Judi Moylan’s valedictory speech and her history of Australia’s boat people policy

A lonely but principled voice in Parliament

A lonely but principled voice in Parliament

The Hon Judi Moylan MP

June 2013

How does one summarize 20 years in Parliament whilst doing justice to all those who have been so pivotal to that service?

I have been deeply touched by the extraordinary generosity at every turn by a host of people too numerous to name individually. No member could have been better supported and I wish the same good fortune for the new candidate for Pearce Christian Porter.

My family has been a tower of strength.

My staff, past and present, particularly my Personal Assistant, Jana Allan, Electorate Officers Anne Bagot, Simon Hall, Janie Brown and Jess Laidman have been superb.

Kirsten Mardardy memorably guided me through the early political turbulence in my first terms, as did my friend Jeremy Buxton.

Over the years I have had several excellent Campaign Chairs but none were more effective and dedicated than my long-term friend Lane Taylor, ably supported by his beautiful wife Julie. His good judgment has ensured the smooth running of seven election campaigns.

The support of the Division of Pearce led by successive Presidents and an army of volunteers was crucial to our shared success.

The staff of the Parliament, the Clerks and the Library, have unfailingly assisted me in negotiating the mysteries of the form and function of this place.

I acknowledge the contribution of Committee Secretariats and in particular the Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee of which I am currently Deputy Chair. It has been a pleasure to work with them and the Chair, the Member for Moreton
Comcar and the Perth office of Parliamentary Services have no less smoothed the way.

My warmest memories of this Chamber will always be the deep associations forged with members past and present. In particular the Member for McMillan, has been a great friend, as have the former Members for Cook and for Kooyong. Our friendship was forged in the tough political battle over immigration policy.

Equally the Member for Moore– the ‘Doctor in the House’ has administered his special brand of medicine – pro bono – to the entire population of Parliament House. He is a friend without peer.

My Parliamentary life had its Genesis year in 1993.

It followed the retirement of the Hon Fred Chaney. A stellar parliamentary performer and a great mentor and friend.

In the beginning there was neither light nor form in the reputed wasteland called Opposition.

Yet like so much in the Australian landscape there was treasure to be had in the most unpropitious of circumstances.

I recall a certain nervousness on entering the chamber and taking my seat within sight and sound of the Government benches for the first time.

As I confronted the enemy in its serried ranks, I wondered whether I would acquire the necessary combative spirit.

I need not have worried.

It was soon plain that I would receive plenty of encouragement – from both sides!

It was the beginning of twenty fascinating years.

Whether serving on the Environment Committee, Public Accounts Committee or designing a Breast Cancer Campaign, the years in opposition were a symphony of delight and stimulation.

As Shadow Minister, I wrote policies for Small Business and Women. Small business was a major plank in the 1996 victorious election campaign under John Howard.

Within Government I served as Minister for Family Services and as the first dedicated Minister for the Status of Women.

They say that certain portfolios mark a Minister so profoundly that he or she never quite recovers their capacity for simple optimism – at the least their lives are irrevocably changed.

Family Services is of that order.

It brings one directly into contact with those points at which our society shows its most GLARING and DISGRACEFUL WOUNDS, which by their very INTRANSIGENCE challenge and threaten our capacity for empathy and compassion.

I must declare a deep personal satisfaction to have been able, whilst still a member of this Parliament, to join in the universal support for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill – which was enacted on March 28, in a rare display of unity.

To paraphrase another epic event of our time it is “one small step for the Parliament, one giant leap for humankind.”

I cannot pass without pointing out that the great majority of Carers in our community are women.

In this as in so many areas of human endeavor, fifty per cent of our species carries the greater burden, whilst submitting to lesser opportunity, and still less reward.

I remain committed and fiercely proud of the 370 page Act over which my departmental colleagues and I labored so as to reform standards of accommodation and duty of care toward the ageing.

There was controversy and opposition aplenty in this House and in the media – indeed so much discord that I was forced to depart the portfolio.

Yet this pales into insignificance against the ongoing satisfaction of observing our older citizens accommodated in facilities that afford them privacy and dignity.

