12 March 1991 - Current
Mr SOMYUREK (Eumemmerring) - I move: That the Council agree to the following address to the Governor in reply to the Governor's opening speech: May it please the Governor: We, the Legislative Council of Victoria, in Parliament assembled, wish to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank the Governor for the speech you have been pleased to address to Parliament. I thank the house for the opportunity to deliver my first speech. Firstly, Honourable President, I congratulate you on your election to the high office of President and for being the first female President of the Legislative Council. I also congratulate all ministers appointed in this house, and the Leader of the House. It is indeed an honour to be in this chamber representing the people of Eumemmerring Province. The people of Eumemmerring Province have entrusted me with a great responsibility to represent them in this house. I thank them for the trust they have placed in me and give my commitment to represent them to the best of my abilities. Eumemmerring Province is made up of the four Legislative Assembly seats of Dandenong, Narre Warren North, Narre Warren South and Gembrook. I take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the hard work and dedication displayed by the Assembly candidates - or members now - John Pandazopoulos, Luke Donnellan, Dale Wilson and Tammy Lobato. An ALP victory in Eumemmerring Province would not have been possible without their diligent work. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Neil Lucas, a former member for Eumemmerring Province, and Mick Moreland for a good clean campaign. They conducted themselves with honour and dignity and did not succumb to the temptation to play the anti-Muslim card, which I am sure would have had resonance in the electorate. On behalf of the people of Eumemmerring Province I thank Neil Lucas for the service he provided during his tenure, and I wish he and Mick Moreland all the best for the future. Eumemmerring Province is a large and diverse outer metropolitan and rural electorate. It covers some 2199 square kilometres and comprises disparate cultures, industries and features. The main centres of the province include Berwick, Cockatoo, Dandenong, Emerald, Gembrook, Narre Warren, Warburton and Yarra Junction. The main industries are agriculture, grazing, dairying, fruit growing, quarrying and sawmilling. Like other new members, I enter this place firmly believing that I have a significant contribution to make. I firmly believe that with a lot of hard work I can make a difference. Also, like other new members my life experiences and background have shaped my political philosophies and vision, and my background and life experiences are as working class as you can get. My parents and I migrated to Australia in 1969 when I was 18 months old. Throughout their working lives in Australia my parents worked tirelessly in unskilled labour-intensive industries for little financial reward. But they still carry the scars of that strenuous and backbreaking work they performed. They were by no means unique in this respect. They very much typified the low-skilled multicultural work force. They were what some economists would classify as comprising the secondary labour market - that is, they had to accept low wages, poor working conditions, insecurity of employment and little or no prospects of career advancement. I vividly remember spending many hours waiting for my parents to finish work from within the confines of factories. I remember the smell of hot plastic, the thundering noise of machines and the depressing state of perspiring workers who were obviously experiencing alienation due to the monotonous and exhausting tasks they were forced to endure. As we drove home to our housing commission flat every night I remember my parents would always tell me to take note of the conditions and to never end up like them - that is, entrapped and without choice. They were not complaining, mind you, for they knew they were much better off in Australia than had they stayed in Turkey. They were simply making the point that education would lead to more choice and a less arduous life. However, their experience still remains indelibly etched in my psych. Consequently I am committed to protecting the rights of our disadvantaged workers, of which there are many in Eumemmerring Province. The Bracks government is repairing the damage with respect to this issue. In its first term of office the Bracks government has restored the right for seriously injured workers to make common-law claims and during this term of office the Bracks government will reintroduce legislation which will provide standard minimum award conditions of employment to the 350 000 working poor.
Another important issue for the disadvantaged workers of Eumemmerring Province is that they have borne the brunt of the negative impacts of globalisation. The City of Greater Dandenong has one of the highest levels of tradespeople and labourers - that is, over 30 per cent of the work force - and one of the lowest levels of white-collar workers in Australia at around 14 per cent of the work force. The retraining and employment of these workers will be a challenge but is one the Bracks Labor government is willing to tackle through schemes such as the community jobs program, which is projected to create 3500 new positions and the continuation of the community business employment program. The Australian Labor Party, unlike the Liberal Party, does not believe that unemployment or surplus labour is functional for an economy just because it puts downwards pressure on wages. We believe unemployment creates social problems and therefore is dysfunctional for every and any society. Another core issue is health. Since gaining office in 1999 the Bracks government has set about rebuilding the state's health system after years of neglect by the previous government. The Bracks government has employed an additional 3300 nurses to treat more patients with more care, and the results have been clearly successful with waiting lists and ambulance bypasses being reduced. The Bracks government will continue to rebuild the health system by employing a further 900 nurses and health workers each year, and by opening a further 900 hospital beds to treat the extra patients. Even though the Liberal and National parties are in opposition at the state level their federal colleagues continue to have an adverse impact on the Victorian health system. The Howard government's ideological agenda has as its objective the destruction by stealth of the Medicare system. This has disastrous consequences for disadvantaged communities throughout Victoria and Australia. Bulk-billing rates in and around the district of Dandenong, for example, have gone down from 91 per cent to 74 per cent. This means that low-income earners cannot afford to access general practitioners. As a consequence they gravitate towards public hospitals. The result of this is that demand on major hospital emergency departments