12th May 2015
A new MP widely touted as a possible future Labor leader has used his maiden speech to New South Wales Parliament to call for further party reform.
Kogarah MP Chris Minns also proposed that all school students in the state be made to learn Mandarin – a call praised by Premier Mike Baird.
He said he viewed Labor as a “tribe”, rather than a party.
“It has survived intact, not because its processes have never changed but because the essential values have remained the same,” Mr Minns said.
However he said, the party needed to evolve to stay relevant and the role of unions should be reduced.
“That means taking steps to reduce union control of the floor of our conference, and increasing representation of ordinary members of our party who have more diverse voices,” Mr Minns said.
Mr Minns, who holds a Masters in Public Policy from Princeton University, also spoke about his belief Australian businesses were struggling to capitalise on investment opportunities in the Asian Century.
He said the next generation of workers needed to be equipped with Asian language skills and a better understanding of the region’s customs and cultures.
“I think a bold decision by this Parliament to mandate the teaching of Mandarin to all New South Wales school children from kindy to year 12 would make a big positive difference,” Mr Minns said.
The speech did not go unnoticed by Mr Baird.
“I congratulate him for showing some leadership, for actually saying that we welcome in this state foreign direct investment,” he said in Question Time.
“And he actually said, to his credit, that we should do more Mandarin in our schools and I agree with him.”
The Premier said Mr Minns’ views on Chinese investment were at odds with many of his Labor colleagues.
Mr Baird said those colleagues had been only too happy to ride the coat-tails of a “xenophobic” union scare campaign during the election, which focused on the prospect of a Chinese company investing in the state’s electricity assets.
Last week, Mr Baird questioned why Opposition Leader Luke Foley had not put Mr Minns on his front bench.