First Speech: Ms Madeleine King MP

Member for Brand, Western Australia

11 October 2016

 


Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and congratulations on your appointment to that role. I respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet, the Ngunawal people, and I acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of my home, the Whadjuk people of Nyungar country. I pay my respects to elders past and present, and I am grateful always for the grace, good humour and thoughtfulness of Indigenous leaders in our community who seek to help this nation reconcile its dark history so that we might together create a better future for the first peoples of this vast and beautiful country.

My name is Madeleine Mary Harvie King, and I stand here today the elected representative of the people of the city of Kwinana and the city of Rockingham. Together these cities make up the federal seat of Brand. These are the places of my childhood. These are the places I call home. Brand is a place of remarkable diversity, with some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, including pristine Singleton, Golden Bay, Secret Harbour and Anstey Beach in the south, up to the industrial heartland of Naval Base in the north, which has been a major driver of economic development in WA since the 1950s. Brand stretches west over Cockburn Sound to Garden Island, home to Australia's largest Navy Base, HMAS Stirling, and where the Swan River Colony was first declared in 1829. To the east of Brand, rural and semi-rural life coexists with one of the fastest-growing suburbs in the country: Baldivis, a place where I used to go bushwalking with my dad and where brumbies would run, or so Dad would say.

It is the singular and greatest honour of my life to have been elected by the genuine, honest and hardworking people of Brand to represent my home town and its surrounds in this the federal parliament of Australia. It is sometimes hard to reconcile the sandgroper kid born in Calista—growing up in Shoalwater Bay, enjoying a childhood without care and often without shoes, running through the dunes to the beach or riding bikes through the suburbs with my school friends—with my becoming a member of parliament, but here I am. I am very proud to be here and I am very proud to be the federal member for Brand. I am excited by the challenges to come and I am humbled by my election result.

I and the Labor Party owe the voters of Brand a great deal for delivering the first safe Labor seat in WA for 15 years. This significant result on 2 July demonstrates that the community shares my personal convictions, which reflect those core Labor values of fairness, equality, equity and inclusion. Like the people of Brand, I believe in an Australia that is a confident; progressive and enterprising nation, valuing its high performers whilst recognising that those less fortunate and vulnerable are equally valued and deserving of help provided with respect and dignity.

I also share these values with my three Labor colleagues who have preceded me. They have each made a giant contribution to the nation, to WA and to the seat of Brand, held by Labor since its creation in 1984. The Honourable Wendy Fatin was the first member for Brand and was also the first Western Australian woman to serve in this place. Wendy Fatin was a minister in the Hawke and Keating governments and I thank her for her support and counsel.

The Honourable Kim Beazley AC was the second member for Brand. As defence minister he implemented the two oceans policy which would ensure the Australian Navy operated as a self-reliant force in the Indian Ocean, as well as in the Pacific. It was a tectonic shift in policy, which saw HMAS Stirling on Garden Island expand dramatically and become the largest and most significant naval base in the nation. This has had great benefits for Rockingham, which supports the naval presence and has welcomed Defence personnel from across Australia into the community over many years. As the member for Brand, Kim Beazley served this nation as Labor leader and Leader of the Opposition. I thank Kim for his continued support, and for launching my campaign. I can tell you, my friends, when Kim Beazley launches your campaign, you know it is launched. He was spot-on in his prediction for how the vote would go in Brand.

The Honourable Gary Gray AO was the third member for Brand, and my immediate predecessor. Many of you know Gary, and many have served with him in previous parliaments. He has served the ALP as its national secretary and has been a tremendous contributor to this party. Gary's contribution to the economic development of WA and Australia through his work on resources and energy policy is well recognised throughout the industry and across the political spectrum. He was a tireless advocate for the community of Brand and worked hard for it every day.

It was my very great honour to have worked for Gary in Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Labor government. I thank Gary for his encouragement and support. Gary and his family ran the Hillman Primary School booth on polling day. His wife, sons and in-laws—the fantastic Walsh family—all helped out. Although recovering from her first chemotherapy dose, Gary's wonderful wife, Deb Walsh, was also out on polling day. I only wish I could give as much support to Deb in her cancer battle as she, her family and her husband have given to me.

