Parliament of Tasmania - Ella Haddad MP Inaugural Speech

House of Assembly Members Inaugural Speech

Ella Haddad MP

Ella Haddad MP (Denison)

Electorate: Denison

Inaugural speech: 2 May 2018

Ms HADDAD (Denison - Inaugural) - Madam Speaker, what an honour to be standing in this place with the opportunity to give my first speech. It might be an honour that I have long imagined, but not one I necessarily thought I would have the chance to fulfil. I start by congratulating all members on their re-election and recognising my fellow incoming members - yourself, Madam Speaker, together with Anita, Alison, Jenna, and Jennifer, and David returning in his role as member for Franklin. To my fellow Labor member for Denison, Scott Bacon, I very much look forward to serving the electorate with you. I also pay tribute and acknowledge Madeleine Ogilvie, who served Denison in the last four years with distinction. I wish her all the very best in her continuing legal career.

Madam Speaker, I believe our parliament should reflect our peers. It should be made up of people from across our communities who have a range of experiences in work and life and who will bring those experiences to their work here. I started working when I was 14 in restaurants and hospitality. Coming from a family in small business, I learned the value of hard work early. I learned the value of always looking for more to do, working hard at every task you have and doing the very best you can. My parents taught me to always have a healthy questioning of authority, not a disrespect, but simply to ask myself what is fair and right and what I could do to make a difference when I saw injustice. They taught me to recognise we each have the power to influence things for the better.

During university and after graduation I worked for the Honourable Duncan Kerr during his time as federal member for Denison. Duncan's was one of the busiest electorate offices in the country, with a steady flow of people visiting us for support each day. Under the training of not only Duncan but also the inimitable Majda Flanagan, I learned that everybody has a story to tell and is to be treated with respect, that there is no person more important or better than another, everyone is equal and has a right to be heard.

Some of the people who came to the office in those days stay strong in my mind. I recall one man who was a regular visitor. In his mid-fifties, he spent most of his time either in Risdon, at Bethlehem House men's shelter or sleeping rough. He was a bit of a rough-around-the-edges character. One day he came in more worked up than usual, shouting, swearing and throwing things at me like his lit cigarette and the fundraising chocolates on the counter. It took some time to calm him down, but when we did it was clear there was in fact a simple problem that we could help with and resolve. Just listening made a difference.

Another regular visitor would use the office as a bit of a home base, setting her kids up to watch a video in the backroom while she went to her appointments with Housing, Centrelink and elsewhere. The office was a safe place for her and her family. Service providers would describe her as someone who touches on all areas of the service system, but despite having a range of difficulties in her life, she was doing pretty well. One day when she was returning to the office to collect her kids after a number of appointments, I heard the police shouting outside the office, attempting to get her into the back of the police car. Once everything had calmed down I learned that in frustration, she had become violent at one of the offices she had been visiting. We asked her why she had done that, considering she never so much as raised her voice in our office. 'It is because you people listen to me,' she said.

I know the system is capable of pushing people to the brink, chewing people up and spitting them out and pushing otherwise reasonable people to despair. That is why we need people in parliament who not only understand these issues but have lived these things that affect so many of us in our communities. Further still, we need people who not only listen but take these stories back to our roles as parliamentarians and the policy decisions we make here.

I move on now to thank the people of Denison who put their faith in me to represent them. We each have a great deal of power in our vote, especially in Tasmania with the intricacies of our Hare-Clark voting system. I know that just over 5200 people made the decision to put me number one on their ballot paper and for some it was their first Labor vote or their first Labor vote in a while. That faith and trust people have put in me I do not take lightly or take for granted. I know that it is my job for the next four years to show the people that the choice they made was the right one. I pledge to work hard for all the people of Denison to represent them honestly and stay true to values I demonstrated in my campaign.

I am proud to stand here as a Labor member, having joined the Labor Party at just 17 and still in high school. One of my earliest memories of involvement with the party was handing out how-to-vote cards with my parents at the 1987 federal election; I would have been around eight or nine. At around 15 I started volunteering in Duncan Kerr's office. One of my early tasks was to find the clipart images that would be published in the electorate-wide newsletter. That was back when the use of clipart images in a professional newsletter was considered hip and modern. Times have certainly changed.

