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Maiden Speech

Stephen made his Maiden Speech, that is his first speech, on 9 May 2006. In it he reflects on his values and background.

The PRESIDENT: This is the honourable member’s maiden speech, and I hope that members show him the same courtesy as is provided with such speeches.

The Hon. S.G.WADE: I support the motion for adoption of the Address in Reply and thank the Governor for her speech. The Governor has the respect and affection of South Australians, and we are delighted that she has agreed to continue to serve beyond her current five-year term. As a strong supporter of a non-political head of state, I honour the work of the Governor in providing a focus of unity for our state. Her hard work, dignity and care have been a consolation in times of distress and grief and an inspiration in times of celebration. Mr President, I congratulate you on your election to the position of President of the council, and I look forward to working with you to ensure that this council effectively discharges its responsibilities.

Her Excellency acknowledged the passing of two former members of this place: a former president of the Legislative Council, the Hon. Jamie Irwin, and the Hon. Terry Roberts, a minister of the Crown. I acknowledge the outstanding service of both gentlemen and express my condolences to their families and friends. I also acknowledge two recently retired members whom I have had the pleasure of knowing personally. The. Hon Julian Stefani was an outstanding legislator and member of this council. He worked very hard and passionately for his constituents on a range of issues. He was a champion of multiculturalism. While he adopted an increasingly independent stance in latter years, he remained a committed Liberal and continues his active support for the party, particularly in its campaigns for Norwood. I wish Julian and Di all the best for the future.

I have been appointed to fill a casual vacancy created by the retirement of the Hon. Angus Redford. I pay tribute to his active contribution to the development of policy in this state not only within this council but also within the parliamentary Liberal Party and the organisational wing. I had the pleasure to serve with Angus on the policy committee of the party. Consistent with his proactive approach to politics, the Hon. Angus Redford decided to resign from this place and try to retain the seat of Bright for the Liberal Party. While he was not successful, his willingness to take on the challenge has the respect and appreciation of the party. I wish Angus and Fina all the best for the future.

I congratulate the government on its re-election. The Labor Party ran a strong campaign, and I look forward on behalf of the people of South Australia to holding the government accountable. The success of minor parties and Independents in this council and in the other place demonstrates that the electorate did not re-elect the government with great enthusiasm. I congratulate those members of the council elected or re-elected at the general election. In that regard, I carry the dubious distinction of being the only candidate for the house or the council who was defeated at the general election but who has still had the opportunity to serve in the 51st parliament. The Hon. Angus Redford’s vacancy has given me this opportunity.

While Ann Bressington may have been dubbed the ‘accidental member’, I am well aware that I am the ‘fortunate member’. The electoral wave that came in on 18 March unseated members without discriminating in favour of those who were most effective. A raft of quality Liberal Party candidates were denied the opportunity to serve. I hope that many of them will make themselves available in 2010. In particular, I pay tribute to Tim Keynes, a fellow member of the Legislative Council team at the general election, who was not elected. Having served with Tim on state executive for a number of years, I respect him as a talented and honourable man who would have made a strong contribution to this 51st parliament.

A maiden speech is the traditional opportunity to reflect on one’s path to the parliament and one’s goals for one’s time here. I was born in Victoria to Joan and Graham Wade, and I am delighted that they are both in the gallery today. Dad was a Baptist minister, a military chaplain, a welfare worker and superintendent of what is now Westcare, a mission in the south-west of Adelaide. Mum worked at home, as well as as a shop manager and family support worker.

My parents have a passionate interest in people and a commitment to serve others. They built a nurturing Christian home for myself, my sister Judith and my brother Doug. My parents place a high value on education. Having lived in regional centres interstate, my parents moved our family to Adelaide in 1974 to increase our options for post-secondary education. Whilst I spent three-quarters of my education in government schools, when my parents saw an opportunity to enhance our education, they put us into private education at considerable personal sacrifice. I completed my education at Adelaide University, graduating in law and economics.

My upbringing was a privileged one; not in terms of wealth, but in terms of love, values and example. Politics was not a major focus in my family but it was discussed freely. I well remember that my maternal grandfather, Wally Filluel, loved a good political discussion. As visitors arrived he would sound out their political views and then take the opposite position, for the sake of a good argument. I hope that means I am better able to see different perspectives on an issue.

My interest in politics was triggered by the federal Whitlam Labor government. Even as a teenager I could see the damage that Labor was doing to our economy and our community. I looked to the Liberal Party and found a set of principles that resonate with my own. The principles of the Liberal Party of Australia are founded on the political traditions of liberalism and conservatism in the British sense of those terms.Within the broad church of the Liberal Party I found that I sit on the liberal pew.

