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Legislative Council

28 August 2019
Inaugural speech
Enver Erdogan  (ALP)


Mr ERDOGAN (Southern Metropolitan) (17:41:06): I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. I am proud to be joining a government which is committed to treaty with our First Nations. I acknowledge the President of the Legislative Council and offer my belated congratulations to him on his election to the high office of President. I also acknowledge all members of the Legislative Council, my parliamentary colleagues and my family and friends in the gallery today. I come to this place as a lawyer, trade unionist and advocate for working people, a proud member of the Australian Labor Party and indeed a true believer. But I stand in this place now as a representative of the people of Southern Metropolitan Region. To have the privilege of being elected to this chamber and representing such a diverse electorate is truly a great honour. I give my commitment to represent them to the best of my abilities. The suburbs in my electorate have a long and rich history, one made all the more vibrant by the contribution of migrants that have made this part of the world their home. The area is home to some of the state’s oldest churches and Christian communities. Today Southern Metropolitan Region is home to most of our state’s Jewish community. The diversity does not begin and end with matters of faith. The local schools, community groups, sports clubs and businesses are too many to name individually. Each contributes in their own unique way to making Southern Metropolitan Region such a popular place to live, study, work and play. Like many Victorians, my parents migrated here in search of greater opportunity. They were both born into Kurdish families on the steps of the Taurus Mountains in southern Anatolia. They are descendants of the Kochgiri tribe and Perwuzi clan. Famous British politician and diplomat Mark Sykes visited our tribe at the beginning of the 20th century. He wrote about the Kurdish tribes of the Ottoman Empire in the Journal of the Royal and Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland in 1908. He was utterly unimpressed and described the Kochgiri tribe as, and I quote, 'miserable farmers who dwelled in semi-underground dwellings’. Therefore, as you might expect, they were impoverished farmers in the Ottoman Empire, and this did not change with the formation of the Republic of Turkey. My father, Dursun, was the first in our family to make the journey to Australia, arriving in 1974. Being the eldest of 13 children, he shouldered great responsibility. My mother, Mediha, arrived in Australia in 1982 and soon after started working at the Ford Motor Company in Broadmeadows, where she worked for over 20 years. Like many new migrants, they worked tirelessly to not only establish themselves in their new country but to also support family abroad. My parents grew up in a society where there was great economic inequality, so it was no surprise that economic justice was a central focus for them. My father worked on the railways and was an official for the Australian Railways Union prior to privatisation. He later became a cabbie and now runs a hire car business. My mother worked in a team of mostly migrant women and achieved outcomes for them as their shop steward with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. It is very true that my father’s experience of being made redundant due to privatisation and my mother’s retrenchment due to the demise of the automotive industry have had a very profound effect on me. In particular it strengthened my belief in the role of government to support the transition of local industry. My parents were not only active in their workplaces and community, they were also active in the Australian Labor Party. I grew up with stories of Labor being the party that delivered universal health care and education for all and that embraced multiculturalism. My earliest childhood memories are of May Day rallies, community picnics and going to the footy. I consider myself lucky as I had an upbringing rich in love from a large family and community. I am also grateful to be in a country where you can earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. By the time I was 17 I wanted to be part of a movement that made this country fairer, so in the winter of 2002 I joined my local ALP branch. Before being elected to this chamber I had the privilege to serve on a local council and contribute to public life. For the past seven years I worked as a personal injury lawyer at Maurice Blackburn, Australia’s leading trade union and social justice law firm. The most fulfilling aspect of practising law was that I was making a difference to people’s lives one case at a time. It was here that I saw firsthand the difference Labor governments can make to working people’s lives. It was the Bracks Labor government that restored the right for seriously injured workers to make common-law claims for compensation. Working as a lawyer also gave me a better understanding of the inherent power imbalances that exist between employers and employees, and producers and consumers. I saw up close how people structured and ordered their lives and how they sought to live out their aspirations, often when confronted with significant adversity. The economy, driven by ingenuity and competition, creates a rich bounty. But society is more than just an economy; we need the right mix of reward for effort and taking risks, recognition of the inherent dignity of labour and a sense of security so that people who are facing adversity are not left behind or forgotten. When I think of the history of the labour movement in this state, two moments stand out in my mind. I think of the efforts of those workers and trade unionists that fought so hard for the establishment of the 8-hour work day, beginning with the stonemasons who marched on the steps of Parliament House in 1856. When that cornerstone principle of our industrial relations system was enshrined into law in 1916 by the passage of the Victorian Eight Hours Act, it was our great state showing the nation how an industrial relations framework could be established with fairness and equity as its core principles. As many will know, it was not until 1920 that the 8-hour day was enshrined nationally. This core entitlement still remains something that many of us take for granted. Many employment conditions that we today regard as fair and reasonable in a modern society, such as unfair dismissal laws, annual leave, superannuation, sick leave, penalty rates, tea breaks, public holiday exclusions and long service leave, only came to fruition through the collective struggle of the union movement. The role of trade unions remains as relevant