Andy Meddick MP
Member of the Legislative Council for Western Victoria
Delivered in the 59th Victorian Parliament 6 February 2019
I thank the president for this opportunity to speak, and I congratulate him on his election. I am sure that he will preside in a manner that brings honour and honesty to this place.
I acknowledge that this land was, is, and always shall be, Aboriginal land. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging of all the first nation’s peoples of Victoria. That the western region is land that carries memories of family, ancestors, and of massacres. It carries the stories of the birthplace of the first nations people, of more than 16 languages, and forms part of the cradle of the oldest continuous civilisation on earth. Their land, their country.
This place, this chamber, has long been regarded as the house of review. Where good laws are passed, and bad laws are rejected. But it is much more than that. It is the device, the instrument of change. It is the means by which the community demands that law reflects its everchanging circumstances and priorities.
It is to this spirit of change, of recognition of evolving values and to the spirit of co-operation that I will speak today.
I, like every person here, am a work in progress, and when I turn that light of examination upon myself, I am confronted with how I have changed over the years, with where I came from to be here today.
I am not a native Victorian, rather I chose this incredible state, the beautiful Western Region and the town of Torquay to be my home. It is here I met my beautiful wife April and we raised our two children Kielan and Eden, and I stand here as the proud father of two wonderful children, both part of the LGBTIQ community.
I am originally from the central coast of NSW, and I grew up, the youngest of seven, in the only house in an industrial area. Over the back was the brickworks, across the road the pie factory.
It was a source of wonder and amusement to me that every time the brick ovens were fired up, we could watch the armies of cockroaches march down the street to find a new, far more comfortable home in the pie factory.
Our family were what today would be described as working poor. There were many nights when the dinner table menu consisted of spaghetti and tomato sauce. One of my sisters even suffered from scurvy, something unheard of in modern society.
Unlike many families, where hardship brings them closer, ours became fractured. So much so that when my parents sold our house, it was made clear to me the move was not to include me. At 13 I found myself in need of a home and a job. I succeeded in finding both, and managed to fend for myself for almost 2 years, until my darling sister Linda and brother in law Phil, who are both here today, learned of this, and took me into their home and family without question.
They instilled in me from that moment that it is the duty of us all to look after our fellow inhabitants of this planet, both human and non-human alike. It is our obligation, the willing price we must pay for civilisation. It is one of our party’s key values - compassion.
It is what attracted me to the construction industry and to the trade union movement. The catchcry of solidarity is not a platitude to me, it is an all encompassing moral code, to be extended to all peoples, all species.
It has been my privilege to have been a scaffolder on some of the largest buildings in Melbourne. The Crown Metropol, Vic One, ANZ and dozens of others. It has taken its toll. Comrades have died. I have been seriously injured, and during one recovery I was working in the yard behind a pig slaughterhouse. Their screams of terror haunt me to this day.
This is how I came to understand that I had more changes to make. I had to make a choice to no longer exploit non-human animals, and not only that, they had to become part of my advocacy, my fight for justice for all.
It is extraordinary isn’t it? That someone like me, a scruffy kid from the western suburbs, a scaffolder, a trade unionist, a vegan animal rights activist, could stand here today, in the one place where great deeds can be done. Where lives can truly be saved.
Victor Hugo wrote: “There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come”. The idea that animals should be represented in the halls of power has not only come, it has clearly burst the doors down and demands to be heard.
The animal protection movement is global, and emerging as the largest social justice movement of this century, and it is important to me, for it to be recognised that it is a movement that, in the majority, is driven by women.
I am both humbled and proud to be the first member of parliament in Victoria to be elected not only on an animal protection platform, but one that recognises and fights for all who are marginalised, who are unrepresented, and whose voices are not given due consideration or weight.
As I stand here, and in every moment of my fight for justice for animals, I am reminded of the resistance I have faced, of the hate and threats I and my precious family have endured, but something the great Martin Luther King Jr said always brings to me a sense of calm, a renewed sense of purpose, and that is:
“Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”
For that is why I am here, to represent the incredible inhabitants of the western region of Victoria. To act on my conscience and to do what is right, for them. All of them. They are all of the utmost importance to me. From the native wildlife to the domestic companion animals, from the first nations peoples to the diverse people of Geelong and the other regional cities, to the farmers. Yes, the farmers. I am here to extend the hand of understanding, to offer an olive branch. to help them adapt to the changes that our climate emergency will force us all to make.
But not only that, but because the fundamental shift in how we view the lives of all sentient beings, of non-human animals, beings with families, lives and interests of their own, is now a building block of modern society.
For if we are all to survive in this world, if we are to remain relevant in this place, we must reflect the values of all of our communities. If we persist in the values of the 1950’s, not 2019 and beyond, we will be but a parody, a true life enactment of Don Quixote, mad with fear, tilting at the windmills of progress and an evolving society with new values. We will be irrelevant when we should lead.
In the same way I have stood shoulder to shoulder with my union comrades, I will fight for those whose languages we don’t speak. I will pursue the permanent legislated ban of duck shooting in Victoria, the banning of that most evil of poisons, enemy of the dingo and other native species, 1080 poison. I will fight to end jumps racing, to join with many other countries around the world and end greyhound racing. I will fight for far greater protection for our native species, and greatly increased penalties for those who kill them. I will fight for an Independent Office of Animal Protection, with full investigative and prosecution powers.
I will stand and fight for them, because as a man who I consider more than a mentor, Philip Wollen, along with his amazing wife Trix has said: “When we suffer, we suffer as equals, and in their capacity to suffer, a dog is a pig, is a bear, is a boy”.
My work here will be guided by these words, and by the influence on my life of my family, of Bruce Poon our National President, of my partner in the fight against 1080 Ruth Weston, of all of my incredible western regional crew and our state and federal committees.
We must enact change, we must lift all of those who cannot lift themselves, for that is why we are here. We must above all else enact or change laws guided by that simple, powerful, beautiful trait, inherent in us all, compassion. Because, you see, to animals, we are at once their biggest threat, and their only hope.
I will close now, and leave you with a poem I keep in my breast pocket. It has guided me for years, and can be thought of as rule for conscience in all our dealings with this perplexing, frustrating, fight for animals and humanity.
“If I am to be a voice for animals,
then how should I speak?
am I to whisper,
when they are screaming in pain?
am I to be calm,
when they tremble in fear?
am I to shout for mercy,
as their throats are being slit?
Tell me how I need to speak,
for you to grant them their freedom.”