Maiden speech in federal parliament
Tuesday, 10th September 1996
5.15pm : Mister Acting Speaker, in making my first speech in this place, I congratulate you on your election and wish to say how proud I am to be here as the Independent member for Oxley. I come here not as a polished politician but as a woman who has had her fair share of life's knocks.
My view on issues is based on commonsense, and my experience as a mother of four children, as a sole parent, and as a businesswoman running a fish and chip shop. I won the seat of Oxley largely on an issue that has resulted in me being called a racist. That issue related to my comment that Aboriginals received more benefits than non-Aboriginals.
We now have a situation where a type of reverse racism is applied to mainstream Australians by those who promote political correctness and those who control the various taxpayer funded "industries" that flourish in our society servicing Aboriginals, multiculturalists and a host of other minority groups. In response to my call for equality for all Australians, the most noisy criticism came from the fat cats, bureaucrats and the do-gooders. They screamed the loudest because they stand to lose the most - their power, money and position, all funded by ordinary Australian taxpayers.
Present governments are encouraging separatism in Australia by providing opportunities, land, moneys and facilities available only to Aboriginals. Along with millions of Australians, I am fed up to the back teeth with the inequalities that are being promoted by the government and paid for by the taxpayer under the assumption that Aboriginals are the most disadvantaged people in Australia. I do not believe that the colour of one's skin determines whether you are disadvantaged. As Paul Hasluck said in parliament in October 1955 when he was Minister for Territories:
The distinction I make is this. A social problem is one that concerns the way in which people live together in one society. A racial problem is a problem which confronts two different races who live in two separate societies, even if those societies are side by side. We do not want a society in Australia in which one group enjoy one set of privileges and another group enjoy another set of privileges.
Hasluck's vision was of a single society in which racial emphases were rejected and social issues addressed. I totally agree with him, and so would the majority of Australians.
But, remember, when he gave his speech he was talking about the privileges that white Australians were seen to be enjoying over Aboriginals. Today, 41 years later, I talk about the exact opposite - the privileges Aboriginals enjoy over other Australians. I have done research on benefits available only to Aboriginals and challenge anyone to tell me how Aboriginals are disadvantaged when they can obtain 3 and 5 % housing loans denied to non-Aboriginals.
This nation is being divided into black and white, and the present system encourages this. I am fed up with being told, "This is our land." Well, where the hell do I go? I was born here, and so were my parents and children. I will work beside anyone and they will be my equal but I draw the line when told I must pay and continue paying for something that happened over 200 years ago. Like most Australians, I worked for my land; no-one gave it to me.
Apart from the $40 million spent so far since Mabo on native title claims, the government has made available $1 billion for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders as compensation for land they cannot claim under native title. Bear in mind that the $40 million spent so far in native title has gone into the pockets of grateful lawyers and consultants. Not one native title has been granted as I speak.
The majority of Aboriginals do not want handouts because they realise that welfare is killing them. This quote says it all "If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish you feed him for a lifetime."
Those who feed off the Aboriginal industry do not want to see things changed. Look at the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Members receive $290 a day sitting allowance and $320 a day travelling allowance, and most of these people also hold other very well paid positions. No wonder they did not want to resign recently!
Reconciliation is everyone recognising and treating each other as equals, and everyone must be responsible for their own actions. This is why I am calling for ATSIC to be abolished. It is a failed, hypocritical and discriminatory organisation that has failed dismally the people it was meant to serve. It will take more than Senator Herron's surgical skills to correct the terminal mess it is in. Anyone with a criminal record can, and does, hold a position with ATSIC. I cannot hold my position as a politician if I have a criminal record - once again, two sets of rules.
If politicians continue to promote separatism in Australia, they should not continue to hold their seats in this parliament. They are not truly representing all Australians, and I call on the people to throw them out. To survive in peace and harmony, united and strong, we must have one people, one nation, one flag.
The greatest cause of family breakdown is unemployment. This country of ours has the richest mineral deposits in the world and vast rich lands for agriculture and is surrounded by oceans that provide a wealth of seafood, and yet we are $190 billion in debt with an interest bill that is strangling us.
Youth unemployment between the ages of 15 to 24 runs at 25 % and is even higher in my electorate of Oxley. Statistics, by cooking the books, say that Australia's unemployment is at 8.6 %, or just under one million people. If we disregard that one hour's work a week classifies a person as employed, then the figure is really between 1.5 million and 1.9 million unemployed. This is a crisis that recent governments have ignored because of a lack of will. We are regarded as a Third World country with First World living conditions. We have one of the highest interest rates in the world, and we owe more money per capita than any other country. All we need is a nail hole in the bottom of the boat and we're sunk.
In real dollar terms, our standard of living has dropped over the past 10 years. In the 1960s, our wages increase ran at 3 % and unemployment at 2 %. Today, not only is there no wage increase, we have gone backwards and unemployment is officially 8.6 %. The real figure must be close to 12 to 13 %.
I wish to comment briefly on some social and legal problems encountered by many of my constituents - problems not restricted to just my electorate of Oxley. I refer to the social and family upheaval created by the Family Law Act and the ramifications of that act embodied in the child support scheme. The Family Law Act, which was the child of the disgraceful Senator Lionel Murphy, should be repealed. It has brought death, misery and heartache to countless thousands of Australians. Children are treated like pawns in some crazy game of chess.
