Maiden Speech17 September 2019
Mr President, I would like to start by letting you in on a little secret, and this is strictly between you and I.
Although I may, very understandably, give the impression of being cool, calm and collected standing here before you today, I can assure you that is not necessarily so.
Standing in front of a group of family, friends, many of the Coalition government’s leadership group, one’s political opponents, your words being indelibly transcribed into Hansard.
Its a fairly daunting prospect.
But let me tell you, Mr President, I have carried a similar burden once before.
In 1982 at the age of 7, I stood before a crowd of about 100 or so family and friends during Burnside Primary School’s talent night and performed a rousing rendition of the song “Rockin Robin” and… I….nailed it.
So I feel that with the benefit of that experience behind me, I am ready to go.
That said, it would be remiss of me to start without first extending my congratulations to all of the Senators elected in May this year, particularly those elected from my home state of South Australia.
To serve in this place is a genuinely humbling experience and a tremendous honour.
It’s my hope, that even though I may not always agree with those of you across the chamber, that our efforts will be constructive and always be made in the interests of a stronger Australia.
I stand before you today as the 608th Senator elected to this place and the 106th from South Australia.
But as I understand it, I am the first Australian Senator of Serbian descent.
I was born in Adelaide in 1974, the second child of Dr Ratomir Antic and Vicki Anderson, the only child of Sylvia Anderson (who we knew as “Tup”), a widow who raised my mother on her own following the death of my paternal grandfather in 1951.
In addition to experiencing the trauma of losing her husband, Tup was left in a perilous financial position following his death.
She was not the beneficiary of a life insurance payment or a significant bank balance but she, like so many of her generation, drew upon the uniquely Australian post-war “can do” mindset to enter the workforce, make sacrifices, and raise my mother on her own terms.
Her generation lived through hardship and war, they had stared down genuine annihilation a decade earlier, and knew how to react to life’s challenges with a stoic resolve.
Today, I am the humble beneficiary of her fighting spirit and for those homegrown heroics, I am tremendously grateful.
The homegrown heroics of my paternal grandmother have also been critical in the role they played in shaping me both as a person, and now as a politician.
Grandma Seka (as we knew her) came to this country from the former Yugoslavia in 1957 with her husband, her two sons and very little else.
A tale of post-war immigration familiar to many Australian families.
Theirs was a family of small business people, on a post-war collision course with the rise of communism in the Balkans.
My grandmother’s distrust of the communist regime, a regime which had stripped her family of its modest assets, led her to lecture my father about the importance of private ownership, entrepreneurship and basic freedoms.
Inconveniently, my father was prone to repeating her views to his government-appointed school teachers and before long, that indiscrete young man had given away his mother’s political leanings and raised the ire of the local party officials in the process.
The Antic family’s tenure under the Red Star of Yugoslavian communism was coming to a sharp end.
My father, is a man who always tells it like it is, a man of immeasurable integrity.
He is a man who served his community in his role as the Director of Thoracic Medicine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital for more than 40 years with dignity and respect.
He is a man who taught me the importance of treating those around you with the same dignity and respect.
My mother is a woman who has consistently put her own interests, her own pursuits and her own life behind those of her family.
She is a woman who captures a crowd of people with her intellect and wit and who never shies away from a self-deprecating joke.
The person who stands before you today is as much a product of THAT back story as of the love shown to me by my family throughout the course of my life.
These experiences highlight that which drew me to the Liberal Party.
A party which serves to uphold the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
A party which is the friend of small enterprise and which is opposed to authoritarian regimes and tyranny.
I am fortunate to have both my mother and father here in the gallery today.
It is, however, with deep regret that my older brother and only sibling, Professor Nick Antic, could not be here with us today after losing a 3 year battle with a brain tumour in November 2016.
During my formative years at Burnside Primary and Pembroke Schools in Adelaide, living in Nick’s extraordinary academic shadow elicited in me as much pride as it did trepidation.
In his adult years, Nick graduated from medical school, obtained his post-graduate specialist qualifications, and developed a formidable reputation as an emerging world leader in sleep medicine, the very field in which our father had blazed a path of his own.
He never lost his sense of humour, but ultimately he lost his battle with cancer and I am extremely sad that he couldn’t be here with us today.
He leaves behind my sister in law, Corinne, my niece Holly and my nephews, Lachlan and Charles Antic. My niece Holly is also here in the gallery today.
I am as proud of them as their Dad was and would have been if he could have been here today.
In addition to a beautiful family, his legacy proves that much can be achieved in a short amount of time through leadership, collaboration and respect.
That statement adorns his memorial in Centennial Park Cemetery in South Australia and it lives with me every day.
It lives with me because my own path through life has been arguably less expeditious than his.
In the 1990’s I studied a Bachelor of Arts majoring in history and politics and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Adelaide.
