Senator Hinch's First Speech
Mr President and fellow senators, good evening. Thank you for attending my first speech. I am humbled and I am honoured—even a bit pinch-me gobsmacked—to be standing here as an elected representative of the people of Victoria. Being privately given my senator No. 576 security pin and symbolic gold pass by Rachel Callinan, the Usher of the Black Rod, touched me and moved me more than I could have ever known or dreamt.
Senator Hinch—last year it was not on my agenda or my bucket list. A year ago, we had just formed a political party. Hinch, a politician? Give me a break! He has been fighting with pollies and Prime Ministers for decades. But it is truly a great honour and a challenge, a big challenge, in any Australians' life to be chosen by the Australian people to represent them in this august national assembly, this chamber of democracy. It brings with it an awesome responsibility. I am now, as you all know, one of only 580 people who have held the title—ever. That is hundreds fewer than have worn the baggy green or played VFL or AFL football.
Reportedly, I am in the record books as being the oldest person ever elected to the Australian Senate, so I guess I will be enshrined as a Trivial Pursuit question! When that fact was made public, somebody tweeted, 'There should be an age limit in the Senate.' I tweeted back, 'I agree 100 per cent—what minimum age do you suggest?' Jokes aside, I do not take the task lightly; I believe I am in a unique position.
I have met every Australian Prime Minister since Robert Menzies—I met 'Ming' in 1964. I have interviewed most Prime Ministers since then, from Harold Holt on. I did not vote for any of them. I did not vote against them, because I still think compulsory voting is wrong. I think it is undemocratic and I will campaign against it while I am here. I also still believe that media commentators should be exempt from voting. They should not vote or, if they do, they should tell you how they vote. You can be granted an exemption—you may not know that—on religious grounds, so why not on moral, philosophical or occupational grounds? I have been accused of hypocrisy for voting for the first time on 2 July. Well, I am no longer a journalist. I did point out I had waited a lifetime to find somebody worth voting for, but that is a joke, Joyce!
I also think it is an appalling situation that, in this IT age, one month after a federal election the results still were not officially known—not to mention the census debacle. Surely something is rotten in the state of Denmark, as they say, when all of us here in the Senate today started getting our taxpayer funded pay cheque from 1 July when we did not even sit for one day in this chamber for the next two months and will barely sit again until Christmas.
Speaking of what happens and does not happen here in the Senate, I also think it is wrong that there are so many media restrictions on when and how you can be filmed or photographed in this chamber. It is wrong that a senator can only be photographed when he or she is on their feet and has the call. This is the people's house of review. The media should be able to see us in action or inaction. If you get caught nibbling your earwax, counting your money or dozing, that is tough. I was fair game when I got caught with eyes closed during the Governor-General's boring recital of Malcolm Turnbull's speech. I will introduce a motion to try to change this and I will join a press gallery High Court bid, if necessary, to allow the same freedoms for media photographers here as there are in the lower house.
My ambition in this house is to do my best for the people who elected me. I know all politicians say that—we all say that. I will call things as I see them; my career supports that. People ask me how come I get sacked so often. At last count, I have been fired 16 times. And I say, 'Well, they hire me for who I am and what I say, and then they fire me for who I am and what I say.' And the people of Australia, of Victoria, just hired me, and if they do not like it they are entitled to fire me.
It looks like it will be three years. It should be six, as you know, under S282, which was brought in by Prime Minister Bob Hawke, which he thought was a fair call. A six-year term for me, and the Greens Senator Rhiannon in New South Wales, was one of the recommendations from the Australian Electoral Commission when they returned the writs on 8 August. The electoral pendulum inventor, Malcolm Mackerras, agrees with that. But you big boys got together—surprise, surprise—and what the Liberals and the Greens started in 2016 with that unholy alliance to destroy the minor parties, the government and Labor continued with your minor party stitch-up in this chamber. It was a Senate decision; it was not a constitutional one. And self-preservation prevails. But at least I got my first division vote, even though I lost it.
Anyway, I have said that, as Leader of Derryn Hinch's Justice Party, I will try to be an unpolitical politician, a commonsense politician. I will not be PC—I will not be politically correct. That is why I say from the outset that I have hopes, high hopes, of achieving good things. I have seen other people come here with high hopes and great dreams and stumble and crumble. An Australian icon, Peter Garrett, was a man of principle who came here cloaked in great ideas and ideals, many idealistically ingrained in him from the lyrics of Midnight Oil. He left broken, disillusioned and compromised, unfairly shackled to a Labor government's fatally reckless pink batts scandal, which cost four young lives.
