Speaker Sets July 28 As Date For Five By-Elections; Opposition Outraged

The Speaker, Tony Smith, advised the House of Representatives this afternoon that he had set July 28 as the date for the five by-elections caused by recent resignations relating to dual citizenship.

Smith

Smith told the House that because of new regulations to refine the nomination process and because of imminent schools holidays, July 28 was the “optimal” date for the by-elections in Longman, Braddon, Mayo, Fremantle and Perth.

The ALP opposition accused the Speaker of inordinate delay and said the by-elections coincided with the ALP National Conference in Adelaide.

  • Listen to Speaker’s statement to the House (21m)
  • Watch the House proceedings (21m)

Hansard transcript of House of Representatives proceedings relating to the calling of five by-elections on July 28.

The SPEAKER (15:12): If members could cease interjecting, could I please have the attention of the House on this important matter: I’d like to read a fairly lengthy statement, and then I’ll be tabling some documents. Earlier in the week, I advised the House I would provide an update on possible dates for by-elections in the seats of Braddon, Fremantle, Longman, Mayo and Perth. This update follows further consultation with the Australian Electoral Commissioner and party leaders. Under the Constitution, it is my responsibility alone to issue a writ for a by-election when a vacancy occurs, and generally it has not been the practice to provide an explanation for the exercise of this responsibility. I have varied from the usual practice because of the quite unusual—quite unique—circumstances surrounding these by-elections. [Read more…]


Turnbull And Shorten Pay Moving Tribute To Sir John Carrick

Moving tribute was paid to the late Senator Sir John Carrick in the House of Representatives today. The former Fraser government minister died on May 18, aged 99.

CarrickCarrick, shown here in 1971, was a NSW Liberal senator from 1971 until 1987. He became Minister for Education on November 12, 1975, following the dismissal of the Whitlam government. In 1979, he became Minister for National Development and Energy, holding the portfolio until the government’s defeat in 1983. He was Leader of the Government in the Senate from 1978 until 1983.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke of Carrick’s wartime experiences, including three years as a prisoner-of-war in Changi. He spoke of Carrick’s service as General Secretary of the NSW division of the Liberal Party and his time as a minister in the Fraser government. Turnbull’s voice broke as he told how Carrick died in his family’s arms, just as Changi prisoners ensured that none of their number died alone.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said some regarded Carrick as “the soul of the Liberal Party”, which “he took from a fledgling amateur operation to a national political force”. Shorten said that “giants of our movement across the generations knew and admired John Carrick not just as a worthy foe and an opponent of great civility and courtesy but also as a person of substance, someone always prepared to argue sincerely held differences in principle, philosophy and the convictions that underpinned policy”. [Read more…]


Ged Kearney (ALP-Batman) – Maiden Speech

This is the maiden speech of Ged Kearney to the House of Representatives.

Kearney

The new ALP member for Batman was elected at a by-election on March 17, 2018. The by-election was caused by the resignation of David Feeney, due to his inability to provide evidence that he had renounced his dual citizenship with the United Kingdom.

Kearney, 54, was the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) between 2010 and February 2018. She is a former nurse and a former official of the Australian Nursing Federation. [Read more…]


Sen. Tim Storer (Ind-SA) – Maiden Speech

Senator Tim Storer has delivered his maiden speech to the Senate.

Storer

Storer has filled the vacancy created by the resignation of South Australian Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, a Nick Xenophon Team member. Kakoschke-Moore was ruled ineligible by the High Court, due to her dual citizenship. A special recount of ballot papers elected Storer in her place. Storer had already left the party and has chosen to sit as an independent. He was declared elected on February 16, 2018.

Storer, 48, is a former member of the ALP. He joined the Nick Xenophon Team in 2013 and was number four on the party’s South Australian Senate ticket at the 2016 election. The ticket elected three senators. Following Senator Xenophon’s resignation in 2017, Rex Patrick was chosen to fill the casual vacancy. Storer resigned from the party in protest.

Storer has worked in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam. He ran a business assisting businesses with Asian trading and investment interests.

  • Listen to Storer’s speech (19m)
  • Watch Storer’s speech (21m)

Hansard transcript of maiden speech by Senator Tim Storer.

Senator STORER (South Australia) (17:04): I would like to begin by acknowledging the Ngunawal people as the traditional owners of the land upon which I stand and the Kaurna people as the traditional owners of the land on which my office in Adelaide sits, and I pay my respect to their elders, past and present. I also acknowledge all First Nations people in the chamber and gallery today. I wish to thank my family, especially Belinda, our sons Raphael and Ilan; Belinda’s parents; and my friends for their support. Thank you to those who have travelled here today. I would like to acknowledge the kind and courteous reception I’ve had since joining the Senate, from its wonderful staff, from the President and fellow senators and from Senators Cormann and Wong, who kindly escorted me into this chamber.

Storer

I am tremendously proud to represent the great state of South Australia. I have deep roots in South Australia, through my mother and father’s families, going back to the mid-19th century. It is an exciting time to be a South Australian, and I am lucky to be one.