I enjoyed the opportunity to think and challenge the ideas around me but I realised that my time in the University system was drawing to a close after a visit to my grandmother’s house in the year 2000.
Whilst sitting with her in her living room, weighing up how I was to best use those University years and while passively smoking a portion of her 8th cigarette (which incidentally had been lit from the end of her 7th cigarette), she looked at me, paused, and in a matter of fact manner said:-
“You know, even if you still haven’t decided what you want to do with your life, I’M not worried about you”
The clear inference to be drawn from that statement was that other family members were less confident but that she was generous enough to buck the trend to so conclude.
It was time to hit the workforce.
That Freudian slip did, however, highlight something about my personality which I knew to be a virtue rather than a vice, being that I preferred a considered approach to life.
A conservative approach to life.
In many respects, this moment was something of an epiphany regarding my political views.
It might best be summed up by the great urban poet Ice Cube who once said:-
“Life ain’t a track meet, it’s a marathon”.
Which is really a modern incarnation of an old Serbian phrase being:-
“Triput meri, jednom seci”
Or in English.
“Three times measure, one-time cut”
A conservative approach must always inform our decision making and take precedence over the utopian propositions injected into the policy cycle by those who seek to “impose” rather than to “improve”.
It is regrettable that too many politicians seek to treat that which purports to be “progressive” as universally “meritorious” regardless of the consequences.
Too often, our history and our institutions are unnecessarily devalued.
In life, action should only be taken following a proper assessment of the ramifications, not simply to play to a crowd.
This is not to say that we should endorse “stagnation” but rather that we should practice “consideration” when making decisions which affect Australians.
We must always embrace stability and structure and recognise that only “cautious change” honours our institutions and that only “cautious change” allows us to both preserve and improve.
In my time in this place, I hope to play a part in preserving and improving that which makes South Australia great, which is why, despite having been fortunate to have had an opportunity to travel the world I, to paraphrase the late Peter Allen:-
“still call South Australia home”
There may be no simpler way to light the fuse of debate in this place than to claim one’s own State as the premier state in the Federation, however, in this instance, I am hopeful that those in the chamber will forgive my parochialism.
My home state of South Australia was based on free settlement rather than on convict labour.
A fact anyone who visits South Australia will be reminded of by a local, several seconds after stepping off their flight, but nonetheless, it is a fact which South Australians are rightfully proud.
Our great State, from the vast electorate of Grey in the State’s north, to the lush green surrounds of the electorate of Barker in the State’s south east, has natural resources and beauty which is the envy of the world.
I have spent much time in regional South Australia and my fondness for the country runs deeper than my admiration for its stunning scenery and fresh air.
It goes to the very heart of what it means to be Australian.
The common sense, pragmatism and respectful interaction that one receives from regional Australians is something from which us city folk could learn a great deal.
People from the regions have an unwavering grasp of the things which really matter.
The basic tenets of “FAMILY, FAITH, FREEDOM AND THE FLAG” are alive and well in the country.
In many respects, there are elements of the country which remind me of some of the best parts of the Australia of my childhood.
An Australia, in which we retained our sense of humour.
An Australia, unaffected by the tyranny of political correctness, a phenomenon favoured by those who have become so duplicitous that they seek to construct matters of concern as a method of attracting attention to serve their own political hubris.
An Australia without corporations seeking to impart a confected political ethos upon their customers.
An Australia in which sporting codes, did not prioritise social justice causes over the core business of playing the sports which breathed life into the pay packets of their executives, while in the process riding roughshod over the interests of their grassroots supporters.
And an Australia without revisionist, neo-Marxist vandals who seek to re-write history by defacing public monuments such as the statues of Captain Cook, Queen Victoria and most appallingly our Anzac memorials.
Happily, that Australia, the common sense Australia, is alive and well in the overwhelming majority of Australians, but we cannot allow it to be further hijacked by the destructive forces of fabricated outrage, lest it shall wither and die. We have much to celebrate, much to protect and much to preserve.
With the benefit of a Liberal State and Federal government, I am certain that South Australia is on track to join Tasmania as the Federation’s next “turnaround state”.
If it isn’t already, South Australia is on its way to becoming, the Defence industry capital of the country and with the Defence and Space sectors taking the place of manufacturing, South Australia can look to a bright future.
But in order to ensure our economic recovery continues, it is critical that South Australia retains ALL of those projects. To relocate them would come at a significant financial cost for this country.
It would result in the loss of jobs from my home State and importantly, it would erode the skill base and knowledge capabilities which ensure that this country’s Defence sector remains world class.
In addition to retaining those industries in which South Australia already excels, we need to encourage new industries and new investment and in one sense, everything old could be new again.
In 1906, South Australia’s first uranium mine was opened at Radium Hill and along with sites such as Olympic Dam, (the world’s fourth-largest uranium producer), South Australia has a sizeable share of this country’s uranium reserves.