Neville Wran, former New South Wales Labor Premier and Labor Party president, once admitted over a bottle of confessional chardonnay that by the time you get to the top you are covered in so much blood and muck from the deals you made on the way up, you forget what drove you, what inspired you, into seeking public office in the first place. Well, I am not a horse trader; I am not a wheeler and dealer. I have spent half a century as a journalist trying to keep the bastards honest, and having the title 'Senator' in front of my name will not change that. In fact, it might make it easier to name names without having to wear an ankle bracelet or go to jail again or be under house arrest again, trying to protect children.
It has been speculated that I will use parliamentary privilege to name names under the protection of what is derided as 'coward's castle', and I will. But it will be a court of last resort. I will not be a 'cowboy'. But, if it is necessary to protect a child's wellbeing, then, damn right, I will name the human vermin, and I will tonight—like a Canberra degenerate whose semen was found on the nappy of a two-year-old girl. His mother was babysitting her the time. The Canberra Times did not name him, but he is Juan Carlos Cruz. For this disgusting crime, almost incomprehensible to normal people, he was sentenced in Canberra to only three years and three months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 20 months—20 bleeping months—and that is a sick judicial joke. The offender was born in El Salvador, and if he is not an Australian citizen I believe he should be deported the minute he finishes his paltry sentence. Juan Carlos Cruz continues to deny the offences. The judge said he showed no indication of remorse, contrition or acceptance of responsibility. So I would say: deport the scumbag.
Then there were the two Victorian degenerates whom I named on the steps of Parliament House and then, because of it, spent five months under house arrest and lost my job at 3AW: the Armadale rapist, Mark Jewell, and Gordon Taylor. And how about that evil creature Brian Keith Jones, nicknamed Mr Baldy because he kidnapped young boys and shaved their heads and painted them with lipstick and dressed them in girls' clothes. And recently he had his name suppressed again, and he is walking our streets again. You have to say: why? You have a right to know who he is, what he looks like and, more importantly, where he is.
On a brighter note, recently I went holidaying in Hawaii—I paid; the taxpayer did not—and I watched the US presidential election conventions on TV. I have seen a lot of them. I actually went to a few of them as a foreign correspondent in the sixties, seventies and eighties. You know, they tell you every four years how they are going to make America great—again. Jesus wept. I have been hearing that ever since JFK in 1960. 'Yes, we can' becomes, 'No, I can't' or, 'Sorry, we didn't.' But we also hear the same thing here every three years—visions, dreams, promises, slogans, 'jobs and growth', 'never been a more exciting time to be in Australia' et cetera, et cetera, as Yul Brynner once said. It is bullshit. I spent months on the 2016 election campaign. We covered 11,250 kilometres in the Justice Bus. I can say to you: do you know what? Both major parties were so on the nose this time. You know why so many of us small party senators got elected—because, as Peter Finch said in the movie Network, Pauline, 'I'm fed up and I'm not going to take it anymore!' And the voters did not, and they will not next time either.
I have been chastised for using this expression, so this will be the last time I ever do. I called the campaign 'the Shakespearean election: a pox on both your houses.' But it is right. And if you Liberals think that the superannuation issue and feared retrospectivity did not affect your primary vote, especially here in the upper house, well, tell 'em they're dreamin'!
This may seem somewhat out of kilter tonight, but if you bear with me I want to go back to my days—as I think we do in first speeches—as a teenager in a small town across the ditch in New Zealand. I remember as an impressionable kid reading about the Project Mercury astronauts and the Americans' amazing plans for space exploration. This was even before President Kennedy's incredible promise to the world that, 'The United States, before this decade is out, will land men on the moon and return them safely to earth.' This was 1959. You wonder—I wonder—how could a scrawny kid, me, living in a small town in a small country, at the arse end of the world, as Paul Keating used to call it, even conceive that, before the decade was out, I would be at Cape Canaveral watching Armstrong and Aldrin and Collins blast off for the moon, standing within metres of the Apollo 11 astronauts.
