Senator Barry O'Sullivan (2018 Dinner)


[Senator Barry O'Sullvan] Well thank you everybody and I don't want to take a lot of time with the formality of introductions, so let me attach myself to the acknowledgements earlier of my Parliamentary colleagues, both State and our Federal two past Senators in Joanna Lindgren and Ron Boswell.

And I do want to make special mention though of the courageous candidates that we have, four of them, I believe in the room who are seeking to take office to replace Senator Brandis. It takes a lot out of you to offer yourself up for public office, so I acknowledge the courage and wish them all the best in the adventure.

Let me apologise in advance, perhaps for my speech because my staff, one staff members in particular spent a couple of weeks preparing the speech for tonight. Doing a lot of research, including a lot of statistics and some great quotes and I spent a couple of hours coming down on the bus from Toowoomba today to re-read it and mark it up myself. In the course of that I decided that it was too clinical and that events like tonight deserve people to be able to assess what you have to say from the heart, rather then necessarily from a prepared script. So I apologise in advance if I start to jump all over the place.

But I have a message tonight which I will come to a bit later in my speech. And I can already hear Trevor Watts muttering under his voice that he's heard this yarn before.

As I contemplated today in the bus, I remembered we all have events in our lives that sort of guide us. We learn something. Sometimes it comes on us quite unexpectedly. We learn something about ourselves.

I remember many, many years ago. I lived with my late wife on a beautiful farm, near the Ravensbourne National Park in Perseverance Valley. I apologise in advance if anyone here has relatives in Perseverance Valley because the story doesn't go well, regarding the neighbours.

There were four houses in Perseverance Valley that could see each other. We had guests, friends over for Sunday lunch and we're out on the veranda waiting for lunch and someone said to me, "what's the neighbour like there over the creek?" I said, "Oh, he's nuts." "He's nuts, he shoots at our dogs" and a whole litany of the indictment against this neighbour that I said he's nuts. I said "what about the people down the front?" There was a decommissioned church that had been turned into a residence. I said, "They're crazy. They're crazy." He was an artist and she was a sculptor and you never seen them. The church was always locked up and the grass was sort of four foot high.

Then they reflected on the third house that they could see and they said, "What are they like?" Now they were seriously, complete lunatics. Family of nine, they had no running water, they had no vehicle. They had no power attached. But the next split second, I thought to myself, "what are the chances of me being the only sane one in the valley?" Of course, it wasn't very high. So I said, "no they're terrific people, they're great neighbours."

But as my colleagues know here tonight, I've used that any number of times in arguments and debates. I feel like that sometimes, every day. Every day that I'm in the senate And I don't mean me in a singular sense. I've got colleagues there who share my views, share your views, share your values. But that doesn't seem to be that many of us. So some days I wonder, you know, whether we're the only sane ones in the senate and it's not confined to a question in the senate. It's confined to what's happening in our society and all around us, everyday.

Are we the only ones that get it? Are we the only ones who understand the potential impacts in the longer term of things that happen in our society? You know I live in a country where there's 80-90,000 abortions each year. I know that that troubles everybody in this room otherwise you wouldn't be here. But we are a democratically elected nation.

These legislatures that have made this possible, the struggle commence back in 1968 in South Australia. These legislators who have made this possible, are there to represent our interests. And when we see the figures and we hear the figures and they're consistent with the research of my staff. In the high orders of 70's when people, and I take Michael's point where they don't want abortions. They find it offensive, yet they're inclined to allow public process legislation to proceed on this flimsy argument that a mother or a woman has the right to make this decision. Ignoring of course that this young bub is growing, naturally growing inside of them.

So when I sit and think about that, I ask myself, "am I the only sane one in the country? Are we the only ones who are troubled by this?" Troubled enough to do something about it? You know we're nearly 80% of our brothers and sisters in the community of this country think this is a bad thing, yet consistently year on year, year on year there's a continued erosion around this particular point.

Now I'm not just fixated on abortion, I promise you. Conservatism is much more than abortion. Conservatism is about giving people the dignity of a job. It's about trying to create a social strata for them where they might not choose, for example, or it may not influence them on a decision about abortion.

We know from the statistics, that some 67% of women who have abortion, 50% of them are under the age of 25, cite economic struggles. We know that only 7% of them. We know that only 7% of them have a genuine foundation, in this test we have in our legislation in Queensland and other states about protecting the mother's health or the health of the unborn. With the mother's health, of course, trumping that argument.

For the other 93%, how is it that our society here in this country, and I'll try to answer this in a moment. How is it that such a high number of us in this country and indeed in developed nations. Our stats are not unique to Australia.