Australia itself is now the third-largest uranium producer in the world after Kazakhstan and Canada.
The reckless rush into the unproven, un-costed world of renewable energy in my home State, represents both a deceased canary down the renewable energy coal mine (to coin a phrase) as well as a master class of failed policy from a failed former Labor government.
The curiosity of exporting uranium to the world and in so doing, supplying our neighbours with cheap, proven, virtually emission-free energy while at home we are restricted from accessing the same benefits must be addressed.
In May 2016, the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission determined that there was enough evidence of safety and technological improvements and that consequently, South Australia CAN safely increase its participation in nuclear activities, and that nuclear power should not be discounted.
I welcome the news that the Morrison government has commissioned a parliamentary enquiry to investigate the viability of nuclear power generation.
New technology in the form of Generation IV and Small Modular Reactors will increase efficiency, increase the safety and reduce the costs of nuclear power generation.
Comparing the old tech generators to the future of nuclear power is like comparing a Motorola DynaTAC mobile phone from 1983 to a brand new iPhone 11.
The Commission also determined that South Australia has the necessary attributes to develop a safe, world-class waste disposal facility which could generate up to $100 billion of income in excess of expenditure over the 120-year life of a said facility alone.
The French (who by the way have power prices approximately 17% lower than the EU average) seem to have struck a balance and I doubt there are many in this chamber who would register concerns about knocking back a bottle of French champagne for fear of developing radiation sickness.
At the very least Mr President, there is enough before us to now have a proper debate, one which uses an evidence-based approach, devoid of emotion, devoid of hyperbole and devoid of political point-scoring.
Mr President, I come to this place determined to play a part in ensuring that the legacy of brain drain, industry closures and economic malaise imposed upon my State, draws to a close.
I would not, however, be standing here today without the love and support of my family.
My family is the foundation upon which everything around me rests.
Families allow us to learn from our mistakes, to grow and to balance our needs against the needs of those around us.
To have been raised in a loving traditional family has been critical to my life.
The lessons taught regarding respect for authority and co-operation with those around us, are lessons which we must continue to teach our children.
I thank the membership of the Liberal Party of South Australia, State Councilors and the people of South Australia for the honour they have bestowed upon me and I ask for their trust to use my judgment and work ethic to serve their interests.
I thank my parents, for their tireless support and love. Two people who have consistently put their own interests 3rd and 4th behind those of my late brother and my own.
I thank my late brother for the love and support he showed me and the standard of excellence which he demonstrated to us all during his 45 years.
His children, my niece and nephews, have so many of his admirable characteristics including his sense of humour, wit, compassion and his love of sport.
It is a privilege to see them grow into outstanding young people.
I would especially thank my fiancé Edwina Storer without whose love, support and friendship I would not be standing here today. Edwina is also here in the gallery today.
Her intelligence and emotional maturity has been a critical plank in my journey to this place.
She is a person who has been there through thick and thin, who provides reassurance, laughter, companionship and a sounding board for life’s tricky issues.
It takes a special kind of selflessness to indulge a partner’s pursuit of his or her passion and the manner in which she has invested herself in this role is nothing short of spectacular.
Thank you to Edwina’s parents Nick and Trish Storer for welcoming my family and I so warmly and so graciously.
I thank Tony Pasin the Member for Barker, for his years of friendship and guidance.
He is one of the most loyal, hardworking, trustworthy, and honest people I know and I thank him for that which he has done for me leading up to this day.
I also thank Nicolle Flint the Member for Boothby for her support.
I thank my State Parliamentary colleagues who have travelled here today from South Australia including Sam Duluk MP Member for Waite, Steve Murray MP Member for Davenport, Fraser Ellis MP Member for Narunga.
I thank State Liberal Vice Presidents Nicola Centofanti and Morry Bailes who are here today as well as the partnership of Tindall Gask Bentley Lawyers for their support and those friends who have travelled to be here today.
Thank you also to the South Australian Young Liberal Movement for their tireless support.
I note the presence today of past South Australian Young Liberal Presidents, Alexander Hyde, Sam Duluk MP and Jocelyn Sutcliffe and current Young Liberal President James Porter.
Thank you to our unsuccessful lower house candidates alongside whom I campaigned in the May election namely Laura Curran, Jake Hall Evans, Shaun Osborne, Kathleen Bourne, Georgina Downer and Hemant Dave.
Your outstanding efforts assisted greatly in the party securing the 6th Senate position in South Australia.
In conclusion, during my time in this place, I undertake to discharge my duties in good faith, to work hard, and to dutifully serve the people of South Australia to the best of my ability.
As a person whose sense of irony has been known to get him into trouble from time to time, I hope to show that a sense of humour can be the comfortable bedfellow of a strong policy agenda.
Thank you, Mr President.