In his maiden speech to the ACT Legislative Assembly today, Canberra Liberals MLA Mark Parton confessed that his election to the ACT Parliament was the culmination of a dream he’d had since the age of 12, inspired in part by his initials, MP.
“From a very young age, my brother Dean and I used to joke that they were the perfect initials for an elected representative,” Mr Parton said. “I dreamt that one day I could be elected to represent the people and I have to pinch myself today to believe that it’s real.”
The former radio broadcaster, pictured above with another inaugural speechmaker today in Labor’s Gordon Ramsay, said not everyone was impressed by his decision to give up his new career as a social media consultant to run for the Assembly.
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“PartonMe was on a staggering trajectory upwards and my accountant still believes that I am crazy for abandoning it to become an MLA,” Mr Parton joked.
Read Canberra Liberals’ Member for Ginninderra Elizabeth Kikkert’s maiden speech in full here; Labor MLA for Ginninderra Gordon Ramsay’s inaugural speech in full here and Mr Ramsay’s Labor and Ginninderra colleague Tara Cheyne’s maiden speech here. The full text of Mr Parton’s speech appears below, as does a link to our video coverage of this morning’s speeches.
Mr Parton talked about being teased for wearing a green tie for the offical photographs of MLAs recently, but noted the slip had a symbolic relevance.
“Some Liberal party people suggested to me that it was the wrong choice,” the MLA said.
“I responded to them by saying that I am colour blind in more ways than one. And I’m proud of that.
“I am here for people of every race and religion. We are blessed to live in a wonderfully diverse multicultural society and I’d like to embrace that as much as I possibly can.”
Mr Parton paid tribute to the contribution of his wife and family.
“Luisa is the rock at the centre of my life and I am so thankful that we found each other,” the new MLA said.
“When Brindabella elected me to this place, they effectively elected Luisa as well. She will continue to be my guiding light in many ways.”
He made one very political statement, talking of the forgotten people of Tuggeranong, his constituents: “The people who dread their next rates announcement, their next motor registration renewal….the people who will never ever buy a ticket on any white elephant tram.”
The full text of the speech is below. You can also see part of Mr Parton’s speech via our archived Facebook live coverage here:
My name is Mark Parton.
I am so proud and so humbled to be here.
Today is the culmination of a dream that I had as a 12 year old boy. My initials are MP and from a very young age, my brother Dean and I used to joke that they were the perfect initials for an elected representative. I dreamt that one day I could be elected to represent the people and I have to pinch myself today to believe that it’s real.
I have been 50 years on this earth.
I was born in 1966, the second son of a struggling country grocer by the name of Tom Parton and his wife Jackie. My parents were living in a small country town in Western Australia called York. York is a 100 kilometres this side of Perth. It’s very similar to Braidwood. 3 pubs, a supermarket and a corner store, a hospital, primary school and high school up to year 10. And lots of farmers…..wheat and sheep primarily when I was growing up but there’s been some diversification since then.
My parents had moved to York from Narrogin, another country town as my father chased his dream to build a career in retail. My father came from a very poor family. His father had been a railway worker….he was one of 7 children, they did it tough. My father’s brother, my uncle George still lives in the house that they all grew up in. It’s a small and very modest house in Narrogin and I’m astounded that they all fitted in. I don’t know where they all slept.
My father was not a scholar. He had some major health issues at 13 which robbed him of a full year of schooling and he left school at 15 to work in retail. Some years later, the particular business he was working for opened up a store in York, which was a 100kms to the north and sent my father, who was in his twenties at this stage to run it. It didn’t work out and it closed soon after. My father decided to have a go himself. He went to various banks to borrow money so he could start his own business. The banks all knocked him back.
As he was close to giving up, he stumbled across a private lender who agreed to lend him the money and my father became a small business owner. I was born in those early years that he and my mother were running the business. We lived in a very modest bonded asbestos house on the poor side of town. This was government housing. It was all that my parents could affair.
