Inaugural Speech of the Member for Smithfield

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SpeakersKhoshaba Mr Ninos
BusinessInaugural Speech

Page: 479

      [Business resumed. ]

      Mr NINOS KHOSHABA (Smithfield) [12.22 p.m.] (Inaugural Speech): Mr Speaker, may I commence by congratulating you on your recent appointment as the Speaker of the House. I wish you every success, and I look forward to working with you in the future. I am truly honoured and privileged to be standing here before you today as a member of the New South Wales Parliament, representing the electorate of Smithfield and part of the Iemma Government. As you mentioned, Mr Speaker, the Vice Governor of the Iraq Duhok Governorate, Mr Gorgees Shlaymoon Kaaee, is present in the gallery as he is on official business in Australia. I thank him for his attendance today.
      I wish to start by providing a brief family history and place on record how I came to achieve the office of the member for Smithfield. I would also like to detail my ambitions for the residents of Smithfield and to thank a number of people. In search of a better life, my parents, who are of Assyrian background, migrated from Iraq to Australia in 1970, when I was only four months old. Like most migrants, my parents did not know a word of English and had practically no money when they arrived. They were fortunate as my mother's sister, my aunty, was already settled in Fairfield and we had a place to live until we could find our own accommodation. My father worked as a bulldozer driver for many years, and my mother had the important role of raising and looking after the family. In 1974 we proudly became Australian citizens, and in the same year my father met some wonderful people who encouraged him to join the Australian Labor Party, which he did.
      I am the eldest of three children. My sister, Rhonda, and my brother, Frank, who are in the gallery, were both born in Australia at Fairfield Hospital. For many years both my parents worked very hard and learnt the Australian language very quickly to ensure that their children had the best possible start. I started my schooling at Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School in Fairfield. My parents have never been wealthy in the dollar sense, but we always managed. We did not have any expensive accessories and did not have the luxury of having family holidays, but my childhood memories were always cheerful ones. We could not afford any computer games and never had the opportunity to go to the movies; we spent most of our time riding our bikes and playing outside, which is something that is lacking in today's generation. Almost every weekend my family went on a picnic, whether it was to the Georges River at Picnic Point, at Wallacia, or at Warragamba Dam. Like many struggling and hardworking families, what we lacked in material wealth we enjoyed in love from our parents and relatives.
      In 1981, after several years of struggle, my parents were fortunate enough to purchase a very modest home in Bossley Park, and they are still living there after all these years. Living in Bossley Park gave me the opportunity to start and complete my Higher School Certificate at St Johns Park High School, in Greenfield Park. St Johns Park High School has produced two members of Parliament: the local federal member Chris Bowen and myself—not a bad achievement for a Western Sydney public high school. My election pamphlet was entitled "An Australian Story". The reason for this is that I believe I have lived the typical Australian story in Smithfield: a migrant couple without any English skills that made the sacrifices necessary to raise a family.
      The wonderful thing about my Australian story is that, despite the humble origins of my family, their son is experiencing the privilege of serving in the oldest Parliament in the country. In 1988 I joined the Australian Labor Party, and since then I have been involved in many local, State and Federal campaigns. In 1991 my father was elected as a councillor on Fairfield City Council. During his 13 years on council he was deputy mayor on two occasions and the Mayor of Fairfield on three occasions. His personal experiences on council taught me the meaning of public service, especially when it comes to serving those in our community who are in real need. The Fairfield local government area is Australia's most culturally diverse city. My father was the first mayor of Assyrian background in Australia. For his many years of service and dedication to the community, he was awarded the Order of Australia medal in 2000 and the Centennial Award in 2001. This is a man who entered the country with no money and no knowledge of the English language, and who had to leave his parents and siblings behind.
      There are a number of stories like my family's, where people have migrated to Australia, worked hard, and made use of the opportunities that this wonderful country provides. From my family's point of view, it is a true honour to be Australian. I have been watching and learning from my father for many years. He has been an inspiration and is the main reason I am standing here before you today. I cannot thank you enough, dad. For the first 16 years after my schooling I worked for three different financial institutions where I held a number of senior positions. In November 1999 I celebrated one of the best days of my life by marrying my wife, Angela. In October 2003 we were blessed by the arrival of our first child, Alyssa, and we were again blessed in October 2005 when we had our second child, Briannah.
      In March 2004 I was elected as a councillor on Fairfield City Council representing the Parks Ward. I have served on a number of committees and have especially enjoyed being the chairman of the services committee from 2005. As a councillor I have been provided with the opportunity to meet many members of my community, and in several cases I represented them regarding their problems and applications. This opportunity has provided me with an insight into local issues and how they affect the community. My service with Fairfield council has served as a valuable apprenticeship with the experience I have gained in serving the community and being in touch with the everyday needs of local residents. With the support of my family and colleagues I have decided I will continue in this role until the next council election in 2008 in order to prevent a costly and unnecessary by-election.
      In October 2004 I started work with the newly elected federal member for Prospect, Mr Chris Bowen, as an electorate officer. Working for Chris was a great experience and the knowledge I obtained from watching him work was extremely valuable. Chris Bowen has also been a close friend for many years. I thank Chris, his wife, Rebecca, and their daughter, Grace, for their friendship over the many years and all the assistance they have provided me, especially in my time of need.
      Taking the reins from such a well-known and popular member like Carl Scully is no easy task. One of Carl's favourite sayings is: Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. Over many years I have witnessed people trying to take credit for the great projects Carl introduced into this State, and I want to mention one in particular. I have no doubt that Carl was the intellectual architect and driving force behind the M7 motorway. In May 2001 Carl met with the then Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. John Anderson, in his Sydney office and a put a proposal to him involving the Commonwealth contributing $350 million and in return the State Government would accept and support, for the first time on our national highway system, a user toll.

