Bill's Speeches

ADDRESS TO WELCOME TO COUNTRY CEREMONY - CANBERRA - TUESDAY, 30 AUGUST 2016

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I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, Australia’s first lawmakers, and pay my respects to elders both past and present.

I thank Tina for her welcome to country and I thank the little wedge tails for their welcome.

Prime Minister, colleagues, I wish too to provide a special welcome to all the families with us this morning, you give up so much to allow us to serve in this parliament.

The welcome to country is a great institution and it is part of our Parliament.

Our Parliament is a great institution.

Politics is a great institution. It affects everyone’s lives. 

And at each election, the Australian people place their faith in the leadership, diversity and the contention of a new parliament.

 

All of us who are elected are privileged custodians of the people's trust.

But today is not an occasion for self-congratulation.

Because Parliament is not an end in itself – but a means of taking all Australians to greater progress, security and opportunity.

And Australians most certainly want this 45th parliament to be capable of rising above self-seeking, narrow sectional interests. 

To be capable of raising the standard of living and opportunity for all Australians.

For a country built on the idea of the ‘fair go’ – the stubborn presence of inequality in our prosperous society is a national wrong.

A challenge to all of us in the 45th Parliament.

A challenge for us to use our parliament more intelligently, to elevate politics.

To make this an even more pluralist, more democratic, more representative place.

To include more people who are too often left out, ignored, dispossessed or forgotten.

I speak of the first Australians but not just the first Australians:

 

-      The victims of violence

-      Farmers doing it hard on the land

-      People trapped by insecure work

-      Women denied genuinely equal treatment

-      Australians with disability, or Australians living in poverty

-      Refugees

Marginalising our fellow Australians only weakens our society.

Parliament should never condone the complacency that another Australian’s misfortune is someone else’s responsibility.

Our duty in this 45th Parliament is to gather Australians in, to leave no-one behind.

Because those who would make fairness too difficult, make the splintering of our society too easy.

Friends,

Fifty years ago this month, a company of 19-year old regulars and 20-year old Nashos found themselves embroiled in a terrible battle, in monsoonal rain and heavy red mud.

And fifty years ago, amidst Long Tan’s unfamiliar rubber trees, 18 Australians would make the supreme sacrifice, in a victory against odds uncounted.

Also in the same month– a world away, 200 Aboriginal stockmen and their families, gathered their meagre belongings, shouldered their swags, walked off Wave Hill Station and marched into history.

The Australia of those times is almost a foreign country to us now.

The half-century gone has transformed our economy, our society and our daily lives in ways the heroes of those two quiet distinct but iconic events could never have imagined.

We have opened ourselves to the world, and found a home in our region.

We have faced our past, and said Sorry.

Yet the lessons of fifty years ago from Long Tan to Wave Hill still ring now in the 45th Parliament:

-      courage in adversity

-      solidarity in hardship

-      triumphing against the odds

They endure because they are so thoroughly, timelessly Australian.

Our task, all of us – as we welcome the 45th Parliament – is to prove worthy of those values, to prove worthy of this country and all of the people we serve.

Today, and every day, let us dedicate ourselves to that. 

Welcome.

ENDS


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