Tuesday, 20 September 2022
Member for Ringwood
Member for Ringwood
The SPEAKER: Order! It is now my pleasure to call members to make valedictory statements. I am looking forward to hearing the reflections of our colleagues as they end their parliamentary careers, as I am sure all members in the chamber are too. In order to ensure everyone’s statements start on time I ask members to restrict their congratulations in the chamber. I ask members who wish to congratulate each other with a handshake or a hug to do so outside the chamber. I will, however, relax the prohibition against clapping at the end of speeches. One of my roles as Speaker is to help make the most of the chamber’s limited time and to ensure members and their guests who may be visiting to share these moments are treated with respect and not kept waiting.
Mr HALSE (Ringwood) (14:51): Can I conclude where I began in this place, by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land upon which we are meeting, which we as Victorians call home, and I pay my deep respects to First Peoples, to elders past, present and emerging. As I did in my first speech, I note that the land that we call home is an ancient land, a place of deep knowledge, history, strength, memory, initiation, renewal and living culture. I note that this land was never ceded, and I stand in solidarity with First Peoples as we work towards truth, justice and treaty.
It has been a tremendous honour to have been the elected representative for the district of Ringwood since 2018. Our community in the east is a special place. During the most difficult and trying of times our community has demonstrated great strength, compassion, resilience and solidarity. Acts of kindness are everywhere to be found across the district: neighbours supporting neighbours, sporting clubs and community groups supporting those most vulnerable, local cafes and businesses providing free meals to those who are struggling, and our churches opening their doors to provide shelter and emergency accommodation to those in need. This is the east that I know. This is the east that I love. To the wonderful people of Ringwood, I say thank you.
My central aim for Ringwood has been to be a small cog in the larger process to secure the intergenerational investments that our community needs and deserves. As I stand here today I can report to this Parliament with absolute certainty that this is exactly what the Andrews Labor government has delivered. Every public high school in the district of Ringwood has received a multimillion-dollar upgrade. We are getting rid of two dangerous and congested level crossings in Ringwood and Ringwood East and building a new train station at Ringwood East. We have delivered record investment in our local community sporting clubs to provide an inclusive and accessible environment for all to enjoy. Just days ago this intergenerational vision materialised in a billion-dollar commitment to rebuild our local hospital in Ringwood East. These projects are changing the lives of people in my community for the better. I thank the cabinet, my colleagues and the Premier for supporting these projects.
It has also been a privilege to highlight the issues of mental health and health care, homelessness and housing economics, secure work and industrial rights, equality, youth justice and the environment within parliamentary and policy debates. I will provide some brief thoughts on three of these areas. I came into this place as a proud member of the labour movement, a democratic socialist movement that campaigns for fairness, justice and equality. I am a member of the trade union movement not out of any sense of nostalgia or because I particularly like trade unions but out of a belief and understanding that, in the absence of popular organising and collectivism, government action can only do so much to shift the balance of power away from capital and towards labour—towards everyday Victorians. As the most noted economist of the 21st century commented:
… capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.
We must continue to support not only Victorian workers, as this government has done through initiatives like the sick pay guarantee for casuals and our wage theft laws, but the ability of workers to have their voices democratically and collectively heard in workplaces across our state.
This parliamentary term has been marked by the pains, ruptures and loss generated by the COVID-19 global pandemic. It has been an unprecedented time. In my first speech I invited those listening to stop for a moment and put themselves in the shoes of an aged care worker employed on an insecure work contract. I made this comment with no foresight or real understanding of the potential threat of what was to come and how it would fundamentally impact our society. So much has been expected of so many over these last few years, but no group has done it harder than our health and community services workers. There was no option for them to stay at home, to stay out of harm’s way. This amazing group of people never stopped working. They never stopped caring. To our aged care workers, to our nurses, to our hospital and allied health staff, to our mental health and disability support workers, to our paramedics, we owe you a great debt, one which we will never be able to pay in full. You will always have my solidarity.
In all areas of public policy there is one overarching interest that will shape our collective future, and that is how we manage our changing environment. The great British natural historian and biologist David Attenborough puts our predicament succinctly:
We humans, alone on earth, are powerful enough to create worlds, and then to destroy them.
The natural world is fading. The evidence is all around. It has happened during my lifetime. I have seen it with my own eyes. It will lead to our destruction.
Yet there is still time to switch off the reactor.
… if we act now, we can … put it right.
That is why I am so proud that the Andrews Labor government is leading the nation in actions to address and mitigate global warming, rapidly decarbonising our economy in a push to 50 per cent renewables by 2030, and it is my belief that we will beat that legislative target.
Now, to say thanks to a few people. I am cognisant that I rise in this place after serving only one term. I want to acknowledge and thank all the retiring members and those members who are not contesting the upcoming state election. Thank you for the enormity of the work that you have performed. Many in this place have spent decades advocating for their communities, decades serving the Labor movement. You have served your local communities and your portfolios. You have made our state a fairer, stronger, more equal and more prosperous place to call home. A special thanks to my comrades in the so-dubbed ‘Eastern Bloc’ and stronghold of the Labor Party. To the member for Bayswater, to my good friend the member for Box Hill, to the member for Mount Waverley, to the member for Burwood, to Ms Terpstra in the other place and to Minister Leane in the other place: thank you for the work that we have done alongside each other and with each other over these previous four years.
In one of my other roles, I have been a member of the Integrity and Oversight Committee. I would like to thank those members of that committee for the work that we have done collectively on some very serious and important issues. I would particularly like to highlight the leadership of Ms Shing in the other place.
To conclude, I would like to thank my dedicated electorate office staff. As a politician often you are the person who is seen. It is your face in the news. It is your face on the social media streams. Behind all of that is the hardworking staff, and I have had tremendous staff. I would like to thank all of them for the support they have given me and the people of the district of Ringwood. A special mention goes out to my loyal friend and office manager, Sharon Young. Thank you for all that you have done.
To my family and to my mother, Dr Elli McGavin: thank you for your unwavering support, love and care of our family. To my in-laws, Gina and Graham: thank you for helping my family over the last few years as we have introduced a little one to our growing family. To my father, my sister, my brother-in-law and my other in-laws: thank you for your unwavering support of me over the last few years. Finally, to my wife, Rachel: thank you for your unwavering support of me, your loyalty, your friendship, your solidarity. It has meant the world to me. You are the best human being that I know. You are the fiercest human being that I know. I know a few fierce human beings in this place, but you are the fiercest human being I know, and you have a great passion and heart for others. I am so proud of what you are, an emergency department nurse and an official with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation. The way that you have been so generous to me has been extraordinary. Finally, to my beautiful young son, Edward ‘Teddy’ Alexander, who is here in the chamber: you will never know the overwhelming joy that you have brought to my heart, and in the most challenging times a cuddle and a smile and a giggle from you have meant the world to me. I look forward in the coming years for you to sit down with me on the patio and question what I did in this place and what we did as a government and to give us a bit of stick and to enquire about what this period—this unusual and unprecedented period—was.
I will leave my contribution there. I thank everyone in this place for their support, for their solidarity. I wish every member of Parliament the very best on a personal level with your families, with your health and mental health. I must admit this is a strange vocation to adopt. It is a strange vocation, and I respect people who stump up and want to continue in this place. It is a difficult profession, but I wish you all the very best. Of course I wish my colleagues in the Labor Party the very best in the upcoming election, and with that I will take my leave. Thank you.