Once an election is done, we’ve often put so much energy into voting we fail to keep an eye on our representatives when they are released into the wild (parliament – wild, same thing).
Janelle Saffin recently became the MP for Lismore and last Thursday morning (May 9), to benches that were quite full, she presented her inaugural speech to the Legislative Assembly in Macquarie Street.
Ms Saffin said she was not nervous before her speech and felt quite comfortable and at home.
The Speaker, The Hon. Jonathan O’Dea MP introduced Ms Saffin to the Assembly. ‘I pay appropriate respect to the member for Lismore, who is about to give her inaugural speech. It is a pleasure to welcome the member for Lismore, who is no stranger to this Parliament but is a newcomer to this House.
Ms Saffin began by thanking the Speaker before launching into her inaugural speech. ‘Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your elevation to the post of Speaker in Australia’s oldest colonial Parliament.
‘I also congratulate the Government on its election win and the Premier for being the first woman to win an election in her own right. I note that she is single and, as she said, has a long name. These things should not be remarkable but they still are. I congratulate the Opposition, led by the Hon. Michael Daley, on a sterling effort in what was a hard campaign.
I must say that my first question time yesterday was unedifying… We had grown-ups denigrating each other and their parties. We were not sent here by our communities to do that
’Mr Speaker, I take you at your word and hope that you can change the culture in this place. I stand ready to help. I commend my extensive and diverse parliamentary experience, which includes Speakers’ panels in the other place and in our Federal Parliament. I must say that my first question time yesterday was unedifying. I expected better from the Premier because I know that she is better, and I see no reason to pat myself on the back for taking pointless points of order. We had grown-ups denigrating each other and their parties. We were not sent here by our communities to do that.
’I was asked whether I was worried about coming into the bear pit, as it is called. After experiencing one question time I can say that it was more like cats hissing and spitting at each and there was little substance.
‘Yesterday I contemplated sitting through about 44 question times—I think it will be about that many; I am not sure—but because I will do so for the good of my community, so be it; I shall endure. However, as I said, Mr Speaker, I hope that you can change the culture.
Saffin spoke at length about the Liberal-Nationals Government, and her hopes to ensure that she can to improve the lives of all residents across the electorate, which includes Tenterfield, Kyogle, Lismore, Murwillumbah and parts of Tweed Valley.
I am the first Labor member for Lismore in 54 years—a bit of a drought there. The drought has broken
‘I am the first Labor member for Lismore in 54 years—a bit of a drought there,’ she said. ‘The drought has broken; I wish the other drought would do so totally. Lismore was last held by Labor member Keith Compton from 1959 to 1965. His widow met with me in 1991, when I first stood for the seat of Lismore. Some people may have forgotten that or may not have known.’
Ms Saffin she was there because she is proudly an activist, not a career politician. ‘I do not say that disparagingly because we all have different paths to this place. We mostly all want to make a difference. I do, I have and I shall do so again.’
She went on to speak about TAFE places and teachers, The Nationals not responding to the needs of the electorate volunteers in the State Emergency Services, the path of economy and environment, the challenge of ice use in the local community, her Lismore Electorate Renewal Plan, and the NDIS.
She also spoke about her work at the international level, quoting the Reverend Tim Costello: ‘Charity begins at home, but does not have to stop there.’
One of her first actions as an MP was to table questions for Matthew Kean, Minister for Energy and Environment about koala care.
‘Can you give a progress report on the NSW Government’s election commitment of $100,000 in seed funding to establish a new Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital in Lismore?
‘Similarly, can you provide an update on another Government election commitment of $35,000 for equipment for Friends of the Koala Incorporated’s Koala Care and Treatment Centre in East Lismore?’
Mister Kean will deal with those and other questions in due course.
MPs have three key roles: They are constituency, parliamentary and party, in that order or, for Independent MPs, frequently a strong community support group
In concluding her speech Ms Saffin said she can recount that MPs have three key roles: ‘They are constituency, parliamentary and party, in that order or, for Independent MPs, frequently a strong community support group’.
‘To be a good MP, one needs the passion of an activist—and it should not be dulled by this place; it should be enhanced—the skill of an advocate, and the disposition of a diplomat. Fortunately, I have all three, have used them to great effect and will use them to great effect through this place to make a difference in the lives of people in the Lismore electorate…
‘I thank all members in the Chamber for their courtesy in listening to my inaugural speech. I look forward to working with all my colleagues to improve the lives of every citizen in New South Wales.
Ms Saffin received a positive response from the Assembly and says she felt great afterwards. Many MPs offered personal congratulations.