Steve Georganas (ALP-Hindmarsh) – Second First Speech

Steve Georganas, the re-elected ALP member for Hindmarsh, has delivered his “second first speech” to the House of Representatives.

Georganas

Georganas, 57, was the member for Hindmarsh for three terms from 2004. At this year’s election, he defeated Matt Williams, the Liberal who defeated him in 2013.

Georganas won Hindmarsh with 34.02% of the primary vote and 50.58% of the two-party-preferred vote. His margin is 1,140 votes in the inner western suburban Adelaide seat.

Hansard transcript of the second first speech to the House of Representatives by Steven Georganas, ALP member for Hindmarsh.

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (18:41): Can I begin by congratulating you, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your position on the Speaker’s panel. Even though it is not my first speech, I am going to treat it as my second first speech. Let’s hope there is never a third first speech for the sake of everyone in this place and for the sake of my family, friends and colleagues.

I would like to start off by saying what a privilege and honour it is to be here. To be here in this place is something very special. To be here, as I said, is special and I would like to congratulate all of you who have been returned and all the newly members of parliament.

I also wish to acknowledge those who have served in this place before me, representing Hindmarsh. Firstly, the former member, Matt Williams, and I wish him all the best and for his contribution over the last three years. Regardless of what side of parliament we sit on and regardless of what side of politics we come from, I think we all come here with one thing in mind, and that is to create a better Australia. I would like to acknowledge that for all members in this place.

Georganas

I also acknowledge Christine Gallus, who was the member before I was elected in 2004 and her work is fondly remembered in the electorate. She was a very hard worker; she was also a very formidable opponent and my sparring partner for a number of years. Before Chris Gallus there was John Scott, who was the member for Hindmarsh, who still lives in the electorate and who is still very active in the community. I see him from time to time and I value the advice he gives from time to time.

And how could you talk about Hindmarsh without mentioning Clyde Cameron? He was the very first person I handed out how-to-vote cards for back in the ’70s. He was an absolute ALP stalwart, a cabinet minister in the Whitlam government and instrumental in reforming industrial relations in this nation, as well as being very involved in the labour movement.

I would also like to mention very quickly Liz Harvey, now known as Liz Truman, and good old Ralph Jacobi, both of whom represented the seat of Hawker, which was the southern part of my electorate and merged with Hindmarsh in 1993.

I would also like to acknowledge all the members from both places who were not re-elected, like my good friend Senator Anne McEwen. I would like to acknowledge the good work she did while she was in the other house. She so narrowly missed out on being returned to office. For those who were not returned, I know what that feels like. I’ve been there and I’ve done that. I really feel for all who were not returned.

I suppose I stand here today under quite extraordinary circumstances. There are not many people who get the opportunity to serve three terms in a row, have a three-year hiatus out of this place and then make a comeback.

As I said, I have had the extraordinary honour of serving the electorate for three terms. I ran twice—in 1998 and in 2001—and was successful in 2004 when I won by 108 votes. I sat in this very same place, so this seat here has my name written all over it.

This time it felt like a landslide—1,140 votes, which is fairly substantial when you compare it to 2004. I have had that humbling experience of not being returned and of now being back here. I believe there are only 12 MPs who served three or more terms that have ever made such a comeback. One of them is our good friend Warren Snowdon, who is here in the chamber.

After an election, the word ‘privilege’ is thrown about by many, so much so that it sounds like a cliche, but I cannot think of a more appropriate word than privilege. It is an absolute privilege to be given a second chance and to be in this chamber. While not being returned in 2013 was certainly hard—it was hard for me and my family—I believe it made me a stronger and even more determined advocate for the people of Hindmarsh. For this return, I express my sincere thanks to the good constituents of Hindmarsh and for giving me this opportunity once again. I promise I won’t let you down.

I am no stranger to determination. Hindmarsh is one of the most marginal seats in the country. Today, it is the second most marginal after that of my good friend Cathy O’Toole here, the member for Herbert. I have fought for, won and lost this seat with the slimmest of margins. Each time the outcome has been uncertain, but it never ever deterred me from fighting as hard as I could, not just to win the seat but also to go on and fight for those constituents. Those that fall through the cracks, those who are unemployed and those who for whatever reason have been marginalised. It is our upmost duty to do that, to represent them and to ensure that we have a safety net to catch these people and make their lives slightly better.