Colleagues, I am the youngest daughter of John Harvie Morris and Diana Eve Pizer; the youngest sister of Rebecca, Peter, John, and Matthew; and sister-in-law of Bronwyn, Robyn and Lara. I am the aunt of Levi, Hannah, Izak, Jacob, Eli, Eva and Alex—the Morris club. I am the very fortunate wife of James Murdoch King. I am so pleased that my mum, Diana, my brothers Peter and John, my nephew Eli and the love of my life, Jamie, are all here today, as is my oldest friend, Vanessa. We met when we were six.

Today, 11 October, is my dad's birthday. If John Morris were still walking this earth, he would be 90. But after a good and fulfilled life of service, love, faith and family, Dad died three years ago. I think of him every day with happiness, knowing that he was enormously proud of each of his children, and that he would enjoy being here today—perhaps slightly surprised at my new job, but immensely proud. He and Mum have always encouraged me to do all that I can, and I am grateful for the support and love they have always given me. My father grew up in England during a time of war and witnessed the violence and fear that comes with it, hiding from bombs with his mother and sister under the kitchen table and watching his mother help put out the fires caused by the incendiary bombs that fell across Plymouth. As soon as he could, he followed his father into the war, joining the Royal Navy and serving as a radar operator on the Arctic Russian convoys.

My grandfather, Major George Harvie Morris OBE, was a Royal Marine in the commando unit of the Royal Navy. He served in the Great War and World War II and, along with my grandmother, his wife, Ellen Higgins, was among that most confronted of generations that lived through the turmoil and utter catastrophe of Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Years later, from the distance and the relative peace we enjoy, it is difficult to fathom the destruction and violence that wasted the lives of so many millions of people. But we get some impression of these dark times from the truly shocking images we see of the current conflict in Syria. Without doubt, peace is hard work, but work at it we must. There is no prosperity without peace, and the world is diminished while such brutal and inhumane conflicts continue.

Like many, my dad left post-war Britain, and arrived on a boat in Fremantle in 1956. He was among the first employees in the newly-built BP oil refinery in Kwinana.

My mum is a Perth girl, born and raised in West Perth. Together they built a house on a sand dune in Shoalwater Bay. Together they built a home and a future for my sister, my brothers and me. As well as raising five beachcombers, my mum, Diana, owned and ran a drapery store on Railway Terrace, Rockingham. It was called The Family Traders. My nan, Peggy Pizer, worked in the shop too, and together Mum and Nan sold all manner of haberdashery. I am empowered by all the people who tell me regularly across the district of Brand that mum's shop was the best in town.

I enjoyed an education at the local Safety Bay and Rockingham Beach primary schools and at Safety Bay Senior High School. I went on to university, where a whole new world of opportunity opened up to me. However, sadly, this path is not one well travelled in the community that I represent, which has among the lowest educational attainment rates in the nation. When I first went to The University of Western Australia, I was quite unaware that my being there was something unusual for a young person from Safety Bay. That this situation has not changed much in 25 years troubles me deeply.

I know much more now than I did then. I understand better the barriers that exist for many in our community and how they hinder people's ability to access further education. No good can come from governments putting barriers in the way of aspiring young people. The very idea of exorbitant fees for university degrees is one such barrier. It has a limiting effect on people. It pre-empts the aspirations of many by causing them to think they will never get there; that they will never be able to afford it. And, by constraining access, by constraining aspirations, we build the very ivory towers we have long sought to pull down.

University education gave me opportunities that might not have been available without Labor's commitment to opening up access to higher education in Australia. I want to ensure that a young person growing up where I grew up has at least the same opportunities today that I had. I want to ensure that young people enjoy a diversity of choices in how they build their future.

Of course, as well as education and training, there is a real need to provide meaningful jobs for people. With the construction phase of the WA mining boom at an end, unemployment and under-employment is affecting families across Brand, indeed across the whole of Western Australia. Successive state governments in WA have supported the need for an outer harbour to be constructed in Cockburn Sound to ensure the further economic development of WA.