      This proposal was then approved by the Federal and State Cabinets and it paved the way for the construction of one of Australia's greatest roadways, the M7 motorway. During his time as a Minister and with the support of the Labor Government, he built five motorways and was responsible for many projects, such as the upgrade of The Horsley Drive and Cowpasture Road, the Liverpool to Parramatta bus-only transitway, the Epping to Chatswood rail link and the Western Sydney Regional Park, to name but a few.

      The media gave Carl the nickname of Sparkles, and a sparkle he was. He is the bright spark that provided so much infrastructure and convenience to the residents of south-west Sydney and to the electorate of Smithfield. Carl was a very dynamic and energetic member of Parliament who will be missed. There are very few people in public life who can look back on the level of achievement that he can. I thank Carl for his service to the community and I wish him and his family all the very best in the future.
      The traditional owners of the Western Cumberland Plain are the Aboriginal people known as the Darug tribe and they have been living in this area for more than 30,000 years. Smithfield was originally known as Chisholm's Bush but was later named Smithfield after the meat markets in London and Dublin. Once known as a rural township, Smithfield is now a mix of residential, commercial, rural and recreational areas and is also well known for its industrial areas. Today the electorate of Smithfield is very much a working class area, rich in multiculturalism and diversity. With over 130 different nationalities and 70 different languages the electorate of Smithfield is a unique and harmonious area and clearly shows multiculturalism can work. While being one of the most multicultural areas in the State, we have very little racial discord or disharmony. We are the model for racial harmony and tolerance.
      I want to make it very clear that I represent every single resident of the Smithfield electorate, regardless of their religion, race or country of origin. In my case, I am an Australian of Assyrian background—the first Assyrian Australian elected to any Parliament in Australia. I am proud of my heritage, as are the millions of migrants who have come to Australia from throughout the world. In my case, I am also saddened and angered at the oppression of Assyrian people in Iraq and the plight of the hundreds of thousands of Assyrians who have fled Iraq in the past five years and lie abandoned in refugee camps. I celebrate the fact that my family chose a country where a humble migrant residing in Western Sydney can express his opinion in the freedom that our democracy promises. The residents of my electorate are very family orientated with strong family values. In many homes you will find the elderly parents living with their children's families, and you will find homes that accommodate more than one family to help them succeed.
      The electorate of Smithfield has several schools, playing fields, shopping centres, clubs, restaurants and places of worship. It is a wonderful area with beautiful open spaces and cycleways meandering along our creeks and waterways. It is also the home of the Fairfield Showground, which attracts thousands of people every week to the markets. On the weekends the parks are full of children laughing and playing, and their parents watching and supporting them from the sidelines. As history shows, I have no doubt that some of these children will be representing Australia in the near future. It was no surprise to see that in the 2006 soccer World Cup, seven members of the Australian squad were either born in the electorate of Smithfield or at some stage played for one of our clubs. These players were Harry Kewell, Zeljcko Kalac, Ante Covic, Archie Thompson, Tony Popovic, Joel Griffiths and Michael Thwaite. Even though I thought we were robbed, and even though we did not win the competition, they were part of an Australian team that made us all very proud. This is only one of numerous examples of sportsmen and sportswomen who have come from the electorate of Smithfield.
      I believe there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that your actions have had a positive impact on someone's life. As members of Parliament our first priority should always be the residents of our electorate. During my campaign, I found that people did not care what you had to say two months out from an election, and they are right. They want us to hear them when they are in need and they want us to support them when they are in need of support. I will be listening, supporting and helping to the best of my ability. People who know me will confirm that I am very approachable, and regardless of how small the issue may be, I want to hear it. I believe in getting back to the grass roots. As mentioned earlier, my electorate is very family orientated and its most important concerns are the wellbeing and safety of children and family members.
      One of my many goals during this term is my intention to visit every school, police station, local hospital and State Government service agency in my electorate and become familiar with their staff and the level of service my community can expect. It is my intention to see that every resident receives the highest level of support the Government can offer. I also want to attract as much investment as possible to maintain this Government's commitment to job creation. With the help of the Government I hope to further improve the safety of our school children at school crossings and further improve the services available at hospitals, police stations and schools in my electorate. [ Extension of time agreed to.]
      It has always been a dream of mine to be standing in this House as a member of Parliament. This dream would not have come true if it was not for the support and hard work of many people. I would like to take this opportunity to formally thank a number of people for all their love and support for many years, and I would like to start with my family, my wife Angela and my daughters Alyssa and Briannah. Any elected person, whether it be local, State or Federal, will confirm how much time you spend away from the family in order to represent your constituents. My wife is a beautiful person who always puts the family first. My wife has always supported me and I love her very much. My two girls are the pride of my life. Every parent knows the love and joy children provide. Even though they do not understand what is happening today, I thank them in advance for all the joy they have already given me and the happiness they will provide me in the future.
      I would also like to thank my immediate family, my father Anwar Khoshaba, my mother Athour Khoshaba, my brother Frank Khoshaba, my sister Rhonda Adam, my in-laws Celestino Caruso and Domenica (Mimma) Caruso, my brothers-in-law Darren Adam and Frank Rizzuti, my sister-in-law Cathy Rizzuti, my nephew Matthew Adam, and my nieces Sarah Adam and Isabella Rizzuti. A loving, healthy, happy and close family is the biggest asset anyone can have.
      I would also like to take this opportunity to formally thank the Mayor of Fairfield, Councillor Nick Lalich, Fairfield's first popularly-elected Mayor, who has assisted me greatly in my role as a councillor. I also want to thank my Labor colleagues who are here in the gallery today: councillors Albert Mooshi, Del Bennett, Sarah Trapla and former Mayor Lawrence White. I thank councillors Dennis Huynh, Louie Costa and former Mayor Bob Watkins for their friendship and assistance over the many years. As members of Parliament our reputation is not completely in our control. In most cases our constituents will judge us on the way our offices handle their inquiries, and their inquiries are often with our staff over the phone, in writing or face-to-face. The need for good, polite and trustworthy staff is very important. I am fortunate to have Tracie O'Keefe, Christine Kalivitis, and Irene Kontominas in my electorate office.

