Valedictory Speeches

About this Item
SubjectsAustralian Labor Party: ALP: New South Wales; Members of Parliament; Electorates: Newcastle
SpeakersGaudry Mr Bryce
BusinessBusiness of the House
Commentary Valedictory Speech

Page: 4633

    Mr BRYCE GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.06 p.m.] (Valedictory Speech): In what may be my last speech in this House as the Labor member for Newcastle, I want to thank the people of the Newcastle electorate, who have entrusted me to be their representative for four successive terms since my election to Parliament on 25 May 1991. It has been my privilege to hold that trust and to work for the betterment of the city and the great people who make up our community. In those 15 years Newcastle people have bounced back from the impact of the earthquake and the closure of BHP. They have celebrated the success of the Knights in two premierships, witnessed the building of the east grandstand at EnergyAustralia stadium, which was funded by a $32 million State grant, held strong opinions on the burgeoning development of the Honeysuckle project and continued, as always, to be a passionate and caring community, willing to give a helping hand to the needy and to stand up for their rights.

    I am proud of my role in the campaign to keep our power industry in public hands, maintain electric rail services to Newcastle, secure the green corridor from the Watagans to the sea, ensure the building of our world-class acute care hospital system in Newcastle, convince the Government to fund the EnergyAustralia stadium and support the rail building industry in Newcastle. I have always upheld the rights of ordinary citizens in their relationship with governments. I made my first speech in this place on 17 September 1991 in opposition to the Greiner Government's industrial relations bill. I said in that debate:

    This bill will turn order into chaos. The workers of the State accept the need for the changes in work practices and re-skilling necessary to make this country cost competitive. They will not accept a process that drives wages and conditions down to subsistence level. They will not give away their right to organise and the democratic right to withdraw their labour when they are being exploited in the workplace.

    I regarded the legislation as a mechanism that would impact on the fundamental concept of a fair go, which has characterised our industrial relations system. In my view at that time unemployed workers subject to family responsibilities and mortgage payments would be forced to accept substandard conditions and rates of pay keep their families together.

    Those words ring true today as the High Court endorses the repugnant Howard Government's WorkChoices legislation and its stripping away of long fought for conditions of employment that have ensured fairness in our industrial relations and fair outcomes for workers and their families. That is why I will join with thousands of community members on 30 November to take the next step in the only campaign that can now redress this issue—the Your Rights at Work Campaign—to remove the current Federal Government and re-institute a fair industrial relations system. That campaign will require the determination and solidarity shown by the Boeing workers in their nine-month stand for the right to collectively bargain for fair wages and conditions. In the words of Bob Marley, it is time again to "Get Up—Stand Up, Stand up for Your Rights".

    Yesterday in the Parliament the Premier announced the final agreement with James Hardie and introduced legislation to ensure a just outcome for the victims of asbestos-related diseases contracted as a result of using James Hardie products. That outcome is a triumph for the determination of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia [ADFA], supported by the New South Wales Government, in confronting the dereliction of duty of James Hardie and dragging it to accept its responsibility. I am proud to have contributed in Parliament and in public on this issue, marching with ADFA members and the unions to confront the James Hardie annual general meeting. Congratulations to Greg Combet, Bernie Banton, Barry Robson, Bob Carr, Morris Iemma and all involved in gaining justice for sufferers of mesothelioma and asbestosis, their families and carers.

    These are issues that distinguish the Labor Party from the Opposition. I applaud the policy directions taken by Premier Morris Iemma to improve services in health, especially mental health services, disability services and housing, with a special emphasis on aged housing in our community. I have enjoyed the camaraderie and policy development of my time in Parliament to date and my friendship with members on both sides of the House. The lead-up to the win by Labor in 1995 and the groundbreaking environmental and planning legislation in the period thereafter was particularly exciting. In the period leading to the win I enjoyed working with Craig Knowles, Kim Yeadon and Pam Allan in developing a package to secure a balance between conservation of our environmental resources and a sustainable forest industry.