I have been lucky. I once told a boss at Fairfax that you make your own luck. But I have been lucky to stand and have a seat on the aisle of history, watching those men go to the moon. I have covered political tragedies like the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy. And, thanks to the generosity of 3AW listeners in Melbourne, we chartered a plane and took $400,000 worth of high-protein food, blankets and cooking oil to Ethiopia during the famine and saw 25,000 refugees, virtually all of whom would die, in a starvation camp on the outskirts of Alamata. I stood in the desert alongside an incredible Australian medico, Dr Tony Atkins. In front of us, sitting in the dust, were starving mothers, fathers and their children. And, even there—even there in the midst of poverty, and the famine and the suffering and the disease—families had each laid out a tattered blanket anchored on the corners with stones, as a sort of last, desperate attempt at a patch of family turf. Each morning, the mothers would shuffle up to the stall where Dr Atkins had an ancient set of greengrocers' scales, and their baby would be placed on the scales, and if they reached a meagre weight they were ticked for food and for medicine. But if they literally failed to make the weight, they were turned away; they were too far gone. With only enough supplies for the saveable, that tragic system of the human lifeboat, the triage system, kicked in, in the middle of the desert in Africa.
And I thought that playing god for those mothers and their babies would lead Atkins to a nervous breakdown. I often wondered what happened to him. Coincidentally, the election brought us together; our paths crossed for the first time in more than 30 years at the Berwick market one Sunday morning.
Speaking of life and death, I want to talk about organ transplants and organ donations. Without a donated liver, I would not be here and, to be blunt, my funeral would have been held five years ago. That is why I want to help trigger the signing up of one million more organ donors in Australia, activating and promoting the government's new app to make it easy to sign a living will, which means a donor commitment that no family member can overturn. Imagine—a million more donors in a country where our donor-to-population ratio is abysmal compared to other Western countries.
For a while, in my book A Human Deadline, I advocated strongly for the opt-out system rather than the current opt-in system. Under opt out, like they have in Spain, everybody is considered to be a potential donor unless you just opt out—you sign a register to say you do not want to be an organ donor for cultural, ethical or religious reasons, or no reason, or any reason; you just don't do it. The downside of opt out is that people depict the government as body-snatchers—like, 'It's my body. How dare they! They are ghouls!'
Opt in is where you sign the register as a willing organ donor. But the weakness there—and not many people know this—is that signing up does not guarantee that your organs will be considered for transplant. Your loved ones can overrule you—overrule that wonderful decision. And they do. And of course you will never know. It happens in more than 40 per cent of cases. Families are in understandable grief. They cannot or will not make the decision to donate. And that means that healthy, lifesaving organs are thrown into hospital rubbish bins, and then they get burnt.
I know it is totally understandable. Can you imagine? I have seen this: a young mother waves her nine-year-old daughter off to primary school and, because of some ghastly accident, she is now standing in the hospital's intensive care unit 12 hours later being told that life support is being turned off and, 'Will you donate your daughter's organs?' There is a compromise between opt out and opt in which I call 'opt in plus'. It would not alleviate that example, but it would guarantee a living will clause, which I hope you will consider, where, if you are on the donor list, your wishes in death would be honoured. This version is now being successfully used in five or six states in the United States.
I do have a vested interest, obviously. I am possibly the first senator with an organ transplant—I am not sure. So here is a little bit of background. Six years ago I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given at most 12 months to live—primary cancer of the liver. I have held my old liver in my hand. I have met the family of my donor, Heath Gardner: his mother, Lynda; his father, Trevor; his sisters Kimberly and Melanie.
I want to dwell on this, because being an organ donor is so important. You can save not only one life; you can save five lives; you can save six lives. And Heath Gardner saved mine.
I said to the pathologist, Peter Crowley, 'Do you see many as bad as this?' And he said, 'Usually in autopsies.' And I said, 'Well, how long do you think I had?' And he said, 'Well, now I've got it out and had a good look at it, I reckon about two weeks.' As Elton John would say, I'm still standing. So, thanks to the Gardner family, the skills of Professor Bob Jones and his team, and the brave research of a man called Professor Thomas Starzl—the American doctor, the professor, who invented liver transplants 50 years ago—I stand here today, because of that, in a unique position to try to help save thousands more lives.
