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Senator Mehmet Tillem (ALP-Vic) – Valedictory Speech

Senator Mehmet Tillem served just ten months in the upper house.


Tillem, a Labor senator from Victoria, was appointed on August 21, 2013 to fill a casual vacancy created by the resignation of David Feeney, who was preselected for the safe seat of Batman in the House of Representatives.

Tillem was number three on the ALP ticket for the Senate election of September 7, 2013, but he failed to win a seat. Tillem was effectively replaced by the Greens candidate, Janet Rice. Liberal Senator Helen Kroger was also defeated, her seat effectively taken by the Australian Motoring Enthusiast candidate, Ricky Muir.

Tillem gave a brief valedictory speech to the Senate on June 24, 2014. Three other ALP senators defeated at the election – Lin Thorp, Louise Pratt and Ursula Stephens – also spoke. After their speeches, eight of their colleagues paid personal tributes.

  • Listen to Tillem’s speech (11m – transcript below)
  • Watch Tillem’s speech (11m)
  • Listen to Senator Eric Abetz – Lib-Tas (7m)
  • Listen to Senator Penny Wong – ALP-SA (12m)
  • Listen to Senator Nigel Scullion – CLP-NT (5m)
  • Listen to Senator Helen Polley – ALP-Tas (3m)
  • Listen to Senator Carol Brown – ALP-Tas (13m)
  • Listen to Senator Anne Urquhart – ALP-Tas (6m)
  • Listen to Senator Helen Kroger – Lib-Vic (3m)
  • Listen to Senator Dean Smith – Lib-WA (3m)

Hansard transcript of Senator Mehmet Tillem’s valedictory speech to the Senate.


Senator TILLEM (Victoria) (16:30): In keeping with the trend of making short statements, I too will be making one today. I would like to begin by acknowledging those retiring senators: Senators Furner, Farrell, Thorp, Pratt, Bishop, Stephens, Boswell, Kroger, Eggleston and Boyce. And, Mr President, I would like to acknowledge your retirement after many years of service to the Senate. I congratulate you on the way that you have, in an even-handed way, managed the operations of this chamber. I wish all those retiring senators well for whatever comes beyond 30 June and congratulate them on their contributions.

It has been a steep learning curve, and I feel that I have only just found my feet in this place. Although this stint has been short, I am truly honoured to have been able to represent the great state of Victoria.

To my colleagues: it has been a privilege and an honour working with all of you. Where I have sought advice and counsel, you have without hesitation provided it, and for that I thank you. There has also been a great deal of unsolicited advice, which was also appreciated.

The time I have spent here has given me an opportunity to represent the views of those from my home state and Australians across the country. I have seen and heard and listened and learned. I do not plan on speaking for long, because this is a statement rather than a valedictory speech. But, in the spirit of counsel that I have received, I would also like to provide some counsel to those on the other side.

The Treasurer, in the budget speech, said Australia is a nation of lifters. I must congratulate those across the chamber, the Liberal and National parties, because they have provided leadership in that sense. They have lifted the retirement age, they have lifted consumer protection, they have lifted the protection against being a bigot, they have lifted the cost of going to the doctor and they have lifted the cost of education. Whether they choose to take the counsel is their choice, but what the Australian people would like is some honesty. I am sure those opposite will get support from the community if they are up-front with what they are doing.

This is an opportunity for me to go back to the first time I spoke in this chamber. I spoke about a couple of things, one of which was housing affordability and the other of which was organ donation. I would like to add a third point which I feel strongly about.

I have no doubt the Australian community do not want to see people dying on the high seas in coming to Australia and looking for a better life. But they also do not want to see our fellow human beings treated harshly and inhumanely. I call upon those in this place to look within their hearts for a better solution.

I would like to thank some people, because my time here would not have been what it is without them. First and foremost is my family. For their unwavering support, I sincerely thank them from the deepest corners of my heart. I would like to thank the Senate leadership team, Senator Wong and Senator Conroy, for the support and advice they have provided in my time here. I acknowledge the hard work of the whip, her office and the deputy whips in everything they do.

It is a sombre moment but one which has, on reflection, provided me with an opportunity that not many people get to experience, and it is truly an honour—and I know that every single one of you also feels the same way. I am grateful for the opportunity afforded to me to be in this place by the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party, without whose support I would not be here.

What is often forgotten is the hard work that goes into what we do by the staff that work for us and keep us going. In my time here, and in a previous life, I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people who I hope I have brought along with me for the ride. I am grateful for the hard work they have put in. They roll up every day without raising an eyebrow and they do what is required. We often do not appreciate enough what a burden we place on them.

I will briefly mention a few of them: Ella George and Sam Rae, who have been there for a while with me, for them I am grateful, Cesar Piperno, Steve Le, Susan Yildiz, Hashem Ouaida, Bassell Tallal, Michael Berthelsen, Bridget Bourke, Simon Miller, Alfred Acquaro, Hayley Clarke, Kellie Macnaughtan, Patrick Wingrove, Ridvan Kilic, Emma Henderson, Adam Carr, Idris Muslu, Sophie Westland and Stephanie Elaine Makhlota. I am truly grateful for all the support they have provided. Without their contribution, my contribution would not have been what it has.

In keeping this short, I intend to wrap up, Mr President. I see Senator Cormann in the chamber. My inclination and temptation is to say, ‘I’ll be back’; however, I shall not. I will leave the chamber by saying, ‘Till we meet again.’ Thank you, Mr President.

Senator Cormann: Well said.


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Malcolm Farnsworth
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