Liberals believe in the innate worth of the individual and in the need to encourage initiative and personal responsibility. Liberals respect the moral autonomy of each individual to choose their own life goals. Liberals believe in the basic freedoms of thought, worship, speech, association and choice. Liberals see freedom as essential to liberalism, but freedom cannot be absolute or unfettered. The rights of any individual are limited and constrained by the equal rights of other individuals. To quote J.S. Mill:

The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.

Liberals believe in equality of opportunity, with all Australians having the opportunity to reach their full potential in a national, tolerant community. Liberals believe in a just and humane society, where those who cannot provide for themselves can live in dignity. Liberalism is often criticised for being individualistic or isolating, but this is a crude misrepresentation. Liberals know that humans are social animals and that most Australians rank rich relationships as a high priority in their life goals. But we believe that relationships, families and communities will be stronger, more dynamic and more fulfilling if they grow out of the values and commitments of individuals, rather than being engineered centrally by governments, bureaucracies or elites.

Using individuals as the starting point for the consideration of social relationships supports healthier relationships, families and communities, rather than imposing them from above. As our federal platform puts it, the role of the government is to set the framework of laws and other rules within which individuals and families can freely make decisions about their own lives and pursue their own goals with confidence. Government can never duplicate the range of values and life experiences of individual citizens and cannot therefore effectively substitute centralised for individual decision making.

While politics is the art of the possible, I affirm the relevance of principles and idealism to the political process. Whilst I do not often agree with Lindsay Tanner, I think he spoke aptly in his 2003 Chifley lecture when he said:

Pragmatism without idealism is pointless, and idealism without pragmatism is hopeless.

While at times we will need to negotiate a pragmatic accommodation amongst the interests affected, wherever
possible Liberals aspire to win/win outcomes that are fair to all and not just good for the few. We reject Labor’s politics of envy. We believe that political parties representing vested interests, such as the ALP, the political arm of the labour movement, unfortunately entrench division and conflict. Liberals believe that through respecting the rights of individuals to freedom in a society, a community and an economy one can maximise the benefits for all, including the workers.

For many Liberals the source of human worth is humanism— a doctrine or mode of thought that gives highest importance to human dignity, values, potential and achievements, with the overall good for humanity in general being its guiding principle. For me and for many Liberals the source of human worth is God, who created the human race in his image. Human liberty is a gift of God which should not be taken away lightly. Just as the prodigal son was given the freedom to go to foreign lands by his father, so the state should avoid impinging on personal freedom.

Pluralism is a central pillar of our liberal democratic society. Pluralism is where the one political system allows for more than one ultimate principle. Individuals are afforded the freedom to hold differing views as to ultimate religious and political principles. Citizens should be free to live by their own values and to try, respectfully, to persuade others to their view. In fact, pluralism should foster a social and political environment in which there is full and free interchange of different views on life and reality.

The churches are no longer the undisputed moral voice in our community.We live in an age of pluralism. In a pluralist society the church and the state should interact at arm’s length. People of faith should feel free to bring their religious values and views to the marketplace of ideas, but politics or law should not be used to coerce others to do by law what people cannot achieve by persuasion.

Separation of church and state is vital to the health of both the church and the state, but the separation of politics and religion is healthy for neither. From its earliest days separation of church and state has been a key element of the establishment of South Australia—not as a sign of secularisation but on the insistence of the Christian community. Prior to the foundation of South Australia, British colonies had provided for a system of state support for religion, but the South Australian Association’s plans were for the foundation of a colony without an established church or grants for religious purposes.

In 1851, the first election for members to this council took place, and a key issue was state aid to religion. Leading Christians, such as the Baptist George Fife Angas, campaigned for separation. As a result South Australia was the first part of the British Empire to end state aid to religion.

Respectful engagement within pluralist societies is supported by historical Christianity. The Bible repeatedly shows people of faith living in a pluralist context. Consider Paul at Mars Hill. In Tertullian’s letter to the non-Christian Scapula in about 200 AD he expresses an essentially liberally perspective in these words:

It is a basic human right that everyone should be free to worship according to his own conviction. No-one is either harmed or helped by another man’s religion. It is no part of religion to compel others to the practice of religion. Religion must be practiced freely, not by coercion.

Pluralism is under challenge in Australia today on two fronts. On the one hand, there are my secular liberal friends who object to the application of religious principles to politics. In my view, to say that religion is a private matter which should not impact on the social or political domains asserts a very hollow view of religion and undermines the universality of basic freedoms—the freedoms of thought, expression, association and worship. Individuals must have the freedom to have a faith and to consistently apply faith-based principles to all of their life, including their politics, as long as they do not attempt to deny the right of others to hold and apply their ultimate principles.

