First Speech in Parliament by Luke Gosling member for Solomon, Northern Territory – Labor Party

First Speech in Parliament by Luke Gosling member for Solomon, Northern Territory – Labor Party


Speaker: Before I call the member for Solomon
I remind the house that this is the honourable members first speech and I ask the house to
extend to him the usual courtesies and I call the member for Solomon. Luke Gosling: Thank you Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, my name is Luke John Anthony Gosling
and mine is the great privilege of representing the people of Solomon, the northern capital
of Australia. In Darwin and Palmerston we have people from over 100 countries that have
been welcomed by the Larrakia Aboriginal traditional owners to make the Top End of Australia their
home, including me and my family. I stand here today a very proud Territorian
and Australian with a progressive view of our place in the world and our responsibilities
as global citizens. I am here because of the path that lies behind me, so I will touch
on some of that before moving to the path that lies before me. I acknowledge the traditional owners of the
land that we meet on today, the Ngunawal people, and acknowledge their elders past, present
and emerging. I thank them for their warm welcome yesterday at the opening of this parliament.
I live on Larrakia country, but I was born in Wiradjuri country, the first born son of
John and Christine Gosling. Dad is here today—a legend! From a western suburbs working family,
the son of a World War II veteran, dad was just 20 when he was conscripted to fight in
Vietnam. Luckily for me, not before he met a beautiful girl from Abbotsford, who lived
not far from Victoria Park. I know mum is watching today from Tassie where she is visiting
with my sisters Lee and Elisabeth—mum, I love you so much. You are the reason I exist
and also the reason that I am Collingwood. Let me be clear Mr Speaker, let me be clear
Mr Speaker, everything I have been able to do in my life is because of the unconditional
love and the values imparted by those two extraordinary people: my mum and dad. I am a grandson to Dick and Bertha Gosling,
and Percy and Cath Wellard on my mum’s side—all gone to God now but with us still. I am a
brother to Elisabeth, Thomas, Samuel, Xavier, Christian, Lee-Kathryn and Daniel. We were
all brought up to love each other, to love our community, to love our country and to
cherish life on this earth. I am the father of Frank and Sally and husband to my amazing
best friend and life partner, Kathryn. Kate and I met in Timor-Leste on Anzac Day
2008 playing two-up with the troops. I was living in Darwin and had taken a job as an
adviser to President Jose Ramos-Horta. Kate was visiting the troops with her boss at that
time, who is in fact now the father of this House, the member for Lingiari, the Hon. Warren
Snowden, so thank you, Wazza! I went to school in your electorate, Mr Speaker,
before our family moved to the city. I joined the Army straight from school. I spent my
first four years here in Canberra, graduating from the Australian Defence Force Academy
and the Royal Military College Duntroon before serving around Australia and overseas with
the infantry, commandos and in training roles and then finally with the Territory’s own
NORFORCE. I travelled and worked around the world before
settling in Darwin. I have sailed the Timor Sea to Timor-Leste and witnessed the birthing
of that new country. I have worked with Pashtun elders in Afghanistan as we ran an election
process together, even whilst being actively targeted by the Taliban. I have worked with
Yolngu country men and women on their country in north-east Arnhem Land. I have made the
most of tier 2 diplomacy opportunities that have come up for me in Asia that helped me
develop a clearer view of our place in the nation, our region and the world. But living the dream in Darwin is where I
wanted to be. Of course, I had fallen in love with the Territory and the Top End well before
that. It was in the heady days of 1986 when, as a 14-year-old, mum and dad pulled us all
out of school to see our magnificent country. Off we headed, the 10 of us, in a HiAce van
towing a trailer with all our camping gear, and every night we camped. We headed for Adelaide
and through Coober Pedy. We crossed the border into the Territory, arriving at Uluru near
dusk. The very first thing that we saw was a dingo coming out of a tent with a full bag
of groceries in its mouth. We piled out of the bus and tried to track the dingo but,
of course, it had disappeared into the sand dunes. Next it was Kata Tjuta, which left an enormous
impression on my 14-year-old self. It was the space, the light from the colours and
the grandeur. I actually said to myself at that time, ‘If I die tomorrow at least I’ve
seen this.’ We went on to the amazing parks and waterfalls further north up the track
and then into Darwin, where the Royal Darwin Show was underway. I love our show so much.
I know it is daggy, but I do. The seed was sown on that trip, and not just for me but
for my sister, who, with her husband, nursed in the Northern Territory; for my youngest
brother, who worked as a teacher in both Arnhem and the Red Centre; for yet another brother,
who is currently a Territory firefighter; and for yet another, who served with NORFORCE
in the Army. The Army prepared me for a life of challenges.
