Senator Muir surprised everyone with his election, then again with his moving maiden speech to Parliament. He was one of several Australians who gave powerful speeches in 2015. Photo source News Corp Australia article March 5 2015, photographer Ray Strange.
2015 was an extraordinary year in Australian politics. We saw our fifth Prime Minister installed in five years, pointing to a deep policy malaise currently at the heart of our democracy. It seems governing in the national interest is getting more and more difficult and our long term needs remain largely unaddressed.
Amidst the partisanship doom and gloom, Parliament continues to be served by some of the country’s brightest citizens. In the community, extraordinary men and women rouse national attention and ignite passion on key long-term issues.
Last year has seen a number of these people deliver powerful speeches that expertly capture the importance of key policy challenges that are still outstanding.
We have picked out what we think are the best speeches delivered by our elected parliamentarians and community figures, as a way to remind us that we have capable and inspiring leaders in our midst who can deliver rousing, passionate oratory urging us to do better as a country.
CPD presents the top speeches delivered in 2015
Australians settled in for their Saturday morning only to be confounded and horrified by the bloodshed in Paris’ streets. The Prime Minister, in Germany, received briefings throughout the night and soon returned to Australia, where he addressed the Parliament. He promised that the harmony of Australia’s multicultural society offered one of our strongest lines of defence against the scourge of terrorism.
It started as a response to earlier remarks made by Senator Abetz on the subject. However, in one of the Parliament’s modestly attended committee rooms, Tim Watts delivers an emotional and personal account of the experiences of his Uncle Derek, and the abuse and torment he faced as a gay Australian in the 1980s and 1990s. In only 4 minutes, Tim Watts delivers a passionate case about why Australia must introduce marriage equality in Australia by sharing his family’s story.
The new chair of the Australian Republican Movement Peter FitzSimons is a larger-than-life personality, and in a short period of time has infused a renewed sense of urgency and vigour into the Republican cause. The ARM has experienced a surge in membership, including public declarations of support from parliamentarians and community figures alike. He took to the podium at the National Press Club to deliver a rousing address about contemporary Australia and to clearly articulate why an Australian head of state is a necessity, not a luxury.
John Kennedy defined courage as ‘grace under pressure’. Undoubtedly, Gillian Triggs has demonstrated this virtue in her role as President of the Human Rights Commission in 2015. Nothing epitomised her courage more than her speech at the Human Rights Dinner, which came at a period when there were relentless assaults on the independence of her role. Gillian Triggs deftly reasoned why the principles espoused in the 800 year-old Magna Carta are so vital to contemporary Australia. During this speech she also identified alarming breaches of our liberty undertaken in recent times via laws on arbitrary and indefinite detention, and counter-terrorism.
Ricky Muir’s election to the Senate surprised everyone, including those who voted for him. However Ricky Muir has taken to his task by being judicious, deliberate and thoughtful, scrutinising legislation on its merit. In delivering his maiden speech, at times nervously, he highlights a fresh approach to the usual business of the political class and a deep sense of duty he feels to his Victorian constituency. He outlined his family’s modest background, his personal struggles with unemployment and his singular reliance on his family’s love and compassion.
More than 250 Australians are in prisons overseas at any one time with some of those facing the death penalty. Both sides of parliament share an anguish in deciding how to handle Australians sentenced to death overseas whilst respecting the sovereign law of foreign nations. During a rare demonstration of collective sorrow and empathy between the Government and the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek advocates against the death penalty by sharing her husband’s story with members of the house. Tanya Plibersek perfectly captured the cruelty and futility of the death penalty, and provided an important example of the potential of people to rehabilitate and become upstanding citizens of society.