    There is no doubt that the greatest challenge facing the planet is climate change and the greenhouse issue. Australians lead the world in per capita contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. We have a responsibility as a Government and as individuals to work towards limiting our dependence on fossil fuels, as well as using technology to replace them. No member of this Parliament was more committed to the urgency of that issue or more competent to put into effect legislative change to meet its challenge than Kim Yeadon. His work as Minister for Land and Water Conservation, Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Forestry and Minister for Energy, displayed a deep knowledge and commitment to issues of sustainability. His legislation made New South Wales a world leader in the areas of greenhouse gas abatement and carbon trading.

    I have had the privilege through my role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Premier and the Ministers for Police, Emergency Services, Education and Training, Aboriginal Affairs and Planning to travel throughout New South Wales to listen to community needs and represent the Ministers and Government and its programs. I particularly treasure my contact with the Aboriginal community, which has yet to share fully in the benefits of this State. Its resilience in difficult circumstances and its work towards reconciliation uplifts me. I will never forget the day that Mrs Nancy de Vries addressed this House on her experience as a member of the stolen generation.

    I have learnt much through my Chairmanship of the oversight Committee of the Police Integrity Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman. The committee had great service from its secretariat of Helen Minnican and Tanya Bosch. In my role as chairman I had the opportunity of inspecting police activities in a number of overseas countries, which served to emphasise the quality of the New South Wales service. My role as the sole parliamentary representative on the New South Wales Coastal Council put me in contact with a dedicated group of public servants and community members under the chairmanship of Professor Bruce Thom. That group has been instrumental in developing the New South Wales coastal policy. In all my dealings with public servants I have been impressed by their professionalism and dedication to achieving outcomes, often in difficult circumstances of departmental amalgamation and downsizing.

    There have, of course, been highs and lows in my time in Parliament, but none was more crushing than the appalling move away from the principle of natural justice displayed last week in this House. It is with regret that both sides of this House moved with undue speed to strip the publicly funded superannuation benefits away from a former member of this House facing serious criminal charges. The legislation now passed impacts not only on the capacity to finance a defence but also to support a family. I fail to see the service of justice in that approach. It is the courts that have responsibility to judge guilt or innocence, unhindered by the Parliament or the media.

    There are many challenges in the life of members of Parliament as they attempt to provide a service to their communities, promote business growth, protect the environment, participate in the policy and legislative programs of government or the tough work of Opposition, and be available to respond to the many needs of individuals in their electorates. Finding the balance in all of this without it impacting on family life is a great challenge. While I have tried to find this balance, I am the first to admit that I have not always been successful and thank my family for their support and tolerance. For all of us the family is the font of our support and strength.

    My wife, Barbara, has been "the wind beneath my wings" throughout my parliamentary career and our 41 years of marriage. Her strength in her fight against leukaemia and her insistence that I continue to campaign throughout her illness and treatment in 1990-91 inspires me still. She is at times both my rod and my staff. I have always enjoyed the love and support of my family, Justine and Brooke and their partners, Jason and Patrick, and our four feisty grandchildren, Hannah, Jesse, Lily and Luella. Barbara's parents, Joyce and Rex, are great examples of continuing active community involvement into their 80s and 90s. I honour the memory of my parents, George and Aura Gaudry, and my grandmother, Mary Ellen Wellings. As a child I saw my father stand up for the rights of his fellow workers and engage with them in political debate.

    My political life began as a community and environmental activist. I was a Teachers Federation representative in all of the schools in which I taught. I enjoyed a fulfilling 28-year career as a teacher. I entered this House aged 48 with a strong commitment to Labor's principles of social justice, the value of trade unions in ensuring fair outcomes in the workplace and a commitment to equitable access to education, health and public transport services and the essential power and water services.

    Like many of my generation I grew up in frugal circumstances—my parents raising six children on a forestry worker's pay. I spent my childhood years in a dual family situation living as a companion to my grandmother at night and joining my family in the day. My years with Grandma taught me a great deal about the issues of ageing and the importance of remaining connected to the community. She was 82 when I left Kendall to attend Newcastle Teachers College. She was both my protector and my mentor, shielding me from the harsher aspects of life and promoting my love of reading and through it my access to education. Our social life in the small community of Kendall revolved around the Catholic Church. Through its influence I absorbed the social justice principles that I adhere to today.

