Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (12:25): I want to talk today about representation. I raised an issue about aged care in this chamber only a few weeks ago. The first tweet that came through was: ‘Broadbent just wants to pork barrel his electorate.’ I want to say to that tweeter, what I actually want to do is represent my electorate. I want the opportunity to be able to represent my electorate.
I will give you two examples. They may be historic, but they are two examples. Yesterday I was shown a letter by one of my staff, an old letter from Centrelink, which admitted they had made a $66,000 mistake in regard to one of my constituents. It took weeks and weeks of arduous work by my staff to go back and find where the original mistake was made and how that mistake had been compounded to the tune of $66,000 that Centrelink was trying to pull back from my constituent. There was no apology in the letter. The letter just said ‘we were wrong’ and ‘we have negated this $66,000 debt’. Without my staff, that would not have happened. Without representation that would not have happened.
I go back to a Probus meeting I was addressing just a few months ago. I was telling the story of how we got drought relief from my farmers and telling it in a humorous way because, at that stage, the only person who could sign off on the relief was the Prime Minister. We needed the Prime Minister to address the issue. It was a combination of my staff members, Sally Cray and Jim Middleton—the journalist—who cooked up a proposition to put to the Prime Minister in public, which we did. I do not think we were invited to the Prime Minister’s Christmas party that year, but, thanks to Sally Cray and Jim Middleton, those people received their benefit.
But at that Probes meeting, a woman came up to me and said, ‘Yes, Mr Broadbent, because of that decision, you put food on the table.’ I had no idea that there were people in my electorate—farmers—that did not have food on the table at that time. I did not know. They are too proud to tell me but all these years later that lady came up to me at that Probes meeting with a tear in her eye and said, ‘Mr Broadbent, that decision put food on the table.’ If it were not for the idea of Sally Cray at that time, who is now the Prime Minister’s chief executive, and Jim Middleton, who is now working for Sky, if they had not cooked up a proposition, that would not have happened and it did happen. That is called representation.
I also represent today the thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands of people who have had their power or gas or utilities turned off in South Australia and Victoria and New South Wales and Queensland. Are they telling their elected members that they have their power turned off? No they are not. We do not even know who they are. But they have had their power cut off because of policies that we have implemented over a long period of time that are affecting those people directly. Is it affecting me and my household personally? No, we just have a higher power bill, which I have the ability to pay and I have been blessed all of my life. But what about people who are out there today who have had their power turned off in South Australia or Victoria? What about them? I represent those people too.
I also represent my farmers, who have had a tough time because of Murray-Goulburn being unable to manage their affairs properly and inflicting great hardship on those farmers. Those farmers are thinking now, ‘If we’re going to have blackouts in Victoria next year or over this summer, my cattle still have to be milked.’ They are thinking, ‘Now, do I invest $40,000 that I haven’t got in a backup generator so I am not affected, at a time when I am already pushed financially and I have already probably borrowed to the hilt of what I can borrow.’ Do I now have to say, because of our policies, that we are now faced with this situation where they need a backup generator for their farm? It is $40,000 or $50,000; it is not cheap. Elected representation carries responsibility: not only does it carry responsibility to our party, to our faction or to these people but it carries a responsibility to the people who elected us. Never forget who brought you to the party.