Parliamentary Speech by Mr Louis Ng on 28th Jan 2016
Video of full speech
1. Madam Speaker, I support the Motion of thanks to the President. I would like to especially reflect on the third and fifth key aims which is to foster a more caring society and engage and partner with Singaporeans in nation building.
2. As the last new member of this house to speak, let me first start by saying that I’m and I’m sure that we all are humbled and honoured to be given this opportunity to serve this house, to serve Singapore and to serve Singaporeans.
3. I’m humbled to be given this opportunity to help shape programmes and policies and help make Singapore even better and improve the lives of Singaporeans significantly as we move towards SG100.
Speaking up about the heart of the matter
4. I’m here to speak my mind, to speak up constructively, to help ensure that we have the best policies in place for Singapore and Singaporeans.
5. I’m here to help ensure that we become an even more caring and compassionate society and still remain the economic powerhouse in this region and the world.
6. We’ve talked a lot and debated a lot about the hardware of this nation, about the software as well but I hope we place or continue to place equal emphasis on the heartware of this nation. This isn’t something new but something I hope we can focus more on.
7. Minister Ong Ye Kung had earlier cautioned against excessively viewing ourselves in numeric terms and I wholeheartedly agree with him.
8. While numbers are important as we debate on issues, my sincere hope is that we ensure that this isn’t just a numbers game.
9. Let us also discuss and debate even more about the morals and ethics, about Singaporeans dreams, hopes and aspirations, more about the heart of the matter.
10. As we progress as a nation, we’ve achieved a lot in the past 50 years, we’ve made significant economic progress but we must continue to place moral and ethical progress on par with economic progress.
11. We need to ensure that Singapore is not run as a Singapore Incorporated and that economic growth is not the only measure of success in Singapore.
12. Numbers and dollars and cents are part of the equation, in fact, very important parts of the equations in this complex world we live in but there is more to it and it has to be more to it in order for us to progress.
Being humane: Protecting animals and the environment
13. Fellow member of this house Mr. Seah Kian Peng said in Parliament almost a decade ago and I quote “Minister Mentor speaks of how we want to be in the first half of the First World. We can only truly do that, join the ranks of the civilised countries, not just by cranking up our economy, churning ever brighter students, but by caring for those who cannot speak and are 100% dependent on us for the quality of their lives – animals.”
14. And when we talk about animals, let us not talk about them as purely numbers, numbers of animals we trap and cull but talk about them as sentient beings who live amongst us in the community and who share this island with us.
15. Let us ensure that we fight animal cruelty and we find humane long-term solutions to the human-animal conflicts.
16. There is no doubt that we have to do something to address the conflicts but at the same time we need to ensure that what we do addresses the root of the problem, not the symptoms of the problem but the root of the problem.
17. We need to ensure that our policies are humane. The very essence of being human is being humane.
19. When we talk about the environment and climate change, let us not only focus on the economic losses due to climate change, not just the monetary value of trees and the ecosystem but focus on our moral obligation to ensure a sustainable future for all and the intrinsic value of our trees and ecosystem.
20. We need to focus not only on recycling but also more importantly, the other Rs, Reuse and most importantly Reduce.
21. Several members of this House have used quotes from Einstein and so I will also share one of his quotes which read “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
Being on the ground and championing residents’ concerns
22. Members of this house know me as an activist for the past 15 years and in particular a strong champion for animal welfare and environmental causes.
23. Lately, I’m known as the guy hunting the cat killers.
24. Let me take this opportunity to assure this House and members of the public that those are not the only issues I will champion.
25. Through monthly townhall sessions and dialogue sessions, I will also be championing other concerns of fellow Singaporeans.
26. Through my monthly work experiences I will learn more about different professions and help champion improvements. I’ve been a healthcare worker, a driver and earlier this month, a cleaner and it truly has been a worthwhile journey. These are jobs which are important in the progress of our country but where the workers receive too little appreciation at times and should receive more recognition.
Promoting parenthood and increasing the Total Fertility Rate
27. I’m also a new parent with a 2-year-old daughter and having a child has been one of the most rewarding journeys I’ve ever been on. My daughter lights up our lives and seeing her grow up, seeing her smile and laugh, hearing her start to talk has been an amazing experience and always puts a smile on our faces.
28. She is also a beaming activist already, having launched her first campaign, which is to end my 17-year habit of smoking. I’m delighted to say that she succeeded.
29. Her copy and paste function has also now begun and so she has made me a much better person as she now scrutinises and copies everything we say and do and all my bad habits are very quickly now gone. Any bad habit she has is clearly not from me. And to make sure I don’t sleep on the couch tonight, any bad habit she has is clearly not from my wife either.
30. I worry for her future and I worry when we talk about the Total Fertility Rate or TFR. I’m sure we all know that it is a worrying trend.
31. But as we talk about the TFR, we also need to make sure that it’s not just a numbers game again. I fully understand, appreciate and am experiencing the costs involved in bringing up a child in Singapore. And so the Baby Bonus Scheme, which helps to lighten the financial costs of raising children, has been very useful.
