12 March 1991 - Current
Mr QUILTY (Northern Victoria) (15:59:46): As you are now all aware, the libertarians have arrived, which is good news for the lovers of freedom but not so good for those of you who want to use the government to force your will on others. Smaller government, lower taxes, greater personal freedom—these are not just slogans. It is the idea that we as adults have the right to make choices for ourselves. And it does not matter whether you approve of our choices or not; they are ours to make. If you take away our freedom to choose, you have turned us into slaves—taxpaying drones for your grand government projects. This is the totalitarian future that we fight against. I am not, as it is now the custom to say, a member of the political class. I never expected to be standing here making this speech. I am a mild-mannered accountant from the bush. If things were right in Australia, in Victoria, I would never have run for Parliament. But things are not right. Make no mistake, I plan to make waves, throw grenades and ruffle feathers on behalf of the people of northern Victoria. The voters of Victoria strain under the weight government presses upon them. We are tired of your taxes. We are tired of your rules and your red tape strangling innovation and growth. Regional Victoria is sick of rules made in Melbourne, for Melbourne, that press down with undue force on the regions, on the towns and on the farms. There was a time when country people could just ignore silly rules made in the city, but now Melbourne foolishness is enforced everywhere. I am here to demand you take your foot off our necks. You see the crossbench sitting here has increased to 11. I know that some of you believe this is a one-off, a blip, that next election it will return to normal. But this is no blip. The voters are tired of business as usual. They are looking for change. This is not a problem you can solve by tweaking the Electoral Act. Change, or the voters will deliver Cromwell’s verdict upon you: You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go. I was not born a Victorian. I moved to Wodonga around seven years ago. I came originally from a farm near Adelong, a small town in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in southern New South Wales, although I do have family ties to northern Victoria—my grandfather was born and raised near Violet Town and, as I have recently discovered, my grandmother on the other side was born in Corryong. Her ancestors came from small communities around Wodonga—Yackandandah, Eldorado, Nariel, Walwa—so in a way my move to northern Victoria was a homecoming. I spent a little time tracing my family tree recently. The bulk of my heritage is Celtic—Irish, Scots, Cornish and Manx. I attribute my stubborn nature—some would say bloody-minded pig-headedness—to a long line of contrary Celts, people who would not do as ordered. I have no doubt that this is what makes me libertarian. I will not do as I am told, and I am far from alone in this attitude amongst regional Victorians. On one side my boys are the eighth generation of my family born in Australia. There was a long line of people starting with nothing—each generation achieving a little more, making a platform for the next generation to stand on. On the other side my boys are the first generation. While I have no stories of fleeing tyranny of my own, when my sons study their family history they will find family tales of suffering under communism. I hope it steels their resolve to oppose government tyranny in Australia. Growing up in New South Wales in the 1990s, Sydney was Australia’s premier city and Victoria was an economic basket case, with people fleeing across the border. Now the tables have turned. Melbourne is again the leading city in Australia, Sydney is choking under the weight of its own boredom and people are migrating back to Victoria—competitive federalism in action. Twenty-five years of truly incompetent government in New South Wales has squandered the lead and allowed Victoria, with merely bad government over the same time, to edge back ahead. I am certainly now a true northern Victorian. Wodonga is a 3½-hour drive north of here—or about two weeks if you catch the train. Luckily the trip to my electorate office in Seymour is shorter—it is only a 2-hour drive. Seymour, Wodonga—same-same if you are from the big city; it is all beyond the smashed avocado curtain. Regional Victorians can be forgiven for sometimes wondering whether the people of Melbourne know anything of the regions or whether they care. Most people who live in the capitals seem to have no idea about life outside their cities, which would be fine if they did not try to meddle in our lives. But they do. Country Victorians are tired of being treated like children. Every law that comes out of the Victorian Parliament applies equally across the state, but Victorians are not all the same. So often legislation is designed by and for people who would only ever be seen north of Coburg if they fell asleep on a tram. Let me give you some examples. Rule makers in Melbourne cannot understand the need to increase speed limits, because they never spend long hours on country roads, keeping their eyes open with matchsticks. When you do not get over 30 kilometres an hour in your morning commute, you cannot understand the empty, open road stretching ahead hour after hour. City people want to send water down the Murray to evaporate in the lower lakes of South Australia while, with the irrigation rights removed, our own small country towns wither and die. They want to ban hunting, a pastime with a 60 000-year history in this country. They want to ban noise suppressors on firearms, a policy that contributes to farmers going deaf. New national parks, decreed by city-based environmentalists who have never gotten their shoes dusty or muddy, will lock country people out of our land and end the livelihoods of farmers and timber workers and the hobbies of prospectors and campers. Our children are driven out of our towns because there