First Speech: Mr Milton Dick MP

Member for Oxley, Queensland

12 October 2016

 


I commence today by acknowledging the first peoples of our nation, in particular the Ngunawal people, the custodians of the land on which we meet today, and the Jagera and Turrbal peoples, the traditional owners of the land in my electorate of Oxley. Today I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging, but I do so recognising that, as a nation, we can only truly measure real and respectful action that we collectively take to close the gap when it comes to Indigenous disadvantage—a special responsibility for those of us elected to this place.

Constitutional recognition of our first peoples—to quote my new friend the member for Barton, the first member of this place to be elected as an Indigenous woman—is 'a no-brainer'. Every First World nation with a colonial history has done it, bar Australia. This matter of national importance must be dealt with urgently and will be a priority for me.

It is a cold winter's night in 1944 on board HMAS Ararat, an Australian warship positioned in the newly captured Allied territory of Cape Gloucester, New Britain. Life on board Ararat is not easy. Sailors carry out their minesweeping and antisubmarine duties in cramped conditions and are exposed to high rates of pneumonia and tuberculosis. One young sailor on board Ararat works tirelessly performing his duties as a signalman on the upper deck. He knows that, if the ship is to come under fire, it will be he who is responsible for a signal to call for a rescue and will likely go down with the ship if the vessel is ultimately bombed. That young man was my father, Allan Baxter Dick, who served his country through the Second World War, enlisting at the age of only 20, serving in the Second Australian Imperial Force until Allied victory in the Pacific.

Fast forward 70 years to this time last week and, as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program, I was privileged to be on a similar sized vessel, the HMAS Maryborough, in the Timor Sea. This not only reminded me of my father's brave and dedicated service to this nation but reminded me of the service of those women and men who protect our borders, freedom and democracy. Whilst my father served in the Navy, my mother, Joan, who is with us in the gallery today, trained as a nurse at the St Martin's repatriation hospital. Like my father, Mum has also dedicated her life to one of service, working as a midwife throughout her career, providing the same compassion and care for others as she did her family.

Once home from the war, Dad teamed up with his brother, Milton Dick Sr, to establish a number of successful butchers on Brisbane's southside, Dick Bros Meats. He was not afraid of hard work and did not mind drilling this work ethic into his children. He was always a fair man, which I was recently reminded of when I was stopped on polling day by an older gentleman. He told me that he could not really remember the last time he voted but that he would be voting for me this time around. He told me my father had given him his first job in his butcher shop when no-one else would, and he knew the character of the man, my father, Allan Dick.

My journey here today was ultimately borne out of the lived values instilled in me by my parents: public service, compassion, fairness, hard work. As an 18-year-old university student I joined a political party which also shared those values, and to this day I have been a proud member of the great Australian Labor Party.

For the last eight years I have had the privilege of serving on the Brisbane City Council, representing a large part of the Oxley electorate. I will always remain an enthusiastic hands-on local representative. There is no issue too big or small I will not do my best to help fix. That is the only way I know.

Named after the explorer, John Oxley, the electorate of Oxley takes in the south-west suburbs of Brisbane. It is home to young families, local businesses and industry but also dense bushland, stretching from the transport and logistics hub of Larapinta in the east to the history-rich Redbank in the west, from the leafy Centenary suburbs in the north and to the modern and exciting city of Greater Springfield in the south.

Oxley is located in one of the fastest-growing corridors in the country, and I could not think of a better piece of Australia to live and represent. One of the major issues regularly raised with me is the adequate provision of infrastructure for our growing area. The less time people spend in traffic jams means the more time they have with their families. That means more efficient business, stronger communities and a better quality of life.

I want to take this opportunity today to put the Turnbull government on notice on the issue of the notorious Ipswich Motorway bottleneck. It is an issue I campaigned vigorously on during the election period. This road must be fixed, and I will not stop until this bottleneck is fixed.

Oxley is a glorious melting pot of cultures, including a vibrant Vietnamese community among other families from across the seas who now call Australia home. Today I wear a tie in support of the colours of the flag of South Vietnam, and I publicly acknowledge those brave men and women fighting for a free and democratic Vietnam.

I pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the thousands of Vietnamese Australians who call Oxley home. They represent a true success story in overcoming adversity and completed a dangerous journey across the seas to give themselves and their families a chance for a better life in Australia. There are many that I am proud to call friends, including my Vietnamese sister Phuong Nguyen and the president of the Queensland chapter of the Vietnamese Community in Australia, Dr Cuong Bui.

I would like to acknowledge two long serving former members for Oxley. The first is the Hon. William George Hayden—a former leader of the Australian Labor Party, Treasurer, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Australia's Governor-General. Bill Hayden also served this nation as the Minister for Social Security and was the architect and father of what we now call Medicare.

Bill, I appreciate your words of wisdom and support. Today I pledge to honour the Hayden legacy by continuing to support universal and affordable health care. I will not let any government dismantle this great Australian institution. Bill and Dallas Hayden are deeply revered not only in my electorate but right throughout Australia.

The second is the Hon. Bernie Ripoll, who is present in the gallery today. Bernie is the definition of an exemplary parliamentarian and community champion, serving in this House from 1998 until his retirement this year. Bernie's legacy of devotion to his constituents is legendary, and he has left his footprint by delivering practical and tangible outcomes for the people of Oxley and changing their lives for the better. He practised what he preached and delivered. I salute Bernie's outstanding contribution to the Oxley community and the labour movement, and I wish him and his family all the best for the future.

It is also not lost on me that I am delivering my first speech as a former member for Oxley takes her seat in the other place. While I may not be able to take back the hate-filled words uttered in her first speech of 1996, I can instead loudly and proudly extol here today the multicultural diversity enjoyed by this nation and my electorate of Oxley in particular.

Multiculturalism is not just a great social strength of our nation but increasingly a great economic strength. When I walk out of my home in Durack, my office in Forest Lake or do my groceries in the bustling Inala civic centre I meet people from all backgrounds. They proudly call Australia home and are entitled to feel welcome—not targeted or demonised.

The multiculturalism enjoyed by Australia remains, sadly, under immense threat—not by those on the far-right fringe of our political process but by the so-called mainstream Abbott-Turnbull government through their continued attempts to water down section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, effectively legalising bigoted hate speech.

Just as Labor helped lead the charge against these bigots in the previous parliament, fighting off attempts to amend 18C, we will continue to do so in this parliament—and the next and the next. We will do so because Labor is proudly the party of multiculturalism.

It was only yesterday that I was proud to stand side by side with my Labor colleagues to sign the revised Australian federal code of race and ethics. I will always call out racism and bigotry when I see it, and this member of Oxley will never judge anyone by their race or religion.

As our global and domestic economies continue to rapidly advance, we must make absolutely sure that the human consequences of this advancement are properly responded to. Yes, progress does bring with it new opportunities and the prospect of high living standards across the globe. But it also brings with it challenges—challenges which must not be responded to with fear and division but rather with hope and optimism for the future.

Here in Australia, and particularly in my home state of Queensland, the economic transition that is underway has naturally led many people to feel anxious about the future. They rightly question what will sustain their local economies into the future, their jobs, their household budgets. They look to the future and try to picture what may lie ahead for their children and grandchildren.

I believe the future for our nation and our economy is as bright as it has ever been. There is no excuse for our political process to prey on the instinctive anxieties held by many about the future. I say to those on the far-right wing and fringe of Australian politics: simply stating that a problem exists does not solve anything for our constituents. We must listen to the stories of everyday Australians, hear their hopes and struggles and be solution focused. Today I pledge to the people of Oxley to be part of that solution.

I believe this parliament has an obligation to help raise the tone of our debate and talk with the hope and optimism deserving of our great nation—not just in this place but in the public conversations we help to lead. The truth is: Australia has and always will be at its best when everyone is pulling in the same direction. It is up to us to make that happen.

I believe in an economy that works in the interests of everyday working people, not just the fortunate few. Right now, across the world, there is an undeniable appetite to chart a new economic course—a more inclusive, fairer and equal economy. We all know that those opposite who cling onto small government and trickle-down economics will soon find themselves on the wrong side of history, because the reality is, when wealth is in the hands of a greater number of people, the greater capacity there is to generate jobs and drive economic growth. It is a pretty simple equation. Today I commit myself to be a fierce and relentless advocate for policies that provide for the fair and just distribution of our nation's prosperity.