A year after the transplant, when given permission to fly again, I went to my beloved New York, the metropolis that I thought I would never see again; I had farewelled it a few months before I had the operation. When I went back I did a side trip to Pittsburgh to thank Professor Starzl, the man who invented liver transplants. When I got back to Manhattan after that meeting, I received an email from the doctor, which at first seemed strange because it started out, 'Derryn, it was an honour to meet you,' and I thought, 'Surely it was the other way around!' But then I read the rest of it, and it can still bring tears to my eyes because the man who invented liver transplants and saw his first seven transplant patients die, and was ridiculed by his so-called peers as a medical cowboy, wrote: 'Derryn, I can't tell you how warmed I was to see firsthand in you the distant ripple of the silly dream that I first had more than half a century ago.' So thank you, Thomas Starzl and Heath Gardner.
And also thank you, my paternal grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Hinch, for some sage advice I tried to live by when told I had cancer and was going to die. She used to say about life—and she lived to 96: 'It's not what happens to you in life that matters; it's how you handle it.' And I hope I handled that diagnosed death sentence in a way which would have made her proud. I hope some acts of kindness since then and this new career in public service will show that I have tried to use these bonus years well, if not always wisely.
On another issue of life and death—this is dying with dignity—the cause of voluntary euthanasia has been one I have championed for decades. When my mother was dying of terminal lung cancer 26 years ago, I sat at her bedside alone with her on her final night. She had no dignity. She had no quality of life. She was lying there semicomatose, incontinent, a pillow stuffed between her legs, starving like one of those Ethiopians I had seen—dying, but not with one shred of dignity. And I have said: if she had been a dog and an RSPCA inspector had walked into that room that night, I would have been charged with cruelty to animals.
What the Howard government did to overturn the Northern Territory legislation and the relentless campaign to thwart Philip Nitschke was, I believe—it was then and it is now—inhumane religious bigotry. I hope this parliament will reflect the will of 75 per cent of the Australian people and pass dying with dignity legislation or, at least, let individual states do it. For starters, I want to scrap what is dubbed the Andrews bill, the federal block on the Northern Territory, the ACT and Norfolk Island. Then, we could move towards dying with dignity legislation, like the one proposed in Victoria after that state's rational upper house inquiry.
I do stand here today hoping to rewrite or scrap some old laws and bring in some new ones. On the outside I managed to change a couple. For example, this year at midnight on the Wednesday before the federal election the advertising blackout kicked in. The Libs would have liked that. At least it stopped Labor's scurrilous deceitful 'mediscare' commercials. Until I campaigned to get the electoral blackout laws changed back in the 70s, not only were political ads banned but so were all political news stories and comments on radio and television. It was still open slather for newspapers. It is hard to believe, isn't it? But for 48 hours—actually, 66 hours—for the close of the polls, all political news and comment was banned on electronic media.
I am not sure how they would have regulated Twitter or Facebook this time around because paid political party ads were still appearing on the internet after the ban kicked in this year. So all political news and comment was banned, like in some dictatorship. What would radio and TV have done if Harold Holt had gone missing off Portsea during a media blackout? They could not have legally reported it. I still automatically answer every phone call just in case it is Harold Holt.
It was a bad law. I first broke it in the state election of 1979 by merely reading out loud on 3AW a story from the front page of The Australian. Then I defied it again at two federal elections. And Prime Minister Bob Hawke finally scrapped the stupid undemocratic law in late 1983. I remember saying, at the time, I was pleased my generalist colleagues were behind me. I just did not realise how far behind me they were. It was an anachronistic law and I am proud of changing it.
Another one: I was convicted, fined and sentenced to 250 hours of community service for naming a judge in a rape-in-marriage case. The judge ruled, in Victoria, that a man could not be charged with raping his estranged wife—under a 350-year-old British law. The husband even walked free on a common assault charge. After the decision, the physically and emotionally injured victim, the wife, phoned me. To make it even worse the judge had suppressed all evidence before the court. So I told the story on radio. I did not name the alleged rapist. That would have identified his victim because the wife still had her husband's name. I did not even name the court. I thought that could possibly give a clue to her identity from court lists. But I did named the judge, Judge Frank Dyett. Frankly, amongst other things, I thought his own wife should know what a Neanderthal she was married to. Anyway, I argued unsuccessfully that Judge Dyett had only suppressed what was before the court. His name was not before the court. He was the court. I took him on and I lost. But a bad law was scrapped.