I come to this place representing South Australia from my involvement with Nick Xenophon. I’d like to pay tribute to Nick, who included me on his South Australian Senate ticket in 2016 and who made a significant contribution to South Australia through his considerable political service. I thank Senator Griff, former Senator Kakoschke-Moore and others for supporting that decision. I intend to uphold the values and spirit of accountability and transparency that the Nick Xenophon Team articulated when I stood for election in 2016. The process of careful review I’ve undertaken with the important bills before me in my first two weeks in March and now is consistent with that spirit. I will judge legislation and other measures put before me on their individual merits, assessing proposals against four benchmarks: integrity, fairness, prosperity and sustainability. I will not engage in trade-offs for political gain. I will not compromise on what I think is in the interests of South Australians and our nation. I believe the South Australian people expect and deserve no less. My values are underpinned and encapsulated in the Prayer for Generosity taught to me at St Ignatius’ College in Athelstone:

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give, and not to count the cost,
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
to toil, and not to seek for rest,
to labour, and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.

Those values, instilled in me by my parents and teachers, guide me to this day.

Storer

Commitment to integrity is rooted in my upbringing. I was born in 1969 in Loxton, a town in the Riverland region of South Australia. Loxton remains the place where I developed a strong sense of community and belonging. Growing up in Loxton gave me a deep connection with our land. The mighty River Murray and the surrounding banks of reeds, inlets and scrub was the natural world in all its spectacular glory, and was in many ways our playground. I fondly remember waterskiing when I was just four years old, off Proud’s Sandbar just outside of Loxton. It’s where we spent time with friends and family, and it gave me a close appreciation of nature.

Being a child in Loxton for me meant a feeling of idyllic freedom, of imagination and time, and a sense of a higher purpose. This sense also developed at St Albert’s Catholic Primary School in Loxton and at St Ignatius. It was reflected in my early passion for middle- and long-distance running. Robert de Castella was a particular hero, and I was inspired by his world record run in the 1981 Fukuoka marathon and his come-from-behind victory at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. The late Brother Paul Callil was another inspiration. His encouragement to all of us at school to strive for our personal best in athletics influenced me greatly.

Storer

Studying economics at Adelaide university and then an MBA at the Australian National University, I learned the importance of hard work and the value of impartial factual evidence in guiding actions for the greater good. The revelations of the banking royal commission and of various state integrity commissions remind us of the critical importance of demanding integrity in both government and the corporate world. This requires stronger accountability and transparency arrangements. This is why I will push for real-time registration of political donations. In a digital age, it is not good enough to have paper disclosures reported on annually in non-election years and 24 weeks after polling day in an election year.

We can also do better to bring the South Australian people into the parliamentary process. With modern technology, the electorate can more easily have a voice. I therefore plan to invite the input of South Australians into my policy priorities as well as the questions and statements I make, providing them with a real-time voice in the Senate.

My dedication to the principle of fairness comes from my parents. My father loved being a GP and sought to serve his patients with the utmost care and respect, moving to Loxton to broaden his ability to do so. My mother was an extraordinary English teacher, a lover of literature and a walking dictionary. They were pillars of their communities, continuously engaged in activities for our schools and their professional associations, and instilled in me a strong sense of service, humility, compassion and empathy.

Storer

A society is judged, I believe, on how it treats its most vulnerable, and that is why we must do more to address the refugee crisis, by finding a pathway to regional processing in Southeast Asia, and the homelessness crisis here in Australia, with an enhanced focus on providing public housing. It is cheaper to place the homeless in housing than to have them live on the streets and increase the pressure on our welfare resources. Finland and Utah, in the US, have demonstrated this.

Cost-of-living pressures are a major problem for our stability, security and quality of life. Housing affordability, for example, needs greater attention. It takes far longer these days for young families to buy a home than it did their parents. Rents are also increasingly prohibitive, especially for the less well off.

The appalling inadequacy of unemployment allowances is also an issue of fairness. Newstart hasn’t risen in line with national living standards for a quarter of a century and it’s simply not enough to live on. I endorse calls from respected economists, business and welfare groups to boost Newstart significantly, and I am incredibly disappointed that the government didn’t pay attention to this in the budget. With the budget revealing a substantial improvement to revenue since Christmas, surely there was room for an increase in Newstart. As the Business Council of Australia noted as far back as 2012, the level of Newstart ‘may now be so low as to represent a barrier to employment’. And this morning John Howard declared that the freeze had probably gone on too long.

Storer

A discussion of fairness cannot ignore our First Nations people. I personally acknowledge the legacy of trauma and grief in communities as a result of colonisation, forced removals and other past government policies. It saddens me greatly that the 10th annual Closing the Gap report, in February this year, showed that only three of the seven targets are on track after a decade. It is shameful that, by percentage, more of our First Nations people are in jail than any other indigenous group in the world. The historic hand of reconciliation extended to our parliament through the Uluru Statement from the Heart remains unmet. I support calls for a First Nations voice in parliament to be enshrined in our Constitution and for a makarrata commission to supervise a process of truth telling and agreement making. I welcome initiatives to encourage more Indigenous entrepreneurship and participation in small and medium-sized businesses. The Commonwealth’s Indigenous Procurement Policy should be adopted by all levels of government and more companies to drive demand for Indigenous goods and services and grow the Indigenous business sector.

