CANBERRA: The Hon. Joe Hockey today delivered his valedictory speech in the House of Representatives, bringing to an end a distinguished career as the Federal member of North Sydney, to which he was first elected in 1996.
Hockey, who began his career as a junior minister in the Howard Government, built a strong working relationship with the local community in his electoral including the Armenian-Australian community.
He had a very strong working with the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) and was a leader in advocating Armenian issues in the Australian Federal Parliament.
In November 2005, Hockey visited the Republic of Armenia as Minister for Human Services and visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial. At the site he laid a wreath, signed the Museum’s Guest Book, and planted a tree in the Memorial Garden.
Born to an Armenian father who migrated to Australia, Hockey has always been a strong advocate and shown great leadership for Federal recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Being the Member for North Sydney in an Armenian populated electorate, he has always attended to the needs of the Armenian community and worked closely with ANC Australia on a wide range of issues. His presence at annual Armenian Genocide commemorations, festivals, banquets and Advocacy Weeks are a great testament to his support.
In 2007, Hockey was fundamental in securing $1.4 million of funding for the Armenian Relief Society for support to the Gyumri Mother and Child Health Care Centre in Armenia, which was not honoured by the successive Rudd Government.
Hockey at the time stated: “The Australian government’s commitment to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Armenia pays tribute to the generosity of the Australian people and almost a century on, echoes Australian efforts to assist Armenian refugees in the years immediately following the Armenian Genocide.”
On October 20, 2008, Hockey made an Adjournment Speech in the House of Representatives, publicly calling on the Commonwealth of Australia to recognise the Armenian Genocide “for what it is, not alleged, not supposed and not so-called”.
He again made a statement publicly on March 18, 2010 in a Main Committee Speech, and at the same time paid tribute to Armenian Genocide survivor, Mr. Arshag Badelian. On that day, Hockey said: “…more and more legislatures are voting to recognise this past injustice and it is time that Australia joined them”.
Throughout his political career, Hockey has met with various Armenian MPs, including Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan and Minister for Diaspora, Hranush Hakobyan to further deepen bi-lateral relations between Australia and Armenia. He has also been Chair of the Australia-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group.
In the Centenary year of the Armenian Genocide, as Treasurer he led a number of federal parliamentarians in wearing the Armenian Genocide Centenary Commemorative “Forget Me Not” Pin during Question Time. He also released a public statement highlighting Australia’s involvement in relief efforts during the Armenian Genocide, and that “Australian media were amongst the first to recognise the Armenian Genocide occurring in the region at that time.”
Turkish influence on the Abbott government on the eve of the ANZAC Centenary did prevent Hockey from speaking at the Armenian Genocide Centenary commemoration, however this did not prevent him from attending the event at Sydney Town Hall and releasing the statement above, unequivocally affirming the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide.
In a tribute in Parliament today, current Treasurer, Scott Morrison commented on Hockey’s passion for his Armenian heritage and human rights stating: “As a local member of parliament, Joe has been an outstanding success… particularly the Armenian community in your electorate and in the surrounding areas will have lost a great advocate in this place, and it’s up to the rest of us to show that same passion that you have for respecting the Armenian heritage and what happened those many years ago, and you standing up for those issues in this place, and on behalf of that community, I think you will forever be remembered.”
Executive Director of the ANC Australia, Vache Kahramanian remarked: “Today the Australian parliament loses a larger than life character from its chamber. Joe served our country with distinction and honour without every forgetting his roots.”
“Joe was a champion of Armenian genocide recognition in the Federal Parliament. His countless statements, speeches, community engagements, were testament to his unwavering commitment to not only this issue, but all Armenian related issues,” Kahramanian added.
“His counsel and guidance will be deeply missed but we wish Joe and his family the very best in their future endeavours. No doubt his best years of public service are still ahead of him,” Kahramanian concluded.
On behalf of the Armenian-Australian community, the Armenian National Committee of Australia thanks Joe Hockey for his tireless efforts and contribution to the Armenian nation, the Armenian people and to Australia.
See Joe Hockey’s Valedictory Speech below:
Photo: (L-R) Vache Kahramanian, Hranush Hakobyan, Joe Hockey