There is no better example of a people-powered economy than Labor's response to the global financial crisis. I pay tribute to the member for Lilley, Wayne Swan—a friend, a great economic thinker and a lion of the Labor Party—for successfully navigating Australia through that period and for taking decisive action when it was needed, a response which made sure Australia held onto our 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth. As the member for Lilley would agree, these 25 years of continued economic growth would not have been possible without the visionary economic reforms of the Labor Hawke and Keating governments, reforms which ultimately allowed my home state of Queensland to cement itself as a major engine room of our national economy.

One of these engine rooms of growth has been the mining and resources sector in my home state of Queensland. Resources alone account for over half of Australia's total exports of goods and services, making it the primary source of Australia's export revenue. Our two largest exports in 2015-16 were iron ore and coal, together accounting for 27 per cent of our total exports. Mining is our second-largest industry in terms of output, employing over 220,000 people across the nation, and, importantly, it is the largest private-sector employer of Indigenous Australians. For every worker employed, the mining sector generates approximately $682,000 for our economy. Our resources exports are forecast to increase to $232 billion by 2020-21. Australia holds the largest reserves of uranium in the world and significant quantities of other energy-producing resources. No other nation is better positioned than Australia to supply the world with its growing demand for resources. Whilst there are no doubt challenges facing the resources sector, we must continue to be steadfast in our support of the sector, as our neighbours China and India, in particular, grow to be 21st century superpowers and pull millions out of poverty. Australia has played a crucial role in this achievement by providing these countries with some of the highest-quality resources and minerals in the world as construction booms in our region. Queensland and Australia's mining and resources sector has a bright future, and I am determined and looking forward to supporting these industries as a federal member of parliament.

I look around the House this afternoon and I see many new members on this side of the House who share the same vision, and all have given exceptional first speeches. All of this would not have been possible if it were not for the leadership, commitment and policy initiatives shown by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten. A little over a month before the election, we were fortunate enough to have Bill and his gracious wife, Chloe, visit Oxley for the opening of a solar energy wholesale distribution business, to build on Labor's renewable energy policies. It was there, once again, where I saw firsthand how much Bill understands the businesses and workers of Australia, as he spoke with forklift drivers and senior management on a sunny Queensland winter's morning. In the days following that visit, my campaign had an influx of volunteers showing their enthusiasm to get involved after hearing Bill speak in their local community. Whilst we fell short in this year's campaign, I have no doubt that in three years time, or potentially less, we will form a Shorten Labor government. Bill, you will make an outstanding Prime Minister. I thank Bill for his support and friendship over many years.

The one thing that binds us all in this House, on both sides of the parliament and the Independents, is the fact that none of us comes here without the support of others. I am no different. In my case I have had, for most parts, an amazing political journey, and my work will be to simply repay that support. Today I pay tribute to the leaders of our movement. It is because of their leadership and work I stand here today. In particular, I acknowledge the deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek. I first met Tanya 21 years ago. I was struck straightaway by her compassion, her kindness and her steely determination to get things done. I was in awe of her then, and it is now an enormous honour to work with her.

During and before the campaign I was very fortunate to have the support of Labor giants and people I am now proud to call friends: a great Labor talent Chris Bowen, Andrew Leigh, Jason Clare, Sharon Bird, Joel Fitzgibbon and my nearest Labor New South Wales colleague, the wonderful Justine Elliot. I thank Tony Burke for his strong support for almost two decades, and I especially acknowledge Jenny Macklin for her wise advice and her lifetime of service to our movement and always being the voice for those who need it most. I also thank my neighbouring MP Shayne Neumann, the member for Blair, for his generosity. Shayne is known in this place as one of the most honourable members, and I thank Shayne for the time he spent and the kindness he showed in helping to get me elected as the member for Oxley. I could not ask for a better neighbour. And it is such a great privilege to work along my great friend Jim Chalmers, Terri Butler and new Senators Chisholm and Watt. All are not just great colleagues—alongside Graham Perrett—but they are good friends and they are amazing talents who I know will continue to serve our party and, importantly, our great state of Queensland for many years to come.