I also went to jail for naming a paedophile priest, Michael Glennon, who is still running a camp for young kids at Lancefield in country Victoria, even though he had already spent a year in jail for the rape of a 10-year-old girl. Still ordained. Still assaulting children. What a forgiving church. Suffer little children. I was called a cowboy—that word again—even though I have been to the Premier, the Attorney-General, the police minister and the hierarchy at the Catholic Church. They all said, 'Leave it to the courts.' As it turned out Father Glennon was still sexually assaulting children at that camp, at that time, and later was convicted and jailed for those new crimes, which was scant consolation for his victims. And maybe, if we had had the public register of convicted sex offenders back then and Glennon was on it for the rape of that little girl, a parent would not have sent his or her child to that camp or to Glennon's popular martial arts school for kids, in Melbourne, or the junior football team that he coached, providing an evil priest with even more victims.
This public register, which is so important to me, is what triggered Derryn Hinch's Justice Party. After I got out of jail last time, after serving 50 days on contempt of court charges over that piece of excrement Adrian Bayley, hundreds of people joined me for the Jail 2 Justice walk, a 10-day 180-kilometre journey from Langi Kal Kal Prison to the steps of Victoria's parliament house to present a multivolume petition calling for a national public register of convicted sex offenders. Convicted sex offenders.
Like Megan's Law, named after seven-year-old Megan Kanka, who was stalked, raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender—who lived anonymously across the street from Megan and her parents. He lived there with several other convicted sex offenders. The local police did not even know their background. I have talked to Megan's mum, Maureen. One of her memories gives me the shivers and would give any parent the shivers. It epitomises every parent's nightmare, when they could not be there to protect their vulnerable, innocent child when they were needed the most.
I guess Maureen Kanka wished, at least, that what had happened to her daughter, her little girl, was mercifully quick. She wished Megan was maybe unconscious and spared the pain, spared the horror. But police then told the mother how they got the confession from Megan's killer. They saw the scratch marks on his arm, from a child's fingernails, where Megan had fought so desperately and unsuccessfully for her young life—an image her mother, Maureen Kanka, will carry to her grave. Megan's Law, which started as a state statute in New Jersey, after Megan was raped and murdered, was signed into national law by President Clinton in 1996. That was 20 years ago. That is why I say it is a travesty. It is a disgrace. It is incomprehensible to me that we do not have such a law in Australia.
The public has a right to know. Parents trying to protect their vulnerable kids have a right to know. You have a right to know who is living next door to your family. Ask Shirley and Allan Irwin. Maybe if their daughters, Colleen and Laura, had known that a convicted rapist had lived across the street they might still be alive. Ask George Halvagis. His daughter, Mersina, was murdered while tending her grandmother's grave in Fawkner Cemetery, killed by Peter Dupas, a man who should not have been out of jail at the time.
Senior police—very senior police—have told me that the current state registers and whether your name even goes on there, and at the discretion of a judge or magistrate, are unworkable, unenforceable. They are merely public relations exercises to make you, the public, feel good about them. And did you also know that almost all sex offenders on those lists self-report anyway, because the coppers do not have the time or the resources to check up on them? It is a sick joke! That is why I promise, I vow, I will not give up till such a register as Megan's Law exists nationwide in Australia. Let's call it Daniel's Law, after Daniel Morcombe, who maybe would still be alive today if his killer, Brett Peter Cowan, had been sentenced to a real jail term years earlier for the abduction and rape of a seven-year-old boy from a Darwin caravan park, whom he then left for dead in a burnt-out car. If Brett Peter Cowan's name, photo and crimes had been listed on a public register, maybe Daniel's brave parents, Bruce and Denise, would not have had to suffer more than a decade of not knowing if their little boy was dead or alive.
Maybe Jill Meagher would still be alive today if serial rapist Adrian Bayley had been on a register or, better still, if a magistrate had done his job and not released him on bail to appeal a piddling three-month jail sentence for knocking a man unconscious in Geelong at 2.00 am, when Bayley was on parole; or if the parole board had done its job and listened to the sex crimes unit and to Bayley's own parents and revoked his parole because of well-founded fears he would attack again. And he did. The magistrate in Geelong must have felt the same way, because one of the scumbag's bail conditions was that he not visit the Geelong area for 12 months. So Bayley went to Coburg in Melbourne, and went to Brunswick. And Jill Meagher died in an alley.