I remember volunteering on the 1993 federal election, which members will recall was the 'unwinnable' election for Labor which went on of course to be Prime Minister Paul Keating's sweetest victory of all. Watching the election night coverage at the ALP function at the Waratah in Hobart, heavily sunburnt from a day standing on the polling booth, I recall so well the speeches and the feeling of complete elation that night. Mr Hewson spoke first to concede defeat. Standing against the backdrop of the busy yellow and black Intercontinental Hotel Sydney banner, he spoke briefly, thanking his volunteers and family. Then Mr Keating gave his now historic speech. Standing on the stage of the Bankstown Sporting Club backed only by a simple blue curtain with the word 'Australia' emblazoned in white behind him, young and optimistic, the visual contrast could not have been clearer to me.

The values Mr Keating talked about that night resonated with me as a young 15 year old and resonate with me still. He pointed out that the victory was one for all those people who kept faith through difficult times. He said it was a victory for Australian values like cooperation, being decent and of people having regard for one another. He talked about Labor standing for an opportunity for everyone, for the values of access and equity and the policies of inclusion. He said the victory would not go to his head but he would take it seriously, take it thankfully and do a great deal with it.

Those values inspired me that night and they have driven me since. These are the values the voters of Denison can expect from me as their representative, because I know it is only Labor that puts people first and puts people at the heart of every policy decision of government.

To be honest, there have been times when it has not been easy to be a Labor Party member. I am sure everyone in this Chamber, no matter their political allegiances, would agree that there are times when ideas clash within parties and that can sometimes be hard, but what has been most important to me throughout my involvement in the party is not to walk away when decisions were made that clashed with my values, but to stay involved, to stay in the room and to keep turning up to have a voice in those decisions even when mine was a dissenting voice, because I truly believe you cannot make change without being a part of that change and, indeed, change is only made by those who do turn up. I could not do my best if I simply walked away.

However it is really not that hard to stand by the Labor Party because in our party real change can be made in the rank and file. Just a few weeks ago I listened to a Young Labor member Dana Endelmanis, who is up in the gallery today, who has recently been elected to chair one of our party's central policy committees. In taking up her position, Dana explained that what drove her to join the Labor Party was the fact that as a rank-and-file branch member it is possible and indeed common that we can influence and change the policy of the party. Dana herself has crafted policy around transgender rights and she has taken those policies to our state conference and it now stands as the policy of the Tasmanian branch of the Labor Party. This kind of democratic influence and rank-and-file change I believe is not as readily available or as possible in other parties.

I am proud of my heritage, being both a first-generation and a fifth-generation Australian. My family's story is not an uncommon one. My mum, Anne Ripper, grew up on a dairy farm in south-eastern Victoria, meeting my father, George Haddad, a Lebanese immigrant, in her early 20s and working together in restaurants in Melbourne. With mum one of eight children growing up on a farm, I learned about hard work early from the Ripper clan. My mum's dad died unexpectedly young of a heart attack at 53, in the milking shed, leaving my grandmother and the older children to run the farm.

It was a challenging time, with my youngest aunty only nine. My grandmother Betty is still going strong at 93, living independently in her own home. It has only been in the last few years the family has been able to convince her to stop doing all the work on the property herself, such as clearing the gutters, building chook sheds and fixing fences. I will never forget, when I was a kid, seeing her deliver meals on wheels to people decades her junior.

My dad's family migrated to Melbourne from Lebanon in the 1960s, following a period of conflict in the region. As an officer in the British Army in Palestine, my grandfather did not want to see his sons, including my father, go in for a life in the military. Returning to Lebanon after World War II, my grandfather worked in the public service before applying for migration to the United Kingdom, Canada, the USA and Australia. Australia was the first to write back, so across the seas they came. He secured a job at the Transport Regulation Board in Victoria. My grandparents and eight of their nine children set up home in Melbourne's northern suburbs.