My father worked.
He worked from dawn until dusk. I grew up in the store room of his supermarket….I watched my father and the way he operated. I listened in on the conversations he had with customers and wholesalers and in those young formative years, my fathers work ethic entered my little body…..and it has never left.
My father was the best small town supermarket operator that ever was. He metraphorically owned that little town. He built that business up so fast. Eventually we moved out of the poor side of town to a much bigger house. Eventually my father sold up to a bigger supermarket and became their manager before starting again in business for a second shot at it 7 years later. And he smashed it. He worked his guts out for his family and made it work.
My father retired at 50 because he could. He and my mother had earnt enough money to fund their retirement for the rest of their lives and they still live very happily in York.
I am a Liberal because my father showed me that with hard work anyone can get ahead irrespective of where they’ve come from. This is a great country that we live in, in that it allows individuals to prosper in the way that my father did and I think our elected representatives at all levels should do whatever they can to allow initiative and hard work to be rewarded.
I had a ball growing up York. There’s something special about living in a place where you know everybody and they know you. I played hockey very badly. I didn’t often wear shoes…and I rode my yellow Malvern Star bike all over town. I excelled early on at school, but not so much in later years because other things grabbed my attention.
I became a published journalist as a 13 year old when I started writing a fornightly column in one of my local newspapers, the Beverley York Express. It was around that time that I developed a love for harness and thoroughbred racing. I fancied myself as a racecaller and I set about learning that craft. I am supremely colour blind and so I was told by many that it was physically impossible for me to call the races. The calling of thoroughbred racing in particular is done almost exclusively by colour. I was told that it would not be possible for me to pursue this.
I ignored the naysayers and set about proving them wrong…and prove them wrong I did.
At 14 I became the on course broadcaster for the Northam Harness Racing trials and at age 16 I secured the job as the official on course broadcaster for the Trayning Harness Racing Club and the Merredin Harness Racing Club both in regional Western Australia. At those venues I created the bizarre scenario whereby the official on course race caller was not legally allowed to bet on the races.
Soon after this, I secured my first part time radio job as a 16 year old announcer at Radio 6AM Northam. Upon completing my Year 12 studies I began working full time at 6AM before securing a job at 6PR in Perth. In the following 30 odd years I journeyed around the nation working in every state and territory except Queensland and Northern Territory.
I worked in Sale, Victoria, Wangaratta in Victoria, I worked in Launceston before a longer stint in Adelaide….then Murray Bridge, Coffs Harbour and Newcastle before coming to Canberra in 1999.
At the time I moved to Canberra, I didn’t really want to come here. I’d been squeezed out by a staff reshuffle in Newcastle and there was not much else on offer. I agreed to come to Canberra on what would be a temporary posting. I intended to be here for no more than 6 months until something better came along. I didn’t think I’d like the place. I was wrong.
I love this town, I love the people in it and it’s been a great pleasure of mine to be a part of this community for nearly 20 years.
I presented the breakfast program at Mix 106.3 here in Canberra from late 1999 through to 2008. I set out to win the breakfast slot at Mix but was told by my Program Director that this would not be possible. “Mix has never won breakfast here,” he told me….”and demographically it’s not really possible for you to achieve a breakfast figure any higher than 17 or 18%”
I took those words as a challenge.
With Lisa Ridgley as my co-host we did win breakfast at Mix with an audience share well over 20% and to this day, we remain as the only breakfast team to win a Canberra breakfast survey at Mix.
After an unsuccessful attempt to win my way into this place as an independent in 2008, I found myself back on the radio doing breakfast at 2CC. From the Mitchell studios of 2CC I managed to win not one, but 5 Australian Commercial Radio Awards as Best Talk Announcer and Best Current Affairs Presenter over a number of years.
In more recent years I have run my own Communications and Marketing business. PartonMe was on a staggering trajectory upwards and my accountant still believes that I am crazy for abandoning it to become an MLA.