Finally on law and order issues, I want to do something tangible to end Australia's paedophiles' involvement in the repugnant sex trade in Asia—in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. How can a convicted sex offender retain his passport to travel to Asia to buy children? But they do. As actor Rachel Griffiths asked me when she appealed to me for help: if a bankrupt can have his passport seized for seven years, why not a convicted paedophile? That is a good point.
In the Senate I also promise to keep up my campaign to ban live exports. I will admit it has not been very successful so far; the Greens will go along with that. During the election campaign, some Labor lackey accused me of jumping on the bandwagon and called me a Johnny-come-lately. 'Labor', he tweeted, 'had been campaigning for a live export ban since 2012.' Yeah, right. The ban, which was actually in 2011, was one of the achievements of the Gillard government, but the day the ban was announced I went on 3AW and I opened my program with some advice for the redoubtable Lyn White and her wonderful team at Animals Australia. I said, 'Don't start popping the champagne corks yet, because Hinch's hunch is that this ban will not last long'. And it did not. It lasted, what—six weeks?
The goal will be even harder to reach now with the Libs back in the saddle and 'Barnyard' Barnaby as the farmers' friend, if not the cattle's protector—another case of money before morality. I know the Libs love live exports. Even when you see the gory proof of animals being sledgehammered to death in Vietnam, it is a mere technicality. I will remind you what Gina Rinehart's father, Lang Hancock, said when George Negus told him that 25 workers had died from cancer, from mesothelioma, from working in the asbestos mine at Wittenoom. Lang Hancock said, 'That's the price you pay for progress.'
As for jumping on the live export bandwagon, I brought my first petition to Canberra, urging the federal government to ban live exports, in 1981. I handed the then primary industry minister, Peter Nixon, a petition with 30,000 names on it; now millions of Australians support a ban on live exports. Back then we were protesting against the live export of horses to Japan and live sheep to the Middle East. That was 35 years ago. It was prompted by a maritime disaster off Fremantle when more than 10,000 sheep took up to four days to die in a fire aboard an overloaded multideck carrier.
It was around the same time that we were protesting against cruelty to circus animals. There were not a lot of us; I think that at Burnley Oval in Melbourne on a cold winter's night there was me, Lynda Stoner, Peter Singer and a couple of others, and a dog—bloody animal lovers were all nut jobs, remember? I also supported New South Wales Premier Mike Baird's decision to ban greyhound racing from next year, and I hope that eventually that will have a domino effect and lead to a phased-in ban in all states. They had decades to clean up this corrupt, cruel sport and they did not, would not or could not do it.
I hope I have not bored you. I want to conclude by flashing back nearly 50 years to Saint Patrick's Cathedral, New York, in June 1968, at the funeral of assassinated presidential candidate, Robert Kennedy, only five years after his brother, President John Kennedy, had been assassinated in Dallas. Many of us, the mourners and the reporters, inside Saint Patrick's that morning had been in a different, smaller church—the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia—only eight weeks earlier for the funeral of assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Junior. The mourners there had included Bobby Kennedy. I will always remember the words that Teddy Kennedy, the sole surviving Kennedy brother, struggled to deliver in his eulogy to Bobby at Saint Patrick's Cathedral. He said his brother tried to live by the words of Greek philosopher and playwright Aeschylus: 'Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?'
I heard Bobby Kennedy use that quote often on his ill-fated presidential campaign in '68, before he was assassinated in Los Angeles by Sirhan Sirhan. Those words have stayed with me for five decades, and I still dream things that never were and say, 'Why not?' in a country which welcomed me here as a young reporter, a callow youth, back in 1963 and accepted me as a proud Australian citizen in 1980—36 years ago. The Australia which I dream should be, and must be, multicultural with tolerance and respect for new cultures but equally with tolerance and respect for old ones. They must be honoured.
The Australia which I dream should enshrine our Aboriginal history but also acknowledge our failings, not just by white bureaucracy—which often has been cruel, if sometimes well-meaning in its ignorance—but also by those Indigenous leaders who betrayed their own people and stole their money; hypocrites like that rapist, Geoff Clark, who destroyed ATSIC. There have been other Indigenous shysters as well. After all the decades, the decades of waste, the hundreds of billions of taxpayers' dollars spent on Indigenous welfare and health projects and state and federal agencies and committees since Whitlam, there should not be one Aboriginal child or Torres Strait Islander without access to clean water or health care, not one Aboriginal child with trachoma nor an Aboriginal child vulnerable to sexual violence by family or a neighbour while elders in remote communities cover it up.
