Elizabeth Lee's Address to the ACT Legislative Assembly


Thank you to the people of the Australian Capital Territory. It is an enormous privilege to be afforded the opportunity, once again, to be a voice for our community.

Madam Speaker, congratulations on your election. I wish you the very best in once again undertaking this very important role in our parliament.

I acknowledge my party room colleagues, Giulia Jones, Jeremy Hanson, Mark Parton, Alistair Coe, Nicole Lawder, Elizabeth Kikkert, Peter Cain and Leanne Castley. Whilst we are two short in number this term, we are an incredible team that brings together an enormous diversity of life experiences, of professional backgrounds and of different cultures. I am honoured to be leading this strong team, along with my deputy, Giulia.

Thank you to Alistair and Nicole, who led a strong united team to the 2020 election. I acknowledge them and their families in leading a strong campaign through one of the most challenging times that we have seen. Alistair and Nicole have always remained committed to serving the people of Canberra and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so as integral and strong members of my team this term.

I acknowledge our colleagues who we farewelled this term. The late Steve Doszpot, my fellow member for Kurrajong, deemed himself my big brother almost the instant we met. His legacy in our community, and in particular in the inner south, is legendary and he is very much missed by many. Vicki Dunne dedicated almost 20 years of her adult life to serving the people of Canberra. Whilst one of our biggest regrets is that we were unable to make her a minister, she served the community and the Assembly with distinction and she will be sorely missed.

When Andrew Wall, James Milligan and Candice Burch were not returned in this election, Canberra lost some excellent local members, but we lost our friends. Andrew, James and Candice brought so much to the Canberra Liberals team and to our community. It is, without a doubt, a huge loss for us in not having them on our benches and in our corridors. Thank you for your service to the Canberra Liberals and to the people of Canberra. We know that your commitment to our community will not stop at the doors of the Assembly.

Our new members, Peter Cain and Leanne Castley, bring some fresh air to our team this term. In Ginninderra, as a former teacher and principal, lawyer and vice-president of the Law Society, Peter will bring a huge level of experience and expertise in many aspects of governance. We are very fortunate to have him join us. In the deep north of Yerrabi, Leanne’s savviness and her background as an IT consultant and country music singer will bring a level of freshness and engagement that will be of great benefit to our team.

Madam Speaker, I also acknowledge the loss of members Caroline Le Couteur and Meegan Fitzharris, who retired from the Assembly this term; and Gordon Ramsay, Deepak-Raj Gupta and Bec Cody, who were not returned. Whilst we did not always agree, many of us on this side worked closely with them and we value the contributions that they made to our Assembly. I wish them and their families all the very best.

I acknowledge and welcome the new Labor member, Dr Marisa Paterson, and five—I did not realise I would say this—new members of the Greens: Rebecca Vassarotti, Emma Davidson, Johnathan Davis, Andrew Braddock, and Jo Clay. I look forward to working with each and every one of you.

Congratulations must go to Andrew Barr and Shane Rattenbury on leading their parties to their election as a coalition Labor-Greens government. No doubt this new dynamic, with multiple ministers from both parties, will make for an interesting term in cabinet. I wish you both well—not so well, but well—over the next few years.

We are all this place because we want to make a difference, a positive contribution to the future of Canberra. We are all this place because we have been given the enormous privilege by our community to be their voice. Our parliament and our democracy are stronger because every one of the members sitting here had the courage to put up their hand to serve our community.

I have always said that our parliaments should reflect the diversity of the communities that they serve. For too long it has not been the case. In 2016 we made history in electing the first female majority parliament in Australia. This year we did one better. What we did not achieve as a parliament is to have more ethnically diverse faces around this chamber. I am so proud that the Canberra Liberals put up an impressive line-up of candidates that reflected the depth of diversity in our great city. That was in sharp contrast to the field of candidates put up by Labor and the Greens, and our party room reflects that.

But diversity goes beyond gender and ethnicity. Our diversity of views, life experiences and opinions should be protected fiercely, because different ideas and the freedom to express those ideas make for robust debates that inevitably lead to better outcomes.

The leaders of all parties in this chamber have said publicly at one point or another—the Chief Minister said it again in his speech—that there is real potential for this term to see more collaboration and teamwork in areas where we can find common ground.

Whilst we acknowledge that there will be yet another Labor-Greens government, I take them at their word on this: that ideas and initiatives put forward by the Canberra Liberals deserve to be judged on their merits and not dismissed because they were started by us.

We, as the opposition, have an important job to do in keeping the government to account: to fiercely protect the integrity of government, the proper use of taxpayer moneys, and the transparency and accountability of all government decisions. We will look at every government decision and initiative on its merits and whether it is in the best interests of the Canberra community.

Madam Speaker, in my inaugural speech four years ago, I said that, whilst it is a given that I give my voice to the most vulnerable in our community, those that our society has a moral duty to protect and support, there are the forgotten Canberrans that 19 years of this government have left behind. The Canberra Liberals will unapologetically and unashamedly continue to stand up for and give voice to those Canberrans.

We acknowledge and thank the thousands of Canberrans who have put their faith in us at this year’s election and shed the same tears that we could not quite make it across to the other side of the chamber. These are the hardworking everyday Canberrans who for years have felt abandoned and voiceless. We also acknowledge the voices of Canberrans who did not vote for us. Their voices spoke loudly, and we will listen to and be here for them, too.

Madam Speaker, none of us would be here today without the enormous support network that carries us. I thank all the volunteers and family members who were there for each and every one of us. I also acknowledge our staff, who move mountains each and every day because they believe in us.

A little closer to home, Nathan, thank you for being my rock through two whirlwind campaigns and the heartbreak of experiencing a miscarriage before we welcomed our beautiful daughter, Mia. Most of all, thank you for being my number one supporter when I decided to take on this craziest and most humbling of challenges in leading the party.

My parents and sisters have already sacrificed much so that I could reach for my dreams. Every time I think that I cannot ask any more of them, they somehow manage to find room in their hearts to give more. I am sure that in my parents’ eyes I am still the seven-year-old Korean girl from Kwangju with no English who held tightly onto their hands as we embarked on this new life in Australia—the little girl who, in turn, tightly held onto her younger sister’s hand because somehow we knew that, as scary as it was going to a new country and leaving our home, it was all going to be worth it, because this new life was going to be something amazing.

Madam Speaker, when I was elected by my colleagues to be the leader of our party, my dad told me, “You are a leader. Whether you like it or not, what you say and what you do will matter. Always listen; then see; then feel. You must do this—listen, see, feel—before you speak.” Today I embark on this privileged duty that I have to serve my colleagues, my party and my city in this way. I vow to listen, to see and to feel, because it is and will always be about putting our community first.

Giulia, Jeremy, Mark, Alistair, Nicole, Elizabeth, Peter and Leanne, I look forward to serving the people of Canberra with you. I could not ask for a more dedicated and committed team to do this with. Thank you for being by my side as we embark on this journey together. Even from opposition, we are going to achieve some extraordinary things.