Tim’s Maiden Speech to Parliament

Mr RICHARDSON (Mordialloc) – It is an honour to be elected to represent the Mordialloc district in the Victorian Parliament. I wish to first acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders past and present. I would like to thank the electors of Mordialloc for entrusting me to be their representative. I am determined to be a strong local advocate for my community.

I congratulate you, Speaker, on your election to the Legislative Assembly and congratulate also all members who have been elected to the 58th Parliament and wish them well for the coming years.

I am also deeply honoured to be a representative of the Australian Labor Party and part of an Andrews Labor government. Labor’s slogan through the campaign was ‘Putting people first’, and it goes to the heart of what Labor stands for as a movement. Labor at its core underpins the notions of equality, fairness, compassion and establishing a fair go for all, regardless of their circumstances. These values have guided us as members of the oldest political party and will guide us through this parliamentary term and into the future.

Today is an opportunity for members to reflect on their pathway to this place and to consider how they want to contribute to this Parliament and help shape the policies that will further advance Victoria into the future. The starting point of such a proposition requires us to consider our values. My upbringing and my time serving as an adviser in state and federal Labor governments were pivotal to my reaching this point. I was at a young age when my mother and father separated. While this is nothing out of the ordinary these days, the determination of my mother to get on with things and give my sister and me the best opportunities were certainly part of a defining period in my life. Mum worked two jobs to support our family, and she was determined that we would ever go without. It was her fierce determination to work hard and to encourage us to strive to do our best that was significant to me.

My mum, Deb, and my grandparents, Noel and Lorraine, along with my stepdad, Steve, who came into our lives as I was starting high school, always stressed the importance of doing well at school and creating your own opportunities. I was fortunate enough to complete high school and get a place at Deakin University. I became the first in my family to attend university, where I studied law and commerce. It was this sequence of events that defined my politics. It was these events and values that led me to the Australian Labor Party.

I believe every person has the right to a quality education regardless of their individual circumstances. Education is not only the pillar of equality and fairness, but an economic prosperity issue. It was former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam who said:

Poverty is a national waste as well as an individual waste. We are all diminished when any of us are denied proper education. The nation is the poorer—a poorer economy, a poorer civilisation, because of this human and national waste.

We still have a lot of work to do to ensure our education system is fairer and more equitable to help overcome social disadvantage. A vehicle for progression and change was the 2011 Gonski review, which provided the first substantial audit of the education system in almost 40 years. This comprehensive investigation identified that the current funding model for our schools was inequitable and that our numeracy and literacy skills were slipping when contrasted with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. It is disappointing that the Gonski education funding reforms have only been agreed to up until the fourth year and that many of the principals, teachers and parents I have spoken to over the past 12 months have not seen the benefits of this investment. We must do better. This is not only a political imperative for any government that is serious about education but is also a social and economic imperative. Another key element of the Gonski education funding reforms was the support for children with disabilities. As many would know, the Gonski funding reforms provided a base level funding for each student and apply additional loadings for students from low socio-economic backgrounds or for children with disabilities.

During my time working as an electorate officer at a state level I was amazed at the number of parents who were seeking additional government support for their children with autism. I believe that we need to do better for these kids and their families, who work so hard to ensure that their children have every opportunity to make the most of their education. It would be a great shame if they were curtailed by the lack of implementation and delivery of additional resources. I am proud of the determination of the Premier and Deputy Premier to put education at the forefront of Labor’s agenda, whether it is committing to better funding for our kinders and preschools, increasing capital works improvements for our primary and secondary schools or supporting children with disabilities.

My employment to date has had a significant impact on the person I am today. I have been fortunate enough to work as an electorate officer and adviser for Labor representatives over the years. However, prior to entering politics I used to be a labourer and a line marker, which involved painting lines on roads, and wording and stencilling in warehouses and on sporting courts. My time at Road Signs Australia, which is the company I worked for, was very positive. It gave me an understanding of the value of a good day’s work and helped me to be more practical as a person. I remember my first day vividly, which could easily have been my last. When assisting a work colleague to change over the colours in a car park in Altona, I was asked to put the paint gun into the paint tin and open the gun to empty the paint out—it seems pretty complicated. Unfortunately all I heard was, ‘put the gun in the paint’, and before I knew it I had literally thrown the whole gun into 20 litres of paint, which ruined the $2000 spray-painting gun. Needless to say I went on to be a little more practical than I was at that moment and I worked there for a number of years.