I shall never cease to be grateful to Mr. Howard for the opportunities afforded by my Ministerial experience.

My Ministry embarked on earnest programs to mitigate homelessness and violence against women – crucial issues back in 1996 – and crucial issues still in 2013.

The pathologies that beset our society remain impervious to catch-all diagnosis and certainly to simple optimism.

Abundance of good will and earnest endeavor on both sides of this House are the first requisite – after that we sorely need new ideas for the social ills of today’s Brave New Otherworld.

The electorate of Pearce, as you may know, is varied and large.

One day after a particularly harrowing week in my office, of encounters with sick electors, the truth was borne home to me how Diabetes has fulfilled the direst of medical predictions: It has become a national epidemic.

I had in short order been confronted with blindness, cardiac failure, kidney and liver dysfunction and limb amputations.

To say nothing of the tragedy affecting children with type 1 Diabetes.

To say nothing of the effects on family life and cohesion.

To say nothing of economic hardship.

To say nothing of the unaffordability of vital medications.

Diabetes affects people from all walks of life including some distinguished members of this House and their staff.

Since its inception in 2000, the Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group has achieved a unique response to community concerns.

Madame Speaker our model is being emulated by Parliaments abroad.

I have been invited to share our experience with delegates to the forthcoming World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne this coming December.

They will hear of the difference it makes when sufferers know that in their National Capital, at the seat of government, an alliance exists that preaches, cajoles and when need be, is clamorous on their behalf.

One of the unexpected benefits for me has been the pleasure of working closely with colleagues across the benches.

The Members for Moore, Lyon, Isaacs and Senator Clare Moore, all members of the executive, and of course all the colleagues in this Parliament who have been members of the Group. In latter weeks the Member for Hasluck has taken the reigns of leadership.

The PDSG is in very safe hands.

Former colleagues Cameron Thompson and Guy Barnett were members of the first Executive and former Health Minister the Hon Michael Wooldridge gave early support.

Equally our many associations with doctors, researchers and non-government organizations, particularly, Diabetes Australia and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation have been fruitful.

Which of us can forget “KIDS IN THE HOUSE” and the profound emotional impact that event has had.

Nor the early and notable success of the Group securing the listing of INSULIN PUMP consumables on the National Diabetes Services Scheme.

Nor the response of this Parliament to the pleas of the children participating in “Kids in the House” when they asked:

Promise to Remember Me– and we did by contributing $27 million for research to find a cure for type 1 Diabetes.

I should like to close this farewell speech on an interrogative note.

As one leaves the stage of active intervention there is inevitably heartache, mostly stemming from issues in our body politic that persistently resist amelioration.

Poverty is one. Six hundred thousand children are living below the poverty line in Australia today. In some parts of the Electorate of Pearce the impact is devastating.

Why have we not been able to do better?

Was it not a body blow to the capacity of sole parents and their families to shift them onto ‘Newstart Allowance’ while cutting the job network funds?

Are we not denying them a chance to forge a better future?

A Fair Incentive to Work Bill!!! When will the mythologies stop?

Another mythology is ‘privatization’. Is ‘it always the answer to efficient delivery of services? Ask those on fixed and low incomes about their essential services bills!

In general terms though, the answer is yes, privatization can be beneficial providing due diligence is applied.

However as the Chair of the Public Works Committee for nine years, let me assure the House, the rush to sell off assets is almost never submitted to impartial cost-benefit analysis – and what is new about THAT?

And what of the ‘level playing field’? – Another mantra.

Trade inequities abound with the combined subsidies paid to farmers in the EU and the US totaling around $350 billion per annum. Our near neighbours Japan, Taiwan and South Korea continue to have amongst the highest subsidies for farmers.

Is it a welter of self-hatred that causes us to endanger some of our proudest and most efficient producers?

The Australian people have forged by dint of prodigious labour, innovation and stubborn self-belief, a peaceful and prosperous civilization in the most arid continent on the planet.

