Hunter MP Dan Repacholi is the first to admit he’s not your average person seen around Parliament House.
While he says he has big shoes to fill from the work of long-serving predecessor Joel Fitzgibbon, the self-described “big unit” says he’s up to the task.
“Luckily, I have big feet,” he quipped in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The two-metre tall former coal miner, five-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist gave his first speech to parliament on Tuesday, pledging to stand up for everyday Australians.
The new MP used his address to spruik the benefits of coal mining in the NSW Hunter Valley and the significance the industry will have in the region in years to come.
“Coal will continue to play a role for many years to come, empowering the world – whilst ever there is an export market for coal, the Hunter and its workforce will continue to fill that market,” he told parliament.
“I’m proud to be mates with many people who work in the pits. We need jobs that are well paid, secure and aren’t dominated by dodgy labour hire arrangements.”
Mr Repacholi said his path into politics was far from usual, describing his love of pistol shooting, which led to him competing on the world stage and winning medals on home soil.
“There was no better feeling than winning the gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in front of my wife Alex, my daughters Zoe and Asha and a large group of my friends and family,” he said.
“Turning around and seeing the excitement on their faces is something that I will never forget.”
Parramatta MP Andrew Charlton also delivered his first speech to parliament on Tuesday.
The former economic advisor to prime minister Kevin Rudd, Mr Charlton spoke of the need to change focus of financial policy.
“Over the last 10 years, Australia has lost sight of the fact that good economic policy is fundamentally about people,” he said.
“What is the point of a strong economy if most workers have zero wages growth for a decade? What is the point of near full employment if millions of people are in insecure work?”
Mr Charlton said there was also a need for MPs to protect democracy in Australia, pointing out politics was at “darker moment” in many liberal democracies.
“Autocrats, tyrants and despots are on the march … it’s as if the shadows of the 20th century are coming back to haunt us once more,” he said.
“Australia’s democracy doesn’t harbour such autocrats, but it is evident that faith in our democracy is down, and belief in the power of politics is falling.
“It’s our overriding responsibility to fight against disillusionment and build faith in government.”