How is it that so many people don't want this to happen, yet the legislators just roll on with incremental changes. We almost had it last year. I promise you, you should join me in celebrating the people in this room: Trevor. Who else we got? Fiona, Mark, wherever he is. I promise you without those people, we'd of had carte blanche abortion in the state of Queensland last year.

And someone else who needs to be acknowledged and I'm going to out him. The man who's catch cry is to 'Man the Barriers' or 'Man the Barricades.' The retired Father of the Senate, Ron Boswell, who I know went and I don't care that word gets back on what I'm saying here. Who went and visited the leader of the opposition and advised him that his great weight and influence would be applied to certain things if our side of politics, did not stand together as one and resist the legislation or the proposed legislative changes. Ron Boswell. Ron Boswell. As he has done with so many things on so many occasions.

We are losing this battle. Not just around abortion, we're about to lose the battle around euthanasia. Don't think that I've given up hope. I will stand along with many of my colleagues and we'll fight until we bleed. But we're going to lose it if we enter the fray in the same way that we've resisted these changes in recent times in our society. And it's not unique to Australia.

Now 56 million, 56 million abortions recorded worldwide annually. I'm going to repeat that and there's a reason for it. I done some calculations before I started. 56 million abortions worldwide annually. In the time it's taken me to say that sentence twice, there's been 17 abortions in the world. 17 abortions in the world.

I think that there are two problems. One bigger than the other. We people who regard ourselves as decent people, who regard ourselves with people of value. At risk of retreating into our own enclaves of resistance.

Last year we endeavoured to get a rally outside of Parliament House to mobilise people who shared our views in opposing the changes to abortion laws in this state. And I've done the calculations on that too. Not very good at math, but I do have a calculator. Of all the Queenslander's, taking on the point of 78% would not want it to happen. 0.00004% turned up outside Parliament House to resist it.

Nobody turned up to resist. The decent people were home cutting up their carrots and picking their kids up from school and trying to keep their businesses running. Doing anything but going to a rally outside of Parliament House.

Unless we mobilise, unless we find ways to do, to resist. We're going to get more of the same.

Let me tell you how, I want to tell you just another little story. We had a challenge in Parliament in 2016, early 2016 like 2015. Please forgive me for people who've heard me tell this little story before. We had a problem in this country where there was a very rare disease, a hemolytic something or other. Very aggressive effecting young women predominantly. Triggered often by pregnancy.

A massive pharmaceutical company called Alexion. Alexion had the patent on the drug with 11 years to go. Quite literally holding our government to ransom to get this onto the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. $24,000 a month was the treatment. $24,000 a month.

Now I can name you these 72 children and I can go to my office or bring a piece of paper and read them out. I can tell you the names of some of the mums and dads and grandparents. These young people were dying, month on month. Kidney failure, liver failure and then of course it entered the brain and by then, it was all but done. Three years, the full weight of my government, our government, battled to try and reach an agreement with Alexion to get this onto the PBS.

I must say, I'm going to give great credit to Peter Dutton, who was then the Minister for Health. A member for somewhere or other out here, around Petrie or something. Dickson? And Peter Dutton done the best he could in very difficult circumstances.

Before I get to the punch line. The moral to the story is, we should never give up. We should never give up. Battling this stuff takes leadership and it takes courage. It takes the most courage, when it feels like we're not winning. That's the loneliest, that's the loneliest fight that you can have. When you don't think you're winning. But I really believe that we can win.

I'll come to the punch line of the Alexion thing because it's well known that I don't always play by the Queensbury rules. Because I find them somewhat restrictive.

So what I done was I invited the representatives of Alexion to my office and I slid a piece of paper across the table to them. They looked at it they weren't quite sure what it was telling them, but it was an itinerary for me to travel from Canberra to Sydney, and Sydney to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to a small town in North Carolina.

They said to me, I don't quite understand Senator. I said, Oh I'll illuminate you. That's where ... and I named a Primary School. It was a Catholic primary school. Named the primary school and they said, look I still don't understand. I said, well that's where your Chairman's children go to school. And I intend to go there and stand with a placard. I'd pay my own way, so don't get excited that you've got some angle on me here. I'm going to have a placard to ask why are your children more valuable than mine? I said I'm not going to leave there until we get a result. I said, I'll be on every breakfast show in the world. I said I've started jogging to try and lose weight, so I present a bit better.

Well within three weeks, a three year dispute was completed. And that taught me a very bad lesson in life, that we oughtn't always, because we are decent people.

