Standing up for Canberra

Centenary of Canberra

I would like to thank and applaud the member for Fremantle and the member for North Sydney for their very moving speeches. The story about the three-year-old boy was incredibly moving. It reminds me of the image in Schindler's List where a little girl is wandering around. From memory, she is the only one who is in colour. We watch her wandering around those streets of chaos, but we do not find out what happens to her. That image was incredibly moving, as was your story about that little boy. I thank you and applaud you.

Tonight I will speak about a little event called Canberra Day that took place on Monday. Actually, it was a very big weekend here in the nation's capital, because all of us were out celebrating our 99th birthday. Celebrations continue this week with the balloon festival and other events around Canberra. I do not know whether you have seen the balloons aloft when you have been coming to work, but they help to make this a beautiful time of year. I urge members to get out in their spare time and celebrate the beautiful Canberra autumn—it is one of my favourite times of the year. One of the highlights of the weekend was the ringing endorsement by the Prime Minister of Canberra's place in our nation. She gave a very public commitment 'to the role and significance of Canberra in the life of our nation.'

Some Australians refer to Canberra in a derogatory way when they actually mean to demean the federal government. Indeed, some members of this parliament seek to demean Canberra by denigrating the people who work here—our public servants. I am glad that the artistic director of the Centenary of Canberra, Robyn Archer, plans to ensure that no Australian will misunderstand the role of Canberra during our centenary year. This is not just Canberra's celebration; all Australians should proudly celebrate and share in the centenary of Canberra. Robyn has released a taste of the program for 2013. It is a program that will reach into every state and territory to celebrate our nation's capital. Her vision for Canberra will see many highprofile events to mark the centenary, including the opening of the National Arboretum, which many of you may see each day. The Arboretum is a fabulous vision that the former Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, had for this city. It will be a beautiful symbol of Canberra's growth after the 2003 bushfires that ravaged our city. I know Robyn's program will engender national pride in our city and will open many people's eyes to what Canberra can do and can be. Her program will be big and bold, but it will also have many quirks, including a novel use of the Parliamentary Triangle, to showcase all that is good about Canberra. The centenary shrub, the correa 'Canberra Bells', also was unveiled this week. I encourage you all to buy one and plant it so it is flowering this time next year.

If you think you know what Canberra is all about— think again. I am sure that, over the next 12 months in the lead up to our birthday, Canberra will surprise and astonish you. Move beyond the beltway; move beyond Kingston and Manuka. There is lots to see and do here. It is a great city and there is lots that will surprise and astonish you. I have led the Southside Rocks campaign, as many of you know. If any of you live on the south side, please come and see me if you want a t-shirt. I have to say that in the next year we will see the whole of Canberra, and the nation, in a whole new light as we celebrate our centenary.

I would like to make note of one other statement the Prime Minister made on Monday. The Prime Minister made a commitment that Canberra would remain the heart of the Australian Public Service and the primary location of government departments and agencies. What is so sad is that this was in direct contrast with the opposition's comments last week about Canberra and its people. I was dismayed to hear, in the leadup to Canberra Day, the Leader of the Opposition announce that he was going to audit our Public Service should he get into power. While the Prime Minister was celebrating the contribution of the Australian Public Service, those opposite were reiterating their policy— their only policy—to gut whole departments and drive Canberra into recession. The Gillard government is committed to our Public Service and to public sector jobs, but we also understand that efficiency needs to be a priority. We want to make the Public Service more efficient; those opposite want to make the Public Service nonexistent.

I will conclude by stating that this year is Canberra's year. I hope this year will shine a light on all the good things that happen in Canberra and on all the good our citizens do. Perhaps then all of us here, and particularly those opposite, will learn to have more respect for the people of this city, in particular for those who contribute to advancing the interests of our country through their work in the Public Service as servants of democracy. 

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