But two members of this place are not just colleagues; they are two lifelong friends: the member for Kingston, Amanda Rishworth, and the member for Greenway, Michelle Rowland—always standing by my side, respected and loved by their communities and respected and loved by me. Michelle, thanks for being the best touchstone a friend could ever have. To my new touchstones—the amazing Madeleine, Tim, Matt, Josh and Anne from WA; the two Ems, Susan, Anne and my new best friend, the mighty Meryl from Paterson—I am lucky to serve alongside all of you in sector 12.

No member of this House can claim to do this job alone, and I am fortunate to have many friends and family who have travelled a great distance to be with us here today in the gallery. I thank my amazing sister, Susan, and her children, Conor and Clare. My sister is a gifted educator, someone who has taught in the public system for 30 years and hopefully will put me in the good books with the member for Lalor. She is a constant support to her younger brothers, as are my other—honorary—sisters, Louise and Tizzy.

To the other member of my family, who is not here, I will let him off the hook as he is currently sitting in another parliament, in my home state of Queensland. I am so proud of my brother, Cameron. My success is because of his love and support. He serves in the Queensland cabinet as Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services . He has also held the portfolios of Education and Industrial Relations and served as our state's Attorney-General. He serves with another friend, the Queensland Premier, the Hon. Annastacia Palaszczuk . No-one has done more to support me. She is an outstanding Premier, a caring friend and someone who always has my back. Stacia, I know you will later listen to this with my mates, ministers Jackie Trad, Kate Jones, Grace Grace, Shannon Fentiman and Leeanne Enoch; Di Farmer; and one of my best mate s, Linus Power.

In the gallery sit a range of people who stood by me through the good, bad and ugly: Julian Noud , Jacki Power, Charis Mullen and, from overseas, Justine Bond. These are the people who have been there from the beginning. I value everything you have done for me. Chris and Julie Tyquin are those friends I count on, and of course they are here today. I thank my mates Paulo, Nino, Tony, Rols, Tom and Keeks for always keeping me on the straight and narrow—maybe more on the narrow.

I have been blessed to have had the guidance of many friends and mentors on my journey here, including the Hon. David Beddall. I am honored to now represent the same constituency that David served so well with distinction during his time as an MP from 1984 to 1998, and I hope I do his legacy proud. I was also fortunate enough to work for John Hogg, another great mentor and former President of the Senate. He taught me the importance of standing up for others and fighting for those who need it most.

Thanks for the guidance from Labor greats like John and Catherine Mickel, Henry and Lorell e Palaszczuk, Sharon Humphreys and the wonderful Hazel Hubbard . To my good friends and former Brisbane City Council colleagues, Shayne Sutton and Kim Flesser : I know you are here in spirit.

Bearing in mind the length of the 2016 election campaign, I say from the bottom of my heart a sincere thank you, especially to the army of volunteers who campaigned for me and Labor, week in and week out across the Oxley electorate, and the hardworking branch members. But many of the supporters simply were not ALP members; they were people from the community. My campaign was also powered by grassroots activists from the union movement. I recognize the TWU and the SDA and acknowledge Chris Gazenbeek and his wife, Lucy, who are with us today; the strong Plumbers Union with Gary O'Halloran at its leadership; and, heading all the way down, the mighty Australian Worke rs' Union, led by my friend Ben Swan, a strong leader who fights for working people and the progressive cause every single day.

Whilst time does not permit me to thank every individual volunteer or every member of the ALP in Queensland , I must pay particular thanks to my campaign director , Margie Nightingale ; my organisers , Adam and Josh ; and my best mate and one of Labor's best political minds , Jon Persley , for everyth ing he has done to get me here. I thank my campaign chairman, Les Bryant ; Toni and Brenda Gibbs ; C ouncillor Charles Strunk ; C ouncillor Paul Tully; the M ayor of Ipswich , Mayor Paul Pisasale ; and the amazing women who ha ve worked with me for the past eight years —M ichelle, Sandy, Cathy and Karen and my great new team of Brent, Michael and Dylan.

As I come to the concl usion of my first speech, I canno t help but think back to my father working as a signalman on board the Ararat . He approached his role with steadfast dedication and resolve to see the job through to the very end, and I pledge to do the same for the people of Oxley. I do not and will not take for granted the great privilege that has been bestowed on me by the people of Oxley , and they can be assured that I will be fighting for Oxley, day and night, to make our community and our nation a better place for all Australians. I thank the House.

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