Less than a year into their new lives, my dad's father also died unexpectedly young of a heart attack. This left my grandmother, Rafia, with the tough decision to either remain in Melbourne, where her children could get a good public education and she could live comfortably on a widow's pension, or returning to Lebanon where such supports did not exist. It must have been a tough decision to stay in Australia with limited English and no family support, but I am lucky she made that decision. Her children and grandchildren have gone on to contribute to this country and others around the world, mostly in small business but also in public service and now politics.

I would like to say that I am the first person of Lebanese descent elected to this parliament, however I cannot claim that, as Frank Gaha, who stood in this Chamber from 1950 to 1964, beat me to it, albeit a long time ago. He was also known as Stymie to his friends, was a lovable rogue and was credited with being the architect of the Tasmanian Hospital System. He also had the distinction of serving in this Chamber, the Legislative Council and the federal parliament, too. I am confident I am the first Lebanese since Stymie to serve in this parliament, and certainly the first woman to claim that role!

On that note, I reflect on the increased number of women in this parliament and how proud I am that women now outnumber men in the Labor Caucus Room, and the numbers across parliament are almost fifty-fifty for the first time ever. This is a significant step in our democratic history. While women achieved suffrage in Tasmania in 1904, we did not achieve the right to stand for election until 1921. The first election of a woman followed sometime later in 1948, when Margaret McIntyre was elected to the upper House, and 1955, when Millie Best and Mabel Miller were elected to this Chamber. It was not until 1980 that the first female minister, Gill James, was appointed. The first female premier, friend and mentor to me, Lara Giddings, the first female Speaker of the House, Elise Archer, held these positions only in the last two parliaments. Now, Madam Speaker, you hold that position in this parliament.

I go into this history simply to show that while change does happen, it is often slow and it does not happen by accident. I have been involved for a long time with an organisation called EMILY's List. The main aim of this organisation is to ensure that progressive Labor women are pre-selected to winnable seats. Our motto is that when women support women, women win. Never has that been truer than in my election campaign. I was very lucky to have many amazing women mentors and supporters. Part of the role of EMILY's is to assign a mentor from within the movement to newly pre-selected candidates. I was very lucky to have Tara Cheyne, member for Ginninderra in the ACT parliament, mentor me throughout my campaign. Tara's advice and support was always warm and generous. She had the unique ability to say exactly what I needed to hear, right when I needed to hear it. I look forward to continuing to work with all my EMILY's sisters, including Tara, and Michelle O'Byrne, our Tasmanian EMILY's List Chair, who has also been such a mentor and support to me over many years in the Labor Party.

While increasing our number in parliament is important, there is still such a long way ahead for true equality between men and women. There is still a significant gender pay gap, in particular in female-dominated industries, such as early childhood education and cleaning. I recall, when I returned to work as an adviser after the birth of my first daughter, being told by a senior colleague that jobs in politics were not suitable for young mums and I should work elsewhere. While the comment was not really a surprise, we all know mothers have long faced discrimination in the workplace. What surprised me was that my partner at the time had an almost identical job, was the same age as me and was father to the same child. Nobody seemed to be giving him advice to work elsewhere.

Juggling work and family is a constant challenge for any parent and one I learned all too well in the six years I spent as a single mum. During those years I could not have survived without the support and love of my mum and dad, my sister, as well as the family we adopt, especially my dear friends Olivia Montgomery, Astrid Tiefholtz and Rachel Midson, Robin Black, Kathryn Wakefield and Hilary Smith.

In those years I found myself unable to rent or buy a house and was fortunate to have the support of my mum, who I returned with my daughters to live with for some years. I was lucky to have that support because many of us are not. During my campaign I met so many people affected by Tasmania's housing crisis. We have people sleeping in tents on the parliament lawns right now. I met adult children living at home, as I was, with no prospect of finding a place of their own, with insecure work often contributing to their situations. That is why I support secure working conditions for Tasmanian workers. For too many of us, especially in casualised industries such as hospitality, in which I used to work, people are stringing together multiple part-time jobs with instability in hours simply to pay the bills.