I served with the 3rd Battalion, Old Faithful, at that time a parachute infantry battalion,
and set my sights on commandos. I served with the 1st Commando Regiment, whose members have
served with distinction, including on operational service in recent years. For my part, I was
proud to be part of securing the Sydney 2000 Olympics with the counter-terrorism task force.
It was an absolute honour to serve. Looking back now, I can see that those experiences
prepared me well to serve in the Northern Territory, but I still had a lot to learn,
and of course I still do have a lot to learn. After my time in Timor-Leste, I worked in
remote Indigenous health service delivery, establishing the Remote Area Health Corps,
and also spent time working with and for the Australians who were struggling and less fortunate
than others, with the St Vincent de Paul Society, Vinnies. All of these experiences drew me, I believe,
to politics. I am not one to stand on the sidelines. And so I started working for federal
parliamentarians and preparing myself for today, to serve the people of Darwin and Palmerston
as their representative here in Canberra. I thank former senators Trish Crossin and
Nova Peris and, of course, the Hon. Warren Snowdon. Working with them allowed me to meet
the people who share the Top End every day, learning more about their needs and helping
people. I want to congratulate the Territory Labor
leader and new Chief Minister, Michael Gunner, who was sworn in today as the third Labor
Chief Minister and the Territory’s 11th Chief Minister since self-government in 1978. Michael
and his team absolutely thumped the Country Liberal Party at last weekend’s NT election.
The CLP is currently a spent force, and the responsibility for that lies with its outgoing
leader. I am so proud to be a member of Territory
Labor and I want to thank the true believers, the members and supporters, for their faith
in me. I also want to acknowledge the broader Labor movement that are standing up for people’s
workplace safety, conditions and rights every day. When I look back over this big year for
Territory Labor, it is with absolute certainty that with everything we have achieved we did
so because we are a united party. At my first press conference during the election
I said I was worried that our GST share was being threatened, and I still am, and I will
fight for it because it is the way that we hold and grow the North. What horizontal fiscal
equalisation really means is, ‘We hold the North, right, it’s our home and that’s what
it costs to deliver services for the people of Darwin and Palmerston and the great Northern
Territory.’ I will stand up for us and for those who need it most. So, whether your ancestors spent 15 million
nights under Top End stars, whether your family traded with the Macassans centuries ago or
survived the bombing of Darwin in 1942 or rebuilt Darwin after Cyclone Tracey on Christmas
Day 1974, or whether you are a descendant of generations of settlers from the UK, Europe,
the South-East Asian communities, the Mediterranean, Africa or the Pacific, or whether you just
came to the Top End to work for three months and never left—whatever brought you to the
North—I will not ignore you. I will represent you here in Canberra, and I will keep my feet
on the ground. Darwin has always had economic cycles of growth
and slowing growth. The important thing is that we must continue to grow in a sustainable
way, that we secure federal investment funding and that we employ our own. We do not want
to see our city become the fly-in fly-out capital of Australia. Workforces move around—I
get that—but the priority must go to people that have called or want to call our tropical
paradise home. My mission is to secure the support from the federal government that is
needed for the investment in public infrastructure in our developing northern capital. We have a vibrant lifestyle with fantastic
arts and cultural experiences, including our markets, the National Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Art Awards, the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, the Greek GleNTi, the Italian Festival,
the Garrmalang Festival, the Darwin Festival, the Darwin Cup Carnival, the million-dollar
barra fishing competition, and major sporting events like the V8s. But we also have national
soccer, NRL, rugby and AFL teams travelling to the Top End to play, and next year a first-class
tennis centre which will host national and international tournaments. Darwin is also the base for Australia’s National
Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, which is a key element of the Australian government’s
disaster and emergency medical response for incidents of national and international significance.
I also believe that our Charles Darwin University is well placed to host a Darwin outpost of
the Australian Civil-Military Centre. An ACMC North would let us develop a northern-centric
civil-military capability to prevent, prepare for and respond to conflict and disasters.
