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Speech in Parliament: Bennelong Cup table tennis competition

24 November 2014


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (21:25): I rise to update the House on several local programs and also to sing the praises of three members of my electorate office, whose efforts have been critical for the success of those programs.

Many members in this place joined me last month for the launch event of the Hyundai Bennelong Cup table tennis competition in the Great Hall. I was honoured to welcome the Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Health and Sport to oversee the formalities as we recognised the Ambassadors for China, Korea and Japan and their representative table tennis teams to challenge the Australian team.

The competition continued in the Bennelong suburb of North Ryde. Our team did us proud, as we finished second, with China taking the lead in the final game of the competition. My strong appreciation continues to go out to Hyundai Australia as the major sponsor of the event and for funding the supply of table tennis tables to every school in my electorate.

From my office I was joined at these events by two part-time electorate officers who have job shared the EOB position in my office for the past 12 months. Sara McCracken joined my office shortly after last year’s election as a local mum with a press gallery background and a faultless work ethic. Through some difficult times, Sara showed here levels of strength and leadership. Sara was creative in her ideas and solid in her work implementation. She joined me for many weekend events and provided great support. Fortunately for her, but at great loss to me and my office, Sara received a job offer she could not refuse in the corporate sector. I wish her well.

Sara’s job-share colleague, who has managed the organisation and delivery of the Bennelong Cup for the last three years is Marie McHugh. Marie is also a local mum who impressed so much in a voluntary capacity in her school’s P&C that I offered her a job. She has brought with her a unique presence, a cracking wit, and a degree of honesty often forgotten in this world of political correctness.

Marie has been our database manager and IT helpdesk, but was primarily tasked with the implementation of the Bennelong Cup and Bennelong Gardens. Both of those projects have commenced and Marie is now seeking further challenges elsewhere. I know she is studiously preparing hand-over documents to ensure her projects continue to build and grow, and I am sure she will be a regular visitor to our office to check up on their progress and to keep me grounded.

The last person I would like to recognise is Jennifer Lugsdin, who was a foundation staff member of my office in 2010. Jen worked on too many projects to list within the time constraints of this speech, and was crucial to the development of good working relationships with local media and community groups. Jen also proved to be a ferocious campaigner in last year’s election and, shortly after, chose to move on to focus her energies on voluntary work. As with both Sara and Marie, Jen’s departure was a great loss to our office, and I am grateful that we remain friends.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank Jen, Marie and Sara for all their hard work and dedication. We have achieved some special things in Bennelong over the past few years, and worked hard to improve the lives of many in our community. For this we remain proud.

Jen has returned recently for some casual work in my office. Her particular interest is to help women who have been victims of domestic violence, which is timely considering tomorrow marks White Ribbon Day. It is deplorable that in our modern connected society violence against women remains such a serious problem. One woman is killed every week as a result of intimate-partner violence. Domestic and family violence is the principle cause of homelessness for women and their children and the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health in Australian women aged 15 to 44.

As a White Ribbon ambassador it is my responsibility to play a leadership role in preventing men’s violence against women. White Ribbon works to change our culture to stop the violence before it occurs, with activities in schools, workplaces and the broader community. Their oath is simple and I urge us all to declare it: ‘I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.’ Thank you.