Thank you Mr President.
I stand here before you all today to deliver my inaugural speech.
And with that I am ready to break the mould, I will start off a little differently and ask you all to immediately think of what first comes to mind when you look at me.
Did you see an Australian?
Or did you place me into a minority group such as age, class, race, gender, culture or religion?
If you initially placed me as one of the latter, then I am here to prove you otherwise.
I am an Australian, and a proud one of that!
Regardless of my minor details, above all else I stand here as an Australian.
Just as each and everyone of us here today, I am a true blue Aussie.
What defines an Australian you may ask?
To me, an Australian is a person who values, respects and treasures this nation and culture as their sacred own.
I stand here as an Australian with over 60 thousand years of this land’s history running through my veins, but that does not make me any more or less Australian than anybody else who calls our great nation home.
You see, Australian culture has evolved over the generations. As we ADDED more diversity we ADDED to the rich tapestry of Australian culture. With this I ask of this chamber and all my fellow Victorians…
As we add to our unique Australian culture, please don’t lose any of it along the way. Don’t erase our history, culture and uniqueness as we pave our own path through this chapter in our story. Allow it to evolve as Australians see fit, don’t force them the way that you currently are. Accept people’s differences, embrace their liberties and trust that through our diversity, our communities will find a mass of similarities that strengthens Victorian society.
It may come as a shock to many but I LOVE PEOPLE. All people.
Already individuals in this chamber have stood in front of the media claiming that I am a racist without even giving me the opportunity to first introduce myself. To those I have this to say…
I forgive you.
I forgive you for your hasty and ill-informed words. I forgive you for failing to properly represent your constituents and falling victim to the petty name-calling that, unfortunately, so many modern day politicians fall victim to. I forgive you and I will work with you, all of you, to serve Northern Victoria and all Victorians to the absolute best of my abilities.
I am not here to get lost in the web of political society. I am not here to forget who I am truly here for.
For my whole life I never quite felt at home, but when I moved to Northern Victoria I knew I had finally found HOME.
I fit into the community and culture like it was made especially for me.
The community spirit is second to none in Northern Victoria.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well I have found the perfect village to raise my own two children and their peers alike.
To find your village after feeling so out of place your entire life is pure bliss. From the diverse environments and weather patterns to the wholesome community spirit, North Victoria was love at first sight for me.
If your tractor is broken down, then a neighbour will be right around with theirs to help out in no time.
If there is single parent doing it tough, then there is a family offering to help out with babysitting while said parent heads off to work.
If the kids sporting team or school needs cash, then the community throws a BBQ and fundraises like crazy.
If there is a flood, fire or drought then the whole community pulls together and we get through it as one.
It is these people that inspire me every single day to do what I do. Not famous celebrities, powerful business people or the noisiest of politicians, but the residents that make my home the perfect community it is to live in. These are the people I strive to be like. Hardworking, no fuss, honest people.
Northern Victoria is just as diverse as the rest of this state, but we do have our own unique qualities to add to Victoria. From Victoria’s own forgotten Queensland-like oasis in the far north west, Mildura is a treasure to find when you are trudging along the outback.
Or the history clad township of Beechworth hiding in the pristine mountains to the East. Along the mighty Murray we have the most complex irrigation system in the Southern Hemisphere, set up to enable our producers to be the food bowl that feeds not only this State, but also to export our produce to other countries far and wide.
As spectacular as this sounds, unfortunately the mismanagement of our waterways, government interference and red and green tape are the reasons I find myself here today.
I was only new in town in 2018 when the drought decided to move in as well. After 12 months of owning our own farm and struggling to produce with soaring water prices, I noticed it wasn’t just my family struggling to work through it. I jumped into action when I noticed it was generational farms shutting down, schools closing their doors for good and townships turning into ghost towns. Nature had gone quiet, the trees stopped singing, cicadas were silent and even locusts were nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t understand why all of this prime agricultural land was barren when the river was thumping mass amounts of water downstream.
I know better now. I know where the problem makers are. I will continue my fight to see water returned to the land no matter where I am. Be it here, out in the field, or with the cooperation of others. We all deserve to have access to affordable, fresh and local produce, but we can’t grow it without water. And my irrigation communities CAN grow the most amazing produce on the face of the planet if we simply work with them, cut the red tape and let them get back on their feet.
I would like to briefly touch base on an issue that many perceive as a topic to falsely brand my party racist: immigration. When we say our policy is Net Zero immigration many everyday Victorians assume that means none at all. No. It simply means that we wish to see that immigration numbers do not exceed the amount of those leaving Victoria. It’s not about race or culture – it’s about numbers. It is a resource policy.
With homelessness numbers rapidly increasing, schools full and hospitals with no beds we have a serious issue with our current population. It is outright cruel to add more people to the population of those already struggling to get by.