First raised in the 1960s, it is only in recent years that bipartisan support has withered as the Liberal state government has focused on other, mainly road based, priorities. Progressing the construction of the Kwinana outer harbour will unlock latent potential across existing industries and attract new industries into the area, along with an estimated 25,000 new direct jobs. Support for a Kwinana outer harbour ticks all the boxes. It will help grow the local, state and national economies, it will create long-term jobs, it will encourage innovation through the application of modern technology to port operations, and it puts people first by supporting a sustainable industrial base to underpin the flourishing communities in Brand.

Once again, Kwinana stands to be at the heart of advancing the further economic development of WA. I will be right behind this effort, and will do all I can to bring this game-changing project to fruition for the benefit of the electorate of Brand and the people of Western Australia. Failure to recognise this project for all that it is will ultimately mean the state and the nation misses out on this long-term beneficial and vital infrastructure.

In my decade-long career at The University of Western Australia, I worked as a research contracts lawyer; Chief of Staff; Director of Centenary Celebrations and, most recently, as the founding executive and Chief Operating Officer of the Perth USAsia Centre. This work has brought me into the orbit of many leaders in their fields—great scientists, educators, academics, policy experts, professionals across many fields, astounding artists, and managers and supporters of the arts community. Among many things, my experience has taught me the pivotal role science and research has had in the development of Western Australia.

We should remind ourselves that without collaboration between scientists, government and farmers in the 1930s to develop dry-farming techniques and high-yield and disease resistant grains, WA wheat farmers would not be about to produce—despite frosts—a likely record crop, half of the entire wheat crop of this nation. The lion's share of this great grain will be exported to our near neighbours and friends in Indonesia. And this significant export venture sets sail from Kwinana Beach, where the iconic blue wheat silos of CBH overlook Cockburn Sound. It is the largest grain-exporting and handling facility in the nation and is a constant reminder of the value of agriculture to Western Australia.

Research and development has always driven the growth of WA's largest commodity export industries of resources and agriculture. And it is important that this country supports the science and research that will be required to care for our land and oceans, to get the most from these resources without desolating the soil, the air and the sea.

In my work, I have been most fortunate to see the beginnings of astounding science projects. Take the visionary work of Professor Peter Quinn, leading a team at the forefront of international efforts to move forward by looking backward in time, considering questions no less fundamental than: how did the universe, the stars and the galaxies form and evolve? They are the builders of the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope. Under the leadership of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, the world's largest public science data project is happening in Perth and in the radio quiet of the vast Murchinson, where you can lie on your back at night and see theEmu in the Skyconstellation as clear as our Indigenous sisters and brothers have seen it for over 40,000 years.

In my work, I have met inspiring people, such as Professor Gia Parish, who conducts research around the world in advanced sensing technologies, such as chemical sensors for environmental and industrial monitoring; while teaching the next generation of engineers; while taking on extensive administrative duties as head of school; and while raising two young girls and participating in her community. She is an inspiration.

These are the people who work in our universities. These are the people who are building the potential of this nation today, tomorrow, and into the future. Their work and their service should be acknowledged and celebrated much more than it is. Without them, we all miss out on Australia being all that it can be.

If we can understand the importance of science, technology and research then we must also appreciate and understand the importance and value of the arts and humanities. They provide us with exciting and often new ways to give us a 'sense of place'. In turbulent and challenging environments, arts and humanities can provide the bedrock of tolerance by fostering a better understanding of the diversity of thought, knowledge and cultures that swirl around each of us. Through the arts in particular, we are challenged to look more closely at how we see ourselves and others—reimagining ourselves, our place in our communities and our place in the world.

Western Australians, with the desert at our back and the vast Indian Ocean before us, are widely thought to have the most isolated capital city in the world: Perth. But I disagreewith this because, truth be told, we are the most connected Australian capital city. You just need to consider that more than 60 per cent of the world's population lives in arguably the most dynamic region on earth, directly to our north. Perth is the gateway to the Indo-Pacific. This is no secret in Western Australia, with businesses actively building relationships throughout the region for many decades—relationships that create opportunities in trade and relationships that create opportunities for closer engagement with our regional neighbours.