32. The maternity and paternity leaves have been useful as well but I hope we can do more to promote parenthood, to promote the positive aspects of parenthood and to share positive stories.
33. We need to inspire people to have kids. Our policies need to focus on making sure we have time to have kids, time to look after our kids and bond with them.
34. We need to focus more attention perhaps on flexi-working hours for parents without comprising productivity. I support what Mr. Desmond Choo had earlier said about more flexi-working hours arrangements following the maternity leave.
35. I hope we can also re-look our childcare leave policies and base the amount of leave not just on the age of the children but also the number of children one has. Quite simply, the more children you have, the more childcare leave you should have.
36. I hope we can do more to help those who have kids to have more kids.
37. I don’t think I have the answers to the million-dollar question of how we can increase our TFR but I have ideas and suggestions I hope we can try out and see if they will work.
38. I have stories to share about the journey my wife and I have embarked on and personally, I will walk the talk and I will help increase the TFR by trying for another child soon. There really is no greater reward than having a child.
Mobilising our most important resource
39. Another area that concerns me is an overarching one and that is how we can mobilise our most important and valuable resource in Singapore – our people.
40. How we can mobilise them so we continue this journey, this Singapore story together. How we can mobilise everyone to step forward to volunteer, to serve and to make a difference. If we succeed in this, then this will help in a lot of the issues we will discuss in this house.
41. This will help the lower income families where we need to do more than provide financial assistance. With the help of the community, we can do more and do more to ensure that these families can get out of the poverty cycle.
42. We have launched a new programme for our lower-income families in Nee Soon East where I serve and I’m glad that more and more people are stepping forward to help. The beauty of the programme is that it is planned by volunteers, run by volunteers and funded by volunteers.
43. Having this strong community spirit is vital in times of crisis, be it a terrorist attack or an economic downturn, it is this community spirit, this caring society where we look out for each other, that will keep Singapore going, that will allow us to recover quickly.
44. To mobilise people and get the active citizenry we want, we need to make sure people are engaged, empowered and inspired. Engaged, empowered and inspired so that we have a nation that is committed to helping, giving and sharing.
45. But this also cannot just be a numbers game. It is not just about sharing the total number of volunteers we have or the number of volunteer hours. It has to be more meaningful.
46. To engage people, we need to listen more than we speak. I quote “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”
48. The Our Singapore Conversation and The Future of Us dialogue are fine examples of engagement and they have been impactful. I urge the government to conduct more of such dialogues.
49. We also need to empower. We need to make sure that the debate on policies, programmes and legislation take place beyond these four walls. In fact, I think the most important work that members of this house, do is beyond these four walls.
50. We need to ensure that the views of people are not just sought, but worked on, developed and presented in this house. We need to ensure that the debate we have in this house started outside these four walls. We need to ensure people feel and are empowered.
51. The robust debate we have in the public arena is crucial and will ensure that we truly understand what the ground concerns are, the various ideas out there are and the different solutions available. Because ultimately, we don’t have all the answers.
52. Let us also empower by setting up committees comprising of people on the ground, a committee of people who are not like-minded but who will come together to argue, to debate and to find common ground. To move forward, it is committees like these, like the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, where I feel we will get the best policies drafted.
53. Empowering is vital and we need to empower our constituents and ensure that they have a voice in this house and a role to play in shaping Singapore.
54. And we need to inspire them with positive stories of the Singapore story, of the amazing Singapore story and how with their help, their views and their partnership, it can continue to be and perhaps be an even more remarkable story.
Nothing is impossible
55. Madam Speaker, I’m thankful for the Singapore we have today, for the opportunities that she has given me, for the Singapore story I have lived for the past 37 years.
56. We are indeed the island of possibilities, the island of the impossible, the island where miracles can happen, have happen and will continue to happen if we continue to believe, if we continue to fight passionately and continue to be determined for a better Singapore.
57. In this island where the impossible has been achieved, my choice of pursing an unconventional career 15 years ago has been made possible.
58. Many skeptics laughed at me 15 years ago when I started my charity ACRES, when I told them I was going to become an activist, an advocate for change.
59. They told me that I would fail, that this isn’t something feasible to establish and sustain in Singapore and that I wouldn’t be able to engage, empower, inspire and mobilise anyone.
60. And so if there is one I’ve learnt in the past 15 years, it is that nothing is truly impossible in Singapore.
Conclusion: A home where everyone has a part to play
61. As we pass our 50th year mark, it cannot be business as usual. We cannot run this nation as a business.
62. I hope that “Home” is not just a song we sing at events but that Singapore continues to be a place we call our home, a place we treasure and a place we build up for our children.
63. I hope we leave behind a legacy of compassion, of giving, of hope for a stronger Singapore as we move towards SG100. And I believe and hope I will be here for SG100.
64. Let me end with a quote I’ve used for all my school talks to mobilise students for the past decade. It reads “I’m only one but still I’m one, I cannot do everything but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
65. Each one of us has that part to play, an important part to do something and together we can make Singapore even better, even stronger and even more beautiful. We can make Singapore the caring society and continue to be the shining red dot our President spoke about.
66. Madam Speaker, I reaffirm my support for the motion.