      I would also like to thank all the Labor Party branch members from my electorate, and in particular the Smithfield branch, and the State electorate council delegates for their commitment and interest in the community and the Australian Labor Party. With the support of the branch members I was nominated and endorsed unopposed, and I cannot thank them enough for their trust in me. My appreciation goes to Mark Arbib, Karl Bitar and all the staff at the Australian Labor Party's New South Wales office for their assistance and support during this campaign. Campaigning is never easy but, fortunately, I was surrounded by people who were very committed and who unselfishly gave up hours of their time and probably spent some of their own money just to help me achieve my dream. So my deepest gratitude goes to James Cullen, Nathan Fenech, Nathan Alexander, Carole Field, Vijay Singh, the president of the Chaldaen National Congress, Mr Samir Yousif, and his wife Nisreen, and all the volunteers who helped out during my campaign and on election day. I would also like to make special mention of my close school friends for more than 20 years: Jason Naylor, Joe Navan, Tony Carrano, Sam Arban, Annunziato Leuzzi, Simon Soo, Melo Tripodi, and Don Muggli.

      I very much appreciate all the support that I have received from my parliamentary colleagues and I especially thank those who are present today. I would also like to thank the Hon. David Campbell, the Hon. John Hatzistergos, the Hon. Eric Roozendaal, the Hon. Reba Meagher and the Hon. Joe Tripodi for their ministerial visits to my electorate and for their assistance during my campaign. I have purposely left the most important thank you until the end, and that is to the good people of the Smithfield electorate for supporting and placing their trust in the Iemma Government and me.
      Working with my colleagues, I hope to repay them for the support they have expressed and to continue to deliver better services for the people of Smithfield for many years to come. I thank the many friends and family members who are here today. I would like to extend my appreciation to members on both sides of the House for their courtesy. I have been given the great honour of representing the electorate of Smithfield. I aim to justify the people's confidence and faith. I am determined to use every opportunity to improve my community and my State. My message to the people of Smithfield is simple. I will not let you down. Thank you.