NEW WA One Nation Senator Peter Georgiou never mentioned the political elephant in the room once, when delivering his first formal speech in federal parliament last night.
But he did embrace an issue that was also closely aligned to his outspoken and colourful brother-in-law Rod Culleton’s supposed political agenda; protecting farmers from unjust, heavy-handed banking practices.
Senator Georgiou delivered his first formal speech in the Upper House last night before a modest gathering of friends, family, supporters and journalists.
The 43- year-old was thrust into the national spotlight earlier this year as the replacement for Mr Culleton who was disqualified in February due to a bankruptcy charge related to a long-running farm debt matter and on the same day the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, also ruled his original election invalid.
Mr Culleton – a former farmer from the WA Wheatbelt town of Williams – split with One Nation after a bitter falling out with leader and founder and Queensland Senator Pauline Hanson.
But Senator Georgiou has been embraced his new colleagues - while distancing himself from his predecessor - with his loyalty seemingly returned in bundles.
His humble first speech last night displayed a steely inner character and gritty, grounded determination - formed no doubt by life experiences like the influence of his Greek immigrant parents and small business background as an electrician.
Senator Georgiou was praised by Senator Hanson for being a team player - likely a characteristic cultivated by his background playing a team sport like soccer for which he also holds great passion.
“I stand here today blessed, because it truly is an honour to speak in this chamber, in this moment of history,” Senator Georgiou said last night.
“To serve my nation in the federal parliament and represent the views and attitudes of the great people of Western Australia is indeed a privilege and one that I am looking forward to serving to the utmost.
“I'd like to begin by thanking Senator Hanson, leader of Pauline Hanson's One Nation who, through her courage, persistence and strength of character, has brought about a significant and better change in Australian politics.
“Senator Hanson's popular appeal to mainstream Australians is the reason why there are now four senators in this chamber, representing three states, flying the flag for One Nation.
“I am very proud to have joined this chamber with my party leader and fellow party senators: Brian Burston and Malcolm Roberts.”
Senator Georgiou paid to his Greek parents “who raised me and sheltered me, with good old fashion values”.
“Despite the rumours, I was not born in Athens Greece, but in Perth, Western Australia on 13 January 1974 to Greek migrants, Dimitrios and Margarita Georgiou,” he said.
“It is well known that Greece is the birthplace of democracy and has laid the foundation for modern civilisation.
“As a loyal and patriotic Western Australian, I shall always be proud of my Greek heritage.
“Shortly after arriving in Western Australia, my father started working in WA's North-West, namely Dampier and Port Hedland.
“His knowledge of the English language was limited but he quickly took steps to improve his English by purchasing a record player and a set of how-to-learn-English records.”
Senator Georgiou said one of his political missions would be “a strong push for a better GST deal for Western Australia”.
He also pinpointed multinational companies that should pay their “due taxes”, keeping the banks “honest” and pushing for a royal commission or an independent tribunal to help compensate victims “who've been dealt with harshly by the banks”.
Other areas of policy interest he cited were; cutting red tape for small businesses and stamping out political corruption.
“In my 160 days in Australian politics - which isn't much - I have been inundated by scores of farmers and small businesses who have been telling me very similar stories,” he said.
“They've been squeezed out of their livelihood and are finding it hard to make a living.
“The Select Committee on Lending to Primary Production Customers, chaired by my colleague Malcolm Roberts, has been told many stories of growers across the land who've lost their livelihoods due to heavy-handed approaches from the banks.
“Last week I attended one of those hearings in Sydney and I was shocked at what I heard.
“Today I want to tell these banks the days of being the bully are over.
“The days of calling the shots and ruining the lives of ordinary, hardworking Australians are numbered.”
Senator Georgiou said Australia needed a strong banking sector, “but being strong also means being trustworthy”.
“Banks were supposed to partner with their customers to increase business productivity, and in return the customers pay money to their banking partner.
“But what we have now is banks taking money from the customers by unethical means, leaving the customers destitute.
“The banks are making money at the expense of the productive sectors of the economy - this is simply immoral.
“It is not the banking royal commission that will harm Australia's reputation - it is the failure not to call a banking royal commission that will harm Australia's reputation.
“We can't afford to continue cover-ups of misconduct by the bankers.
“It is only once these executives face the law that confidence will return back to the financial sector.”
Senator Georgiou said the cashless debit card system was delivering benefits in regional areas and communities had called for a national program.
“The card operates like an ATM card, quarantining 80 per cent of welfare funding for food and staples while the other 20 per cent of the welfare funding can be accessed as a cash component,” he said.
“We have a world first in the form of the cashless debit card, and we should roll it out to better manage welfare dependency and protect our children from violence and abuse.”