Speeches

A tribute to Tilly

June 18, 2018

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (19:39): Two weeks ago, when many people around the world marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy, one of the quotes that people most frequently recalled then was what Bobby Kennedy said about GDP, about economic growth. He said that GDP 'measures everything, except that which is worthwhile'. In the same week I got a real sense of that when we did have some quite welcome economic data. When the government was speaking about that data there was something lost in the self-congratulation about it. There was, I think, a lack of recognition that, at the end of the day, the economy is not some cold and abstract thing but something that people feel and experience in the suburbs and towns of this country.

I think that that sense was missing in the absence of recognition that, for a lot of people, whether it's in wages or inability to spend or not being able to save or racking up household debt, the economy is a difficult place, and it's not worthy of a lot of the self-congratulations that we get in this building—particularly a couple of weeks ago. The other thing that was missing was an affinity with people who do it tough in this country. It was a reminder that, the purpose of economic policy, the purpose of this place in lots of ways, should never be just about boosting the profits of our companies. That's important, but it should be about boosting the opportunities of our people.

We need to think more broadly about what success means in the modern market economy in Australia, what it actually means to have a prosperous country and a prosperous economy and how we can leverage that to give more kids from communities like mine the opportunity to get ahead in their own lives. I think it would be a tragedy if, in the 27th year of our own economic expansion, kids born in communities like mine feel that they are consigned to a certain kind of future—the same kind of future that their parents may have had to endure in their own lives. It would be a tragedy in the 27th year that our economy has grown to see inequality and immobility handed down within families and within suburbs. It is not too late to change course, but it requires the collective will of governments—I would say it requires a Labor government—and community to make sure that we don't continue down this path that sees the gap between rich and poor widen or to see this cancer of social immobility impact on more and more of our young people.

I say all this because two Thursdays ago we lost someone who understood this as well as anyone I've ever met. Two Thursdays ago, I was sitting there during question time, and you were obviously sitting there too, Mr Speaker, when I got a note saying that one of my favourite people, Joy Tillgren-Wright—but we all knew her as Tilly—had passed away. Tilly understood the collective power of government—the power of the Labor Party, in particular—and the power of community. She had volunteered for so many years—for decades—for Meals on Wheels and the Lions Club and she was a daily volunteer in my office. The reason we knew something was wrong was that Tilly wasn't there at the usual time in the lunch room of our office. So two Saturdays ago, instead of celebrating what would have been her 70th birthday, we had her funeral at St Pauls. Tilly was cheeky, mischievous and terrific company. She was a tiny little person with a massive heart. She had a really stirring sense of fight in her and a fairness. She was a terrific friend.

I raise all this alongside some of the other comments I made about politics, the economy and the country, because she was such a big believer in the Woodridge that she lived in for so long. She grew up elsewhere. She had a very difficult life and she wanted to give so much back to our community. So I wanted to say to her family and to her friends—our friends, our community—and the people who worked alongside her in my office that the work that we do here in the weeks and months ahead will be a tribute to Tilly. We miss her already.

WE'LL PUT PEOPLE FIRST