While I always had an interest in politics, it was through my work for the former member for Gembrook, Tammy Lobato, that I got an appreciation of how a local representative can positively impact on a community. I joined the team not long after the Black Saturday bushfires. While the communities within the electorate were not directly affected, residents were understandably anxious to know what steps all levels of government were taking to prevent future disasters. It was the process of convening community forums, establishing bushfire reference groups and ongoing
community consultation that demonstrated to me the impact a local representative can have on their region. I felt the work undertaken within the community made a difference and I gained an appreciation of the importance of always consulting and engaging with the community.

Following my time as a state electorate officer, I had the opportunity to work for the federal member for Isaacs, Mark Dreyfus, in the local community and as an adviser during his time as Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation. These were difficult policy areas, but my strongest lesson was the crucial role our environment plays in our community and our society. I consider that our natural environment should be viewed not only through the prism of conservation and preservation but also as an economic issue. There are significant opportunities in renewable energy and technological advancement when we consider ways to address a changing and volatile climate. I hope that in time we can strip away the partisan rhetoric that defines this debate and work together to find solutions to these problems.

Turning our attention to this Parliament, there is no doubt we are facing significant challenges in Victoria, but this time also brings opportunity. We are facing increased unemployment and a cessation of traditional industries. There is no disputing that we are facing a jobs crisis, with youth unemployment tracking at 15 per cent and 67 000 people losing their jobs over the past few years. We have seen the demise of the automotive industry, with the likes of Holden, Ford, Toyota ceasing operations in Australia in the coming years. In the automotive industry alone, the livelihoods of around 100 000 workers are at risk, which will undoubtedly have a flow-on effect in the Victorian economy. One can only imagine the stresses upon these families as they head into Christmas. I hope that Labor’s Back to Work policy to encourage unemployed youth, the long-term unemployed and retrenched workers back into the workforce while working in conjunction with
industry helps to address some of these issues.

I am eager to see how Victorian industry can position itself to benefit from potential growth areas in pharmaceuticals, new energy, food and fibre and international education while continuing to solidify further opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. Now is an important time to be investing in skills and training of our people. Reducing funding for TAFE and university only stifles opportunity and deprives our community of hope and aspiration. It would be a great shame if the next innovation or medical breakthrough was shackled as the result of a student not being afforded a quality education. I am thrilled with Labor’s policies on TAFE, with the $320 million TAFE rescue fund and the restoration of community service obligations. I hope the federal government reflects on some of its changes to funding for universities and deregulation of fees, which will put tertiary education out of the reach of many Victorians. Another key challenge over the coming years is the next major infrastructure project for Victoria. Long-term infrastructure planning must be underpinned by transparency and accountability. The appropriate mechanisms are through Infrastructure Australia, which can only strengthen the community’s confidence in what governments are seeking to achieve. We must seek to strip away the short-term politicking and look longer term to the needs of the state and what delivers the best outcomes and return on investment. After all,the city loop project spanned two decades—from itsinception prior to 1971 to its completion with the opening of Flagstaff station in May 1985. This would be the equivalent of going through a Kennett, Bracks, Brumby, Baillieu, Napthine and now—hopefully long-term—Andrews government.

For a number of years the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel has been listed as the no. 1 priority for Victoria by the independent federal body Infrastructure Australia. With recent analysis suggesting a significant return on every dollar invested, we need to find ways to begin this transformational infrastructure project and continue to pressure the federal government to support these major projects for Victorians.

Now I would like to make a few remarks about the electorate I am honoured to represent. The Mordialloc electorate has significantly changed as a result of the recent redistribution, now incorporating half of the previous electorates of Mordialloc and Carrum. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contributions made to our community by the former member for Carrum, Donna Bauer, and the former member for Mordialloc, Lorraine Wreford, over the last four years. I would also like to pay tribute to the former Labor member for Carrum, Jenny Lindell, who served the community from 1999 through to 2010, and the former Labor member for Mordialloc, Janice Munt, who served the community from 2002 to 2010. Both are frequently referenced and reflected upon in our community for their contributions.

