Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 7 December 2004 2004) . . Page.. 120 ..
of a job being a politician. It is no easy feat and we need the support of family members, colleagues and our parties. We cannot do this job on our own.
I want now to congratulate and thank Michael Long, too, for what he did. Many of you know him probably for his AFL career. I wanted to thank Michael for the way in which he conducted himself and the way in which he approached the raising of issues for indigenous people in this country. Michael has a very refreshing approach.
I had the honour, the privilege, the pleasure and the fun of being able to walk down Northbourne Avenue for that last stretch of his walk. I was the only local Liberal MLA there, and indeed only one of two Liberal members there. Mr Berry was there too. I also understand that Mr Stanhope had signalled he would be there but signalled at the last minute that he could not be there. It was a great turnout. Of course many federal politicians were there. I think some also would have found it amusing that we kept seeing different heads popping up and people joining the walk. It was quite funny.
Through all of that, Michael’s demeanour and his steely-eyed vision for what he was going to do never changed. He is a man of purpose, a man of great determination; he is humble; and he is gracious. The things that he was saying to the media as they rocked up were things like: “I’m not here to bash up the Prime Minister; I’m not here to make this a political debate; I want to get on; we want reconciliation.” In fact, Warren Mundine has backed that cause as well. “Let’s move on; we’ve lost the focus.” The Aboriginal and indigenous community have lost the focus in many ways. Because they are so geared around the sorry debate they have really lost sight of those real issues. That indeed is Michael’s point.
I was tracking his walk for a week when he was about 400 kilometres from Canberra—his sole determination. It was just marvellous to meet such a guy who is so focused on what he wants to do and is not making any political debate about it; he just wants to get on and see his people lifted and the culture recognised truly for what it is. As an import to this country, that is what I want to see too. I am sorry for the things that happened to those people, but we have come a long way. I think good things are happening, including in the ACT, but more can be done if we do not try to make political gain out of it and drive political wedges into this debate any longer. I really applaud him for his efforts.
I applaud the fact that our Prime Minister agreed to see him so quickly. Michael’s intention always was to walk and keep walking until the Prime Minister agreed to meet with him, which is what he did—and that is why the walk stopped—because 400 kilometres in a couple of days was going to be too much of a call in anyone’s book, I think. But I want to say well done to him; he certainly furthered the cause.
I know there are more talks that will take place with the Prime Minister. I want to thank our Prime Minister, John Howard, for receiving Michael in the way that he did, openly embracing him in the way that he did, and certainly being prepared to work with Michael Long for the Aboriginal cause in this country. That is what we need; we need to move forward; we do not need to be divisive any longer; we need to make sure that we give these people great the services that they desperately need. And we will do that not with a victim mentality but with a positive, looking forward to the future mentality.