Behind Tim Wilson's maiden speech.

By Dan Conifer

As the 45th Parliament kicks off, ABC News has been given behind-the-scenes access with new federal politicians before they address the nation for the first time.

First up was Tim Wilson, whose feelings ahead of his first speech to Parliament were “trepidation and responsibility”.

Trepidation on the inside, perhaps, but the freshly-minted MP maintains a cool, confident exterior when we arrive at his office early Wednesday afternoon.

Sitting behind a wooden desk, Mr Wilson is focused on his computer screen, ensuring each word is perfectly placed and spelled.

His navy suit, white shirt and pink-spotted blue tie sit perfectly symmetrical.

No detail is left unattended.

“These are my lucky socks; these are my lucky cufflinks,” he says, moving his leg slightly to expose the blue and purple striped attire.

The handmade cufflinks are wooden with a cream cotton thread. The company’s website says it prides itself on “hand-sewn trimmings for handsome gentlemen”.

“All good things that have ever happened are when I’m wearing these socks and these cufflinks,” Mr Wilson says.

Reaching into his jacket, he retrieves a fob watch his grandfather owned.

“I wore it for my swearing in yesterday in my little pocket … so one day, when I hand it down to another family member, I’ll be able to say: ‘And that was with me on the day I was sworn into the House of Representatives’.”

That day has appeared likely for years.

Mr Wilson is a former policy director at the Institute of Public Affairs — a free market think-tank with ideals and ideas similar to the Liberal Party’s.

The Abbott Government then appointed him to the Australian Human Rights Commission as its so-called “freedom commissioner”.

But despite the high-profile roles — and the speeches each entailed — the 36-year-old says this was a different challenge.

“I’ve delivered many speeches, to the National Press Club [and] to local community events,” he says.


“This is the hardest speech I’ve ever written and I suspect it’ll be the hardest speech I’ll ever write because you get one chance to define you and to explain to everybody who you are and what you’re here to achieve.”

The values in the speech have been pondered for years, but the details have been stitched together over the past month.

“You know when you’re sitting on the train, or chatting to somebody, and somebody else has this really good insight, and you go: ‘Can I grab that for my inaugural speech?'”

He has sent about 100 emails to himself as ideas emerged.

“But [how many] drafts? Probably about 10 to 20,” he said.

“A lot of it’s getting the set of words right and saying complex things in an artful way.”

Computers, smartphones, tablets, emails and servers — this speech has traversed them all.

The workflow epitomises the nimble, 21st-century economy he sees on Australia’s near horizon.

He inherits the Melbourne bayside seat of Goldstein from former trade minister Andrew Robb.

No wonder, then, after rising on the floor of Parliament at 5:37pm last night, he painted a global, technologically-driven future for Australia and its workplaces.

“Technology is disrupting industries every day, and that is not set to change,” he said.

“Whether they accept it or not, those that argue for inflexible industrial relations are now the enemy of workers’ security.”

He also dared to propose a doubling — yes doubling — of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

“I have never understood why we tax people more than companies,” he said early in the speech.

“We have to move toward a simpler 20 per cent flat personal, company and consumption tax which would ensure everyone pays, including multinationals.”

But along with the financial and digital, is the highly personal.

“People may be surprised by how revealing or how open I am,” he said ahead of the speech.

“You want it to be honest and you want people to get a glimpse into who you are as a person.


“I think when you come into this role you have to accept that you’re, in many ways, the property of the nation.”

Mr Wilson is one of a small-but-growing number of openly gay federal politicians.

“The reality is we’re in the middle of a debate around changing the law around the status of my relationship,” he says.

“I’m the only member of the House of Representatives who’s engaged to a partner who happens to be of the same sex, and I’m going to talk about that.

“But I’m going to do it as part of a discussion not about me, but about the country and type of country we want to be.”

The Government is clinging onto the prospect of an Australia-wide vote on legalising same-sex marriage, to help settle the nation’s identity.

Mr Wilson’s identity is now settled, but not before years of inner torment.

“The story of finding myself dominated my teenage years,” he told Parliament.

“For six of them, I let fear decide and determine who I could be. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I chose to confront that fear.

“It was a fear that took an energetic 12-year-old and hollowed his confidence to eventually doubt his legitimate place in the world.

“Yet it was in those depths, that I found my deeper, inner strength.”

On the ring finger of his left hand is an engagement ring.

His fiance, Ryan, wears one too.

Fighting back tears for nearly a minute, he told the chamber he wished it was a wedding ring.

“I know you have sacrificed so much for me to be here today, and we are only at the end of our beginning,” Mr Wilson said to his partner.

“For seven years a ring has sat on both of our left hands. And they are the answer to a question we still cannot ask.

“No matter what happens, we have already achieved more than many who come and go from this place, because we have lived the change we seek in the world.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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Feature image: screenshot via ABC.