Closer to Perth than Canberra, civil society in Jakarta, through its Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia, led by Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal, discuss as we do how Australia and Indonesia and all South-East Asian nations might work together in policy development so that together we can meet the challenges of the region: nutrition, infrastructure, education, security, energy security, pollution and the effects of climate change. Our common concerns and our common goals bring us together.

There has been a theory floating around that David Bowie may have been the glue that held the universe together and that our geopolitical landscapes and our lives within them were perhaps a little more comprehensible before this visionary artist died at the age of 69 in the early days of 2016. This theory reflects a feeling of bewilderment for many: upset as popular cultural icons have died unexpectedly; disbelieving as the nation that fought to save a western European civilisation elected to walk away from its incredible legacy; and, most seriously, shocked at the rise of an odious kind of politics in the US that seeks to harness those most human traits of reservation and resistance to change, magnify and distort these feelings into a disturbing wave of dread and mistrust that ventures into hate. We know these politics and we know that at their root is fear. Fear is a tremendous and dangerous weapon, and its use is as old as the hills of this, the oldest continent on the face of the earth. In one way or another, fear of change infects every generation, and every generation laments the degeneration and ruin of the times.

My husband's great-grandfather Sir Walter Murdoch observed in the late 1930s that we spend too much time seeking for a continuing city in a fluid world where it can never be found, and that:

The fear we have to conquer if we are going to seek wisdom is the fear of change.

A self-confessed conservative, Sir Walter felt:

… like kneeling down daily and praying to be delivered from this shameful fear of change; and praying that my country may be delivered from it."

Sometimes I feel like kneeling down myself and joining Sir Walter in his mission.

History shows us that we as Australians should not fear change but show the faith in ourselves, and in each other, that will allow this country to continue to forge its own progressive path. After all, we led the way in women's political rights as the first country to give women the right to stand for parliament, we introduced a minimum wage and fair and safe working conditions for all, we have built a stable multicultural society and we built and will always protect our system of universal healthcare that is the envy of the world.

It is hard to reconcile these great legacies of our progressive nation with it now being held back on the issue of marriage equality due to a fear of change. My sister Rebecca Morris and her life partner, Robyn Rollston, have been together much longer than the 17 years I have been married, yet our country does not treat our loving relationships equally. This is not right. As representatives of the people, we may do well to consider that a majority of Australians choose to live and let others live and are accepting of social change.

I only have to look to my grandmother's life to know how fear and societal norms constrain people and provide them with stark choices. My grandmother, Hannah Margaret Pizer, or Peggy as she was known, was born in Coolgardie and grew up in Kalgoorlie and Meekatharra. With the love and support of her parents, Peggy Pizer raised my mother as a single parent. Perth in the thirties and forties was a conservative place and the societal pressure on my Nan and her family to give up their baby for adoption must have been overwhelming. But, lucky for me, love won out and the Pizer family rallied around Peggy and her baby daughter, my mum, Diana. It was a truly courageous choice. But it was not without cost and not without sacrifice. Peggy Pizer was an important part of my life. She lived with our family in Shoalwater Bay since 1965 and died nearly 25 years ago. As I drive between Kwinana and Rockingham and pass her final resting place in the East Rockingham Pioneer Cemetery, I always think of her.

There are many people to thank for so many things on my journey to this place, including lifelong friends from Safety Bay: Vanessa Bonjolo, now Vanessa Buttiegieg; Ross Walker; Natalie Harker, now Natalie Parry; Sacha Winzenreid, who dropped in from Jakarta on election day and called in the quickest scrutineer result of the night; and Kim Thompson, who was always the best hockey player I have had the pleasure of playing with.