I’m here because I love this town and because I want to help Canberra to become the best it can be. I’m here because life is so desperately short and when you have the ability to make a positive impact on your community….on those around you, I think you should take that chance.
I want to make reference to one of my radio mentors, a gentleman by the name of Vincent Smith. I produced Vinnies morning talk program at 5AA in Adelaide in the late 80’s early 90’s. He was a cranky old bloke with reams of experience across all of the mainstream mediums. He had produced John Laws, he’d been an international correspondent for Fairfax and he’d presented national television programs. When we came together I was 19 and I had virtually no experience in talk radio. He took me under his wing and showed me how to make talk radio. So much of what I did at 2CC was inspired by Vincent Smith.
These were the good old days of talk radio. Whenever I hear the sound of a clacking typewriter, I think of this man. Vinnie was a passionate man. Passionate about most things. I can remember so many long lunches that were ended by us being kicked out of whatever restaurant we were in for being too rowdy.
Vincent was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer early in the ’90s and he quickly declined. He continued working right to the end but he was as sick as a dog. I helped in what ever way I could as his producer, and I still vividly recall those final months. In particular I recall one conversation that the two of us had close to the end. He was most unwell was Vin….we’d just finished a morning program and he’d made the long walk from the studio to our office. He was exhausted. He slumped down in his chair and he said these words to me…..he said…”the people in this place, they say hello and they smile at me, but I can see that they feel very sorry for me. They feel sorry for me because they think I’m dying. In reality, I’m the luckiest man in the building” he said.
How do you figure that ? I asked him.
“Well,” he said, “I’m the only one here who knows what each day is worth. I’m the only one here who knows what every moment is worth and nobody else has got a bloody clue”
I remember those words as though they were spoken yesterday and they have influenced the way that I have gone about so many things since that day.
Vinnie was so right. We do take life for granted. We all seem to march on as though this thing called life is infinite….and it’s not.
We’re all born with a terminal disease called life. None of us are going to make it out alive and and Vinnie taught me that we should all embrace each every day. Our time here is not a finite resource and one of the reasons that I am here is to leave as positive a footprint as I possibly can on this city, this country and this planet.
As I look around this place today I see 24 other members who I believe are also here on a selfless journey to make a positive impact in the city that we all share. I commend each and every one of you for having the courage to stand up for what you believe in and for taking this journey with me. I understand that we’re not always going to agree on everything. I look forward to the battle of ideas, I look forward to the conflict and the to-ing and fro-ing, but above all else, I look forward to the times when we actually come together on important matters because the people elected us to make the right decisions for them.
I had my official photographs for this place taken several weeks ago. I was wearing a green tie on the day the photo was taken and some Liberal party people suggested to me that it was the wrong choice. I responded to them by saying that I am colour blind in more ways than one. And I’m proud of that.
I am here for people of every race and religion. We are blessed to live in a wonderfully diverse multicultural society and I’d like to embrace that as much as I possibly can. My wife Luisa is Colombian born and as such mine is a bi-lingual house hold. Estoy aprendiendo espanol, pero mi espanol es basura. I am learning Spanish, but my Spanish is rubbish. I do have some strong links to the Latin American community in Canberra and I’d like to further enhance those links and to reach out to others. With Luisa I’ve attended a number of catholic churches in the Tuggeranong valley, but I am here for followers of all religions. I’m here for followers of the Muslim faith in Canberra. I supported them during my time on the radio and I will continue to support them from here. I have attended open days at the Islamic centre in Monash and I look forward to spending more time there.
I am here for those Canberrans who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, those who are experiencing housing stress or who find themselves homeless in our capital city. The level of housing unaffordability in this city should shame us all, particularly those on the other side who have had many opportunities to address this problem but have been found wanting. Housing affordability is the biggest single failure from the 4 terms of Labor government here and I hope that we can work together to make it easier for every Canberran to comfortably have a roof over their head.