My vision for our ongoing prosperity centres on our lucky proximity to and relationship with Asia. I’ve lived it since I got on a plane at the age of 23, just over 25 years ago, with a one-way ticket to Hong Kong. This was a seminal moment in my life. I was struck, on my first flight into Hong Kong, by the seemingly daredevil half-turn over high-rise apartments just 15 seconds before landing at Kai Tak Airport, right in the middle of the city. This apparently risky but regulation routine was repeated every five minutes throughout the day and said so much about the intensity and dynamism of that vibrant city.

Storer

Hong Kong at that time was bursting with entrepreneurs. The dynamic mindset—embracing change, seeking new horizons for experience and prosperity—has been a constant reminder to me to ‘have a go’. This led me to my first role in Hong Kong, where I worked with the late Alison Wenck, who was the driving force behind a magazine aptly titled Austral-Asian Entrepreneur, and from there to a career with entrepreneurial SMEs across Asia—from Guangzhou, to Haiphong, to Saigon, to Shanghai, or selling into Asia from Australia in Sydney and Adelaide.

It also led me to learn languages of the countries I was living in, be it Mandarin, which I’ve now resumed learning for the third time, or Vietnamese. I’ve always tried to learn the local language. It was both respectful and offered insights I could not have otherwise gained into the societies in which I was living. More Australian school students should be learning Asian languages for these reasons alone, as well as for other economic and strategic advantages. Life in Asia requires perseverance and a flexible, entrepreneurial mindset. Hard work, focus and having a go have helped raise hundreds of millions out of poverty in a generation.

The opportunities for permanent benefit for South Australia and Australia are obvious. In little more than a decade, it is estimated Asia will have a middle class of around three billion people, a 600 per cent increase in 20 years, whereas the middle class in Europe and the US combined will be 1.2 billion, just 40 per cent of Asia’s. This is not just China. Presently our two-way trade with South-East Asia actually exceeds that with China, and opportunities for doing much more with South-East Asia as well as India are strong. We already see dramatic examples of what deepening trade with Asia can bring to our economy and society—a 63 per cent year-on-year increase in Australian wine exports to China in 2017, much of that from South Australia; the growth of international education to be our third-largest export industry; and the number of Chinese tourists doubling in the last five years to be our largest visitor market.

Our proximity to Asia and the inherent strengths of ‘brand Australia’ in perceptions there put us in a superb position. We are automatically and rightly seen as high quality all over Asia. For a large country rich in land and natural resources with a relatively small population, foreign investment in Australia is essential to our development. We must resist knee-jerk reactions against investment by non-Western entities. We must also support more Australian companies and institutional investors to invest in Asian countries. We should also deepen engagement with Indonesia. Too much of our mindset is in looking beyond that country. Mutual opportunities are being missed.

Storer

Asia provides new markets for entrepreneurship and innovation in South Australia about which I am passionate. I welcome the growth of incubators, hubs, co-working spaces, precincts and business parks that will further foster exciting development in our state. I also see great potential for South Australia around advanced manufacturing. From my recent business experience, there is clearly global demand for high-quality, advanced manufacturing products from our state. For example, we should capitalise on the opportunity to bring car manufacturing jobs back to South Australia through the electric vehicle revolution. EV car sales are growing internationally. All the major car brands are investing heavily in developing EVs to meet increasing demand. Australia is one of the few places that has all the natural and human resources needed to build an electric vehicle within a stable political environment. We have lithium and other minerals that are essential to making the batteries in cars themselves. We have the parts manufacturers and the engineers who can build the machines that will make these cars. But the missing piece of the pie is domestic EV uptake. We need the right policies and leadership to encourage this, and I’m disappointed that the government didn’t focus on this in the budget.

I’m also passionate about the positive impact that South Australia’s arts and festivals have had for the state. Building on the legacy of Don Dunstan, Adelaide is an ideal place to foster creative entrepreneurial businesses, tourism, sport, film and television productions, and music.

Sustainability is important to me not just environmentally but also economically. We must have responsible, broad-based tax reform to create a more sustainable, equitable tax-and-transfer system. Our current budget deficit and debt demand it. Our present tax system is insufficiently robust to support a medium-term fiscal strategy of budget surpluses on average over the course of the economic cycle.

This may be my first speech, but I’m sure people want to know what I think about last night’s budget, given the first major decision I had to make in this chamber concerned the government’s enterprise tax plan. I welcome the first round of personal tax cuts announced in last night’s budget. They are affordable; they are also neatly targeted and provide much needed relief for low- and middle-income earners. The benefits will flow directly into the economy.