I remember several years ago opening my current affairs program on 3AW in Melbourne with a news report, 'Two girls aged seven and nine were taken from their beds and raped in Toorak last night.' It did not happen but now I have your attention: it may not have happened in Toorak that night but it sure as hell happened in a settlement somewhere outside of Alice Springs, Darwin or Mount Isa. So the Australia of which I dream will see perpetrators of those crimes brought to justice. Why not?
The Australia of which I dream should be a multicultural one, which means respect for new cultures as well as old. That is true, but that does not mean we embrace or make legal or turn a blind eye to brutal or demeaning or discriminatory customs brought from abroad. When they breach our law, criminal charges should be laid. Why not?
Thirty years ago as a reporter in Africa, I wrote about FGM—female genital mutilation; young girls butchered. Their legs would be tied together and cow dung smeared on their hacked vaginas to create scabs. That foul custom still exists. Millions of girls have been mutilated. It happens here in Australia as well. The wielders of the knife should be jailed. The innocent girl's parents should be prosecuted. Why not? Likewise, those who surrender their daughters as child brides should be prosecuted, as those who conduct those illegal ceremonies should be prosecuted. Why not? And the so-called husbands of these child brides should be charged with child rape. Senator Hanson and I forced a change in child bride legislation in Victoria this month, and I hope that is a harbinger of things to come.
Sharia law must never come to Australia. It should not even be countenanced. Personally, I do not believe we should have separate Koori courts either. We have a legal system. As faulty and out of touch as it often is, that is true, it is one system. Why not just improve it? Why not? When things happen like the abhorrent treatment of Indigenous child prisoners in the Northern Territory, courageously exposed by Four Corners, then rightly hold that royal commission and make sure that criminal charges follow where necessary.
I mentioned 'Sharia law'—two words you are not meant to use in these days of political correctness, like those other two words 'Muslim terrorists'. In my new elected role, I will not be PC. I will speak out against Islamic terrorists, against Muslim extremists. I have said before that I believe that ISIS is the greatest threat the world has seen since World War II. It is a sad prediction that eventually an international force of ground troops led by Middle Eastern countries, you hope, will be necessary to defeat the terrorists—and Australia may have to join them.
But I will not support shrill scaremongers who want to ban all Muslim migrants, put CCTV cameras in all mosques and ban new mosques. Do not get me wrong; I would happily support putting court-ordered secret cameras and listening devices in a mosque, church, synagogue or town hall if the security of Australia were at stake. But we did not ostracise all Catholics when the IRA was bombing restaurants in London. So like them, we can and we should expect community leaders to condemn the cancer in their own ranks and turn them in.
If there is proof that Halal certification funds are going to support and fund international terrorism to fund ISIS then that is a crime against the state. Track them down, prosecute them and confiscate the money.
This leads me to another old chestnut: freedom of speech. It must be preserved, even when that freedom of speech repulses you and offends you, as it often repulses and offends me. In a democracy, freedom of speech must be preciously guarded. Argue against the bigots; subject them to facts and ridicule. But do not make them martyrs; they will get elected. That is why I am campaigning to repeal or, for starters, amend 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. You cannot say we have freedom of speech when people can be charged and convicted of a crime because they are deemed to have offended or insulted someone.
Andrew Bolt, who is no friend of mine, should never have been charged let alone convicted. We say and we march and we proudly tweet, 'Je suis Charlie.' Yeah, sure, as long as Charlie is singing from the same songbook that you are. Bugger Voltaire. When cartoonist Bill Leak was being vilified for his cruel but accurate portrayal of a neglectful Aboriginal father, I tweeted, 'Je suis Charlie but ban Bill Leak.'
Even my new colleague Senator Brandis was right when he, albeit clumsily, tried to defend a bogan's right to sound like a bogan, as I, no doubt on occasion, will have to defend the right of my other new colleague and Sunrise sparring partner, Senator Hanson. It is called freedom of speech. As a journalist and commentator for 56 years, as a person who cherishes freedom of speech and who recognises and will pay tribute to the Anzacs who died to protect and preserve those precious freedoms, I am offended and insulted by any law that has emotional words like 'offend' and 'insult' enshrined in it.
