Parliament – Thank You

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

I would like to congratulate all of those who have taken up chairing roles in this new parliament. I offer my congratulations to the Speaker, the deputy speakers and the Speaker’s panel. At the recent election, I was very privileged to be re-elected as the member for Kingston for my fifth term in this parliament. During the campaign, we had a significant opportunity to have conversations with local constituents about issues that affect them. Not only was this at election time; I’ve prided myself on being the member for Kingston that people see all year round, every year, not just at election time. I am very pleased to say the results in the seat of Kingston reinforce my work as a local member, but importantly the issues I am passionate about also resonate with my local constituents.

It would be dishonest of me to say that I wasn’t disappointed by the election result. Labor had a broad agenda, touching on many, many important issues to my electorate. Without the election of a Labor government, there are many policies that will not be able to be implemented that would have supported my electorate, whether that be funding for schools, making sure that every school no matter what the postcode gets the resources it needs to ensure that every child gets the best opportunities to succeed. Local hospitals, particularly public hospitals, will not get the funding they so desperately need. In South Australia, we’ve seen what that lack of funding is doing and we are seeing the most extraordinary ramping scenarios, where ambulances have patients in the back just sitting at emergency departments because there is no space for them. In the area of early education, it is incredibly disappointing that we will not see a scenario under this government of two years of funded preschool, a really important policy that Labor took to the election.

The election result was disappointing, but the now Labor opposition must think carefully about what our policies are. All of our policies are up for review, but there were some important principles and values that were fought at the election that resonated very clearly in my electorate. These involved funding for schools and hospitals, and an agenda to bring down energy prices and to address the cost of living. Before the election, Kingston had a redistribution, so over the last year and a half it was wonderful to get to know better the residents of Flagstaff Hill, Aberfoyle Park, Chandlers Hill and Darlington. Along with the existing suburbs of the seat of Kingston, it was a great pleasure to talk about the issues that affected them.

Speaking with these families, whether in the new suburbs or the existing suburbs of Kingston, I pledged that I will continue to do what I have always done in this place—work hard for them, make sure they have a voice in Canberra, make sure that their issues are put on the table not only with the federal government but also with all levels of government. I will work hard to ensure the government doesn’t forget to deliver, deliver on decent government services for them, whether that be health, education or importantly essential services that we rely on, often delivered by Centrelink—whether that is family payments, the pension or the NDIS. We need a government that delivers support for those that need it when they need it, not delayed 12 months. I’ll continue to fight for them in this place to make sure that they get the services that they deserve and need.

Also in this place, I will make sure I am fighting for the infrastructure and investment needed in our community. Unfortunately, this government has not invested infrastructure money in the seat of Kingston, despite me highlighting many, many projects that could benefit from that investment. So I’ll continue to lobby for investment in infrastructure in our electorate.

Of course, my priority has always been fighting for jobs and decent wages for my community and right around the country. We need to have a government that is firmly focused on jobs. Unfortunately I don’t believe this government are. They are saying there is no issue when it comes to underemployment, casualisation and instability of work hours. Well, if you listen to my electorate and many, many workers in my electorate, this is an issue and it does need to be addressed. So I will continue to fight for all of these issues and continue to listen and consult with my electorate. And I will raise new issues in this place as they emerge, raise them with the government and continually make sure that your voice is heard.

Despite the coalition being re-elected at this election, I think their attitude towards the southern suburbs of Adelaide was on display when many, many polling booths in my electorate did not have a Liberal representative on them. This is a seat, the seat of Kingston, that had been held by Liberal members in the past and was considered a marginal seat, yet at this election the Liberal Party did not show up in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. I want to put on record the fact that I was disappointed about the disdain that the Liberal Party showed for the seat of Kingston and the southern suburbs of Adelaide.

I’d also like to point out that during the election period the Liberals committed zero dollars in local election commitments to the southern suburbs of Adelaide. Compare that to Labor, who funded many projects. I fought for these commitments for the electorate after extensive consultation. These projects included the expansion of services at the Noarlunga Hospital, our local hospital, which deserves investment. They included the completion of the coastal trail at Witton Bluff and Hallett Cove. This would connect the southern coastline with a walking and cycling trail, a project that would attract significant tourism and jobs. They included construction of female changing facilities at the Happy Valley Football Club. This is a local club that does great things at supporting women in sport, and currently there are five women’s and girls’ teams who don’t have the facilities to support their growth.

The projects included the construction of a nature place space at the Seaford Rise disability unit. This would provide physical, cognitive, social and emotional benefits for students with an intellectual disability. And of course Labor committed to a sensory learning area at the Hackham West R-7 School. Finally, we committed additional education equipment for the Lonsdale Heights Playgroup, a volunteer-run playgroup that is attended by some vulnerable children and families that rely on second-hand toys at the moment. So the investment there would have gone a long way.

In total, Labor made $8 million worth of local commitments in addition, of course, to the national commitments that would have benefited my community. But from the Liberals, not one single cent. I urge the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party in the next budget—in fact, they could do it before; they could do in it MYEFO—to match these commitments. I’ve undertaken significant consultation with the community. The Liberal Party shouldn’t just govern for those that voted for them. They should think about those that didn’t vote for them as well, because that’s what a responsible government that actually governs for the many not the few does, and match these $8 million worth of commitments. I will be watching in the MYEFO, in the budget, to see if this will happen. But of course we have a government that is more interested in playing politics than governing, so I’m not holding my breath. I will continue to fight, to lobby and to encourage the government in a forceful way to invest in my community in Kingston.

