ACT Independent senator David Pocock has delivered his maiden speech to federal parliament, during which he welcomed the deaf community using Auslan.
- David Pocock had asked if he could have an Auslan interpreter alongside him on the floor of the Senate but said both major parties denied his request
- Senator Pocock says he will work to continue to make the Senate more accessible for all Australians in the future
- He again made clear that action on climate change and restoring territory rights were among his key focuses
In preparing to make his first speech, Senator Pocock asked last week if he could have an Auslan interpreter alongside him on the floor of the Senate.
But Senator Pocock said both major parties denied his request – a decision he labeled “disappointing.”
Instead, as Senator Pocock delivered his first speech to the chamber, Auslan interpreter Mandy Dolejsi appeared on a large TV behind him and was also broadcast translating his words for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“When I was asked by people in our community to have this first speech live-translated into Auslan I didn’t hesitate to say yes,” Senator Pocock said.
“So, thank you, Mandy, for being here today and translating my words.”
But Senator Pocock said the compromise that had been struck to have Ms Dolejsi in a studio and not on the chamber floor was “the difference between accessibility and inclusion”.
“Today we have achieved the former but not the latter. In future, I hope we can achieve both,” he said.
In a message to further demonstrate what he said was his intention to make Australia’s parliament more inclusive, Senator Pocock himself signed a short welcome to the deaf community, though the Senate cameras were too far away to effectively capture it.
New senator doubles down on action on climate change, restoring territory rights
Senator Pocock made history on the night of the federal election when he became the first territory senator who was not from a major party.
One of the so-called “teal independents”, he had campaigned on a range of issues, including action on climate change and territory rights.
In addressing the chamber, Senator Pocock solidified his support for the issues, saying he wanted “to be a peace broker in the 47th parliament.”
“There is no challenge greater than facing up to the climate and biodiversity crises we face,” he said.
“Today, the systems that sustain life on earth are at the brink of collapse. The climate as we know it is breaking down and the impacts are now being felt with distressing regularity.
“The challenges facing us are so important. I want to be part of making sure we don’t just end the climate wars, we win them.”
Senator Pocock on Monday threw his support behind a bill introduced to parliament by Canberra MP Alicia Payne and her Northern Territory colleague Luke Gosling.
If successful, the bill would repeat the 1996 ban on the territories debating voluntary assisted dying laws.
“It is time for us to restore the right of the territories to make decisions for themselves. To ensure that our Legislative Assembly here in the ACT gets to make decisions about the future of Canberrans, not MPs from around the country whose own constituents already enjoy these same rights,” Senator Pocock said.
“This is not the first time the parliament has tried to repeal the Andrews Bill. But I hope it will be the last.”
ACT ‘no longer a safe seat’, senator says
In concluding his speech, Senator Pocock vowed to use his power as an independent senator and crossbencher “in the best interests of the people of the ACT.”
“For too long we have been neglected, ridiculed, looked down on or flat out ignored,” he said.
“We’re the nation’s capital. I want this to once again be a source of great pride.
“No longer are we a safe seat … The days of the ACT getting less than a quarter of our share of infrastructure funding by head of population are over.
“And so finally, I would like to say thank you to the people of the ACT. Whether you voted for me or not, I will work on your behalf for the next three years.
“I’m committed to being accessible and transparent and I certainly know that you will hold me to account.”