By David Smith
12 June 2020
Address to Federation Chamber, House of Representatives, Australian Parliament
On 4 July, the voters of Eden-Monaro will have a by-election. As many members would be aware, the electorate surrounds the ACT. It is a diverse, rugged and beautiful part of Australia. Many of our lives are shared across the border, with crossovers for work, school and community sport.
Until recently, the electorate was represented by the hardworking, well-respected Mike Kelly. Despite ongoing health issues, Mike stood up for his constituents time and time again on employment, climate change and, more recently, bushfire recovery.
Others have spoken of Mike's time in this chamber but I particularly respected his record on calling out the lack of fairness in the treatment of his electorate in relation to drought assistance and infrastructure delivery. He brought valuable experience and expertise to this parliament, with a distinguished record in service of his country. When I first came to work here in the Senate, he was one of the first to extend his hand of friendship, knowing that many of our constituents had shared challenges and dreams. I certainly benefited from his wisdom, support and mateship.
The electorate of Eden-Monaro has a proud history of having a strong local member who stands up on the issues and works effectively with local communities. Mike was certainly that, a worthy successor to the likes of Allan Fraser, Bob Whan and Jim Snow. The latest candidate for the by-election, Kristy McBain, certainly fits that mould. As Kristy has said a few times, if she was fortunate enough to be elected, she said she would literally have big shoes to fill.
Kristy spent her early career working in a Queanbeyan law firm and is now a mum and small business owner living in Bega. Kristy was the mayor of the Bega Valley shire when she led her community through the triple challenges of drought, the catastrophic bushfires and now the coronavirus pandemic. She is a strong local leader who understands just how tough many in her community are doing it. She is a local leader who knows how important investment and jobs are in her region. Kristy has been out early in this by-election campaign with the whole Labor team behind her working to meet these challenges.
Some in this House may have been following the by-election in the media and, unfortunately for the communities of Eden-Monaro, the coalition have not been so united behind a candidate. In fact, they have been quite the opposite. We have The Nationals' John Baralaro declaring he is not interested in state politics anymore and is ready to win Eden-Monaro. Despite this self-confidence, something the local member for Monaro is not short on, he still lashed out at anyone in his way. Before deciding he was out, he infamously attacked the member for Riverina and also attacked the current state member for Bega, Andrew Constance. Mr Constance took this pretty personally and—live to air—declared it was just not worth it and declared himself out of the race for Eden-Monaro as well. This whole self-indulgent approach has sent a poor message to many in Eden-Monaro.
After Senator Molan also declared himself out, the Liberal Party pre-selected Fiona Kotvojs, a climate change sceptic—I will let that sink in—as a candidate for an electorate that has the most to lose from climate change that has felt the effects probably more than any other over the last couple of years, who is sceptical on the science of climate change. At the end of the day, elections are about a choice, and the good people of Eden-Monaro have a choice between Kristy and an out-of-touch Prime Minister who admits we are in recession but who has no real plan to get the area out of it, a Prime Minister with an announcement a day but with no regional jobs plan. It is a choice between Kristy and a Treasurer who oversaw the greatest-ever budget bungle in history, a Treasurer who lets workers on the coast suffer without access to JobKeeper. And it is a choice between Kristy and a government that has overseen the robodebt debacle, given us the Ruby Princess shambles and has let people criminals steal peoples' superannuation. This is a government that has cut thousands of Public Service jobs, a government that thinks after the ABC played such a crucial role during the bushfires that it should be cut by another $84 million, a government that is now even coming after Australia's humble postie.
This compares to a vote for Kristy McBain, a local who understands what matters to families, to small business and to local communities. A vote for Kristy will be a vote for a person who has demonstrated time and time again that she will stand up in times of adversity and not go missing in action, a person who will ensure the constituents of Eden-Monaro will have their voices heard in this very chamber.