12 March 1991 - Current
Mr YOUNG (Northern Victoria) — Thank you, President, and all other members of the Council for the honour and opportunity to address you. Very well done, Dr Carling-Jenkins. I regret having to follow you.
I feel very privileged to be here, as it has been a short journey. The past six months for me have been a whirlwind of nervous excitement. It has been a time of very mixed emotions, but my level of anticipation has never been higher.
I have been an active shooter for as long as I can remember, and hunting has been a proud pastime in my family for generations. Quite often I get asked one question about our party: 'Do you only care about shooting and fishing?'. It is a question I love giving the answer to, because this is a way of life. People think the Shooters and Fishers Party exists only to pursue a narrow agenda, but we are much more than that, and we represent much more than that. We seek to promote the outdoors — the open spaces, the grassy plains, the thick forests and bushland, the rivers and creeks, wide open lakes and our wonderful bays. Victoria has some beautiful places, and we would see them all enjoyed, not locked up and kept hidden. We would see them used for all kinds of interests, from hiking and bushwalking, horseriding, four-wheel driving and bike riding to camping and just escaping from our daily routines. Of course I cannot forget hunting and fishing.
The Shooters and Fishers Party represents a diverse collection of people. We come from sports and activities that have a wonderful and almost unique ability to bring together people from all walks of life. I have competed since my early teens with people from my father's generation and even my grandfather's generation. I have socialised with men and women — with people from all over the world. I have become friends with businessmen, tradesmen, teachers, nurses, doctors, scientists and scholars. We all enjoy a common interest, and through this we share a variety of views and experiences, often over a few beers.
I am here today to tell you about myself and where I come from, and I will start with who I come from. My recent family history spreads itself across a lot of Victoria. My grandfather on my father's side, Barry, grew up in Reservoir, but his family originated from a place known as Duck Ponds, which is now called Lara. This connection has kept us close to Corio Bay. When I was young we had an old clinker moored at the Avalon Beach boat ramp. Far from the pinnacle of technology at the time, it was powered by a Blaxland putt putt and steered by nothing more than what I thought as a kid was a plank sticking out the back. It did not matter, though. For years we would fish out of it for whiting and flathead. I remember the slow ride in it for what seemed an eternity from Campbell's Cove to Avalon Beach when we first got it. That boat was so ancient, and I remember it so well.
Grandpa worked for his father as a builder for a number of years before starting his own business, as did one of his brothers. Of the other two of four boys, one became an electrician and the other a draftsman. Grandpa was a working man and to this day is always on the move. In the late 1980s, he and his wife, Evelyn, moved out of the suburbs to Riddells Creek, a beautiful place to retire amongst the gum trees and away from the city.
Grandma Evelyn grew up in Powelltown where her father was the manager of the Powelltown sawmill for a time. Grandma was a lovely woman, and the pain of losing her is still fresh for me. At her funeral just last year I spoke about how she influenced my life, but there is a special connection for me in this place. She played a large part in influencing me politically, not through allegiance to any particular group nor through holding any particular views, but by sparking my interest. Often described as a political junkie, she would always have an opinion on the latest issues, and through elaborate conversation I found myself quite often losing track of time when visiting. I think she would be the most proud of seeing me here today, and I thank her for all the qualities she bestowed upon me.
On my mother's side are my grandparents Trevor and Rose. Grandpa Trevor grew up in Thoona, near Benalla. Enjoying country life as a typical Aussie kid, he loved to play football and shoot the odd rabbit or two. He studied his trade as a fitter and turner before working for and becoming manager of an equipment hiring company. He then started his own business venture in repairing tools, before selling the business and retiring. His passion for football is still strong, and he also has a keen interest in the history of Australian bushrangers.
Grandma Rose, originally from Coburg, is most well known for her blind faith in the Essendon Football Club — an interesting dynamic, as Grandpa is a Collingwood supporter. They never let a chance pass to stir each other up, the usual ending being, 'And how many premierships have you won?', followed by, 'It doesn't matter; we beat you in 1990!'. I am thankful that I was able to inherit the Essendon gene from her, as it has allowed me to keep all my original teeth and avoid a criminal record. Grandma has been taking my mum and subsequently me and my siblings to the footy for years — and does she get wound up when it is a close game!
They settled in Viewbank, and this is where my mother grew up until she met Dad and they moved to the small town of Romsey. A housewife and mother of five until just recently starting work, now that the kids are all moving out, if asked when she was younger what she wanted to be, I imagine she would simply have said, 'A mother'. Well, she has been the most dedicated mother I could have asked for. We were dropped off at and picked up from school every day and driven across the countryside to pursue a wide variety of sports and other activities, and my mum would always sit there on the sidelines, watching every minute of it. Mum gave me my competitive streak. It was never enough to just go out there and cruise along. It was all or nothing. She would shout and scream not only with encouragement but with criticism. If I made an error, she would well and truly let me know. Other kids did not understand, other parents thought it was too harsh, but I loved every second of it. It pushed me to do better, to improve and to win.
