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Today I would like to pay tribute to the passing of a great journalist, a community leader and a very dear friend of mine, Kon Nikolopoulos, who passed away on 16 January after a brave fight with a long illness. It is difficult to express the depth of the loss a community feels when it loses one of its most influential, respected and significant voices. The passing of Kon Nikolopoulos leaves a void in the Australian Greek community that will be near impossible to fill, because he was definitely one of a kind.

I really welcome the opportunity to speak on this MPI and to join my other colleagues on what is a very important issue. Child care is a very, very important issue in my electorate of Calwell. Whilst I would like to note that I understand that taxpayers, in the last financial year, have spent some $5.7 billion in supporting some one million families with the cost of child care, I also want to make the point that thousands of those families are my constituents. I cannot emphasise enough the significance and the importance of child care in Calwell, and in particular quality and affordable child care.

Each year the Hume City Council in my electorate, apart from the very successful citizenship ceremony on Australia Day, also awards its Australia Day awards, recognising outstanding individuals in our community who go above and beyond in their call of duty and support of others.   At this year's Australia Day ceremony, Mr Samet Istar, a Dallas resident, who has championed cultural understanding and community in our pride was awarded the 2015 Hume Citizen of the Year. Samet Istar, apart from being a good friend of mine, is a 29-year-old young Australian, who was a founding member of the Australian Turkish University Students Association and is the current president of the Australian Turkish Institute. Samet is above all a great ambassador for multiculturalism in our community. He is involved in many events and activities. He is a volunteer presenter with the 3ZZZ radio network, and his work in promoting intercultural understanding and fostering community pride has made a great impact, particularly amongst young people. 

I am aware that there are many Australians who were supportive of Van Nguyen’s execution. It is easy for people to be unforgiving and to loathe those who they believe by their actions perpetuate the misery of drug abuse. But we must never allow such feelings to cause us to lose sight of our humanity. I cannot therefore agree with those who support capital punishment. Putting aside all the moral and legal arguments that militate against the use of capital punishment, for me personally it is a simple case of a profound belief that no human being has the right to take the life of another under any circumstances. I particularly derive this conviction from my own Christian faith, which preaches the sanctity and dignity of life and the power of forgiveness and mercy. I know this to be an absolute truth applicable in all circumstances without exception.

I want to take this opportunity this evening to refer to the Victorian election result and reflect on what an Andrews-led Labor government will now mean for the people of my electorate. First, I would like to congratulate Daniel Andrews and his team on their wonderful victory on Saturday night, and I certainly look forward to working with them for the benefit not only of Victorians but also of my electorate in particular.The Victorian state election was as much a judgement on the federal budget as it was on the four years of a state coalition government which effectively saw policies and measures taken that hurt Victorians generally and provided little or no support to the many people and families who live in my electorate. In fact, I well remember that, upon coming to office four years ago, the now former coalition state Liberal government stripped away from my electorate $30 million that had been allocated and budgeted for by the previous Brumby Labor government for the redevelopment of the Broadmeadows train station centre. This was a bad omen indeed for my constituents, and, unfortunately, it did not get any better for them, as our local families and communities were largely ignored by the Baillieu and Napthine governments.

In moving this motion, I want to first acknowledge that in 1977 the United Nations declared 29 November the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. I also want to acknowledge that 2014 has been declared as the United Nations Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.I want to remind the House that it has been 67 years since the partition of Palestine and the occupation, which continues until today—an occupation that is devastating, demoralising and damaging for all involved. The time has now come for this to end. Australia, and indeed this parliament, must now recognise the state of Palestine. Australia must vote yes at the UN for Palestinian Statehood. Fifty six per cent of Australians are in favour of this and 135 countries have already done so.In his message for the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon affirmed that:We have passed through another sombre, sad and sorry year for Palestinians, Israelis and all who seek peace. Over the course of 50 brutal days this summer, the world witnessed a ruthless war in Gaza — the third such conflict in six years.

I begin by commending the member for Swan for bringing this motion to the House, and I full well remember his very important speech five years ago to this chamber. So I would like to begin by acknowledging that it has been five years since the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, delivered a national apology to the forgotten Australians and former child migrants. Around half a million people were affected by this terrible chapter of Australian history—people who, as children, were separated from their families, raised in institutions and deprived of love, of basic health care, of educational opportunities, and of a sense of security and self worth. So many of them suffered much worse than deprivation; they were physically, sexually and emotionally abused. The national apology did not and never could completely heal the deep and longstanding wounds of the forgotten Australians, but hopefully it began a slow process of ensuring that they would no longer be forgotten.

 

I begin by associating myself with the contributions made by many of my colleagues on the passing of Gough Whitlam. I offer my