights on commandos. I served with the 1st Commando Regiment, whose members have served with distinction, including on operational service in recent years. For my part, I was proud to be part of securing the Sydney 2000 Olympics with the counter-terrorism task force. It was an absolute honour to serve.

Looking back now, I can see that those experiences prepared me well to serve in the Northern Territory, but I still had a lot to learn, and of course I still do have a lot to learn. After my time in Timor-Leste, I worked in remote Indigenous health service delivery, establishing the Remote Area Health Corps, and also spent time working with and for the Australians who were struggling and less fortunate than others, with the St Vincent de Paul Society, Vinnies.

All of these experiences drew me, I believe, to politics. I am not one to stand on the sidelines. And so I started working for federal parliamentarians and preparing myself for today, to serve the people of Darwin and Palmerston as their representative here in Canberra. I thank former senators Trish Crossin and Nova Peris and, of course, the Hon. Warren Snowdon. Working with them allowed me to meet the people who share the Top End every day, learning more about their needs and helping people.

I want to congratulate the Territory Labor leader and new Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, who was sworn in today as the third Labor Chief Minister and the Territory’s 11th Chief Minister since self-government in 1978. Michael and his team absolutely thumped the Country Liberal Party at last weekend’s NT election. The CLP is currently a spent force, and the responsibility for that lies with its outgoing leader.

I am so proud to be a member of Territory Labor and I want to thank the true believers, the members and supporters, for their faith in me. I also want to acknowledge the broader Labor movement that are standing up for people’s workplace safety, conditions and rights every day. When I look back over this big year for Territory Labor, it is with absolute certainty that with everything we have achieved we did so because we are a united party.

Gosling

At my first press conference during the election I said I was worried that our GST share was being threatened, and I still am, and I will fight for it because it is the way that we hold and grow the North. What horizontal fiscal equalisation really means is, ‘We hold the North, right, it’s our home and that’s what it costs to deliver services for the people of Darwin and Palmerston and the great Northern Territory.’ I will stand up for us and for those who need it most.

So, whether your ancestors spent 15 million nights under Top End stars, whether your family traded with the Macassans centuries ago or survived the bombing of Darwin in 1942 or rebuilt Darwin after Cyclone Tracey on Christmas Day 1974, or whether you are a descendant of generations of settlers from the UK, Europe, the South-East Asian communities, the Mediterranean, Africa or the Pacific, or whether you just came to the Top End to work for three months and never left—whatever brought you to the North—I will not ignore you. I will represent you here in Canberra, and I will keep my feet on the ground.

Darwin has always had economic cycles of growth and slowing growth. The important thing is that we must continue to grow in a sustainable way, that we secure federal investment funding and that we employ our own. We do not want to see our city become the fly-in fly-out capital of Australia. Workforces move around—I get that—but the priority must go to people that have called or want to call our tropical paradise home. My mission is to secure the support from the federal government that is needed for the investment in public infrastructure in our developing northern capital.

We have a vibrant lifestyle with fantastic arts and cultural experiences, including our markets, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, the Greek GleNTi, the Italian Festival, the Garrmalang Festival, the Darwin Festival, the Darwin Cup Carnival, the million-dollar barra fishing competition, and major sporting events like the V8s. But we also have national soccer, NRL, rugby and AFL teams travelling to the Top End to play, and next year a first-class tennis centre which will host national and international tournaments.

Darwin is also the base for Australia’s National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, which is a key element of the Australian government’s disaster and emergency medical response for incidents of national and international significance. I also believe that our Charles Darwin University is well placed to host a Darwin outpost of the Australian Civil-Military Centre. An ACMC North would let us develop a northern-centric civil-military capability to prevent, prepare for and respond to conflict and disasters. I believe in the power of education and innovation and will be actively supporting emerging entrepreneurs.

Health is one of my areas of focus with the delivery of the $15-million dollar PET Scanner program promised by the current foreign minister six years ago, and then re-promised by the current Prime Minister last month. Before and during the election campaign I visited the Alan Walker Cancer Centre in Darwin, and this month I visited the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne to better understand precisely what equipment and infrastructure the Territory needs. We are the only—only—Australian jurisdiction without a PET scanner, a diagnostic tool which uses radioactive tracers to track the spread of cancer. It was promised by the Prime Minister, and I have spoken with the current health minister, the member for Farrer, about this. I look forward to discussing the details of delivery with her as soon as possible.