Volunteering has always been an important part of my life. I am proud to have served on the boards of several community organisations, including TasCOSS, tasCAHRD, Tasdeaf and Women's Health Tasmania. These organisations and hundreds like them have the vital role of helping Tasmanians who need social services. As we have seen in recent months in the media, these services are no longer only dealing with emergency support. They are finding people of walks of life who need ongoing and enduring support. It is a personal passion of mine that we see secure funding for Tasmania's community sector, including more flexible funding models that allow silos to be broken down in the interests of people. There are barriers to supporting people who needs span things such as mental health, alcohol and drug issues, homelessness and child protection, simply because each is wrongly seen as a separate and independent need.

It is working in these areas, in the community sector and more recently in the Department of Health and Human Services that has given me so much fire in the belly to run for parliament and to do my part in trying to improve things. I pay tribute to the many highly professional, passionate and hardworking people I worked with in the DHHS, to my own team in the CSRU and others I worked with closely, I learned so much from you and will miss working with you.

Madam Speaker, I finish by thanking my team and my family. First, my sister, Alexandra Haddad, a better sister nobody could find. We are lucky to have each other. Thank you for being a firm friend to me and an aunty to my girls. To my partner, Simon Beaton, and the fantastic Beaton and Rippon clans he brings with him, thank you. Campaigns are not easy on family life or relationships and I thank you, Simon, for your patience during the campaign, support, both emotional and practical, to me and the girls, keeping the household running and being a sympathetic ear when I needed it.

To my beautiful, smart, funny, wonderful, loving daughters, Charlotte and Lucy, thank you for being mummy's biggest supporters. Charlotte, your passion for this campaign means that you probably have a better understanding of Hare‑Clark than any other 12-year-old and many adults in our community. My favourite part of the campaign was when, Lucy, you told me you were glad I was running for parliament because, in your words, 'Somebody needed to get rid of that Donald Trump guy.'! They say politics is full of surprises so you never know. Girls, you light up my life. You teach me far more than I ever hope to teach you and I love you both dearly.

When it comes to parents I have two of the absolute best, Anne Ripper and George Haddad; you shaped me, you taught me my values and my work ethic. You always made my sister and I feel we had a voice worth hearing, an opinion worth voicing, and that our ideas were valued and valuable. I can only hope I am raising my daughters with the same independence and respect. The fact you have forged such a strong and loving friendship through 20 years together and now 20 years divorced is a rare and beautiful thing and one that makes all our lives richer.

To my amazing dedicated campaign team, thank you. Thank you to Natalie Jones for being the most organised, supportive campaign director. Your advice was always spot on and delivered in a calm, patient way that put my mind at ease and calmed me down. To Claire Vickers, your incredible skill in field campaigning speaks for itself in our success in this campaign. You planned the most comprehensive direct field campaign I have ever seen and I count myself lucky to have been the candidate who benefited from those skills and I am thrilled we now get to keep working together in my office. Thank you to Ben Dudman for joining me every day from January to climb the hills of Hobart suburbs, knocking on doors when you could have been enjoying your university summer break. To Kester Takayama and Stephen McCallum, thank you for your ever presence and hard work in continuing to recruit and train volunteers and keep our field campaign on track. Stephen, my waistline is still suffering from the pizza you organised every campaign night and Kester, thank you so much for your amazing skills in data which border on the savant.

Thank you, Michael Fitzgerald, for your awesome social media skills and for pushing me in directions I may not otherwise have gone. To Scott Plimpton, thank you for being the fastest and most organised poster team manager. People were so impressed at how courteous we were with our posters and that they were almost all removed on the Sunday after polling day. Thank you to the rest of the poster team - Phil, Dave, Paul, Colin, Ben and Don - who with their hammers and posts literally put the blood and sweat, but hopefully not tears, into the campaign. To Liam Carswell and Jamila Fontana, thank you for your media advice on strategy. I loved working with both of you and I learned so much which I will continue to put into practice.

To Jade Barker, thank you for your dedicated friendship and loyalty to the paths I have gone down. Thank you for your creativity and spontaneity. To Terry Aulich, indeed the elder statesman of our campaign team, thank you for your key advice and support in the lead‑up throughout and since the election. To Jannette Armstrong, Rebecca Flanagan and Jessica Sanders from United Voice; thank you for recognising the value I brought as a candidate and for having the confidence to back me in. Thank you to Madeline Northam and your colleagues from the CPSU for supporting me with time, energy and good humour throughout the last weeks of the campaign. I know that you know I will continue to be a strong voice for working people in this place.

