11 May 2021
I rise tonight to speak about, amongst other matters, this year’s highly successful AFL Women’s season, the AFLW. After its cancellation last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year the AFLW has showcased women’s sport at its very, very best. Since its inaugural season in 2017, we’ve seen the action on the field continue to get better and better, while off the field we’ve seen interest in the competition continue to grow. This has been reflected through strong attendances, growing media interest and the strong rise in participation by women and girls in the sport of Aussie Rules right around the country at the grassroots level.
The success of the AFLW competition has been no fluke. It is the result of considerable investment in women’s football by the AFL and competing clubs, and I congratulate them. It has also involved great effort by the players, their families and volunteers, who work hard to put on the high-quality competition so many of us enjoy today. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching Collingwood’s performance this year, playing some great football, despite falling just short of making the grand final, losing to the eventual premiers.
Having attended the competition awards night just a few weeks ago, I extend my congratulations to all those selected in the AFLW All-Australian side, particularly Collingwood’s Brianna Davey, who was also named its captain; Chloe Molloy; Ruby Schleicher; and Brittany Bonnici. I would also like to congratulate the winners of this year’s AFLW premiership, the Brisbane Lions; the winners of the season’s Best and Fairest award, which was jointly won by Brianna Davey and Fremantle’s Kiara Bowers; and all other award winners on the night. Like many of my colleagues in this building, I thoroughly look forward to next year’s competition and will be cheering on the mighty Pies in their campaign next year to win their first AFLW premiership.
On a separate matter I would like to acknowledge the recent 73rd anniversary of the declaration of independence of the State of Israel. Israel truly is the miracle in the desert. Its formal re-establishment all those years ago facilitated the return of the Jewish people to their homeland, who together have created a state that they can be incredibly proud of. From the harsh terrain and climate of the British mandate, Israel has risen as an example to other nations of what is possible through determination, hard work and perseverance. It has developed an economy that is both prosperous and innovative, and a society where diversity and progress are embraced. And, of course, it is a country which has a long and close relationship with Australia, back to before its independence. Australians fought in the Sinai-Palestine campaign during the First World War in what is now modern-day Israel, including in the famous Battle of Beersheba.
Through the leadership of HV Evatt, ‘Doc’ Evatt, we were the first country to vote in favour of the UN partition plan resolution and were then amongst the first countries in the world to formally recognise the Israeli state, under the Chifley Labor government in 1949. This support for the State of Israel is something we should be incredibly proud of and ensure that it continues well into the future. While there have been some stark differences between our two countries, one only needs to look at a map to see the contrast in size. There are many things that we have in common. Our two peoples both share a deep commitment to participatory democracy, the rule of law and respect for minorities, to name just a few.
Like Australia, Israel has faced challenges over the last year but has also had notable successes, including the signing of the Abraham Accords; the groundbreaking normalisation of relationships between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain; and through its vaccination program, with Israel leading the world in the race to combat COVID-19. Israel has shown the global community how to beat this deadly virus through vaccination, achieving the highest vaccination rates against COVID-19 in the world. There are a number of factors that have contributed to this, including a strong and universal healthcare system as well as the desire to prioritise a quick rollout of the vaccine. But it is the effective rollout of the vaccine that the global community should look to as a template on how to protect their population during a pandemic.
I’d also like to commend the State of Israel for its commitment to rolling out the vaccine to Palestinians in recognition of the fact that, while Israel is under no obligation to do so, given the failure of the Palestinian authorities to provide for their people, Israel nonetheless has a moral obligation to take up the task and lend a hand where they can. While, sadly, some have sought to spread misinformation on this matter, already tens of thousands of Palestinians have been vaccinated by Israel with hundreds of thousands more to come. So, as we mark the recent anniversary of the State of Israel, I’d like to wish our Israeli friends both near and afar all the best for the 74th year, and I look forward to seeing our respective countries grow closer and continue to thrive together in peace and prosperity.
Last week, I had the pleasure of touring parts of western Victoria, visiting towns along the south-west coast of the state. Like others in this place, I take my responsibility to represent my constituents seriously, regardless of whether they live in metropolitan or in regional or remote communities. In Portland, I visited the Alcoa aluminium smelter, a facility which employs around 500 workers and supports the jobs of many thousands in the region and beyond. Much has been said in this place about the smelter over the years—sadly, some of it less than favourable and by those who are yet to set foot in Portland and understand the true value that this facility contributes to the town and its people. Whilst there are many lessons to come out of COVID-19 for Australia, one that I think is most important is the need to ensure that we maintain our sovereign capability to manufacture the inputs that our economy needs to prosper. In the case of this smelter, the workers there produce around 20 per cent of Australia’s total aluminium output. Labor has welcomed recent announcements to secure the smelter’s future; however, there is still more to be done in this space.
In particular, I draw attention once again to the plight of Keppel Prince, also in Portland—Australia’s only producer of towers for wind turbines. Despite the significant increase in wind energy over recent years, Keppel Prince finds itself losing out to cheap imports from overseas, jeopardising the livelihood of its workers. When we talk about manufacturing and when we talk about sovereign capability, these are the kinds of jobs we’re talking about—jobs at Alcoa, forging the nation’s metals, and jobs at Keppel Prince, providing innovative solutions to our energy challenges. So, whilst I thank the management of Alcoa and Keppel Prince as well as the Australian Workers Union for facilitating my visit and giving me the opportunity to talk to workers firsthand, I also want them to know that I stand with them, because the livelihoods of these workers are too important for our language on securing Australian jobs to be hollow.
Lastly, I’d like to acknowledge the retirement of John Keely as vice-president of United Dairyfarmers of Victoria. After faithfully serving the organisation and its members, since becoming vice-president in 2019, John has decided not to contest the upcoming election for the position of vice-president. I know that his departure will be felt, and I look forward to seeing him later on this month at the annual conference, where I’m sure he will do a very fine job. Again, John, thanks for your advocacy, your leadership and support for the many dairy farmers not just in your region but across the state of Victoria.