    In my view people join a political party in Australia because of their belief in its philosophy and principles, and to participate in its policy discussion, support its causes and take part in its democratic processes—not to be mere ciphers. In this regard I want to place on record my enormous gratitude to the members of the Australian Labor Party in Newcastle, who have shown me great support over my entire political career and continue to campaign for their democratic right to participate in the selection of candidates for public office. Despite their support, unlike the majority of members leaving this Parliament I was disendorsed by the most undemocratic method one could envisage—a 7-13 vote by the National Executive of the Labor Party, 17 of whom do not even live in New South Wales.

    In the Labor Party the State Electorate Council delegates and its executive consolidate the work of branches, strengthen policy discussion and lend support to the member of Parliament. I thank the many delegates of the Newcastle State Electorate Council for their unwavering support over my four terms in Parliament. I particularly thank presidents Adrian Lewis and Marilyn Eade and Tim Crakanthorp, the current State Electorate Council Secretary, and the members of the executive for their dedicated service to Labor's cause. The use of the Corporations Law by the Federal Government in its WorkChoices approach to industrial relations is reflective of moves within governments and political parties of all persuasions to centralise and corporatise the operations of public life. [Extension of time agreed to.]

    The more that happens the greater is the influence of spin over substance in public life and the more irrelevant the direct representatives of the people become. No member of Parliament can handle the complexities of the role without the assistance of highly committed electorate staff. I cannot speak highly enough of the loyalty, hard work and compassion shown by my electorate officers John Gurr, Marina Matwejev and Bruce Jones, and those relief staff that have assisted me over the years. John and Marina joined me in 1991 and will both receive 15-year service awards this week. Marina now works for the member for Strathfield. They have been the mainstays of my office, as has Bruce, who has been with me for six years.

    Many people who come to our office are in crisis. Issues of homelessness, mental health and housing stress are a constant reminder of the difficulties facing our community and the pressure it places on electorate staff and the departmental officers charged with trying to deliver services. These pressures cause emotional wear and tear on our dedicated staff as they work with compassion to assist our constituents and support our efforts in the Parliament and in the community. I thank also to the Labor team of parliamentary stenographers—Helen Bennett, Barbara Dixon and Christine Czintos— who have always been ready with help and friendship. The operations of Parliament would grind to a halt without the dedicated work of the entire support staff who give great service, despite the cuts imposed on their budgets.

    My time here has been marked by the professionalism, service and friendship of the parliamentary staff—from the Clerks to the caring men and women who keep our offices clean and shipshape. To Greg McGill, Gladys Kleiner and the accounts staff, thank you for your forbearance and your patience in unravelling my accounts. To the staff of the Procedure Office, Employee Services and Member Services, thank you for your consistent attention to our needs. To Greg Kelly and the officers who support our work in the Parliament, thank you very much. Greig Tillotson and the library staff have always been prepared to research issues for me and provide vital information in the shortest time period. In my years in Parliament information technology has moved forward more rapidly than my capacity to fully utilise its great range of services—and I note that I share that view with the honourable member for Epping, who spoke this morning. The staff at Parliament's Information Technology Services are always on hand to deal with the many glitches that I encounter in trying to expand my skills in this area.

    I marvel at the skill of the Hansard staff, who manage to cut through the noise and tumult of question time and translate our disjointed words into thoughtful statements. If an army marches on its stomach we march on the skill, attention and service of the catering staff. David, Joseph, Maureen, Carlos and the food and beverages staff have always provided the best level of service to members and visitors alike, once again despite the savage cuts within that area. I lament the departure of many of our best people from the food and beverages staff on redundancies. I also particularly mention the situation of David Draper and congratulate those members who invited David back for a farewell dinner with members of Parliament. My appreciation goes to every worker in Parliament for the way they have supported me in my time here. In my first letter to the electors of Newcastle, which was on the back of a card showing a fantastic view of Newcastle Cathedral from the great city of Stockton, I said:

    Newcastle has the people, skills and environment to have a great future.

    We must have the confidence, commitment and community teamwork to make sure it happens.

    I am committed to Newcastle.

    If elected I guarantee to be straight with you, and to work hard for our community.

    I'll certainly stand up and fight for our fair share.

    I'll fight for industry/education/training for our men and women in road, rail and ferry services/health homecare and a better environment for us all.

    I believe that I have stood by that compact throughout my parliamentary career.