You may reject the political views of a person on the ground that their arguments rely on religious pre-suppositions you do not share, but they should not be denied the right to hold or espouse their view. In this place, I assume that faith based arguments will not be persuasive with the majority of members (I do not intend to use them), but my faith-based values and perspectives will inform my contributions. To me, denying the right of the Christian community to participate in the marketplace of ideas, quarantining religion to the private domain, smacks of a new sectarianism.

Secondly, the other side of the cross-fire on pluralism is the intolerance of the Christian Right. Some in the Christian Right reject pluralism and believe that Christians are called to establish God’s kingdom, narrowly defined, through wielding political power. Tolerance of diversity is seen as a temporary allowance for the transition to the political domination of the Christian community.

For my part, I do not consider that Christian political action in this realm can usher in Utopia. After all, we have had limited success so far. Christian domination has been tried before, with tragic results for both the church and the state, in the Catholic empires, in Calvinist Geneva and in some of the early colonies of America. Christian domination often ends with religious suppression, a state-imposed church and the Christian gospel being sullied by association. I do not want to mislead the council into thinking that I am a pious intellectual. I am not particularly holy, just committed to living my faith as I understand it. I am not particularly intellectual, but I know the power of ideas, and I seek to act in accord with liberal principles.

I am humbled to be a member of this council. The council traces its roots back to 1843 when South Australia was governed by a Governor working with a seven-member Legislative Council, all nominated by the Crown. In the session of 1855-56, the Legislative Council passed a bill to revise the Constitution to allow for responsible government. In 10 days, on 19 May, we will celebrate 150 years since the new Constitution Bill was laid upon the table of both houses of the Imperial Parliament in England. It is a privilege to be a member of this parliament as we approach the sesquicentenary of responsible government. The new bicameral parliament consisted of a Legislative Council of 18 members, elected by the entire colony, voting as one district, and a House of Assembly of 36 members, composed of 17 districts varying in representation from one to six members.

At self-government, South Australia became the first Australian colony not to have plural voting in upper and lower house elections, to introduce male adult suffrage for parliamentary elections, and to have parliaments elected for three-year terms. This tradition of political innovation continued. In 1876, South Australia was the first territory of the British Empire, excluding Britain, to legalise trade unions. In 1895, South Australia was the first colony to grant women the vote, following royal assent to the Constitution Amendment Act 1894. In 1895, South Australia was the first place in the world to allow women to stand for parliament. In 1991, the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission was required to ensure that electoral redistributions ensure that, as far as practicable, if candidates of the same political persuasion obtain more than 50 per cent of the state-wide vote, they are elected in sufficient numbers to form a government.

While we are reflecting on history, today’s date is also not insignificant. Today is the day on which Australia’s first commonwealth parliament was opened in Melbourne in 1901, the day the provisional parliament house in Canberra was opened in 1927, and the day the permanent parliament house was opened in 1988. Also, even earlier, on this day in 1891, three United Labor Party candidates won seats in the South Australian election, making them the first Labor Party members elected to an Australian parliament.

I note that the Governor’s speech foreshadows that the government will introduce legislation to hold a referendum at the 2010 state election proposing the abolition of the Legislative Council. I oppose this. I fully support my party’s longstanding commitment to bicameral parliaments. This chamber is elected under a highly democratic form of proportional representation. This system allows more minority voices to be heard within the parliament. Voters are able to support parties and groups that do not seek to offer an alternative government in the lower house but who, nonetheless, as voters want to give a voice on their behalf within the parliament. This was seen very clearly in the recent election. The Australian Labor Party won 45.2 per cent of House of Assembly votes but only 36.6 per cent of upper house votes. That is almost one in 10 South Australians who supported Labor forming government but who were not comfortable in strengthening the Labor presence in the upper house. As a result, the Labor Party won another five seats in the lower house but failed to increase its representation in the upper house at all.

The Labor Party is saying to the South Australian community that it does not accept that voters should have the right to nuance their vote. This is sheer arrogance. While Liberal governments have not always had the support of the Legislative Council for their proposals, we have not sought to narrow the democratic rights of this community.

In entering this council, I affirm my strong commitment to the institution of parliament as a forum to serve the people of South Australia, not to be a mere messenger of popular opinion but to be their delegate, acting in their interests as best I see them. On this point, I quote Edmund Burke in his speech to the electors of Bristol. He said:

It is [the duty of a representative] to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfaction, to theirs; and, above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer [his electors’] interest to his own. But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. . . Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

Some see this as no longer relevant to a parliamentarian in a modern, educated society. I do not agree. Electors are not well placed to make decisions on behalf of the wider community. Electors lack time; electors lack full information; electors do not face the need to ensure that their opinions are feasible, affordable and mutually consistent. To put it crudely, why have a dog and bark, too?