We are conservative people, we're not prone to chaining ourselves around trees or throwing ourselves in front of dozers. But whatever it is we've been doing, it hasn't been working. Whatever it is we have to do in the future, it has to be different. The pace of change is now alluding us. The pace of change, this massive, massive white noise of information has been channelled into our children, onto our campuses. Into our own lives.

I'm not into that Spacebook thing, but some of my family is. They tell me it's a portal for people to send things for them to read and look at, that they didn't really want to see or read about. It's inconsistent with their own prime values.

Just the other day and I want to read you this. It's critical and we need to accept it. I think it articulates where we find ourselves. It was Paul Kelly in The Australian. For those of you who follow political writers and those out of the Gallery in Canberra. He's a very respected and often thoughtful reporter and he wrote this about us. About us.

"Conservatives these days excel at drum-beating, making a lot of noise, writing a lot of articles and losing every substantial battle," Kelly said. "They are fragmented, intellectually confused and strategically inept."

Now this for me as a Conservative was not pretty reading, but it was not inconsistent with where my mind was at in terms of how we are not succeeding.

"Much of the nation is still conservative in its instincts but this constituency is denied inspiring or effective leadership. Conservatives lost the issue of same-sex marriage. They are likely to lose the issue of religious freedom. They are losing the battle over legalising euthanasia. On almost every front from climate change to coal to gender politics to Western civilisation's heritage, they are on the defensive."

Paul Kelly is spot on. Paul Kelly is spot on. We are retreating to the enclaves of ourselves. We are keeping each others company. We go out and we print a few brochures and we make some noise and we go on the hustings and then we go home. Because a lot of these challenges are not in our home. They're not in my broader circle of people.

My children aren't challenged with some of these issues, to my knowledge. I don't wake up everyday thinking about drug addiction or abortion or domestic violence, because it's not in my immediate circle. I can't say that with absolute certainty, but it's not evident within my immediate circle.

And I've looked at this phenomenon across the world, we are retreating to our enclaves of ourselves. We're doing it intellectually, we're doing it ideologically, and we are circling the wagons. And not doing what my great mentor and friend here has said, and that is to 'Man the Barricades.' They are two different things.

Circling the wagons is almost a confession that we're in a hell of a lot of trouble here. We'll have to defend this out from under each of these wagons. Where as 'Man the Barricades' as my good friend Senator Boswell often says, is to draw a line in the sand. Then create a retreat of those opposing us.

We don't even have an organisation in our ranks that has 48,000 emails. Some of you who were at an event I spoke at recently and dozens of other events.

Some hairy armpit in Melbourne pushed a button, sent 48,000 emails and closed down the live cattle trade in this country. Took away the dignity of tens of thousands of people and their businesses, and the people they employed, and their communities, the economy of the community that they're in because Conservatism - this fight is not just about abortion it's not just about euthanasia, it is about so much more - it's about not leaving legacy debt for our children and our grandchildren. It's about giving people the dignity of a job. These things are consistent with each other, they are not in conflict with each other.

People say to me, am I, (and I'm talking about typically pro-choice people who already know the answer to their question or so they think). They ask me whether I'm pro-life or pro-choice. I always have a little bit of fun. I tell them I'm pro-choice and you can tell by the look on their faces that they're about to challenge me I gather.

But, not the choices you're thinking about. I got some other choices and with my colleagues here, we're able to move motions through our last State Counsel, or State Conference, unanimous. Unanimous. 800 delegates that we need to do more for mothers who find themselves in this position.

I've said it before and I'll continue to say it. We still treat women in this category the same as we treated women in the 40's and 50's. Only worse, at least then we handed them off to an aunty in Townsville to let the baby and manage the affair.

Now they don't even feel like they can come to their parents or their partner or their favourite auntie. They feel like there is only one choice. There's no pro-choice for them, there's just the one choice. Get a $78 ticket to Melbourne where you don't have to explain it anymore about what sort of abortion you want.

Down there, you can do it on course of genetic selection. Time doesn't even allow me to go into raising other issues because it would deny me the chance to close this speech in a particular way.

You get into euthanasia. Have a look at what's happened in Belgium and the Netherlands. A child under one now can be euthanized just on the consent of the parents, nothing more. No medical tests, no medical examination. Between one and 12, they can be euthanized as long as they get the parent's consent and there's some medical considerations and arrays of other things.

Last year, there were over 100 people euthanized in Belgium, for mental illness. Bipolar, for God's sake.