One of the benefits of living in a marginal seat is that you get noticed. Not so much as the member—there is a lot of focus on the members—but the people of Hindmarsh get noticed. The good residents of Hindmarsh, the good voters of Hindmarsh, know this and understand this. I undertake to apply the same determination to ensuring that in this term of parliament their voices are heard and their concerns are taken seriously. Of course, this is something that I have always endeavoured to do as the federal member for Hindmarsh.

There is a great deal that I, together with my Labor colleagues, am very proud of when we were on that side of the House and on this side of the House that we have helped achieve for the people of Hindmarsh. For example, the establishment of an Adelaide Airport ombudsman was a private member’s bill that I put up on two occasions and presented. I was very pleased when the then minister for transport, Anthony Albanese, made it a government bill. That was an achievement for the people in the electorate. They now have an independent umpire. They have someone who is totally independent to deal with their complaints and their issues.

Pushing the Torrens-to-Torrens project together with Kate Ellis, the member for Adelaide, was a big thing. I recall Anthony Albanese, as minister for transport, being in our electorate turning the very first sod when the then opposition, under the leadership of Tony Abbott, were arguing that it wasn’t a priority. But those opposite heard the voices of the people of the electorates of Adelaide and Hindmarsh very clearly when they got into government and decided to go ahead with it and claim it as their very own project. But we knew, and the people of Hindmarsh knew, that it was the Labor government that ensured that project.

Another example was securing funding for the King Street Bridge, which was a bridge that was owned and run by the local council in Glenelg. For many years, under the Howard government and under the former coalition governments, the council applied for funding. They applied very hard to get this new bridge because the old bridge had something called ‘concrete cancer,’ which meant that it could collapse at any moment. It had been closed down for a number of months. I am very pleased once again that we achieved the funding for that bridge. I am very proud of it every time I drive over it and see the thousands of people that use it every single day.

They are just a few of the achievements under a Labor government when I was here last. The dedication of the people of Hindmarsh in ensuring that they got their message to me, as their voice in this place, ensured that those projects that assist them came to fruition.

As I said, in coming back to this place I am determined not to just sit here. I am here to continue getting results for my electorate, and that is what I will be focusing on every single day. I undertake to persist in fighting for the issues that I campaigned on in this election and the last campaign, such as the Brown Hill Keswick Creek Stormwater Project. We finally have the agreement of all our local councils and our state government. All we need is the federal government to come on board.

The Brown Hill Keswick Creek Stormwater Project is a mitigation program for flooding. There are 2,000 homes in my electorate that are under threat of being flooded out in a once-in-50-years flood. We have come so close to that this year and in other years. The project also covers infrastructure such as Adelaide Airport. You can imagine the projections of a once-in-50-years or a once-in-100-years flood. What will take place if this project does not go ahead? I acknowledge the shadow finance minister who, at the time, came to the electorate and met with the councils. He was good enough to ensure that had we formed government we would have put $44 million into the plan.

Georganas

Another project was the Thebarton Oval—$6.6.million so that amateur football clubs could have a decent headquarters in the western suburbs. At the time, the Leader of the Opposition announced the extended tramline of $500 million that would have created over 2,000 jobs. It would have gone through the centre of my electorate, to the airport and down to Henley Beach. So it would not only have been a great infrastructure project but also have created 2,000 jobs. These are the things that we did while we were in government: infrastructure that gave facilities to neighbourhoods all around Australia but also created jobs.

I would also like to take this opportunity to undertake to hold the government to account on each and every one of the many promises that the Liberal government made in relation to Hindmarsh during the campaign. And this is important, because the federal coalition government have a history of saying one thing and then doing another after the election. We all remember the promises that were made on the eve of the 2013 election about the submarines being built in South Australia. It took the community of South Australia, the state government of South Australia and the federal members on the Labor side to take the government screaming and kicking, only when their jobs were at stake, to agree to it. So we remember this.