Electors speak with authority in expressing their values, their aspirations and in selecting their representatives. But, having selected the representative they consider is best able to support them in the pursuit of their aspirations, their parliamentarian must govern in the interests of the community as a whole, not on the direction of themselves or any other elector, group or party. I believe that parliamentarians who merely follow populist trends do the people a disservice and dishonour the leadership role that parliamentarians should exercise in our community. When people take on leadership roles, they often rise to the occasion and perform well beyond what might otherwise be expected. Leadership can bring out the best in people. Likewise, leaders should try to show the way to help bring out the best in the community they serve. Leaders should not just parrot community sentiment.

It is a privilege to represent the people of South Australia in this parliament. South Australia is a beautiful state—from the majestic, sometimes arid, lands to the north to the lush pastoral country of the South-East, the beautiful Adelaide Hills, the coasts and the islands. We live in a wonderfully diverse natural environment. Adelaide, for its part, is one of the world’s most livable cities, offering a great lifestyle that is relatively affordable. Bringing together Aboriginal peoples from a number of groups and migrants from over 200 nations, the South Australian community is a vibrant, tolerant, multicultural community. Our people—in the city and in the country—are skilled, hard working and enterprising.

The Liberal Party believes in South Australia, its people and its future. We have played a major part in building the state that we know today and we are committed to continuing to build the state into the future. Under the leadership of the Hon. Iain Evans and Vickie Chapman we are renewing our vision. The Hon. Iain Evans recently identified six key priorities for the Liberal Party: a clean, green environment; a growing economy; jobs for those who require them; a competitive business sector; providing services that people need; safe and secure communities; and modern infrastructure.

As part of this Liberal team working for an Evans Liberal government in 2010, I will bring particular areas of focus, the first of which is water. From my career in the water industry I am acutely aware that water reticulation and irrigation are vital to the health and survival of many South Australian businesses, communities and environments. South Australia faces considerable challenges in water management, and I am confident that there is scope for economic and social development which is environmentally sustainable.

South Australia’s infrastructure networks (such as the water network) will need significant investment to maintain network effectiveness and to support the ongoing development of this state. I will work to ensure that South Australia strategically uses investment infrastructure to deliver better facilities for local businesses and residents alike. Further, I am committed to enhancing customer choice, particularly in government business enterprises. As Mill said:

. . . a government cannot have too much of the kind of activity which does not impede, but aids and stimulates, individual exertion and development. The mischief begins when instead of calling forth the activity and power of individuals. . . it substitutes its own activity for theirs.

Just because an enterprise is government-owned does not mean that the operators have any greater wisdom in discerning the preferences of customers.

Secondly, I intend to focus on disability services. Over 90 000 South Australians live with severe disabilities and 43 per cent of their 40 000 primary carers cite the lack of available care or choice as a reason for adopting their role. People with disabilities often face challenges from a liberal perspective: people denying their worth as humans; curtailment of basic freedoms; lack of dignity; and a lack of equality of opportunity. As a Liberal I am committed to supporting people with disabilities to be full participants in the South Australian community. I am a committed federalist: I believe that federalism is a key means of keeping decisions as close as possible to those who are affected by them. While there is scope to reduce duplication and increase accountability, centralism is not the way to go.

In bringing my remarks to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have encouraged and supported me in my journey thus far. First, my thanks go to my wife, Tracey. Tracey is both my greatest supporter and my most honest critic—without her support and wise counsel I would not have achieved this goal—and I look forward to continuing to support and celebrate her ongoing success in her vocation as a psychologist and an academic. To my parents and my wider family, I thank \ you for your faith in me and your loving support. To my friends, particularly Paul Cooper, I thank you for your loyal camaraderie and for helping me to stay in touch with the real world.

I honour the parliamentarians whom I have served, who have been more my mentors than employers: Steele Hall, Ian Wilson, Chris Miles, Gary Humphries, Trish Worth, and Michael Armitage. To Baden and Kathy Teague, I express Tracey’s and my thanks for your wise counsel and your exemplary relationship. To the Liberal Party, my political family for three decades, I thank you for nurturing my passion for politics and giving me wonderful opportunities for being involved in the political process. In particular, I humbly acknowledge the honour State Council bestowed on me a mere 10 days ago in nominating me to serve in this place.

I stand on the cusp of an exciting opportunity to serve the people of this state. To each of my one and a half million constituents, I commit to working to make your lives better: by working alongside you to facilitate government action where it will assist, and by getting government out of the way when it will not. I support the motion.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!