Humanity has no capacity. Humanity has no capacity. It doesn't matter whether it's euthanasia or stem cell research. Its abortion, it's capital punishment. There you go, coming out the lips of a retired homicide detective.

Humanity is not developed enough and nor will it ever be, to be able to make decisions about life. We have to find other ways. We have to be pro-choice. We have to give choices. But not the ones that, the minority and they are the minority, want.

So why is it happening? And I'm risk at going over the time Julie and I'll try and truncate this.

Why is this happening? Well at the end of the road, at the end of the cul-de-sac, are Parliaments. And I said this recently and forgive me for those who set through that speech too. There is no such thing as a Parliament, there's just a collection of people who make it up.

There's the Boswell's, the Lindgren's and these other people who have vying to come and represent us in the Senate. And our good colleagues here from the State Parliament. There's no such thing as a Parliament, there's a collection of people.

We are day in, day out, week in, week out, putting the wrong people into the Parliaments. We had 19 Federal members who voted against the will as a result of the postal plebiscites of their own electorates. This is in a democratic, this is in a representative democracy.

In that instance, a participatory democracy. Though asked a question and they provide an answer. Despite that, their members put themselves, in every instance, before their electorate. So we're putting the wrong people into the Parliament.

I challenge you. Even here, even amongst us. So many of us have spent more time picking our 5-star environmental fridge, or a car, or an iPhone we're going to buy. Researching it. Feeling the pinch here? On the internet, having a look at what people had to say about it, comparing the size. Ring your nephew, he's got one. … than we do investigating who it is we're going to vote for at the next electoral plebiscite. State or Federal. State or Federal.

We have to turn this around people. You can't do it in this room, just us. This requires, this is requiring us to dig deeper. To bring more people in line. To bring other like-minded people on a campaign. To hold our politicians to account.

There's so many ways you can do that. You can do that by supporting organisations like Cherish Life and there are many of them. Who are providing the leadership.

Long after many of us are gone to bed, the executives of this organisation are still up. Designing the next brochure, looking to see when the next campaign is going to be, looking to get the next rally outside Parliament House.

You can support them. You can do that in a number of ways. You can financially support them, and if not them, someone else. You can give of your time. For those of you who have the capacity; your intellect, your ideas to help design a campaign to get us to North Carolina. Many ways to skin these cats.

But if we don't, we're going to see more of the same and over the last three decades, we've had more changes, can I say, in abortion law, in the last three years in this country than we had from when this started for us back in 1968 or 1969. 56 million abortions and we feel helpless.

We think there's nothing we can do, we're a little nation. We're down here in the middle of the water. You know we're living fairly comfortably. Fat bellies, safe houses. Not happening in my place, we are retreating to our enclaves.

We have to challenge each other to leave that. It's time for us to chain ourselves to a tree. We can reverse this.

Last week in the U.S. Senate, a vote to change aspects of the abortion law, challenging Wade vs Roe, was only defeated by a couple of votes in the senate. So it's only a matter of time and they will get back.

That had to do with the 20 week theory about babies start to have, sorry, feel pain and also mental distress. Now there's arguments by some scholars who believe it's before that. I got to say, I hope I haven't made you feel too uncomfortable, but I really don't care if I have.

Because we do, coming to dinner's not enough. Writing a cheque's not enough. We go home and if you're like me, you watch the TV and shitty thing comes on or I send a cheque off to bloody save the whale or save the children in Somalia and I feel good. Knocked a couple hundred out of the chequebook and put it in and I think, well that's 'job's done'. Well it's not done. It's not done.

And the more of us that can share this, the easier the burden and the task is for each of us. This isn't about feeling good. You'll never feel good, we're never going to get to where we feel absolutely good. But I got to tell ya, we can get a lot further than where we are.

So I say to you, using the words of my great mentor here, Senator Boswell, we need to 'Man the Barricades,' and we're not enough. You need to get other people to 'man the barricades' for you. You need to help tie them to Cherish Life. You need to help tie them to Emily's Voice. You need to help tie them to other organisations who are fighting this specific scourge.

When the call to arms come and it will come this year. I guarantee you we're going to stare this, we're going to stare this in the eyes this year. Changes to legislation in the State. I really, really hope when I'm out the front of Parliament House with my bus load of people or two bus loads from Toowoomba, I hope as I look around, I recognise many of the faces here. With your daughters and your sons and your grandchildren because that's the only way you'll have these legislators focus and go, hold on a minute, somethings happening outside of here.

We need to have a vote pick. Because that's the only language they know. So thank you for tonight and I'm sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable, but it was intended. Thank you.