One morning last week, I cried in “the other place”, as the supposedly superior Senate dwellers are forced to call it.
I was privileged to be seated in the VIP section of the House of Reps when — as Julian Lennon would say — saltwater welled in my eyes.
The occasion, as you can see from the photo op below, was Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop introducing into the House my amendments to the passport laws to ban 20,000 men (and a few women) on the convicted child sex offenders’ register from travelling overseas. It will stop them from going on child rape holidays.
The bill sailed through the Senate Tuesday night, my proudest moment since being elected less than a year ago.
After she introduced the bill, Bishop came up to me and said “Derryn, this is why you got into politics”. And she was right. And I salute the 200,000+ Victorians who believed in me and put me here.
There’s more to come in the spring session of Parliament. As I said in the Senate:
“As I speak, I know there are Australian deviates right here using their credit cards and Skype for real-time sex crimes. I was given evidence today of a paedophile hiring a baby from her mother in the Philippines for less than $100 for his real-time gratification on Skype. The baby was three months old.
“So, I’ll be working closely in the months ahead with a group called IJM, the International Justice Mission Australia, to fight cybersex trafficking in our region. I stand here tonight, a very proud man and very proud of you all, in both houses, for rescuing hundreds, thousands, of children from a truly evil and depraved culture.”
Keen as mustard, as they say, I was the first person into the House that morning (after the green-jacketed attendants) and was ushered to a prime position next to an open door where Liberal Party MPs had gathered for their morning pre-sitting strategy gabfest — which I suddenly eavesdropped to discover was a pep talk from Mr Fixit, the “election-winning machine”, Christopher Pyne.
I reckon his rev-up to the team could have given Ron Barassi a run for his money.
“You’ve got to be noisy in there. Really noisy. Don’t be intimidated by Bowen and Fitzgibbon.”
It reminded me of a motto from the HINCH program before I jumped the shark.
“If you are being run out of town pretend it’s a parade and you’re leading it.”
Speaking of “the other place”. Every morning in the Senate, we all gather for morning prayers and the tribute to Aboriginal elders “past and present”. As an atheist, I stare at the vaulted ceiling during the God bit. So do most of the Greens and some ALP senators. Senator Malcolm Roberts cups his hands skyward in supplication (I presume he has empirical evidence of a higher being). And senators Barry O’Sullivan and Matt Canavan do the traditional “spectacles, testicles, watch and wallet” routine.
What shocked me, on that visit to the other place, was that the opposition didn’t turn up for the opening ceremony. I thought their caucus meeting had run over time. Somebody doing a Pyne-style rev-up. But the PM, and several ministers, told me that they rarely do. Harmless Westminster pomp. Bit sad really.
Even though a newbie in Foggy Bottom, I have already experienced those adrenaline-filled highs and morale-sapping lows. The ones that the legendary Fred Daly reminded us makes you “a rooster one day, feather duster the next”.
And that’s how it played out last week.
The passport ban high evaporated that same afternoon when, in a true act of bastardry, One Nation Senator Brian Burston blocked my attempt to introduce a motion for a joint parliamentary watchdog committee to make sure the National Redress Scheme gets real compensation for victims identified in the sex abuse royal commission.
One Nation tried to block it again this week but lost. Burston told other senators it was “payback” but also said I was only wanting to claim the committee chairman’s spot because I was greedy and wanted the $21,000 allowance that came with it.
The following morning, after prayers, I was given rare permission to refute his defamatory claims that I was “in it for the money as committee chairman”.
I announced if there was a fee I would donate it all to the Wintringham project for housing homeless people over 50.
To be honest, I was surprised how emotional I got in that one minute on my feet, but nobody likes to be accused of exploiting vulnerable kids.
This bad blood extended to the corridors and a crossbench committee meeting, which I chair. The One Nation grinch said: “I haven’t finished with you yet, you grub.” I’ll concede I did greet him with: “You’re a bastard, Burston.” Thought it quite alliterative.
You have spoken. Channel Seven ran a poll last week on whether or not Australians support my call for a national public register of sex offenders. Yes: 94%. Fear vigilantes: 6%. Nearly 200,000 have signed my petition. Thanks, Australia.