American-born Members of Parliament

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SpeakersKeneally Ms Kristina
BusinessPrivate Members Statements, PRIV

Page: 6444

Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY (Heffron—Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services) [4.26 p.m.]: I rise to talk about Ohio. I know that private members' statements are meant to be about our electorates and our work as members of Parliament. With the indulgence of the House, I think I can make that link pretty quickly. As most members know, I was born in the United States of America, in Las Vegas, Nevada, I lived for a short time in Colorado, but I grew up in Toledo, Ohio. John Denver sang:
Saturday night in Toledo, Ohio, is like being nowhere at all
They roll back the sidewalk precisely at ten
And people who live there are not seen again!

If that was not enough, Elvis Costello sang:
      But do people living in Toledo
      Know that their name
      hasn't travelled very well?

Just in case you might think he is singing of Toledo, Spain, he goes on to clarify in the next line:
      And does anybody in Ohio
      Dream of that Spanish citadel?

Well, I reckon both John Denver and Elvis Costello got it wrong. Toledo has given the world great writers, such as Gloria Steinem and P. J. O'Rourke; great actors, such as Danny Thomas, Jamie Farr—yes, Klinger from M*A*S*H really was from Toledo—and Katie Holmes. In fact, I knew Katie Holmes, but when she was closer in age to her now famous daughter, Suri Cruise. Katie's dad was one of my high school basketball coaches and her older sister, Holly, one of my friends and teammates. If that is not enough, I note that Ohio is electorally significant. As Ohio goes, so the nation goes. It is a key swing State. In fact, Ohio has gone with the election of the President in the last 11 United States elections.

Now just as John Denver and Elvis Costello got it wrong, so too has the Sun-Herald got it wrong when it wrote in a profile piece about me last weekend that the first time I left Ohio was in 1991 to attend World Youth Day in Poland. It makes us Ohioans sound rather provincial! By 1991 I had been to a majority of the US States, either on holidays with my family or in my role as the president of the National Association of Students at Catholic Colleges and Universities. In fact, I was living in New Mexico at the time I went to the 1991 World Youth Day. I was teaching in a rural Catholic school in a teacher shortage area. I spoke about that experience in my inaugural speech, particularly about how it shaped my commitment to an inclusive society where the most vulnerable members are protected, supported and included. World Youth Day 1991 was my first international tripunless you count going to Canada, which you really do not when you grow up an hour south of the Canadian border. Since 1991 I have travelled a bit more extensively and, of course, I moved to Australia permanently in 1994.

Just as the Sun-Herald got it a bit wrong, just as John Denver and Elvis Costello got it wrong, so too have I got it wrong. When I was elected in 2003 I was advised by an officer of the Parliament that I was the first American-born member in this place. That, in fact, turns out not to be the case. I asked the Parliamentary Library to do a bit more digging for me and it has advised me that the first American-born member of this Parliament was Horace Dean, born in Chicago in 1814 and elected to the Assembly in 1869. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly for the Hastings, but he was disqualified in 1870 because he was in government pay as a postmaster. The Parliamentary Library advised me that in July 1870 he was returned by what he called "the unanimous will of an outraged people", but he was again disqualified under naturalisation conditions.

That is not all the Parliamentary Library found. There was one other member from the United States: Robert Matteson Vaughn. I am advised that he was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1880 for the seat of Grenfell. He became the Secretary for Mines in 1885. He was elected again in 1891 for the Labor Party, but refused the pledge, and he was defeated in 1894. You might not believe it, but the Hon. Robert Vaughn is from Ohio: he was born there in 1833. I pay tribute to the Hon. Horace Dean and to the Hon. Robert Vaughn. I pay tribute to the people of New South Wales who, in 1869 and in 1880, elected to this place immigrants who probably had very strange-sounding accents. I pay tribute to Mr Vaughn, in particular, and to Ohioans, who seem to be able to demonstrate a civic spirit no matter what country they live in.

As an American-born member, I am thrilled to be part of this Parliament. I am pleased to represent an electorate where some 40 per cent of residents are born overseas and I am pleased to revive this tradition of American-born members. I was pleased to take on the role as Sydney's Ambassador to the United States of America to promote New South Wales, particularly our film, tourism and financial service industries, as part of the "G'day USA" tour in January. My favourite part of that trip was seeing the South Sydney Rabbitohs play a game in Jacksonville, Florida. The New South Wales Government's jersey sponsorship ensured that millions of people saw the website and logo. Who knows, maybe next year when the bunnies return we will be able to take the game to Toledo, Ohio.