Tuesday, 20 September 2022


Member for Broadmeadows

Member for Broadmeadows

Valedictory statement

Mr McGUIRE (Broadmeadows) (18:21): Australia’s greatest gift is the opportunity for a better life. We must nurture people and inspire generations to come. The global pandemic, like climate change, has exposed how we are all connected and vulnerable. Self-interest and tribalism will not save us. Collaboration on common interests defines our enlightened future. We need optimism and an outward focus to drive economic recovery and social cohesion relentlessly and compassionately. We live in chaotic times of threats, economic upheaval and opportunities. A new period of counter-enlightenment declared facts alternate instead of stubborn and cherished. Existential threats converged with the impact of climate change, and a pandemic stalked inequality globally, exposing systemic fault lines like an X-ray. The battle between autocracy and democracy rages, with war in Europe, and shadows our regional security.

The people of my heartland, Broadmeadows, elected me to Parliament in 2011 when hyperpartisanship and hyperfactionalism defined Australia as the democratic coup capital of the world, with five prime ministers in as many years. Amid such turmoil my focus has been on providing stability, creating opportunities and delivering results. Big problems require big ideas, and proposing bold ideas has proved successful. Victoria’s partnership with the White House internationalised President Barack Obama’s Cancer Moonshot. Joe Biden declared, ‘You are making cancer research a team sport’, defining his admiration for the billion-dollar jewel in Australia’s medical research crown, the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. People forget he came to Melbourne for the opening in 2016, following my advocacy and the pursuit of the Premier.

Australia needs new ambition and bold action pursuing leadership and excellence. We must confront complex challenges or risk backsliding to the derisive days of the so-called ‘lucky country’. The next step is to partner with President Biden in his plan to translate the US model designed for national security, which led to discoveries including the internet and GPS under a defence department agency, to a focus on health, adapting artificial intelligence and other technologies in an aim to supercharge breakthroughs to prevent, detect and treat diseases including Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancers, predicted to outstrip half a century’s advances in the next decade. This is one of the biggest life-changing and life-saving opportunities to crack the code of some of the world’s worst killers. We need to be partners. The plan I have proposed is to extend our Cancer Moonshot partnership with President Biden and establish AUKUS health for health security. This collaboration would deliver a brain gain between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States and could be expanded to other countries to deliver worldwide breakthroughs.

Australia and the UK have signed a trade agreement. The UK has €2 billion it wants to invest in science. Value should be raised beyond an exchange of Vegemite and Marmite to inspire greater innovation. Proof exists. One of Australia’s leading companies, CSL, has been manufacturing more than 50 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from Britain in Broadmeadows, saving lives at home and abroad. A $1.8 billion deal for vaccines against influenza will establish a new lucrative export industry nearby soon.

Big ideas require big data. Australia is close to the top of the survival list for most cancers and plays a major role in future discoveries through the value of our data being distilled into understanding, knowledge and remedies. Melbourne, like Boston and London, is a world leader in medical research. Our major universities anchor the ecosystems—the University of Melbourne’s boulevard of big dreams and the multibillion-dollar boulevard, Innovation Walk, joining Monash University and the CSIRO. Monash will be the first university in the world to manufacture mRNA vaccines on campus with Moderna and is uniquely placed to capitalise on access to a €1 billion funding opportunity I have identified for collaborations with the Italian biomedical sector.

Australia can collaborate with other like-minded democracies to establish independent supply chains and national sovereignty and extend benefits to our neighbours, from the fourth-largest country, Indonesia, to vulnerable Asia-Pacific nations. Saving lives is the best diplomacy. Driving the ‘lead like the lion’ strategy has secured the lion’s share of funding for Victorian institutions. Working with world-leading medical researchers has helped clarify imperatives, culminating in defining successes and the Victorian government’s commitment of $1.3 billion since 2014 to establish national leadership for research, especially into cancers, genomics and infectious diseases to improve and save lives. Our medical research leaders are predominantly culturalists, not monetarists. Professor Peter Doherty, the everyman with a Nobel Prize for medicine, gave me his book The Knowledge Wars, which defines in forensic detail how politicians have historically failed science. The Andrews government I hope has at least bent this arc of history. Collaborating with these brilliant leaders has been the humbling privilege of my eight-year service as Victoria’s first Parliamentary Secretary for Medical Research, and I remain committed to driving these causes.