The electorate now incorporates the suburbs of Chelsea, Chelsea Heights, Edithvale, Aspendale, Aspendale Gardens, Bangholme, Mordialloc and Parkdale and parts of Mentone and Cheltenham. Within a 38-square-kilometre region there are over 60 000 people who call the Mordialloc electorate home. The name Mordialloc is said to be a combination of a couple of Indigenous words which could be interpreted as ‘flat water’, ‘swampy water’ or perhaps ‘near the little sea.’ The Mordialloc district takes in the Mordialloc Creek along with the Carrum Carrum Swamp, which were invaluable resources for the Bunurong people, who are the traditional owners of the land, delivering a consistent source of food across the plains.

Following early settlement in the early 1800s, Mordialloc became a fishing village, and it would go on to become a renowned spot for picnics right up until the train line came through in the 1880s. Despite the drastic transformation and development of the region, Mordialloc district is still renowned for its boating and fishing communities, and its suburbs, from Chelsea through to Mentone, maintain the electorate’s family-friendly picnic appeal throughout the year.

The City of Kingston, which almost entirely encapsulates the Mordialloc electorate, will grow by approximately 11 per cent over the coming 15 years. We are seeing more first home buyers and renters coming into the region, with an increase in unit developments and apartment living, yet we are also a community with a median age older than the Victorian median age, illustrating the changing demographics of our region. We are not immune from the challenges of an ageing population, with increasing pressures upon public and community health services. We must continue to provide the necessary services and infrastructure to manage these challenges into the future, while maintaining the quality of community we all cherish.

During the past 12 months I, along with my team of volunteers, have met thousands of residents on their doorsteps, on shopping strips and while talking on phones. A striking consistency in our conversations, regardless of people’s political thoughts and views, has been an appreciation for the region that we live in and the spirit of community which underpins what we do locally. This is evident when you see local residents supporting local emergency services, participating in their local school fetes or supporting vulnerable individuals through their community service groups. There is a rich sense of pride in our community. I would like to thank the residents of Mordialloc for sharing their thoughts, ideas and concerns with us over the past year. I am determined to continue to consult with as many people as I can over the next four years about what is most important to them and best reflects their needs and ambitions.

As every member here can attest, while we stand here as individuals, nothing would be possible without the support of our family, friends and volunteers. Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the incredible work of our hundreds of volunteers—and some of them have joined us here today. There are not enough hours in this day or the next to reflect on each of their wonderful personalities and the contributions they made to the campaign. Our campaign mantra was ‘everyone plays a role’, and whether it was doorknocking, phoning, letterboxing, street stalling or volunteering at train stations, each and every one of them shares in this moment today. I hope I can repay their loyalty, trust and commitment by living up to the values of the Australian Labor Party and achieving what we put forward to our community.

I would like to thank Tammy Lobato and Mark Dreyfus for giving me the opportunity to work in their offices. I would like to acknowledge the support of Michael Donovan; Ben Davis; Anthony Byrne; Luke Donnellan, the Minister for Roads and Road Safety; Marlene Kairouz, the member for Kororoit; Robin Scott, the Minister for Finance; and Jacinta Collins.

I would particularly like to thank Lee Tarlamis, a former member for South Eastern Metropolitan Region in the upper house, and Adem Somyurek, a member for South Eastern Metropolitan Region in the upper house, as members representing our region. Lee and Adem have been a constant support, and I thank them for their time, patience, tutelage and guidance over the past 12 months. I am saddened that Lee will not be joining us in this parliament this term, but I look forward to continuing to work closely with him over the coming years.

Thank you to my field organiser, Megan Johnston, who worked tirelessly alongside our volunteers and ran the engine room of our grassroots campaign. I would like to acknowledge my campaign manager, Nick McLennan, who has dedicated every waking moment to the Mordialloc campaign throughout this year. I thank you for your expertise, friendship, leadership and dedication.

I thank my wonderful family for all their care and support. To my parents, Deb and Steve, who are here today, and to my wife Lauren’s parents, Brian and Hazel, thank you for caring for and nurturing Lauren and me throughout our lives and during this busy and eventful year. We would not be in this position if it were not for all your unconditional love, guidance and sup port. I want to also thank my beautiful wife, Lauren, who is currently on her way back from England after visiting family. You are my inspiration and my best friend. I know that going through a campaign in our first year of marriage has been a strange idea of a honeymoon, but I look forward to the next chapter in our lives together. Finally, I once again thank the people of the Mordialloc electorate for trusting me to be your representative. I hope to repay the faith you have put in me over the coming years, and I look forward to working with you.