Self-proclaimed ‘great unity’ Dan Repacholi, the new Labor MP for the Hunter, gave a tongue-in-cheek first speech in which he rubbed shoulders with his father, his sporting prowess and his stature.
But, the former shooter and Olympic miner also used time on his ‘big feet’ to apologize to the branch members he nominated after being shortlisted as the party captain’s pick to fill the seat of the North Central New South Wales.
Repacholi also said his and Labor’s position on coal was clear. “Coal will continue to play a role for many years to come in feeding the world. Although there is still an export market for coal, the Hunter and its workforce will continue to fill that market,” did he declare.
“I’m proud to be a former coal miner and I’m damn proud of the mining history of my constituents, and I’m proud to be friends with many people who work in the mines.”
He started his speech by telling Parliament: “I am not the average person, I am certainly not the average person you expect to find in Canberra, in this place. I’m not the guy who went the usual way into politics.
Repacholi detailed his upbringing in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, where he disliked school and spent weekends at a gun club, where he would discover his athletic talent.
He trained as a fitter and turner, describing himself as a “lippy” apprentice, which “cut him out of all trades”.
“I probably deserved everything I had, it was hard, old-fashioned work that taught me really well,” he said, adding that it was “strange” that there has three trades in his family, “especially since the old boy doesn’t even know which end of a screwdriver to use.
The five-time Olympian also went into his sporting exploits and tallied his Commonwealth Games medals to three gold and three bronze, “or as my daughters and I call them, brunettes”.
Repacholi thanked his family, former colleagues and those who coached him. “I especially want to thank the prime minister for supporting a great unit like me from day one,” he said.