Being labelled ‘the relentless Frank McGuire’ is a badge of honour—relentless in the pursuit of remedies for the catastrophes of our times, helping more people deny that miser fate and preventing Einstein’s definition of insanity. Breaking the cycle of disadvantage requires creative solutions and collaboration. The unwritten laws of power, politics and money mean resources are too often gifted to marginal seats ahead of those in greater need, entrenching place-based disadvantage. This remains a defining cause and exposes the cost of inequality in the time of pandemic and the paradox of Broadmeadows. Broadmeadows matters because it symbolises the hope of Australia, but its proud history and people have too often been overlooked as the undeserving poor. Australia turns to Broadmeadows in times of existential threats: from wars, training soldiers since the Anzacs at Gallipoli and heroes on the Western Front; to fighting our worst bushfires; home to immigration when ‘populate or perish’ defined our economic peril and to recent refugees from Iraq, Syria and Somalia; home to large manufacturing, underwriting prosperity with muscle jobs, powering the world’s longest uninterrupted period of economic growth, and to advanced niche manufacturing, producing the gift of science, vaccines.

When catastrophes pass, Broadmeadows is largely forgotten and abandoned to disadvantage like an orphan. Like wave upon wave of postwar migrants, my parents had the imagination to dream of a better future for our family and the courage to cross the world to pursue it—beyond the rancour of the march and the nightmare of the dark, where all the dogs of Europe bark. When we arrived in Broadmeadows in 1959 it was a raw fringe at the end of the line. Victoria’s leading mandarin, Major General Ken Green, confessed to me on his retirement as the head of the Premier’s department in the 1980s that Broadmeadows was still the biggest failure in a generation of government. Lack of coordination even at one tier of government reveals systemic failure, wilful blindness and political indifference.

As a boy off the boat I campaigned for greater investment for more than a decade before being elected as the MP for Broadmeadows, founding the global learning village model in the heart of this community, impoverished to the point of lacking even a public library. The successful model coordinated the three tiers of government, civil society and business appreciating enlightened self-interest. The community was evolving into virtually a United Nations in one neighbourhood, with families from more than 150 countries. Accents changed but not aspirations.

Talent is not defined by gender or demographics, but too often opportunity is. My aim was to transform Broadmeadows into a prototype to improve the social determinants of life through skills, jobs and meaning, better health and connecting the disconnected by harnessing technology-empowered leadership. Silicon Valley came to Broadmeadows. Big ICT leaders established an ideas lab second to London to bridge the digital divide. A multiversity delivered courses in the community with the lowest uptake in tertiary education from three universities and a TAFE institute, long before online learning became popular.

This vision and commitment had been nominated for an international award for leadership and innovation when the Brumby government unexpectedly lost and the Australian Labor Party recruited me as an outsider to succeed the former Premier in Parliament. A convergence of coalition governments, state and federal, left Broadmeadows again abandoned. The Australian government rejected the chance to move beyond the ‘lifters and leaners’ budget, which devastated Broadmeadows most, to critical issues confronting our country—globalisation, the demise of local manufacturing, population growth, a fair go and multiculturalism forged on local factory floors. They adopted former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s ‘managed decline’ approach, which had caused social catastrophe in England’s north, leading to similar consequences in Melbourne’s north. The one-term Victorian coalition government employed a reverse Robin Hood strategy, redistributing more than $100 million in funding to better-off communities in marginal seats they subsequently lost. The chaos of rotating prime ministers, the lost values, the loss of the car industry and manufacturing scale, the highest unemployment and the freeze on wages for working people meant many families in Broadmeadows lost hope.