It ought to be a personal agony for every one here when our economic savants sanction admission of goods from nations that:

• continue to pay subsidies
• do not pay decent wages,
• do not impose occupational health and safety regulations,
• have no superannuation schemes and;
• do not apply standards of food hygiene and strict controls over additives.

Unsurprisingly, these goods enter this country at a cheaper price than we can produce them. But at what cost to our future – social and economic?

Day in and day out we dream of being a future food bowl for Asia while simultaneously destroying our existing industries.

Meanwhile frank and shameless subsidies and protections proceed unremarked whilst our own administration has withdrawn subsidies and continues to heap the burden of more and more ‘red tape’ on the breaking backs of our producers and manufacturers.

Is this pragmatism or an amiable madness on our part?

While the House ponders this conundrum, I turn to my six years as Chair of the Australia/China Parliamentary Group.

It proved to be miraculously serendipitous.

I led several delegations to Beijing, Shanghai and some of the remote regions of the Middle Kingdom.

Thus I was a personal witness to a unique event in human history as China emerged and to the astonishment of the world forged for itself the iron mantle of a great economic and military power.

With each successive visit, I was led to study a little more of Chinese political history.

My impression is that China, with the arguable exception of Tibet, has been averse to pursuing territorial expansion and focuses above all else on improving the living standards of its people through trade.

Certainly, in terms of the current economic downturn and with the prospect of alternative suppliers massing on the horizon, our trading relationship with China will need to be culturally sophisticated, intelligent and sensitive.

There are also other significant nations sharing with us the great Indian Ocean – a region whose time has come.

Our ability to navigate amongst these competing interests will be a test of our political maturity and the efficacy of our educational institutions.

Two years ago, I was fortunate to secure a gifted intern from ANU to research a paper on the case for an Australian Centre for Indian Ocean Affairs.

It makes compelling reading.

Commerce and cultural exchange are the enemies of poverty and the great facilitators to peace and growth along the Indian Ocean littoral.

Why have we waited so long?

But the signs are we may not have to wait much longer.

The recent announcement by the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Member for Curtin, of a prospective re-incarnation of the original COLOMBO PLAN is profoundly welcome.

If we are to learn anything though, from the political and social problems of the region it must surely be the necessity to engage with our neigbours to manage the flow of refugees in the Indian Ocean region.

This is not a situation Australia can manage in isolation.

If we are committed to stopping the deaths at sea, in this most intransigent of political arenas, our Parliament must find a way to forge a national consensus on this matter before we can possibly entertain any hope of achieving a regional consensus.

That is the only way we will find a lasting and humane resolution to one of the enduring human horrors of war and civil strife in our midst and my feelings on this matter have been expressed frequently both within this Chamber and without.

I remain stridently opposed to indefinite mandatory detention and the continued detention of children, 2,000 of whom are currently in detention.

These practices have gone on in our name and will stand as a matter of great shame.

In conclusion, I cannot help reflecting that as legislators, the Members of this House exercise a glorious responsibility.

It is no small thing to contrive, consider and ultimately create new Law for a great nation.

It is no small thing to rigorously uphold the separation of powers that tempers the potential excesses of executive government.

Equally it is no small thing to defend the sanctity of free speech – especially in that essential organ of democracy, the fourth estate.

An abundance of good fortune has attended my political life both in the electorate and in this Chamber.

I thank the House for the numberless courtesies extended to me since my election in March 1993.

Further, I thank the Pearce Division of the Liberal Party for its unquenchable optimism in endorsing me seven times.

In politics the mind and heart must move as one. Otherwise chaos ensues.

For me the Liberal Party as established by R.J. Menzies, has offered precisely that possibility.

It has never failed me.

In fact my political survival over these twenty years has depended on the principle that:

an elected member would always have the right to vote according to their conscience.

It has been tested in this place many times and remains the great distinguishing characteristic between the Liberal Party and its opponents and I am grateful for that.



Read More:

Judi Moylan article on Desperation, Displacement and Detention: Australia’s Treatment of Asylum Seekers Past and Present

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  1. Sad to see the nice Opposition MPs leaving. Are there any to take their place.