to the hope and aspirations of Victorians today as it was during the 8-hour campaign. I see it as my duty, as I enter this place, to not forget where I came from and always remain conscious of the challenges faced by ordinary people in their day-to-day lives. I would like to speak briefly about my passion for the manufacturing sector. I am very mindful of the efforts of the contemporary trade union movement and my Labor colleagues in both this chamber and the other place who are involved in economic policy development. We all know that Victoria’s economy has changed significantly in the last 20 years. Traditional industry, like where my parents worked, has in many places given way to new industries focused on education, health services, finance and advanced manufacturing. The last census recorded a 24 per cent decline in the number of Australian manufacturing workers in the five years preceding the census. The majority of those jobs had been in Victoria and South Australia. While the reasons this is occurring will continue to be debated, the facts show us that this transition is underway, and clearly this demands a response with the interests of ordinary working Victorians. These circumstances make it so vital for Victoria to have a government that is prepared to fight for jobs and one that believes in the creative and productive talents of its people. I applaud the work the Andrews government has been doing in setting local content targets and investing in fast-growing industries like new energy, education and our food and produce sector. We are all human, and the rough and tumble of our professional and personal lives takes a toll on anyone. We all have a community duty to look after one another. This does not end with industrial relations or industry policy. Our mental health is the foundation of every other facet of our lives. Mental illness does not care who you are, where you live, what you do for a living or where you went to school. Mental health needs vary throughout our life in response to different stressors and experiences. What is vital is that people can access the support they need when they need it. Men in particular are a group that are statistically found to be reluctant to seek help, whether for simple or complex health needs. It is the old stereotype: suck it up and you’ll be right. This flippant attitude is changing for the better, but it is still not viewed as it should be. Stigma, prejudice and misinformation are still obstacles to people reaching help in the first place, let alone whether the system that is designed to help them is doing so effectively. Tragically about 600 Victorians take their lives each year. At the moment men make up an average six out of every eight suicides in Australia every single day. The number of men who die by suicide in Australia every year is nearly double the national road toll. I applaud the Andrews government for establishing a royal commission into this state’s mental health system, and I look forward to the implementation of its recommendations. I am proud to be the first Australian of Kurdish background elected to the Victorian Parliament, in fact to any Parliament in Australia. My election is proof of the fair go, and I hope it can inspire future generations of new Victorians to fulfil their potential. We know that every individual’s potential is realised when we have equality of opportunity. The learnings gained through education provide a foundation for employment and lifelong prosperity. I commend the Premier and Deputy Premier for revitalising our TAFE sector and committing to upgrading over 1000 schools as well as building 100 new schools in our state. I appreciate that many people have contributed to my election to this chamber. Many of them are here today. To my mother, Mediha, who is no longer with us, but who I think of daily: I thank you for your love, wisdom and instilling in me the importance of hard work. To my father, Dursun: I thank you for teaching me to question injustices in society and encouraging me to be active. To my brother Hasan: I am sure no-one is more proud of my election to this place than you. You are a clever and compassionate person. I know Mum would be pleased to see us remain so close. To my wife, Pelin: I thank you for your love, support and understanding. To the Victorian Kurdish community and my progressive Turkish friends, I thank you for sharing this journey with me. To my uncles, aunties and cousins—too numerous to name you all individually—I thank you for your unconditional love and support. I wish to acknowledge the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association. The SDA is a responsible and effective union which has seen Australia with a higher rate of unionisation of the retail industry and better conditions of employment than in any other country. As the late Bob Hawke said at the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the SDA, it is as 'close as you can get to a 10 out of 10 union’. It is an honour to have the support of the SDA. I thank Michael Donovan, the Victorian state secretary and national president of the SDA, for his unwavering support, leadership and friendship. Michael is the most dedicated unionist I have met, a person who has devoted his career to improving the employment conditions of retail, fast-food and warehousing workers. I wish to also acknowledge Trish Connelly, the Victorian assistant secretary of the SDA. Trish’s fair and passionate unionism has been an inspiration to many. I thank my legal mentor and friend, the national head of injuries at Maurice Blackburn, Liberty Sanger. Liberty has made the journey today with three-week-old Matilda. Liberty is a brilliant and tenacious lawyer who has always encouraged me to challenge myself. I wish to acknowledge my federal parliamentary colleagues the federal member for Fraser, Daniel Mulino, and senator for Victoria Raff Ciccone. Raff and I share a passion for the ALP and the mighty Collingwood Football Club. I thank and acknowledge my state parliamentary colleagues Deputy Premier James Merlino and the member for Pascoe Vale, Lizzie Blandthorn. I wish to acknowledge the Victorian ALP assistant secretary and champion of manufacturing workers, Kosmos Samaras. Thank you, Kos, for your guidance. Thank you, David Feeney, for your friendship also. You are a kind and humble human being. The federal Parliament is poorer for your absence. Finally, I thank my many friends, including those who have made time in their busy schedules to come to Parliament and sit in the gallery today. Special mention must go to Tony, John-Paul, Mauro, Matt, Adam, Sammi, Miguel, Brendan, Hovig, Naim, Cam, Sedar, Dilek, Dimity, Emily and of course Dean D’Angelo. I look forward to enjoying your continued support and friendship. Members applauded.