This was useful when I started competitive shooting at the age of 14. I was able to use that attitude quite effectively. Sporting clays was my favourite discipline, and I took much delight in knocking off most adults while still shooting as a junior. My home ground of Greenvale Field & Game was where I picked up my first 25 badge, an equivalent of a hole in one. When I was 19 I won consecutive club championships before work got in the way and shooting became more infrequent. My current club, Bendigo Field and Game, is one of my favourite places to relax and enjoy time out.
Northern Victoria is home to many shooting and fishing clubs, and they are the heart and soul of our sports. They are a place where people can be introduced to the art of tying a complex knot to ensure that there is not 'one that got away' or learn the use of a firearm in a safe environment with an experienced person. These clubs should be supported as any other sporting club would be, and I ask the government to take note of that.
I get back to my mum, who has two main interests outside the family, one being sport. She has watched, played and even coached many sports over the years — tennis, basketball, netball and more recently lawn bowls among them. Her almost obsessive passion for the Bombers is rivalled only by a similar obsession with a most famous Australian, Ned Kelly. Mum is what most call an enthusiast, but I have often referred to her as a Ned Kelly nut. The folklore tale of the Kelly gang inspired Mum's passion for Australian history, and she holds quite a collection of literature on the subject. I often get swept up in the daring tale but find myself drawn particularly to the history ingrained in the firearms used by both the police and outlaws in colonial Australia. The history of this struggle for justice is one we can all learn from.
This brings me to my father, Darren Young. He is the single most influential person in my life, not always for good reasons and often an example of what not to do. He has mostly shaped the person I am today in one way or another. Dad left school at 16 and later became an electrical draftsmen. This career was short lived as he hated being cooped up inside. He then turned to a trade and worked as a glazier for Pilkington before beginning a business venture of his own — that of on-site curved glass fitting. As a pioneer in the industry — a laughable concept to him — he worked long, hard hours to inevitably pay off his house as a relatively young man. The Aussie dream of owning your own house is a valued prize to him and one that has been passed to me.
But Dad does not like work, preferring to spend money rather than make it, always bringing home a new toy — some busted-up old car or shotgun that needs putting back together, more often than not something that does not work. Mum was often heard saying to him, 'Why on earth did you bring that home?'. This kept things interesting, and every little 'project' was a learning curve. When not tinkering in the shed he would be in the bush, on a lake, out on the bay or walking through a stubble paddock, always looking for something to catch or hunt.
When I was old enough I would join him. I went to my first duck opening at the age of six; I have not missed one since. I would trail along where I could and became very keen when I turned 12 and could start shooting. I did not need to study for the firearms safety course — I already knew it. I achieved AA grade on the waterfowl identification test because Dad had been teaching me for years. At the age of 12 I was more than capable of safely handling a gun because I respected them. It taught me responsibility. This is why I believe in firearm education at an early age. School shooting competitions are great fun and promote several important qualities.
Dad and I, along with my brother, would camp for days, sometimes weeks, in some of the most remote and beautiful places in Victoria, taking in the way nature works, learning how to fit into it and how to read it, sleeping under the stars or sometimes in absolute darkness — the kind you just cannot get near civilisation. It was during these times that my connection with our environment was forged. I saw not only the beauty and peacefulness it possessed but also how fragile it is and the devastation caused by invasive species. There is destruction from wild pigs affecting not only farmers but also our forests and wetlands. We have populations of native birds, lizards and mammals being torn apart by wild cats and dogs and, worse than that, by the rubbish left behind by man.
The Shooters and Fishers Party is the only party whose supporters are an active part of the solutions. We hunt feral animals in the most targeted and effective way. We ensure that areas are relieved of these introduced competitors so our native animals can thrive. We have entire organisations like Field and Game Australia which are dedicated to native breeding programs to ensure strong and healthy populations, and, furthermore, we clean and remove anything left behind. I have personally cleaned entire campsites of rubbish left behind by those who believe they are 'animal activists'. I will endeavour during my time in this place, and after, to show people that the truest conservationist is the hunter and the fisherman. We have a vested interest that drives us, and for that reason we will not fail.
As well as enjoying shooting and fishing, Dad loves the history of old guns. Australian colonial pieces are his favourite, a convenient overlap with Mum's interests. The old English side by side is another favourite and at one particular time so was an Ml carbine. He bought this rifle at a charity auction held by none other than the state government. This rifle came from tower 7 at Pentridge Prison, a place I am sure everyone in this room is familiar with. With its worn-out action and brass plate on the stock, it made for an interesting item. But alas, the history of our state was not important when in 1996 the Howard federal government made the unjust decision to take this piece of our heritage from my father and run it through a crusher — the destruction of what would have been a family heirloom and a part of our history. Now all we have is the story.
How many other historic items met with the same fate? I ask why. Dad never did anything wrong. He never broke the law. Neither did any other person who complied, often unwillingly, with new regulations forced upon them because of actions that were no fault of theirs. We hear the argument often about other groups that the actions of a few should not reflect on the whole. Why, then, does this not apply to all law-abiding firearm owners? The Shooters and Fishers Party will continue to advocate for sensible firearm laws that will have an effective impact on criminals, not the people who do the right thing. We seek tougher penalties for those who break the law and less unnecessary restriction on those who have proven to be trustworthy members of our society.