I thank my understanding teammates on the hockey field—the University Soaks Scrigglers. I have played hockey with these great women for years, some since I was 18. Catching up with them and playing this great game is one of the most fun things I do. My WA masters hockey teammates played Queensland today in the national championships in Hobart. Sadly it was a draw, but I guess I will take that against the Q. I started representing WA in masters hockey seven years ago. It is a wonderful community and you had better believe how fiercely competitive these women are. I would like to have been with them all in Hobart this week, but there is the small matter of parliament!

My thanks go to the local state members across the electorate of Brand: Mark MacGowan, the member for Rockingham, Leader of the Opposition and next Labor Premier of Western Australia; Roger Cook, the member for Kwinana; and Paul Papalia, the member for Warnbro. I am grateful for the support and help provided by the presidents and members of the local Labor branches across Brand. They are champions of our cause. My thanks also go to Peter Tinley, the WA Labor President and to Lenda Oshalem and Patrick Gorman for their leadership and to all of the state office. With the five new WA Labor member for Brand—Burt, Cowan, Fremantle and Perth—we have together started something big. I thank the leadership and membership of the labour movement and particularly the SDA, the AWU and the TWU for their support. EMILY's List and Perth Labor Women are important organisations that I support, and I have enjoyed theirs.

The election result in Brand is testament to the calibre of the people that worked on the campaign: Andrew O'Donnell; the amazing brother and sister team that is Georgia Tree and Callan Tree; Helen Hansen; Bridget Edwards; Amy Le Ray; John and Peg Cotter; the many volunteers that helped making calls in the community and knocking on doors, among them some from Young Labor Unity; and the many Margarets of the Brand campaign. And, Dennis Terrell, I have not forgotten I owe you many coffees! Also Mike Barnett, the former member for Rockingham and Speaker of the House in WA, was critical to the effort and kept us all on an even keel. I thank you all, yet I cannot thank you enough.

I will always be grateful for the friendship, support and encouragement I have received, over many years, from Colin Campbell-Fraser and Ini Campbell-Fraser; Doug Durack; Professor the Honourable Stephen Smith—I know he likes that title; Professor Alan Robson AO CitWA, my former boss and from who I learned so much about leadership as his chief of staff; and from three wonderful women—Shaheen Hughes; Sonia Nolan and Elena Douglas. Sadly, Elena is today putting her father's remains to their eternal rest. Good luck and God bless, Elena.

I am very grateful for the support I have received from my new colleagues in this place. It has been great and heartening, and I love it. I am enjoying the company of sector 12 immensely. I could not ever do without my international convention of friends: Jeannie and Jamie Osborne; Shane Balzan; Felicity Gouldthorp; Marcus Edwardes; Emmanuel Hondros; Jock Meston and the great Labor activist, Alison Bunting. Eternal gratitude my friends.

The King family have been amazing. To Walter and Adephe King, Mary-Ellen, Simon and their families, and especially Julie and Matthew King—who harbour me in Canberra from time to time—I cannot thank you enough. For my own family, there are either no words or there are too many. Here we all are! Dad would have loved this. Everything is for us because of my mum. And I thank you, Mum, for everything. Rebecca, Robyn, Peter, Bronwyn, John, Matthew and Lara—each such good people and good friends that I love and treasure. Thank you.

And Jamie King. He is the finest dancer of his generation and always my best and constant friend. We joined the Labor Party together many years ago. We share the same personal convictions of fairness, equality, equity and inclusion. We love music and we love each other. I would not be here without the constancy of Jamie King. And I thank him for it. It was Jamie's birthday yesterday. Happy Birthday, Jamie.

Summer is coming—as is the end of this speech. When I get home, I will do what I do every summer. Jamie and I will head to the beach where I learned to swim, and we will paddle over to Seal Island. I will think of my Dad as we move quietly over the clear sea, under which the ashes of his bones mingle forever among the sands of Shoalwater Bay. We might see a few dolphins, and we will swim among the seals. There is nothing quite like having an Australian sea lion swim alongside you, poke its head near yours, and follow you as you go—there is simply nothing. There is no place I would rather be. There is no place I would rather call home, and this is the place I have the honour and privilege to represent. Thank you for your indulgence.

Top