I do accept and I applaud laws that say that you are committing an offence if you shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre or, as a self-styled sheikh, you publicly incite violence by targeting a racial or ethnic or religious group. They are crimes. But there are, too, laws of defamation and there is monetary compensation for genuinely aggrieved victims.
That leads to the cruel taunts that will be thrown at vulnerable gay people during the plebiscite debate—if that ever gets off the ground. And I will vote against it. Plebiscite sounds great—it is just a public opinion poll. By blocking it, we will save $160 or $250 or $300 million.
As a Victorian senator, I hope to announce some ideas soon to create those jobs and growth the PM keeps talking about, especially for thousands of workers in Geelong, Broadmeadows and Fishermans Bend who will be in dire straits after the automotive industry closes. All of that will, I am sure, be aired in this program—in this chamber; 'program', a Freudian slip.
Now, I know this maiden speech—and I can call it a maiden speech because it was made in Melbourne—is heavy on nostalgic anecdotes and 'remember when' moments, but I want to quickly touch on something. I want to pass on a moment from my days as a police-rounds reporter—and there is a point to this—on the Sydney Sun, and that was more than 50 years ago. On the midnight-to-dawn shift, we had a big black car that looked like a cop car and we had an illegal police radio. The coppers knew we had one because if theirs broke down they would ask to listen to ours. At 2 am, the radio would crackle and a metallic voice would say, 'Ah, serious assault reported at Military Road, Mosman', and we would head there. Halfway there, the voice would say, 'Nah, forget it. It's just a domestic', and we would all turn for home—just a domestic; just a drunken Mr Kelly beating the daylights out of Mrs Kelly. The cops wouldn't get involved. We wouldn't get involved. The neighbours wouldn't get involved. Just a domestic, because Mr Kelly did that every Saturday night.
Things have changed—obviously not enough, but things have changed—thanks to people like Rosie Batty, who joined me on my Jail 2 Justice walk before she was named Australian of the Year. I promise I will do anything I can in this new position to help make domestic violence a major issue in this country, to fight against funding cuts to refuge centres—why not?—and to make government funding gender neutral, to use an awful expression, because men are victims of domestic violence too.
But things will not change, things will never change, they cannot change, until magistrates and judges start sentencing a man who breaks his wife's jaw to as much time behind bars as a man who coward punches a total stranger, until judges get it through their blinkered brains that a wedding ring is not a mitigating circumstance. That is all part of the umbrella issue which made me include, as one of our major policies for the Justice Party, a call for a Senate inquiry into the Family Court and all child welfare agencies. That is why I hope I can work towards building the Australian child protection agency—ACPA—which will absorb all state and territory child welfare agencies down the track. I know we are a commonwealth of states, but it is madness, it is Noddyland, when a father can break a little boy's arm in Sydney and change states and kill that child in Adelaide, because medical records in New South Wales were not available in South Australia. That is mad.
Back to the Family Court: there are women, and men, being deprived of justice in a system which has developed into a non-accountable, ultra-expensive, almost Lodge-like secret organisation minus the secret handshake. Mothers, and fathers, are being demonised and destroyed and bankrupted through it. They are being mauled in the Family Court and they are often dollared to death, as they say.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Hinch, I hate to interrupt the freedom of speech you are enjoying. First speeches are normally 20 minutes. You have gone for 45 minutes, and I just want to remind you of the time and the courtesy that has been extended to you.
Senator HINCH: I am sorry. Can I read five more paragraphs?
The PRESIDENT: I am sure you can finish in five more paragraphs.
Senator HINCH: Thank you. I apologise. I will wrap it up. As I said, I may be the oldest person ever elected to the Senate, but I still have fire in my belly. I still have the passion, and maybe the power, to do something about things and I will give it my all. Let me just say to you here: I was once asked by a journalist, for one of those silly colour magazine feature pieces, 'What inscription would you want on your tombstone?' I thought and I said: 'Just two words: "He tried".' That will do me when I leave this chamber, and I leave this world: 'He tried'. Or, as I would have said all those years ago on television: 'I'm Derryn Hinch. That's life. Goodnight.'