I’m here for the hard working small construction firms who have been brave enough to not sign enterprise bargaining agreements with certain unions. The last time I looked this was a free country and I am appalled at the bullying and thuggery that some in our Canberra construction industry must face for simply exercising their rights. I am not anti union at all. Unions have helped to make this country great and their input to our nation can never be underestimated. I am not anti union, but I am anti corrupt unions.
And I am anti any institution, government or otherwise that deters the aspirations of small business owners and their ability to operate and prosper, because Madam Speaker, small business plays such a big role in turning the wheels of this city. We must recognize that it’s the business community that ensures the employment prospects of thousands in our city and ensures that our kids have a fair chance of a viable future.
Of course we must also recognise our government sectors, both Federal and Territory for their role in our Canberra community.
I’m here for the participants and the followers of the sport of greyhound racing. The greyhound racing industry has been absolutely and fully compliant with all animal welfare requirements for their 37 year history and I think they have every right to question the dismissal of their sport in this city. They don’t understand and neither do I the basis upon which they are being banished by this Labor government. To some extent the appalling lack of consultation doesn’t surprise me. I’m sure that those from the other side ever bothered to join me at the greyhounds one Sunday night would be staggered by how many former Labor voters they encounter.
I’m here for the LGBTI community in the ACT. For the most part, it’s not a concentrated community at all…it’s just a bunch of people who are scattered across all parts of the city who’s sexuality happens to be different to mine. I’m not an advocate for same sex marriage….what I am is just sick to death of talking about it. It is inevitable that this country will legalise same sex marriage and I wish we would just get on with it.
I am here for the people of Tuggeranong…the people who have been left behind and forgotten by this government. I’m here for the families who’s margins have been squeezed by the every increasing cost of every day life in this great city. The people who dread their next rates announcement, their next motor registration renewal….the people who will never ever buy a ticket on any white elephant tram.
I am truly honoured to say that I was elected to this place in October. Those of us who have run unsuccessful campaigns in the past learn many things and luckily I was able to put that knowledge as well as the support of the Canberra Liberals team and some wonderful supporters into a winning formula in October. I made many promises during my 10 week campaign and I’m keen to keep all that I can from Opposition benches.
Thanks to everyone who helped me get here.
Thanks to my wife Luisa and all of the family. Luisa is the rock at the centre of my life and I am so thankful that we found each other. When Brindabella elected me to this place, they effectively elected Luisa as well. She will continue to be my guiding light in many ways.
During my journey many things have changed me and becoming a father was one of them. Before having children of my own I had always believed that a father’s role was to teach his children about life. Harry, Brydie and Delaney have taught me that the opposite is the case. From the day each of them were born they’ve taught me much more about me and life in general than I believe I have taught them. And they continue to teach me every day. I thank them for bringing light into my life. And I thank my step children Attila, Angela and Anna for accepting me in their lives and allowing me to play such a big role in what they do day to day.
From the campaign perspective, I must say Thanks to Rob and George and Rowan and the whole campaign team. Thanks to Jason and Dennis and Peter. Thanks to Graham, and Peter and Rosa. Thanks to Jeremy Hanson for believing in me. Thanks to Alistair Coe for all of your help and advice. Thanks so much to Ed Cocks for campaigning hard enough in Brindabella that the door was opened wide enough to get 3 of us elected.
But more than anything else thanks to every single person who voted 1 or 2 or even 3 for me. I will be forever grateful and I will repay you for supporting me. I know a lot of you, but many of you I haven’t met. I aim to change that. I want to get out and meet all of you.
I will repay you by representing you truly in this place. I will repay you by holding the government to account. I will repay you by putting bright ideas on the table. I will repay you by listening to your grievances and doing whatever I can do address them. And I will repay you by helping this city to reach its full potential.
Thanks for indulging me.