But I have serious doubts about the last round of tax cuts due to come in six budgets and two elections from now. They would be regressive. There are questions about their affordability. The personal and company tax cuts proposed by the government do not amount to comprehensive tax reform. We should refocus on the principal reform elements of the Henry review into the tax and transfer system, commissioned 10 years ago this month. As the 2015 Intergenerational report notes, spending needs should take into account Australia’s ageing population, which has important implications for the growing demand for health, aged care services and retirement incomes.

Storer

We should continue to support businesses with R&D, innovation and industrial transformation; fund world-class education and health systems; harness the contribution potential of our youth and ageing populations; and increase investment in public infrastructure, which has the effect of stimulating economic growth at the same time as securing long-term benefits to our communities.

Amid all of this, we must not lose sight of the existential threat posed by human induced climate change. Climate change is the significant risk to our economy, national security and environment. As we know, tackling this issue will take strong and dedicated leadership and vision.

Before concluding, I want to refer to my passionate advocacy for the Australian republic. A home-grown Australian head of state is essential in a nation which defines itself as self-determining. It’s ironic and telling that to be a member of this chamber you cannot hold British citizenship, but you must be British to be our head of state. I’ve been actively involved in advocating for an Australian republic for over a quarter of a century. I have fond yet also queasy memories of organising a pre-1999 republican referendum yum cha lunch, with speakers being former Prime Minister Whitlam and current Prime Minister Turnbull, in the floating Chinese restaurant in Rose Bay in Sydney.

Senators usually have six years to make their contribution in this place. From the time of my declaration by the High Court, my initial term will be 500 days. I look at this as a glass half full. I will make every day count and judge every issue on its merits against the benchmarks of integrity, fairness, prosperity and sustainability. These are principles I will uphold for the people of South Australia in my role as senator for them, and I hope that will meet with their continuing support. Thank you.

Storer


Sen. Kristina Keneally (ALP-NSW) – Maiden Speech

Senator Kristina Keneally (ALP-NSW) has delivered her first speech to the Senate, watched by a large contingent of Labor members, including Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Keneally

Keneally, 49, has filled the casual vacancy created by the resignation of Sam Dastyari. She was formally chosen by a joint sitting of the NSW Parliament on February 14, 2018. She is the 98th woman elected to the Senate since 1901.

Keneally was the ALP member for Heffron in the NSW Legislative Assembly between 2003 and 2012. She was Premier of NSW between December 2009 and March 2011, leading the ALP to defeat after sixteen years in office. Keneally has worked as a commentator on Sky News for the past three years. She was the ALP candidate in the Bennelong by-election last December.

Hansard transcript of maiden speech by Senator Kristina Keneally (ALP-NSW)

Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (17:07): Thank you, Mr President. In the year before this chamber opened, 1987, just after I graduated from high school, I took a job on an assembly line at Johns-Manville, a fibreglass manufacturer who had two factories in my hometown of Waterville, Ohio. The work was tedious and hot. But the hourly rate was good, compared to other jobs, and it helped me save for my up-front university fees. I worked eight-hour shifts, sometimes 12 hours, on a crew of four. We wore these heavy canvas jumpsuits. When slivers of fibreglass got caught between the canvas collar and the back of our necks, or in the space between the cuff and the inside of the wrist, the itching would drive us crazy. [Read more…]


Sen. Steve Martin (Ind-Tas) – Maiden Speech

Senator Steve Martin has delivered his maiden speech to the Senate.

Martin replaced Jacqui Lambie, following her resignation due to dual citizenship. After Lambie was subsequently ruled ineligible to have nominated by the High Court, a special recount saw Martin declared elected on February 9, 2018. By this time, Martin had refused to give up the seat for Lambie, who disendorsed him. Martin has chosen to sit as an independent.

Martin, 57, is a former newsagent and restaurateur. He was elected to the Devonport City Council in 2009. He became Mayor in 2011 and was re-elected in 2014. The High Court ruled that his position on the council did not constitute an office of profit under the Crown and he was therefore eligible under Section 44 of the Constitution.

  • Listen to Martin’s speech (31m)
  • Watch Martin’s speech (34m)

Hansard transcript of maiden speech by Senator Steve Martin.

Senator MARTIN (Tasmania) (17:01): Thank you, Mr President. Senators, ladies and gentlemen, I acknowledge the Ngunawal people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

A few weeks ago a local journalist from The Advocate, a tough little north-west newspaper not known for giving away easy free kicks, came to see me. While a kind profile piece was run, it was accompanied by the headline: ‘Steve Martin, Bradbury of the Senate’. As we know, Senators, Steven Bradbury is, of course, the Australian speed skater legend who came from behind to win gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics as the other skaters skittled each other at the final bend. Others might take this headline as an insult or a backhanded compliment—perhaps that was even my instinctive response—but on reflection I have come to welcome the comparison. If nothing else, I’m in good company. We now have a small army of Bradburys in this chamber, thanks to section 44 of the Constitution. But, more importantly, there is a hidden moral in Bradbury’s unlikely success story about being positive, having a dream, backing yourself against the odds and giving things a red-hot go. Steven Bradbury was not the world’s best speed skater. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest. Frankly, his prospects were pretty dim. Imagine the self-doubt he had to overcome and the setbacks he faced along the way. But there he was, at the Olympics. He drew on all his courage and determination to get there. He put in all the hard work and then, at the fateful final turn, twice the gods smiled, the luck came to his side and the glory was his.