As I said, our campaign in the seat of Kingston was very much a grassroots campaign. We had over 300 people help my campaign in some way. As I said, the Liberal Party couldn’t even find people to come and stand at polling booths. There are many, many people in our community who I would like to thank. I would like to thank particularly my campaign team, who worked so very hard over a long period. In particular I mention Emmanuel Cusack, the campaign manager; Jennifer Allison, the deputy campaign manager; Jason Byrne; Gemma Paech; Nathan Fiedler; Charlie Wenk; Arabella Wauchope; and the Douglas-Byrne family—Kylie, Alistair, Laura, Lachie and Cameron. They say that if you stick together as a family you go a long way. I tell you what, this family went above and beyond helping us in our campaign, and I’d like to sincerely thank them.

We had many, many volunteers, as I said. Over 300 people helped out during my campaign in some way. I can’t name everyone, but I’d like to thank Alex Dalton, Alison Taylor, Angela Zefi, Bob Ansell, Camilla Howard-Luck, Christina Barrington-Kerr, Grace Nankivell, Jim Phillips, John Gauci, Jonette Thorsteinsen, Katherine Baldock, Lucy Fordham, Mark McEwen, Matt Priest, Naomi Piper, Phil and Jo Giles, Sam Chapman, Shirley Smith and Vic Phillis. They were some of the people who put an enormous amount of time and energy into coming up to help us. Without them the campaign would not have got to so many doors, talked to so many people and had such a grassroots effect.

As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker Bird, I have been so lucky over my almost 12 years in parliament to have some of the best staff ever supporting me in the job I do. Election night, I have to say, was an emotional night, because we did receive strong support in the seat of Kingston but didn’t get there in forming government. But what I said on election night still stands today. My staff—my former staff and my current staff—turn up to work every day not just to support the Labor Party and not just to support me in the job I do but because they care deeply about our community. Every day in our electorate office they help people who need help the most. They often help people at a time when they’re frustrated and have given up on government. They often help people in very dire situations where those individuals, community members, don’t have anywhere else to turn. So I would like to sincerely thank the staff, who not only worked on my election campaign but come in every day to help those in our community who need that support. I’d like to thank Ethne Lange, Jemma Slevec, Michael Picton, Michelle Wilby and Sarah Huy, who worked in my electorate office and in my office in Adelaide. I also recognise the immense support I got from Kate Hanns and Owen Torpy, who have supported me in my shadow ministerial role.

My staff, who put in an enormous amount of effort and care, are themselves supported by their partners. I’d like to give a collective shout-out to their partners, who often get roped in against their will to help out on my campaign, because the staff are so dedicated encourage them to do just that.

I also recognise I’ve had new staff come on board since the election, and their commitment to and care for our community have impressed me amazingly. I think the previous speaker said that a role in the electorate office is a pretty unique one, and I’d like to recognise all those who work in electorate offices and the work they do. There isn’t a really clear job description for electorate office staff. They have to be across everything and be jacks-of-all-trades, and I’d like to recognise that.

The Labor Party is a collective movement and a collective party, so there are many people I would like to thank and recognise. I do want to give a shout-out to Reggie Martin, the South Australian state secretary, and the team at party office. They did an amazing job during the election and continually gave me a lot of support. I would also like to recognise Noah Carroll, the national secretary of the ALP, and the whole team at the national secretariat, who worked really hard on this campaign. I’d like to thank them. I’d like to thank some of my union colleagues. The Labor Party has never shied way from being a party that sticks up for working people, and the union movement is absolutely part of that. I would like to thank in particular Josh Peak and Sonia Romeo at the South Australian branch of the SDA; John Camillo and the whole team at the AMWU South Australian branch; Nick Townsend and his team at the CWU; Ian Smith at the TWU; along with the whole South Australian and national union movement. They’ve particularly supported me and helped me in my campaign.

I’d like to also recognise and congratulate my South Australian colleagues on their re-election: Alex Gallacher in the Senate, Mark Butler, Nick Champion, Steve Georganas and Tony Zappia; and also acknowledge Marielle Smith, a newly elected senator for South Australia, who joins the team in the Senate with Alex Gallacher, Penny Wong and Don Farrell. I’d also like to acknowledge the enormous work of the Labor caucus at the last election and in particular recognise our former Leader of the Opposition, the member for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten, and his office for the support that they gave me during the election. And I recognise the work that our former Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, the member for Sydney, did as well. I’d also like to congratulate the member for Grayndler on his election as the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Corio on his election as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They make a formidable team along with our frontbench and our backbench. I know that Labor will be a strong opposition, and we will be working every day towards Labor being in government in 2022. For people in my electorate and right across the country, I truly believe that their interests are best served by a Labor government. I look forward to being part of the team that will hold this government to account, highlight their failings for working people around this country and make sure that we have a strong policy offering for the election in 2022.

Finally I’d like to thank my family: my husband, Tim, my son Percy—they got dragged along to many things as well—and, of course, my new son, Oscar. During the election period I was travelling around heavily pregnant with Oscar, so he got dragged everywhere but did a good job of not complaining too much when I hadn’t eaten or drunk enough water because I was quite busy on the campaign trail. So, while he might not have consciously been aware, he was very tolerant at the time. I thank my family, my mum and dad and my parents-in-law, Les and Judy Rishworth and Wendy and David Walker, for providing a huge amount of support for me and Tim so that I can do this job. I do this job because I believe so much in making a difference. I believe that my community deserves the best from government.

In closing, I would like to thank the people of Kingston for electing me for a fifth term in parliament. I feel honoured and humbled by the trust that you continue to place in me, and I can honestly say that every waking moment, when I’m not thinking about feeding my infant son, is thinking about you and thinking about how I can make our community and our country a better place. My last message to you is that I will not let you down in my fifth term. I will continue to fight for you and continue to give you a voice. I’m so privileged and proud that you have put me back in this place.

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