I felt that there was a lot of unfinished business for me in 2013, and there is still so much that I want to do—so much unfinished business. I now have that opportunity to complete some of those things that I started. As I said, one example is to continue fighting for the Adelaide Airport curfew, and I want to ensure that that is upheld and not slowly eroded away. The people of Hindmarsh around the airport need sufficient protection from damaging noise pollution, and this is something I fought for very hard, not only when I was in this place but also as a community resident association chair of the Adelaide Airport Action Group, way before I was even a candidate. Here is another example: on the eve of the 2013 election, there seemed to be bipartisan support by both parties that the curfew would remain, and we had promises from the Liberal candidate and from the Liberal opposition undertaking to maintain the curfew. Unfortunately, within months of coming to power—I think it was in 2013, November or December—the Abbott coalition then did a backflip, allowing aircraft to come in before 6 am and jets to land outside the hours of curfew. This was less than two months after they put leaflets out in the entire electorate promising that this would not happen. In all honesty, I believe that the people who live around the airport and under the flight path, as I have done my entire life, deserve a little more respect than that. The airport curfew remains one of the most important issues for those people who live around there.

Such backflips, however, soon became an all-too-common occurrence within this government from 2013 to 2016. On the eve of the 2013 federal election, the then opposition leader promised no cuts to education, no cuts to health and no changes to the pension and penalty rates. It did not take long for the government to impose an $80 billion cut to health and education spending over the next decade. They introduced legislation regarding penalty rates that would leave workers worse off, undermining their hard-fought rights. They undertook a massive witch hunt under the guise of a royal commission into unions that was nothing more than the opportunity to bash unions and weaken workers’ rights. Yet, when we asked them to conduct a royal commission into the banks, they refused to. Despite the fact that they have been refusing continuously, we see today that they have come up with some furphy that they will look into an inquiry or something. We need a royal commission into the banks, and we need it now.

Georganas

In the three years since not being returned, I had the honour and privilege of working for the Australian Services Union, where I was involved in the negotiations for the 5,000 redundancies of Qantas workers. What I hear from the other side and what I saw were two very different things. I cannot praise the union movement and the workers that it represents enough for the respectful way they ensure that workers are given a fair go and for the many, many young people that I met in the union movement over the last three years—brilliant young lawyers that could go off and earn three or four times the amount that they earn, yet are determined because they want to represent workers and do the best they can to make sure that they give them a better quality of life. That is what workers deserve. So what I hear and what I saw were very different. In addition, the coalition government announced that the pension age would rise to 70 by 2035—another broken promise when they said pensions would not be changed—and that the age and disability pensions will fall behind wages growth from 2017.

And, of course, there were the threats to Medicare. Regardless of what I have heard over yesterday and today, I know that Medicare was the most important issue in my electorate. This was not a furphy. What we had was a period of three years where three times there was an attempt through the budget to bring in a co-payment. It failed, planting the seed into people’s minds that there is something wrong with this government when it comes to Medicare. It failed, and then the government went the backdoor way by freezing the indexation. And this is the message that people knew out there. So, despite anything that we hear about this not being true and how there were lies, there was action that this government took to water down Medicare and make sure it was made weaker than it currently is. So the message from my electorate was clear: do not meddle with Medicare. It was loud and clear. People do not want our Medicare system undermined.

I am determined to fight against this sort of injustice, because these measures hurt people and undermine the very fabric of our society. Many of these people—our elderly—have fought in wars. They have paid their taxes. They have protected our country. They have worked very hard. They do not deserve to be punished. And we will not have it on this side. In Hindmarsh we have a rapidly ageing population who rely more and more on these services. They deserve to be represented and they deserve to have advocates on their side.

Many of my constituents are migrants who settled in the electorate of Hindmarsh many years ago. I am talking about our wonderful Italian and Greek communities, who all came out here as young men and women in their late teens or early 20s and who are now rapidly ageing, at a rapid pace. These people worked in some of the lowest paid jobs, under horrendous conditions. They struggled with limited English and, at the time, limited support. They did it because they wanted to provide a better life for their children, who today you will find in every field, including politics, business, science and research. They left their homes and chose to make a new home in Australia to have the ability to dream—but not just to dream but to fulfil those dreams. This includes people like my parents, who came here in the early fifties.