The child support scheme has become unworkable, very unfair and one sided. Custodial parents can often profit handsomely at the expense of a parent paying child support, and in many cases the non-custodial parent simply gives up employment to escape the, in many cases, heavy and punitive financial demands. Governments must give to all those who have hit life's hurdles the chance to rebuild and have a future.
We have lost all our big Australian industries and icons, including Qantas when it sold 25 % of its shares and a controlling interest to British Airways. Now this government wants to sell Telstra, a company that made a $1.2 billion profit last year and will make a $2 billion profit this year. But, first, they want to sack 54,000 employees to show better profits and share prices. Anyone with business sense knows that you do not sell off your assets especially when they are making money. I may be only "a fish and chip shop lady", but some of these economists need to get their heads out of the textbooks and get a job in the real world. I would not even let one of them handle my grocery shopping.
Immigration and multiculturalism are issues that this government is trying to address, but for far too long ordinary Australians have been kept out of any debate by the major parties. I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 % of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate. Of course, I will be called racist but, if I can invite whom I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country. A truly multicultural country can never be strong or united. The world is full of failed and tragic examples, ranging from Ireland to Bosnia to Africa and, closer to home, Papua New Guinea. America and Great Britain are currently paying the price.
Arthur Calwell was a great Australian and Labor leader, and it is a pity that there are not men of his stature sitting on the opposition benches today. Arthur Calwell said "Japan, India, Burma, Ceylon and every new African nation are fiercely anti-white and anti-one another. Do we want or need any of these people here? I am one red-blooded Australian who says no and who speaks for 90 % of Australians." I have no hesitation in echoing the words of Arthur Calwell.
There is light at the end of the tunnel and there are solutions. If this government wants to be fair dinkum, then it must stop kowtowing to financial markets, international organisations, world bankers, investment companies and big business people. The Howard government must become visionary and be prepared to act, even at the risk of making mistakes.
In this financial year we will be spending at least $1.5 billion on foreign aid and we cannot be sure that this money will be properly spent, as corruption and mismanagement in many of the recipient countries are legend. Australia must review its membership and funding of the UN, as it is a little like ATSIC on a grander scale, with huge tax-free American dollar salaries, duty-free luxury cars and diplomatic status.
The World Health Organisation has a lot of its medical experts sitting in Geneva while hospitals in Africa have no drugs and desperate patients are forced to seek medication on the black market. I am going to find out how many treaties we have signed with the UN, have them exposed and then call for their repudiation. The government should cease all foreign aid immediately and apply the savings to generate employment here at home.
Abolishing the policy of multiculturalism will save billions of dollars and allow those from ethnic backgrounds to join mainstream Australia, paving the way to a strong, united country. Immigration must be halted in the short-term so that our dole queues are not added to by, in many cases, unskilled migrants not fluent in the English language. This would be one positive step to rescue many young and older Australians from a predicament which has become a national disgrace and crisis. I must stress at this stage that I do not consider those people from ethnic backgrounds currently living in Australia anything but first-class citizens, provided of course that they give this country their full, undivided loyalty.
The government must be imaginative enough to become involved, in the short-term at least, in job creating projects that will help establish the foundation for a resurgence of national development and enterprise. Such schemes would be the building of the Alice Springs to Darwin railway line, new roads and ports, water conservation, reforestation and other sensible and practical environmental projects.
Therefore I call for the introduction of national service for a period of 12 months, compulsory for males and females upon finishing year 12 or reaching 18 years of age. This could be a civil service with a touch of military training, because I do not feel we can go on living in a dream world forever and a day believing that war will never touch our lives again.
The government must do all it can to help reduce interest rates for business. How can we compete with Japan, Germany and Singapore, who enjoy rates of two %, 5.5 % and 3.5 % respectively? Reduced tariffs on foreign goods that compete with local products seem only to cost Australians their jobs. We must look after our own before lining the pockets of overseas countries and investors at the expense of our living standards and future.
Mister Acting Speaker, time is running out. We may have only 10 to 15 years left to turn things around. Because of our resources and our position in the world, we will not have a say because neighbouring countries such as Japan, with 125 million people; China, with 1.2 billion people; India, with 846 million people; Indonesia, with 178 million people; and Malaysia, with 20 million people are well aware of our resources and potential. Wake up, Australia, before it is too late. Australians need and want leaders who can inspire and give hope in difficult times. Now is the time for the Howard government to accept the challenge.
Mister Acting Speaker, everything I have said is relevant to my electorate of Oxley, which is typical of mainstream Australia. I do have concerns for my country and I am going to do my best to speak my mind and stand up for what I believe in. As an independent I am confident that I can look after the needs of the people of Oxley and I will always be guided by their advice. It is refreshing to be able to express my views without having to toe a party line. It has got me into trouble on the odd occasion, but I am not going to stop saying what I think. I consider myself just an ordinary Australian who wants to keep this great country strong and independent, and my greatest desire is to see all Australians treat each other as equals as we travel together towards the new century.
I will fight hard to keep my seat in this place, but that will depend on the people who sent me here. Mister Acting Speaker, I thank you for your attention and trust that you will not think me presumptuous if I dedicate this speech to the people of Oxley and those Australians who have supported me. I salute them all.
10 September 1996