The Advocate was right. It is positivity and determination along with the good fortune that sometimes follows which have delivered me into this rare and humbling position as a federal parliamentarian representing the great state of Tasmania in this Senate. It is a responsibility and an honour which I will take with great seriousness and humility. That same optimistic philosophy has carried me through the ups and downs of a career in small business, a sports shop, a newsagency and a Mexican restaurant. It has underpinned my longstanding involvement in community activity, from setting up a youth group to organising a grassroots campaign which saved the Mersey hospital to proudly serving in the Tasmania Fire Service and as an alderman and Mayor of the City of Devonport for many years.

My point is that none of this was served up on a plate. All of it took hard work. All of it took a willingness to take a risk on what seemed at the time like distant and unlikely outcomes. This philosophy of optimism, of having a dream and backing yourself to get there, is, I believe, one we can all draw on whatever our political views. Moreover, it applies to us not just as individuals but also as a community.

For too long political discussions about Tasmania have been overwhelmingly focused on the negatives. Time and again we are treated to tales of doom and gloom about failure, falling behind or not catching up. We hear discouraging words like ‘malaise’ and ‘stagnation’ and ‘straggler’. We read that Tasmanians work less, earn less and are less productive than their mainland counterparts. We hear that our state ranks low in terms of education and literacy, wages, health, employment, investment and house prices, and it tops the states per capita in the sad categories of obesity and welfare receipts. The unsurprising effect has been to create a grim picture of a miserable state struggling in virtually every metric of economic and social development.

Well, I don’t buy into that narrative, and neither do Tasmanians. It doesn’t stack up with the feeling on the ground. In recent weeks I’ve been driving around the state, speaking to lots of people, north and south, in towns and cities, boardrooms and universities, farms and community halls, and I can tell you that there is today an unmistakably vibrant sense of optimism and excitement about our future—and all Tasmanians know what I’m talking about.

For the first time in many years, the state government has been returned with a clear majority. Business confidence is up. Unemployment is coming down. Trade is growing, especially in agricultural exports, into the megamarkets of East Asia, most notably China. Building approvals are also up. This means benefits for both housing and the construction sector. Tourism—again, largely from China—is growing faster in Tasmania than in any other state. Even some of our problems—our new problems like housing shortages in Hobart—are symptoms of success, as surging demand for residential properties is driving up values. These are small and somewhat isolated data points, to be sure. They are contrasted by others which reflect ongoing difficulties, but taken together they are the early signs that things are going right—that, after a long and difficult period, we are on the cusp of a more sustained era of success. The pendulum is swinging our way.

The big ships which glide into the Mersey and pass my office every morning are called the Spirit of Tasmania. They are aptly named because there is a human spirit in Tasmania which rises above the ABS data. It is a spirit built on a combination of resilience and sensitivity, toughness and kindness, a strong sense of community, equality and a deep love for sport. Rooted in geographic isolation from the mainland and to some extent from each other, it finds expression in strong local identities, a uniquely offbeat culture and a dry sense of humour.

I don’t invoke this to gloss over or skirt our many difficult issues; I do it to recast them. They should not be seen as incurable problems, because they are not. Embedded in each challenge is an opportunity. In Tasmania, words like ‘growth’, ‘investment’, ‘productivity’ and ‘competition’ have tended to be used to describe a seemingly far-off dream. Our challenge is to harness that Tasmanian spirit, to bend it in ways that make these things everyday features of our economic reality.

We are well equipped for the struggle. Opportunities abound in mining and tourism. Our climate is the envy of rural and regional communities in Australia and around the world. We also have some of the world’s cleanest air and purest water. The combination of above-average annual rainfall and free-draining soil creates unparalleled fertility, perfect conditions for rearing livestock, for horticulture, for aquaculture, for winemaking, for dairy and for growing fruit. Our agriculture sector is strong because it plays to our natural strengths. In each of these subsectors there is so much capacity just waiting to be harnessed. If you’ve ever had a Cape Grim steak, you’ve literally tasted the potential, and, if you picked up the bill at the restaurant, the chances are the economic possibilities haven’t escaped you either!

In Tasmania small increases in production across the board, or bigger increases in just a few areas, have a major economic impact. We have so much to offer and so much to gain. The time is now to double-down on the best chances for more jobs, wage growth and investment, and that is why today I’ve agreed to support the government’s company tax reforms. We need an internationally competitive tax rate for all our businesses, one that will provide industry with every opportunity to underpin our economic growth.