To all the mentors I have had throughout not just the campaign but over my involvement in the ALP for 23 years, thank you to Duncan Kerr, Terry Aulich, Carol Brown, Michelle O'Byrne, Stuart Benson and especially to Lisa Singh, who is here today and who stood in this Chamber before me and was an amazing practical and personal support to me throughout the campaign and since. Thank you.

I was lucky to have so many dedicated people supporting me on my campaign team, but also a huge volunteer base. People who I have known and campaigned with for years or in some cases decades and while I have spent my life volunteering for others, it was a different feeling indeed to have people give up their time for me. I was lucky to have people who had the confidence to back me in as a candidate worth supporting.

Just a few examples of people who joined our team. One is Janice. Janice came to the campaign because she was so pleased with the Labor policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs. A retired public servant of over 30 years, Janice had never volunteered with politics before but felt moved to do so this time because of that policy alone. Janice became an absolute stalwart of the campaign and a key member of our doorknocking and phoning team. Or Bronte, a first time voter not long out of school. Bronte, whose family is more supportive of members opposite, took the bold move to get in touch with the Labor campaign to come doorknocking with us. My former housemate and dear friend, Daniel Richardson, who travelled from Sydney for the final week especially to campaign with us.

Along with that team I thank everyone else who spent anything from a few hours, to a few weeks or months volunteering. It was a unique strength of this campaign that we managed to recruit and retain such dedicated volunteers and for this I will always be grateful. This win is as much theirs as it is mine. Thank you to Alex, Ali, Allison, Amanda, Amy, Amy, Angela, Bec, Bee-Ean, Bella, Ben, Brian, Bruce, Celeste, Chris, Chris and Anne, Christian, Clair, Claire, Craig, Dale, Daniel, David, Dean, Derek, Dianne, Dominic, Don and Linda, Eleanor, Elli, Emma and Eloise, Fiona, Flick, Grace, Heidi, Henry, Hillary, Innes, James, Jason, Jen, Jess, Jessica, Jooles, Josh, Kathryn, Katinka, Kirsty, Kok-Yee, Kylie, Kylie, Lauren, Levi, Liam, Lisa, Louise, Mandy, Martin, Matt, Maureen, Michael, Michelle, Mark and Henry, Millie, Morris, Nigel, Pat, Rachel, Rhiannon, Robbie, Rosie, Saffire, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sarah, Sheree, Stephen, Tahnee, Tammy, Tim, Tim, Thomas, Trina, Uppi, Virginia and Zac. Also the 200 people who hosted a poster and I am not going to mention them by name!

Starting out in the campaign I concede I was not seen as much of a chance. However I knew I had a unique opportunity to be a candidate for the Labor Party and I will take that opportunity with both hands, apply my values of hard work and dedication and do the very best I can in that role. Now I have the privilege to fill one of these 25 seats my attitude will not change. I will approach every task with hard work and dedication and the values I hold - integrity, respect, equality and fairness. I intend to make a difference in this Chamber and the work I will do as a local member. I want to make sure I am part of a parliament, a party and eventually a government that addresses the root causes of entrenched disadvantage.

Generally, I do not like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff analogy but it works here. For so long we have spent time, effort and state budgets on addressing the results of inequality like poor literacy and health literacy, homelessness, ill health and mental ill health, violence and crime. I want to do what I can as a member of this House to advocate for policies that address these issues early, that invest in early intervention in education, health, social services and criminal justice. Only when governments invest in prevention not just cure will we see social outcomes improve and healthier communities across our beautiful state flourish.

Thank you to our party leader, Rebecca White, for including me in your shadow cabinet in portfolios where I can tackle these issues.

In conclusion, Madam Speaker, I borrow again from Paul Keating's words in 1993:

My success in winning this seat will not be taken for granted. I take it seriously, I take it thankfully and I intend to do a great deal with it.

Members - Hear, hear.