is no work. People who are at no risk from bushfires and simply do not understand what it is like in the bush make up the rules to stop clearing and controlled burning. Decisions around national parks and controlled burning are made by city-based Greens who will never go near the scorched devastation and death that follows directly from their policies. If some of the decisions coming from this place were not so serious for us, they might be funny. Getting advice from the Greens about managing northern Victoria is like getting advice from someone from Yackandandah about organic cold-pressed lattes. If the people of Wodonga, Bendigo, Mildura, Wangaratta and Shepparton dictated the lives of Melburnians the way that you dictate our lives, there would be riots in the streets. Imagine if we blocked off a section of Melbourne and said you could not work there because of a rare and attractive pigeon. What if we decided to regulate latte art patterns? Imagine if we decided that your leaf blowers should not have any form of noise suppressors. The ultimate solution to this problem might be 'Rexit’—the regions of New South Wales and Victoria separating from their city-based overlords and forming new states. I am happy to nominate Wodonga as a brand-new regional state capital, a place governed by people who actually know about the community they live in. Until we build a new Parliament House on the banks of the Murray we can convene in the Wodonga RSL. If seceding the region of Northern Victoria from the state sounds a bit extreme, the reason behind the idea is not extreme at all. The people of northern Victoria want their voices to be heard. We will not stand by any longer while city people who know nothing about us try to destroy our economies, our culture and our way of life. I understand that some of you here will not agree with my politics, but my message for you today is above politics. My message from the people of northern Victoria is: please listen to us. We know and care about the places that we live in just as passionately as you care about the places you live in. Listen to us. In the meantime I am here to be a voice for the regions, for country people, for rules that will fit our regional lives, not just your urban ones. I will stand up for law-abiding firearm owners and support sensible, evidence-based firearm laws. I will oppose new national parks. I will fight for farmers and the regions. I will push for decentralising the public service to put jobs and government money back into the regions where it comes from. I will fight for sensible speed limits, for the rights of car enthusiasts, for drug law reform and for the end of prohibition. Everywhere the government steps on the rights of individuals to choose, I will speak out. For each law and regulation I ask you to take it into your hands and ask yourself, 'Does this spark joy?’. If not, throw it out and let us live in peace. At this point I want to take a moment to apologise to my family. While I am having this adventure they will be the ones paying the price. My wife, Olga, having followed me halfway around the world, has already had to put up with quite a lot from me in 14 years of married life. She has allowed me to spend my time tilting at windmills instead of doing something useful and has been picking up my slack. She is now going to be carrying even more of that weight. To Olga, I am sorry, and I love you. My two boys, Fred and Misha, my two little freedom fighters, were my biggest supporters during the campaign, delivering leaflets to mailboxes all over the neighbourhood and handing out how-to-vote cards at pre-poll—the 'more freedom cards’ as they called them. In the mornings Misha would ask me, 'Papa, are we going to give out more freedom to people today?’. That is what we are here for, boys! The two of them are not yet really aware of just how much their father is going to be absent from their lives for the days and weeks as they grow up, a process that has already begun. So boys, sorry, and freedom! Thank you to my parents, who are here today. It has not always been smooth sailing but having my own children has helped to bridge the gaps. I also want to mention a number of people who have helped and supported me over the years: Senator Leyonhjelm, who has joined us here today, is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I consider him a friend. I will also thank WA Liberal Democrat MLC Aaron Stonehouse for his support; John Humphreys, who recruited me into the party back in 2003; Duncan Spender, Terje Peterson, and I am sure there are many more of the party old guard; Gabe Buckley, our recently retired national president—the vegan anarchist; our Victorian election team Nathan, Les, Kirsty, Lachlan, Louise—our hard-core libertarian conscience—Adam, Robert, Brenton and Rob; Iain King, my running mate in Northern Victoria Region; Sonia Buckley up in East Gippsland; and all the rest, and of course David Limbrick, my new comrade in the fight for liberty. A few others deserve a mention. To my former work colleagues, who managed to at least give a good impersonation of being sad to see me go, I will miss you too, sort of, and I cherish the T-shirt. The cast of characters from the Wodonga prepoll, a two-week endurance challenge that pitted the canvassers against the elements—boiling sun, freezing cold, wind and rain, overly officious local government parking inspectors and indifferent passers-by; a scene that was repeated across the state—and all the people passionate enough to give up their own time doing the thankless task of making our democracy work. All the minor parties that were a part of getting us here, though they are not here themselves this time—all representing disaffected voters. Let me speak also for you, and maybe after the next election the crossbench will be even more diverse. Let me conclude by repeating myself: the right of the individual to make their own choices is fundamental to human dignity. Get out of our way and let us live our lives as we choose. Freedom! Members applauded.