Strong industries need access to strong markets, and it is here that the government can do more. First, we need to strengthen our biosecurity. The recent outbreak of fruit fly in north and north-west Tasmania came as a shock to the system. While it looks to be contained, the incursion should serve as a timely reminder and a wake-up call. Fruit fly and other pests pose an unacceptable risk to our agricultural exports. They threaten the livelihood of our farmers and the reputation and economic wellbeing of our state. Our trading partners will not accept lax standards or lax compliance, and neither should we. I am proud that in my first week as a senator I was able to successfully negotiate a six-figure grant for Fruit Growers Tasmania. That money will be spent on a public awareness campaign to enhance compliance with biosecurity regulations, to ensure that a few bad imports do not destroy our exports. It’s a good start, but we must go further. We need better coordination between federal and state governments to prevent and deal with infestations, as well as better resources to detect, isolate and eradicate threats as they appear.

Second, Tasmanian exporters need to be assured of a level playing field. Tasmania’s unique geography offers some extraordinary advantages, but it also has its drawbacks. Most notably, it adds to the cost of getting goods to market. Unlike their counterparts on the mainland, Tasmanian businesses do not have the option of using road or rail before on-shipment to international markets. It is for this reason that the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme matters so much. Under the scheme, our exporters are entitled to a rebate which compensates for the added cost of having to ship goods by sea. I welcomed the expansion of the scheme back in 2016 and I commend the government’s commitment last week to stick with it for the time being. We do, however, need a more concrete and long-term commitment on the expanded TFES, one which goes beyond the 2018-19 time frame. We also need a more regular review system than the current four-yearly approach. The level of assistance available must be tightly indexed to changes in the costs of shipping. This will ensure our businesses are getting the fairest possible deal. Only then can industry have the certainty they need and only then can they make the kinds of investments that create jobs and strengthen our economy.

Third, we need responsible foreign policies which safeguard our economic future. Australia has benefited greatly from China’s rise. It was China’s massive demand for minerals which underpinned the mining boom that steered us through the global financial crisis and created an unprecedented era of wealth and prosperity for our country. Tasmania was dragged along to an extent, but it is only now that we are beginning to directly and fully capitalise, as a state, on the extraordinary opportunities made available by the growth of China’s economy and booming middle class. As China is the biggest overseas market for Tasmanian exports and biggest source of overseas tourism, investment and international students, our economic prospects as a state and a nation are today tied to China, whether we like it or not. This means we need a good relationship. We need constructive and positive relations based on mutual respect and understanding. We must continue to work hard to ensure that we do not let relations deteriorate. Diplomatic cocktail parties in Canberra must feel a long way removed from a mine at Savage River, an arts space in Hobart, a farm in Spreyton or a vineyard in the Tamar Valley, but it is these places which feel the pain if relations go bad, and we simply cannot afford it. So those are some of the immediate priorities.

Over the longer term, our most fundamental challenge as Tasmanians is education. Sir Douglas Copland, the first ever professor of economics at the University of Tasmania, described education as ‘the most profitable investment a community can make.’ He was right, and the evidence is undeniable. According to Saul Eslake, each additional year of school attained, on average, leads to between six and 19 per cent economic growth over the long run. People with a degree earn an average of 50 per cent more over their lives than those whose education ends at year 12. In turn, people whose education finishes at year 12 earn 40 per cent more than those who finish at or before year 10. The pattern is clear enough.

But it’s not just financial. In addition to being more prosperous, people who are better educated tend to be less prone to gambling, drug abuse, alcoholism, obesity, crime and chronic illness. In short, a better education means a better life. If we are to seize our opportunities, if we are to boost workforce participation and productivity, if we are to enjoy a future in which we are healthy, wealthy and wise, the challenge falls largely on education.

Education has long been a difficult issue in Tasmania. Most of it comes down to an overly fragmented schooling system. Unlike other states, Tasmanian public schools—and, in some parts, its Catholic schools—have historically ended at year 10. Years 11 and 12 are delivered through separate colleges. The effect is to up-end the lives and educational pathways of students at precisely the time they need stability. To complete years 11 and 12, our students often have to travel further and at greater expense. Their peer groups and support networks are dispersed, and that crucial bond between teacher and student, in which four years have been invested, is broken and must be re-formed.

Predictably, this is where too many educational journeys end. But let me be clear: this is no indictment on the individual colleges themselves. They are good institutions and they are staffed by passionate and professional teachers and principals. In many cases—for example, at Don College in Devonport—they consistently produce excellent results. The problem lies with a system which stacks the decks against them and in which too few year 10 students continue into colleges in the first place. Our students are our most precious resource. We need to minimise the economic barriers and maximise access to a world-class education. That is why, for as long as I serve in this chamber, I will oppose any cuts to education—period.

But of course an education system is not just about dollars. It is about culture, and specifically a culture which encourages learning, takes pride in its students and celebrates their achievements. A good primary education sets our kids up for success at high school, and solid secondary schooling provides pathways to good jobs or university. But where does this process begin? The answer, of course, is: at birth. It is the early years which set the foundation for lifelong learning. The process occurs as our kids grow, develop a sense of self and begin to engage with the world around them. Government has a critical, crucial role in strengthening early childhood learning, including underwriting a fair and agile system of childcare rebates and ensuring our states’ programs are funded at a level which reflects their importance.