Georganas

I would like to take a moment to say a few words in my parents’ native Greek, if you allow me. I have spoken to Hansard, who will have the translation.

Thelon a po ena megalo efharisto, ap ta vathi tis kardias mou stin elliniki parukias tis ethras mou Hindmarsh yia tin ipostrixi pou mou ehaite dixi.

Ohi monoyia tin ipostrixi alla pio simantika sas sinhero yia osa ehete apohtisi kai prosferi san metanastes stin kainouria patrida sas.

Ithela nap o afta ta liga logia stin elliniki ylosa na timiso olous tous ellines tis australias kai tin thikimou klironomia. Thank you for allowing me that.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Broadbent): I don’t know what I have allowed, Steve!

Mr GEORGANAS: The translation will be given to Hansard.

The translation read as follows—

I wish to thank from the bottom of my heart the Greek community and residents of Hindmarsh for the support they have shown me.

Not only for their support, but more importantly, l wish to congratulate and acknowledge everything they have achieved and offered as migrants to their new country, Australia.

I wanted to say these few words in the Greek language to acknowledge the Greeks’ contribution to Australia, and my own cultural heritage.

I have 200 languages spoken within my electorate. I wish I could speak in each and every one of them. Unfortunately, I cannot. I will have to stick to Greek and English.

We also have a growing community of Indians, Chinese, Africans, Middle Easterns, just to name a few who are the new, emerging communities in my electorate. Diversity is a reality in Hindmarsh as it is in many electorates around the country. I want to be able to ensure that people celebrate their diversity, their cultural linguistics and their religious ways.

To win an election takes a lot of people to assist, and I have many, many people to thank: David Di Troia from UV; David Gray; Joe Szakacks, who is here in the gallery today; my grandkids as well, who are crying, but I will get on to them; Joseph Scales and Abbie Spencer from the ASU, who were absolutely brilliant; Linda White, the ASU national assistant secretary; Liz Temple from the CPSU; Jamie Newlan; Michael O’Connor; the SDA; CEPU; AMWU; MUA; CWU and CFMEU. Of course there are many volunteers: Abbie Spencer and Cheyne Rich, who were my campaign coordinator and campaign manager—I thank them for the hard work that they did on my campaign; Emily Gore; Angas Oehme; Sam Davies; Pam Nadar; Steven Choung; Peter Bijork; John Trainer, who has always been there supporting me as a former speaker of South Australia in the House and is now the Mayor of West Torrens; Frank Violi, from the Italian pensioners; George Peters, who is the president of the St George Greek Orthodox Community; Depak Bhardwaj and his family from the Indian community; Reggie Martin; Steven May; the Australian Labor Party sub-branch; the Hindmarsh FEC office bearers and members; Tim Looker, president of the Hindmarsh FEC; PLUS; Young Left; AYL. I also thank Nick Bolkus, who gave me my first opportunity in parliament; Premier Jay Weatherill; Paul Caicia; Mick Atkinson; Steph Key; Tom Koutsantonis and his wonderful staff including Zoi Papafilopoulis and Betty Livaditis; Susan Close; Stephen Mullighan; and Annabel Digance. And, of course, my parliamentary colleagues here in this place: Bill Shorten, Penny Wong, Mark Butler, Anne McEwen, Nick Champion, Brendan O’Connor, Maria Vamvakinou and everyone else that assisted.

Georganas

This would not have been possible without the love and support of my family who are all here today. When I left this place in 2013 I had one grandchild. I now have three and I am very proud of them. To Wendy; my boys, George and Alex; their partners, Irene and Eleni; to my grandchildren, Stathi—who I give a big wave to—Mia and Lia: I thank them for what I have put them through over the years, especially Wendy. No-one else would put up with what I have put them through to campaign and to achieve my goals and the things that have got me here, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. There is nothing more important than family, and you quickly realise that when you are not in this place. It is the family that we all turn to. Thank you.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Broadbent): The question is that the address be agreed to, but just before I call the member for Hughes, I remind the House that this is not the member’s first speech and he is fair game under the standing orders!

Georganas

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