Redemption and grace

IN his own words, Andrew Broad's life is one of redemption and grace.

Andrew Broad, farmer and politician.

Andrew Broad, farmer and politician.

The outgoing Member for Mallee said in a final address to the Australian Parliament on Wednesday that it had been an amazing privilege to serve the people of Wimmera and Mallee and the Australian people. 

He relished the chance of giving his last speech in the House of Representatives before he departs at election time, because, he said, some very good politicians who lose their seats at election times never get this chance, thus is the nature of politics.

The Nationals politician is, perhaps, not exiting as a politician by choice following the infamous "sugar daddy" internet scandal a few months ago involving a dinner with a young woman in Hong Kong, but he will wish that he is not entirely defined by that moment.

In fact, Mr Broad, a country boy and a farmer, has given much of himself in the service of others.

That includes a decade of his life to the service of regional Australians, first as vice-president, then president of the Victorian Farmers Federation and then as the Federal Member for Mallee since September 2013.

He was re-elected in 2016 with a two-party margin of 71.32 per cent. 

"I have always said that parliament is made up of less than perfect people, governing less than perfect people," he told the chamber.

"I mentioned Theodore Roosevelt in my first speech in this chamber, arguably one of the United States of America's greatest presidents. Later in life when reflecting upon his time as president, Roosevelt was reported to have said that he got it right about 50 per cent of the time.

"I don't know if I have got it right 50 per cent of the time, but I have always tried to listen to both sides of any debate and make a considered judgement at that time."

Mr Broad described parliament as a "place for passion" but said that the battle for ideas and the future direction of our country should be a place for rigorous debate.

"Debate and then compromise, because we must govern for a result for everyone," he said.

Mr Broad said that he took personal satisfaction that he has friends on all sides of the political spectrum. 

He told parliament that he remained concerned about the level of fuel reserve Australia holds for defence. "I have always felt uneasy about a ticketing system approach to guarantee fuel supply if we encounter another major conflict. The defence of the Australian people is the most important role of the Australian Parliament, and a military without enough fuel ceases to be effective.

"I have always held to the belief that the resources of the Commonwealth are the wealth of the common people. The east coast of Australia should have a 15-per cent natural gas reservation policy, such as is implemented currently in Western Australia. Access to natural gas at a lower cost would fundamentally lower electricity prices and due to the instant nature of gas generators, allow for more renewable energy to reliably come onto our electricity grid."

Mr Broad said that he had been proud of the Liberal-Nationals Government for the strong focus on getting the economic settings right for job creation.

He said that he remained concerned about the credit squeeze and the reluctance of banks to back families to buy a modest first home. 

He also expressed disappointment that Australia's aid budget had been reduced from $5 billion annually to $3.8 billion before being increased to $4 billion.

"Whilst I come to Canberra for Parliament, I prefer the sweeping wheat fields of the Wimmera and Mallee and the people who live there. I will miss being an advocate of the good people who live in these communities," he said.

"In many ways a Member of Parliament is their last line of defence when the system has failed them and my office staff and I often assisted with Centrelink, immigration and other personal problems.

"The best part of the job has been out in the electorate, encouraging, assisting and gaining their ideas and bringing them back here. Australia wide intervention orders for victims of family violence, Safe Haven Enterprise visas for refugees to live and work in the country, and free continuous glucose monitors for children with type 1 diabetes are all policy ideas that came from the Wimmera and Mallee and are now national initiatives.

"We have addressed many of the mobile phone black spots across the electorate, so people can run first-world businesses as well as feel connected and safe. We have three new headspace youth mental health facilities to support children, a cancer centre in Horsham and a radiation bunker to be built in Mildura, better programs around attracting and training doctors for the regions, more money for roads, rail, bridges, weather radar, new sporting and community infrastructure under planning and construction right across the Wimmera and Mallee."

On a personal level, he acknowledged his dedicated staff and the Parliament House staff.

His last words were reserved for his family.

"To my beautiful Isabelle, upon telling my daughter that I would no longer be the Federal Member for Mallee, her first and instant reaction was, 'yes, you will be home'. I missed the first six years of your life through the foster system, and the last four through politics, I'm not going to miss any more.

"It was said to me recently that at the end of everyone's professional life, we each go to our place of work, pack up things and put them in a box. (I've done that and it all fitted into one brown cardboard box!), we then walk into our house to either children who are estranged from us and a house that is empty, or to a house with a welcoming family and a partner who still loves us, and that is when we can measure success".

Mr Broad said that it has been an amazing privilege to serve the people of Wimmera and Mallee and the Australian people.

"My story is a story of redemption and grace, and I look forward to living out many chapters ahead with my wonderful wife Rachel and our daughter," he said.

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