The Palmerston Region Hospital, well known by members in this place, is also finally underway, but only after Labor held the coalition government and the Country Liberals to account, and I will make sure the government is held to account for its delivery.

During the federal election campaign this coalition government made a number of other promises, and I will be holding them to task, including: $3.8 million for a 24 bed dementia specific wing at Terrace Gardens; $29.5 million to develop Barneson Boulevard; $8.5 million to Carpentaria for the establishment of a new, purpose-built facility which will allow for the co-location of community, allied health, education, training, and childcare services as part of its $27 million Community 360 Top End Community Hub project; $9.65 million to improve the movement of heavy vehicles in and around Darwin; $1 million for an eternal flame and a pool of reflection in Darwin city; $635,000 for new mobile CCTV cameras for the police; $8 million for the construction of a world class indoor netball stadium at Marrara.

I will work constructively with this government where they are serious about fulfilling their commitments, but I will also hold them to account. Projects like overdue Defence houses at the RAAF Base, Darwin are also on my list. This coalition promised more than $8 billion in Defence infrastructure spending, and we want to be bipartisan with the government whenever we can. But there was $70 million to be spent over the next 10 years upgrading Robertson Barracks. As I said, I am keen to work constructively, but we need to get these infrastructure projects going. I have already had some constructive meetings regarding these projects, because we need to make sure that Territory businesses are not locked out of that Defence work, because our local business have the capacity to deliver.

Gosling

I will be working with ex-service organisations to build a veterans centre with crisis accommodation, gym facilities and chill out and chat spaces. And I have started fighting the ridiculous decision to take our head Department of Veterans’ Affairs position away from the territory. That is not helpful. That is not right. The Vietnam veterans have a saying: ‘Honour the dead, but fight like hell for the living.’ I was proud to be a part of the effort that secured national recognition of the bombing of Darwin as a day of national significance and, more recently, I was proud that I helped secure support for Operation Bring Them Home, the repatriation of Australian soldiers killed in Vietnam, who were previously buried in Malaysia and Singapore. In Darwin I successfully campaigned to have contemporary veterans’ war service in Afghanistan and Iraq acknowledged on the Darwin Cenotaph. But our young veterans need more, and I will be working with them on their priorities.

When I first considered politics as a vocation I was driven by all that has shaped me: the eldest of eight in a working family, then through my time in the Army and then my time into humanitarian and community development work. It is summed up, I believe, in the phrase ‘No one gets left behind.’ It is a theme of the great Australian Labor Party and it is my pledge to the people of Darwin and Palmerston.

As you fly to my home—and I hope you can all visit soon—it is easy to be mesmerised by the patterns below in the great Australian outback. After a few hours the desert below gives way to tropical savannah and, as our tray tables are stowed, you will catch the first glimpse of the Adelaide River snaking its way to the coast and the Arafura Sea. The big rural properties pass under you: the hundreds of hectares of mangos and the Humpty Doo Barramundi farm; Robertson Barracks, home of the 1st Brigade and the marines; the growing suburbs and CBD of Palmerston; the Elizabeth River; the gas projects on our harbour; the industrial artery following the Stuart Highway into the city; the TIO footy ground at Marrara; and the northern suburbs spreading out to the beaches of Casuarina and beyond.

As we bank over the harbour you see the Darwin CBD, the green spaces, the beaches, the museum and art gallery. Don’t worry; we’re on final approach now! And for me, I start looking out at our family home in the suburb of Ludmilla. Ludmilla is a Slavic word that means ‘favour of the people’. And when I see our tropical home I quietly say to my family below, ‘Dad’s home; see you soon.’

I have had a most fortunate life. There is a lot of work to do. There is a lot of work ahead. And I thank you for joining with us in Darwin and Palmerston in whatever capacity to grow our home for the good of our country. If you want to live a really great life, we welcome you to join us in the capital of the North.

I love our country, I love our Southern Cross above us and I love my home, the top end of Australia. And, of course, in particular, I love Darwin and Palmerston. So come and visit us. We have a beautiful city with much to see and do. Often on a Friday or Saturday evening we will be down at the ski club, catching up with friends and watching the most amazing sunset. Come and say ‘Hi’ and I will buy you a beer.

To my party members and the people of Darwin and Palmerston: again, thank you for this great honour, and God bless Australia.

Gosling

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