I believe in the power of education and innovation and will be actively supporting emerging entrepreneurs. Health is one of my areas of focus with the
delivery of the $15-million dollar PET Scanner program promised by the current foreign minister
six years ago, and then re-promised by the current Prime Minister last month. Before
and during the election campaign I visited the Alan Walker Cancer Centre in Darwin, and
this month I visited the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne to better understand precisely
what equipment and infrastructure the Territory needs. We are the only—only—Australian
jurisdiction without a PET scanner, a diagnostic tool which uses radioactive tracers to track
the spread of cancer. It was promised by the Prime Minister, and I have spoken with the
current health minister, the member for Farrer, about this. I look forward to discussing the
details of delivery with her as soon as possible. The Palmerston Region Hospital, well known
by members in this place, is also finally underway, but only after Labor held the coalition
government and the Country Liberals to account, and I will make sure the government is held
to account for its delivery. During the federal election campaign this
coalition government made a number of other promises, and I will be holding them to task,
including: $3.8 million for a 24 bed dementia specific wing at Terrace Gardens; $29.5 million
to develop Barneson Boulevard; $8.5 million to Carpentaria for the establishment of a
new, purpose-built facility which will allow for the co-location of community, allied health,
education, training, and childcare services as part of its $27 million Community 360 Top
End Community Hub project; $9.65 million to improve the movement of heavy vehicles in
and around Darwin; $1 million for an eternal flame and a pool of reflection in Darwin city;
$635,000 for new mobile CCTV cameras for the police; $8 million for the construction of
a world class indoor netball stadium at Marrara. I will work constructively with this government
where they are serious about fulfilling their commitments, but I will also hold them to
account. Projects like overdue Defence houses at the RAAF Base, Darwin are also on my list.
This coalition promised more than $8 billion in Defence infrastructure spending, and we
want to be bipartisan with the government whenever we can. But there was $70 million
to be spent over the next 10 years upgrading Robertson Barracks. As I said, I am keen to
work constructively, but we need to get these infrastructure projects going. I have already
had some constructive meetings regarding these projects, because we need to make sure that
Territory businesses are not locked out of that Defence work, because our local business
have the capacity to deliver. I will be working with ex-service organisations
to build a veterans centre with crisis accommodation, gym facilities and chill out and chat spaces.
And I have started fighting the ridiculous decision to take our head Department of Veterans’
Affairs position away from the territory. That is not helpful. That is not right. The
Vietnam veterans have a saying: ‘Honour the dead, but fight like hell for the living.’
I was proud to be a part of the effort that secured national recognition of the bombing
of Darwin as a day of national significance and, more recently, I was proud that I helped
secure support for Operation Bring Them Home, the repatriation of Australian soldiers killed
in Vietnam, who were previously buried in Malaysia and Singapore. In Darwin I successfully
campaigned to have contemporary veterans’ war service in Afghanistan and Iraq acknowledged
on the Darwin Cenotaph. But our young veterans need more, and I will be working with them
on their priorities. When I first considered politics as a vocation
I was driven by all that has shaped me: the eldest of eight in a working family, then
through my time in the Army and then my time into humanitarian and community development
work. It is summed up, I believe, in the phrase ‘No one gets left behind.’ It is a theme of
the great Australian Labor Party and it is my pledge to the people of Darwin and Palmerston. As you fly to my home—and I hope you can
all visit soon—it is easy to be mesmerised by the patterns below in the great Australian
outback. After a few hours the desert below gives way to tropical savannah and, as our
tray tables are stowed, you will catch the first glimpse of the Adelaide River snaking
its way to the coast and the Arafura Sea. The big rural properties pass under you: the
hundreds of hectares of mangos and the Humpty Doo Barramundi farm; Robertson Barracks, home
of the 1st Brigade and the marines; the growing suburbs and CBD of Palmerston; the Elizabeth
River; the gas projects on our harbour; the industrial artery following the Stuart Highway
into the city; the TIO footy ground at Marrara; and the northern suburbs spreading out to
the beaches of Casuarina and beyond. As we bank over the harbour you see the Darwin
CBD, the green spaces, the beaches, the museum and art gallery. Don’t worry; we’re on final
approach now! And for me, I start looking out at our family home in the suburb of Ludmilla.
Ludmilla is a Slavic word that means ‘favour of the people’. And when I see our tropical
home I quietly say to my family below, ‘Dad’s home; see you soon.’ I have had a most fortunate life. There is
a lot of work to do. There is a lot of work ahead. And I thank you for joining with us
in Darwin and Palmerston in whatever capacity to grow our home for the good of our country.
If you want to live a really great life, we welcome you to join us in the capital of the
North. I love our country, I love our Southern Cross
above us and I love my home, the top end of Australia. And, of course, in particular,
I love Darwin and Palmerston. So come and visit us. We have a beautiful city with much
to see and do. Often on a Friday or Saturday evening we will be down at the ski club, catching
up with friends and watching the most amazing sunset. Come and say ‘Hi’ and I will buy you
a beer. To my party members and the people of Darwin
and Palmerston: again, thank you for this great honour, and God bless Australia.

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