When working, yes WORKING families, are forced to live in their car due to no homes being available we have a serious problem. When children are turned away from hospital without any care, we have a problem! We cannot add more people to our population until we have these issues sorted out. Like I said earlier, I love people. People from all cultures and corners of the earth fascinate me, but I cannot stand by and add to the suffering of those who rely on me to represent them: the people who are already here.
I am a servant to the people of North Victoria first and foremost. These people are telling me of their struggles to find homes, schools and gain medical care. They are telling me the wait lists are extraordinary. I cannot let them down by supporting an increase in immigration. As much as I would love to see those in other parts of the world end their suffering, I have many in my own constituency suffering through a lot of the same issues those in third world countries are going through. Homelessness, malnourishment, water contamination, poverty, domestic abuse, isolation…the list goes on. I have to ensure my constituency is sound before I can support an increase in immigration.
Victorians are currently screaming out over the soaring costs of living.
Housing costs (and the materials shortage accompanying them), groceries costs, energy costs, fuel costs and taxes…so many taxes. Sometimes these problems are not fixed easily. But sometimes they are. Sometimes all it takes is allowing people to collect wood from the side of the road or state forests, to fish in our water ways, to fix dirt roads with their own earthmoving equipment, to clean out a blocked drain or to build a shed and live in it. State and local governments overreach on peoples lives and their ability to get by has exceeded the bounds. We are literally being choked in red and green tape.
Climate change did not start the catastrophic bushfires in 2019. The legislation stopping fire crews from practicing safe spot burning (or backburning when I was in the RFS) during the off season was to blame there. These fires ravaged the East Coast of Australia because of the fuel load on the ground.
If your legislation was to protect the wildlife in these forests then you did a splendid job of wiping them all out in one hit! This has now burdened regional communities with insane rebuilding costs that will take years to recover. This is a the perfect example of how unnecessary government interference backfires and causes more harm to our constituents.
These constituents are locals to their areas, many of them for generations. They know their land and environments better than anyone else, especially those of us here clad in suits and running our mouths. These locals don’t want to destroy or pillage their natural resources. They simply want to manage and not waste what is available to help them get by in life.
If you haven’t worked it out by now, I am passionate about the people I am here to represent.
But I am also a good person. I will listen, discuss and try to find that healthy balance, here in the chamber and out of it, with my Parliamentary colleagues. Many of you have approached me and introduced yourselves, and some are now even working on becoming my dear friends. For those still hesitant, well what you have just seen of me is a good little nibble. Cross my constituents in the wrong way and I will bite. But that’s what we are all here for right? To serve our constituents, to give them the opportunity to live their best possible life through sound and fair governance.
I am fiercely protective of those I value, and I value North Victorians wholeheartedly.
Since his Royal Highness King Charles the third hasn’t dropped me a line I can only assume this is what he expects of me. To serve him I must serve my constituency, which I am more than happy to do. And I will do a damn fine job at it.
I warned you all this would be short and punchy just like me.
I would like to give a special mention to Mr Richard Hopkins.
You have allowed me to grow, learn and blossom with your ever patient support. You saw in me something that I hadn’t even yet discovered myself. Thank you for learning to speak my language and explain things to me so that I could easily understand. If I could create the perfect father, there would be a lot of you in the mix. I am so very grateful for your existence overall as a human being, and even more so as a mentor throughout these past several years of knowing you. I don’t think I would be standing here today if it wasn’t for your constant support. Thank you so very much.
Dani, Jodi, James and Warren. I am so very grateful that you have been there to create the awesome team I was blessed with from the moment I was given an office. If anyone is to be envious of me for anything, you four are it. I got the cream of the crop for staffers.
Aaron, Laylla and Emmett. Sorry guys, but mum and the Mrs are currently busy for the next four years at least. I will fit you into the calendar when I can. No, in all honesty, Az thanks for the support. I know it isn’t easy having such a strong character for a wife, but at least it’s never boring. You knew I was going to be a handful from the very beginning, but I am sure you are enjoying the journey we are taking as we go. Hang in there, it will be worth it in the end.
Laylla and Emmett. I didn’t know what to expect when you two made me a mum. But thank you for allowing me the freedom to be the mum I am today. You guys allow me to be the fun, crazy, spontaneous and loving mother I am every day. Just know that everything I do now is to ensure that you and your generation are handed a better country and future than what my generation was handed. I see a massive mess that I need to clean up, all of my generation needs to clean up, to hand over to you kids when the time comes. So just like any good mum, I’m going to get cracking on that job.
I am going to take this opportunity to finish off by thanking those of you all who travelled near and far to support me today. Thank you to my fellow MPs who have graced me with your patience and respected attention. And thank you to all of the Parliamentary staff who have made this transition so welcoming. From the chocolate fairies hiding out in library to team Bust a Cap at the entrance. Each and every one of the staff here at Victorian Parliament has been an absolute pleasure to deal with. I look forward to sharing, at least, the next four years of a large chunk of my life with you all.
And once again
Thank you Mr President