over the last three years has gone up by 8 per cent per annum. Whilst the federal government has cost shifting as its objective the Bracks government is attempting to ameliorate the problem by allocating $5 million over four years for grants to build partnerships between hospitals and general practitioners so that lower category triage patients can receive quicker care. Eumemmerring Province is one of the fastest growing provinces in Australia. The south-eastern growth corridor is almost entirely located within the province. The City of Casey is the fastest growing municipality in Victoria and the third fastest growing municipality in Australia. As a consequence one of the most important issues in the province is the provision of infrastructure, such as roads, transport, schools and health services. In its first term of office the Bracks government delivered on infrastructure in the province on such projects as the commencement of the Berwick Hospital, the commencement of the Hallam Bypass, budgeting for a $22.5 million upgrade to the Narre Warren-Cranbourne Road, and increased numbers of teachers, nurses and police in the region. After decades of underspending on infrastructure in Victoria the Bracks government has doubled the capital works and infrastructure budget without resorting to debt finance. Through Partnerships Victoria the Bracks government will continue to reinvest budget surpluses in infrastructure in Eumemmerring Province and throughout the state. A critical issue which does not receive sufficient recognition and which is overrepresented in disadvantaged communities is the problem of gambling. Under the previous Liberal government the number of poker machines rose dramatically from 5300 to 30 000. The Kennett government did not bother imposing restrictions on advertising, machine spin rates, bet limits, gaming machine venues or 24-hour licences. The Bracks government has introduced tighter controls on the gaming machine industry by establishing capped areas for the City of Greater Dandenong and is on the way to introducing such measures in Casey. The result has been a reduction in the overall number of machines in the municipality. Currently there is great cynicism in the electorate about the political process and politicians in general. The perception is that both major political parties are identical. I disagree with these sentiments. While the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party have as their core objective the increasing welfare of the community, the two parties disagree with the means of achieving that objective. Therefore there is still a wide gulf between the Liberal Party and the ALP. In contrast to the Smithonian philosophies of the Liberal Party, which rejects even the concept of society, the ALP was founded on the issues of social justice and the egalitarian ethos. The ALP rejects the survival-of-the-fittest philosophy that is implicit in economic rationalism. The ALP believes it is the
responsibility of the state to protect the wellbeing of its citizens. Thus governments must intervene in order to cushion against the excesses of unbridled capitalism by ensuring that the losers of economic competition are protected by a safety net to preclude them from falling into destitution. An examination of Liberal governments in Australia over the last 10 years clearly demonstrates the difference between the ALP and the Liberal Party. Federally, since gaining office in 1996 the Liberal government has slowly but surely incrementally begun destroying the welfare state, usurping the rights of workers and attacking multiculturalism through such measures as the destruction of the family migration scheme. The Howard government has also shown adroit political skills in wedging social groups against one another. Working for Anthony Byrne, the federal member for Holt, I saw at first hand the disastrous consequences of the Howard government's brutally regressive policies. On the other hand the magnificent achievements of the Bracks Labor government in turning things around in key service areas, such as health, education and community safety, illustrate what a gratifying profession politics can be. I am excited at the prospect of being part of the second Bracks government, which will continue its mission to make Victoria a more benevolent and progressive state, a state of which we can all be enormously proud. In conclusion I thank a number of people. Firstly, my wife, Songul, my parents, Zahit and Gungor, and my sister, Nadide for their support throughout this long journey. I also thank my six-year-old son, Berk, and my two-year-old daughter, Sera-Pelin for their love. No doubt the Bracks Labor government will ensure that they along with all Victorian children face the prospect of a bright future. Secondly, I thank the federal member for Holt, Anthony Byrne, who is one of the true friends I have made from politics. Anthony's support and guidance have been critical throughout the process and without him I would not have realised this dream. I also thank Michael Donovan, state secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) for his critical support during the preselection process. My preselection was only a few months after the tragedy of 11 September 2000. Consequently a body of opinion within the party was reluctant to preselect a candidate of Muslim origin. However, Michael, the SDA and Anthony did not attenuate their support for me. I hope to repay the faith and loyalty that Anthony, Michael and the SDA have shown me. Thirdly, I thank the honourable member for Clayton in another place, Mr Hong Lim, for his generous support and friendship. Hong's assistance both in the preselection process and the campaign was instrumental in my election into this place. I also thank his staff and my friends Robin Scott and Steve Gacen for their stoic efforts during the campaign. I thank another friend Luke Donnellan, the honourable member for Narre Warren North in another place, whose sanguine outlook on life has been and will continue to be a constant source of morale. I thank the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Bill Shorten, and the former state secretary, David Feeney. I thank the honourable member for Waverley Province and Minister for Finance, John Lenders, for his support and guidance. I give special thanks to the honourable member for Gembrook in the other place, Tammy Lobato, for her hard work, dedication and friendship. Tammy is a genuine community-oriented person who is all about delivering outcomes for her community. Tammy put her hand up for the seat when others would not, and she has been appropriately rewarded. Finally, I would like to thank the following members of the Turkish community for their support and belief in me: Serdar Caglayancay; Allaeddin Demirdes; Tunjay Yanik; Cengiz Kaya, President of the Australian Turkish Association; Mr Nazmi Kaya; Tahsin Inan; Sucettin Unal; Cr Burhan Yigit; Hakki Suleyman; and Fatih Yargi. I thank honourable members for listening to my inaugural speech.