I should probably speak about myself and how I came to be here. I was born in Sunbury in 1988 and grew up in the small town of Romsey. This quiet country town appeals to me so much that 26 years later I am still there. I attended Romsey Primary School until the end of 2000. Romsey does not have a secondary school, so from then it was a 30-minute bus ride to Gisborne Secondary College, from where I graduated in 2006. I spent my last year of high school applying to join the defence forces, with aspirations of attending the Australian Defence Force Academy to pursue a career as a pilot. Unfortunately all my years of shooting had caused some damage to my hearing and that was enough to put a stop to those plans.
I finished VCE with a high enough score to attend university, but I longed for a more physical career, although my mates now make a point of calling me a pencil pusher given my current job. I started working in a factory in Thomastown, where I would soon be offered an apprenticeship in sheet metal fabrication. I was 18, working and I already had a car — an LJ Torana I bought when I was 16. It was then that I decided to buy my first shotgun. A lot of people thought I was mad, spending all of what little savings I had, but I just wanted one.
After finishing my trade I moved on to a bigger engineering company. This involved some more complex projects, heavier fabrication and a certain element of danger. I became a leading hand as well as an occupational health and safety representative. I was looking to start a small-scale business of my own when I met with the Shooters and Fishers Party, which was not even registered at the time, at a gun auction. I was convinced very quickly that this was indeed a cause worth being involved in, and politics has always been a keen interest of mine.
My recent displeasure in dealing with local council building permits was also a driving factor. It seems that councils no longer trust people to build their own homes — a sad thought to me as my father built his own house, like his father before him.
This new path into politics has indeed taken me in a different direction. I am someone who feels more comfortable in a pair of workboots and a dirty singlet, and I am not unfamiliar with long days of hard manual labour. My hands are more used to burns, cuts and callouses than cramps from writing or typing. In fact I did not even own a suit on the day I was elected. But this is just a challenge of a different nature. I do not see it as a chance to leave a mark, but as a chance to change the future of our state.
I have a new and very special reason for looking to the future now. I have a daughter, Sophie Ann, who was born on 14 December, just two months ago. In the days that followed and when the results of the election were final, I posted to Facebook:
Just been elected to Parliament, still not the best thing that's happened to me this week.
Sophie Ann is the greatest gift I have ever received, and I thank my fiancée Carly not only for our little girl but for many other things. Without her support I would not be here. She is the one person I can always rely on, and her patience with me is unwavering. This is a good quality to have in her career as a teacher of children with special needs. She is kind and generous, and I have a great deal of respect for the work she does. It is not an easy job, but she loves it anyway.
Family is the most important thing in the world for me. I always wanted to be a family man and have children, but I want my kids to have the opportunity to grow up as I did. I want all future generations to be able to participate and compete in the sports and activities that the Shooters and Fishers Party represents. I want our wild places to remain as vibrant and beautiful as they are, and I want to be able to enjoy every part of our state with my children. I want to hunt and fish with them like my father did with me. It is a very rewarding way of life, and I will do all I can to preserve it.
Hunting and fishing goes hand in hand with country life. In doing so, I have been through many small country towns and met countless people. The fresh country air tends to breed the most down-to-earth and genuine souls. They are usually the politest and the most generous of people.
Shooting and fishing provides a wave of income for the rural economy, and I believe it is severely underestimated. Victoria has the potential to become a tourism capital for shooting and fishing that could rival any other state. In doing so, jobs would be created and incomes would be provided to many small towns across our state. The estimated $439 million in hunting and over $800 million in fishing would be just the beginning.
I commend the government for its efforts in fishing; the Target One Million campaign is a fantastic initiative for fishermen and their families. I hope it keeps up the good work. I will be watching. I hope a similar effort is made to promote shooting and hunting. An unfair opinion of shooters is widespread throughout this state, and that is mostly due to a lack of understanding. During my time here I will fight to correct that opinion, to educate those who have not experienced the things I have and to share what shooting and fishing has to offer. I invite each and every one of the people in this room to take me up on that offer.
Before I close, I would like to thank a few people for their effort and support over what has been the most exciting time of my life. The small but dedicated team that is the Shooters and Fishers Party of Victoria has achieved amazing things in such a short time. Jeff and Nicole Bourman took on the monumental task of getting us here. I thank them for that, as well as Megan Scott, Paul McArd, Dave Fent, Tim Horan and the other hardworking committee members. I am also grateful for the support of Robert Borsak and Robert Brown and the Shooters and Fishers Party of New South Wales. Special thanks go to those who volunteered on election day, and most importantly every single person who voted for the Shooters and Fishers Party, particularly those in northern Victoria. We will do all we can to earn our place here.
With that said, I thank you all for your time and attention. I hope to work closely with all members in this place, and I look forward to the opportunity. Thank you.