From 2014 the crucial constant is Labor in power in Victoria. This provided the opportunity for me to keep reimagining Broadmeadows, for which I will always be grateful. Instead of criminal justice models and building bigger police stations, grander courthouses and maxi-prisons, Broadmeadows is being converted from a rust belt to a green belt and brain belt. Attracting the Business Council of Australia to Broadmeadows and collaborating with the private sector has inspired $1 billion in investments into the derelict Ford site for cleaner, greener industries, predicting 5000 new jobs at no cost to taxpayers. The brain belt is advanced manufacturing featuring vaccines. A health and community centre of excellence is being built, new social and affordable housing has been secured and the Field of Dreams project will link local youth to the world-class Melbourne Storm, connecting them to a sporting team instead of a gang. In a great result for vulnerable women and families, I have just launched Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus’s model to help women start businesses, another Australian first in Broadmeadows, creating 6000 jobs nationally for women in the next two years.

Hume City Council had no plans for Broadmeadows, missing the investments from the biggest state budget in history, but I am delighted to announce the council has recovered—under some influence, cajoling and encouragement—and is committing almost $50 million to revitalise the Broadmeadows town centre during the next four years.

I wanted more time to deliver more results. Broadmeadows is now the prototype for government collaboration and proof of concept for business to transform postcodes of disadvantage into Postcodes of Hope. The ALP national executive’s intervention into preselections for Victoria’s upcoming election was never meant to target a sitting MP like me who had nothing to do with branch stacking or the red shirts controversy. As the first person raised in Broadmeadows to represent this community in the Victorian Parliament I felt obliged to confront the so-called faceless men and women, telling them I joined a cause, not a gang, and reminding them Australia’s oldest political party was founded to fight for the powerless and the poor, too often done over in secret deals behind closed doors. I have long championed the cause to change politics through needs-based funding and performance-based MPs.

The preselection process was manipulated. The technique used was to falsely link me as a member of the faction Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission was investigating. This was wrong, misled the public and damaged my reputation. The subsequent IBAC report has proved the faction under investigation was branch stacking in Broadmeadows against me. The national executive refused to meet me before casting their votes. The factional deals were done. I was disendorsed because I was outside the new controlling factional power alliance. Performance, results and big-picture ideas did not count, because Broadmeadows is a safe seat, too valuable in the eyes of factional powerbrokers not to control in a numbers game with a winner-takes-all sense of entitlement. This sends a disturbing message to the next generation of community advocates who are independently minded and forthright. It also denies democracy. The people of Broadmeadows elected me with the highest primary vote of any candidate at the last Victorian election. I was elected representing the ALP and would only stand at November’s election under that banner, despite the number of people urging me to stand as an independent. The ALP confronts a moment of truth for its values and integrity with its truest believers.

For more than 40 years I have been coming to this Parliament in various roles, so I want to thank everyone who has helped me. Supporting the institution is important. I want to acknowledge all involved in the investigation into the handling of child abuse, revealing a cover-up that killed, in the landmark report Betrayal of Trust. MPs searched for the truth, determined Parliament would not be another institution that failed people with little power, whose voices are rarely heard and whose lives had been blighted. The children were innocent. Their fortitude in testifying as adults remains inspiring and their courage humbling.

To my Labor Party colleagues: you are the best chance for people who need you the most. Never forget what that means to so many. This is the added responsibility of Labor in power. Relish the challenge to help people rise. This will reward us all and help build our state and nation. Thank you for your support.

I buried my parents and raised my children while serving this Parliament. To Colleen: I could not have done it without you. To my children, Tess, James and Matt: I did this for you. You have inspired me when I needed it most. Being your dad is the best thing I have done. Tess has already made a contribution to this Parliament, informing my call to Raise the Age. So anyone who has a problem, take it up with her. Good luck. Remember who is in your blood, where you come from and why it matters for the future, as my siblings Eddie, Ev and Brigette always have.

To my staff: you are not paid enough, especially for putting up with me. To the guests who have joined us today and have been steadfast and to everyone who has supported me along the way: thank you. To the people of Broadmeadows: I thank you the most. I will not forget you. You must never be taken for granted again or be left last in line. Stand tall, be proud and keep hope alive.

Members applauded.