1st Place - Jeeven Nadanakumar, Marist College, ACT
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are gathered, the Ngunnawal people. They have made a significant contribution to our community, enriching our understanding of indigenous history and culture.
As the new member for Canberra I would like to thank them and all the members of Australia’s Capital Electorate for putting their trust in me and the Labor Party who has represented them consistently for many years. As a Labor MP I believe in the strong ideal of a fair go for everybody, recognising the contributions of those who work hard, do the right thing and are proud to be members of their community.
The Division of Canberra is indeed a community based on these ideals and I am proud and honoured to represent them. A growing electorate, Canberra has attracted jobs, investment and innovation. It has a strong education system and access to a wide variety of services. It encompasses the Australian identity of the unique environment and urban city and a diverse population.
Since I was a child I have valued social justice because it was the reason my parents moved to this country seeking a better life. I want to ensure that the rights of all Australians and the rights of those who come to this country for a better future are upheld. I want to see multiculturism and patriotism developed further across Australia like it has in Canberra. I value education because my own education here in Canberra revolved around skills and opportunities which broadened my horizons and helped me realise my potential. I also believe in fostering sustainability because a clean, eco-friendly country is the best way to protect our rich resources.
I want to work with this parliament to strengthen our economy, introducing new skill development and employment opportunities for young people, incentives to support small local business and to work to reduce the impact of the income gap on the homeless. These are key areas, central to the concerns of Canberrans, echoed in the many other divisions in Australia. I believe that all people, whether they suffer from a disability, mental illness or chronic disease should be supported by appropriate medical and welfare services. I also believe that recognising the importance of health care workers and carers is vital to having a truly world class health system.
In this parliament I will strive to recognise the efforts and achievements of everyday Australians in my electorate and every electorate so that we can be truly proud of our nation. Why do I want to achieve these things? Because our children tomorrow will inherit the country which we build today, a great country which gives each and every citizen equal opportunities which allows them to contribute to the history of this great nation, Australia.
2nd place - Timothy Lo Surdo, Brisbane State High School, Qld
I stand here today in this great institution of democracy completely in awe, full of gratitude and guided by resolution. Awe at this power to do good, gratitude to the people of Moreton for electing me as their representative and a firm resolution to do what is right, regardless if that leads to a position that is neither politic nor popular.
The outgoing member, Mr Graham Perrett, shall be remembered as a champion of many causes, including Aboriginal Rights, Organ Donation and Homelessness. He cultivated Moreton’s vibrant multiculturalism through various projects with the Chinese War Memorial and various African business initiatives to name only a few. He was a man that believed “actions speak louder than whining.”
I, like Mr Perrett, also believe that actions speak louder than whining and would like to now put on record my belief in equity and my desire to bring that to the electorate of Moreton and its residents. Is it fair that the residents of Archerfield, Acacia Ridge, Moorooka, Rocklea and Salisbury will have to endure the introduction of domestic flights at the Archerfield Airport and subsequent increased noise and less sleep? Was it fair when insurance companies such as NRMA, Allianz and CGU callously rejected some of the claims from the 5200 flood affected properties and businesses of Moreton, utilising definitions and obscure legal terms as justification? Is it right when the rich and big colluding magnates are able to determine the action taken on climate change and subsequently dictate the future of prosperity?
Every intelligent and rational human being knows the answer to these questions is a thunderous and resounding no. I say no to hypocrisy, I say no to broken promises and I say no to inequity. I would also like to continue the amazing work on multiculturalism that my predecessor was so committed to and expand it to not just encompass the electorate of Moreton but the entirety of Australia.
In an area where one in three voters was born overseas Moreton is a paragon of tolerance with its residents holding wisdom that would do much good in educating the minority of xenophobes across Australia who call for the repatriation of persecuted refugees simply to score political points. I say no to political point scoring of human suffering but I say yes to compassion.
Paraphrasing Richard Arnold, politics for all too long has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong. It is time to put aside our differences, do our duty as representatives of the people and work together towards our common goal, the betterment of Australia.
3rd place - Penelope Meeves, Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School, NSW
Mr Speaker, Australia is one of the oldest continents in the world. We have a rich and diverse indigenous culture, stunning and unique landscapes and pristine World Heritage environments. Decisions this Government makes today will have repercussions on the quality of life for all future generations.
We live in challenging times, Mr Speaker, with a burgeoning world population which in turn threatens our land and water resources, results in high extinction rates and land degradation and exacerbates peak oil.
The single most important issue which this Government must determine is a population policy. Governments have shied away from setting a population limit based on our current capacity, instead encouraging large families through Centrelink handouts and unsustainable immigration levels. Governments have a responsibility to protect our existing quality of life.
In Richmond we have a number of challenges caused by population pressures. As one of the highest growth regions in this country we must balance protecting our prime agricultural land and magnificent coastlands from developmental pressures. Inappropriate development has ramifications such as coastline erosion and unsightly ribbon developments on some of the richest volcanic soil in the country. This is a footprint left behind by past policy makers keen on economic development at the expense of the environment.
I believe we must take a strong stance on protecting our unique environments for which we are recognised internationally. One example is the issuing of the exploration licences for coal seam gas mining which has touched a raw nerve within the community due to permanent poisoning of groundwater. Despite the timeless nature of this land in a mere 200 years we have mined, cleared and polluted the air, water and land.
As elected representatives we have the power to bring about positive change and to listen to the voices and concerns of young people. We need a vision for the future, a strong Government which can protect this magnificent country from over development. We should look up to the indigenous people of Australia who share an intrinsic connection with nature.
Mr Speaker, on the 14th of May, 1940 a great man, Winston Churchill, stood in front of the cabinet at Westminster and made a promise to the nation. I would like to echo his resoluteness as I deliver the same promise, that I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. Thank you, Mr Speaker.