Families matter just as much. It is in the home where our education begins—bedtime stories or dinnertime discussions, questions asked and answered, counting, drawing and learning about colours. These might have been seen just as a childish pastime, but we now know they are building blocks of success. That is why in the coming weeks I will be expanding my program ‘Books for Babies’. Under the scheme, we will be giving a free book to as many babies as we can who are born in Tasmania this year. The idea is to give our kids a little leg up, a gift of encouragement as they set out on their lives of learning. With good government programs and an educational culture built on encouragement for learning in the home, the school and beyond, we have every reason to be excited about the future.

Let me end on one issue on which Tasmanians can be forgiven for feeling less optimistic. I speak, of course, about the troubled state of Australian Rules football—specifically, about the ongoing neglect by the AFL of Tasmania’s ambition to be represented in both the men’s and women’s game at the most senior level of the competition. Almost 30 years after the creation of a so-called national league, Tasmania remains without a team or even a genuine pathway. This is a disgrace! New South Wales has two teams; Queensland has two teams; so do South Australia and Western Australia. And Tasmania has none.

Having excluded our blokes for decades, the AFL had a recent chance to make amends, with the creation of the new AFL women’s comp. They failed to do so. So now they’re excluding our girls, and this is also unacceptable.

This is sad reality. But the reasons behind it are even worse. Tasmanians’ exclusion has nothing to do with a lack of talent. We are the state that produced the likes of Darrel Baldock, Royce Hart, Matthew Richardson and many others. Today, Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt exemplifies the talent, skill and leadership that Tasmanian football can offer. It’s not the tough financial requirements of sustaining a team, either. Under the fly-in, fly-out arrangements with Hawthorn and North Melbourne, Tasmanians already pay as much per capita for football as, and, in some cases, more than, those in other states. Perversely, Tasmanians are penalised because we love the game. We already watch and support football as much as we can, and it is embedded in our DNA. To the AFL, we are therefore a market taken for granted. In the cold financial calculus of the AFL, they have nothing to gain by fulfilling our dreams of a Tassie team.

Let me assure you that this issue is about more than just football. It’s about equality, community and national inclusion. It also has deep social implications. Some years ago, AFL Tasmania conducted an interesting experiment. They wanted to see whether the unemployment rates in Burnie’s local football teams lined up with the overall unemployment rate in the town. What they found was astounding. Where unemployment for men aged 18 to 30 hovered somewhere around 20 per cent, in the football clubs it was zero. There’s a number of reasons, of course. Young footballers are well equipped with the kinds of skills which make them highly employable. They work in teams, they’re good under pressure, and they’re fit, healthy and disciplined. The footy teams were also acting as a social support network; where a player lost a job, the word went out and another job was found.

According to Professor Jonathan West, also from the University of Tasmania, it is the loss of a local football team that spells the greatest trouble for country towns, and this is exactly what is happening. AFL in Tasmania is in crisis. Burnie and Devonport have withdrawn from the state league. The stands are empty. Community involvement—once, nearly half the population, in some form or another—is plummeting, and our kids are understandably deserting footy in droves to play other sports.

After dragging his heels for months, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan is today finally in Tasmania to help staunch the bleeding. More needs to be done. Only by creating a road map to a men’s and a women’s team in the senior comps can we fully re-energise Tasmanian football, one of our biggest social institutions.

I am realistic. I understand that you can’t get a team with a click of the fingers. But I’m also eager. What I ask is that a new and updated business plan be commissioned to jump-start the process, and I stand ready to work with the AFL and AFL Tasmania on this important issue, and I am prepared to use all the moral and political weight of my office to do so.

It would be remiss of me to conclude this speech without some important acknowledgements. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a whole state to raise a senator. Tonight I offer my heartfelt thanks to the people of Tasmania, for it is an honour and privilege to be representing you here today. I promise to fight for our great state with every bit of dedication and tenacity I can muster.

I also wish to acknowledge my family, who are a great inspiration and a source of endless love, encouragement and support. When I was elected as mayor of Devonport in 2011, it was a proud day for both my parents, John and Patricia Martin, though, sadly, Dad passed away on my first official day as mayor. Dad was a proud man. He was also a footy legend who believed in a firm handshake and the idea that your word is your bond. It was through his service as a volunteer firefighter that he instilled in me a strong commitment to my community service. As for my mum, she’s also very proud. Her patience and gentle guidance, her kindness and good humour have helped shape who I am. I am incredibly proud of my children, Rachel and Alex. They are both grown up now and each has a beautiful daughter, Ilse and Edie. Both my grandchildren said they want me to become Prime Minister. I told them they would just have to be patient. My brother, Brett, and I have always been very close, playing sport together, delivering newspapers and serving in the volunteer fire service. It meant a lot to me that Brett and his wife, Karen, were here the day I became a senator.

Most of all, I want to thank my beautiful and intelligent wife, Susanne, who’s in the gallery tonight. Everyone here knows how tough a life in politics can be on a family. Susanne is always there and has been fully supportive of everything that I do. She’s a very understanding and patient woman, and she is really my rock. Susanne, I love you and I’m very lucky to have you. Thank you for being in my life.

Beyond my family, I take this opportunity to recognise a few people who have played an inspirational role in my life. Gary Davenport, a Tasmanian basketball legend, has been a lifetime mentor. As a boy, basketball was a huge part of my life, and I often snuck into the stadium to watch him play. Later, as teammates, he once hit me at full pace in the back of the head with his trademark look-away bullet-like pass. This taught me to never take my eye off the ball. Gary told me to take it as a valuable life lesson, and it has been. Deborah Thomson is a more recent friend who courageously told a story of 15 years of abuse in her book, Who’s Life Is It Anyway? Deborah is helping raise awareness and understanding of the horrors of domestic violence, and, as a long-time ambassador for White Ribbon, I encourage everyone to do more to end that terrible scourge. Sue Smith, a former mayor of Central Coast Council and past President of the Tasmanian Legislative Council, has been a friend, a sounding-board and a rich source of good advice. Sue was especially important in encouraging me to set up my youth group, Enormity.

In that vein, I acknowledge all past and present members of that amazing group. They embody the spirit of optimism of which I spoke, and it has been an honour to have played a part in their journey. Founded in 1996, the idea of Enormity was to empower young people to make a difference to the issues that matter to them. After all, young people are today’s consultants for tomorrow’s world. Enormity members have done amazing things, from representing Tasmania in a range of international events to actively campaigning to stop human trafficking and child prostitution. Their work to raise awareness of homelessness through their winter coat appeal has been nothing less than extraordinary. It is an appeal that went nationwide, securing the support of former prime ministers Howard, Rudd and Gillard and current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In leaving the group, one of our former presidents, Leah Lynd, wrote me a letter, which I had framed. In it, Leah writes of how the group gave her ‘self-worth, self-respect and a place to belong’. Leah then talks of how the lessons she learnt in Enormity will stay with her forever. She concludes by saying:

And now in moving on,
I leave not the little girl
terrified of the world as I was,
but as a confident woman,
certain of her place in it.
I believe in myself and
have seen what I can achieve
no matter where I end up.

I arrived here in the federal parliament in rather extraordinary circumstances. I have been humbled by the warmth and generosity of all my colleagues here, both in the chamber and in the offices that make this place tick. For that, I give thanks. I also acknowledge Jacqui Lambie and the JLN for giving me the opportunity to run on their Senate ticket in the 2016 election.

In order to get here, I referred myself to the High Court to deal with questions about my eligibility. The issue was whether a mayor or a local alderman was an office of profit under the Crown for the purposes of section 44 of the Constitution. In securing a decision from the full bench, I am proud to have set an important legal precedent. This decision clears the way for mayors, aldermen and councillors to run for the federal parliament without having to sacrifice their jobs and livelihoods—and they are precisely the kinds of people we need here. To my incredible legal team, Philip Solomon QC, Dr Charles Parkinson and the hardworking solicitors at Corrs West-garth Melbourne, I say thank you.

Finally, I acknowledge my brilliant staff—Brooke, Raoul, Brian, April, Janine and Rodney. Working for me sometimes must feel like a labour of love. Their passionate and dedicated support for me in this role is an inspiration every day.

This is an exciting time for Australia and Tasmania. We have so much to gain and so much to offer. As I set out in this role as a senator for Tasmania, I’m honoured to be part of that journey. In conclusion, I leave you with this thought from Dr Seuss, a towering figure in childhood literacy: ‘It’s not about what it is; it’s about what it can become.’ Thank you.


Sen. Kristina Keneally (ALP-NSW) Sworn In

ALP Senator Kristina Keneally has been sworn into office in a brief ceremony in the Senate chamber at 9.30 this morning.

Keneally, 49, fills the casual vacancy created by the resignation of Sam Dastyari on January 25. She is the 98th female member of the Senate since Federation.

  • Watch Keneally’s swearing-in (7m)

Keneally, American by birth, was a member of the NSW Legislative Assembly from 2003 until 2012, representing the electorate of Heffron. She was premier of NSW between December 2009 and March 2011, the third of three leaders who followed Bob Carr’s ten-year term that ended in 2005. She led the ALP to a massive defeat in the 2011 election, suffering a two-party swing of 16.48% and the loss of 32 seats.

After a period as a political commentator on Sky News, Keneally ran as the ALP candidate in the Bennelong by-election in December 2017, following the resignation of the Liberal member, John Alexander, due to UK dual citizenship. Alexander successfully re-contested the seat and Keneally garnered a two-party swing of 4.84%, slightly less than the average by-election swing against governments.

Keneally was pre-selected by the ALP and nominated for the Senate vacancy by a joint sitting of the NSW Parliament on February 14, in accordance with the casual vacancy provisions of Section 15 of the Constitution.