Address-in-Reply speech, 2019
Monday, 21 October 2019
It's my honour to rise in the chamber and to respond to the Governor-General's speech. Can I say at the outset how deeply honoured I am to be returned as the member for Wright, representing an electorate that is arguably one of the most diverse in our nation. In the north, we have the Lockyer Valley—a soil-rich region that is feeding not only this country but also many other countries around the world. In the east are the western suburbs of Logan, which is home to some of the most multiculturally diverse communities and which is experiencing rapid growth, with emerging populations and the old townships adapting to those changes. In the south is the beautiful Scenic Rim, enclosed by stunning mountain ranges and sprawling hills and featuring the best of rural living. It is bordered by the Gold Coast hinterland. All of these are areas which I have the privilege to represent.
I want to place on record my humble appreciation to the people of Wright. They are a hardworking, resilient community and I appreciate the trust they have placed in me, returning me to this place as their representative for a fourth term. There are hundreds of people that helped me in the last election in my role as the member for Wright. They largely consist of a team or a bank of volunteers. These people help not only at election time but all year, every year. Many people have done so since 2010. They ensure their communities are heard by providing direct feedback to me, and they represent me at functions and community events when I am on other business and unable to attend.
Whilst time doesn't permit me to acknowledge all of them, there are some that I do want to acknowledge in particular. My Wright federal division council, or FDC, chair is a gentleman by the name of Matt Enright. He is an amazing operator. The work he does and the commitment and loyalty he shows, not only to our party but to the re-election cause, are second to none. I acknowledge his contribution, along with that of the deputy chair, Glenn Pavey, from the Lockyer Valley, who gets through a power of work. I acknowledge Julian Creighton, chair of the Tamborine Mountain branch; Ian Pocock, chair of the Fassifern branch; Rod and Lloyd Venz for the work they did across the entire electorate; and the entire membership of the Liberal National Party in Wright—I owe them a deep sense of gratitude.
In addition, three predominant state seats sit within my electorate—there are five if you count those on the periphery. I want to acknowledge Jon Krause, the state member for Scenic Rim, for the work he did during the campaign; in particular, Jimmy McDonald, the member for Lockyer; and Ros Bates, the member for Mudgeeraba. They are all doing a power of work in their communities.
I want to congratulate Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, and Deputy Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party Josh Frydenberg for the leadership that they showed during the election campaign. They ran an exceptional campaign and spoke to the issues confronting everyday Australians and families, not only across my electorate but across the entire country.
Just before the election, the Australian people were stunned by some of the comments coming from those in the media gallery. Paul Bongiorno, in particular, made comment in The Daily News:
… even the best "political pamphlets" don't mean much if the voters believe its authors will not be around long enough to translate words into action.
As politicians, if there's a slip-up or mistake, we are hauled over the coals and lambasted in the press for the most minor things. But, when there is such misrepresentation—180 degrees—and they are getting stories wrong, it seems to go unmentioned. In The Spectator, Terry Barnes wrote:
Alas, though, in itself this budget it won’t be enough to avoid a Coalition electoral catastrophe.
The press gallery had written us off, but the people disagreed. Headlines rolled off the presses, denigrating the government's chances. If the Australian people had believed what they were reading in the newspaper and hearing on televisions and seeing on social media from those tasked with reporting our national politics, they would have been forgiven for thinking the election had already been won. One headline, on 28 November, read, 'Apocalypse now: stench of panic grips Liberals'. An article written by Charis Chang was headlined, 'It's going to be a bloodbath: 20 MPs facing the chop'. Where are the journos now? They're like crickets.
Another one, from Crikey, said, 'How the states will shape a landslide coalition loss.' Anyway, I've made my point in that regard.
I will take the opportunity to remind the House that it is the Australian people who decide the government and that these things are never predetermined. The 2019 election should be a reminder to all of the commentariat that the Australian people, the silent majority, have spoken. I will never forget the night when senators from the opposition ranks and an ABC commentator sat there gobsmacked as the results rolled in. I acknowledge the work the Prime Minister did in this space, particularly his summing up, when he said:
We believe in choice. And because of that, it means we believe in our future. We are an optimistic, we are a passionate, and we are an ambitious people, full of aspiration, for ourselves, for our families, and of course for our great nation, for all of us. That is what we believe as Liberals. Our plan, My plan for this country is for an even stronger Australia.
That was from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and I commend his plan.
The trust that my electorate has placed in me means that I need to continue to deliver. I have delivered for my electorate, but there is more to do. I draw the attention of everyone to the times I have brought to the electorate none other than the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister, more recently to the opening of the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing. It is a magnificent piece of road infrastructure which will create safety and road efficiencies and allow trucks to move from the western side of Toowoomba through to the port of Brisbane, removing up to 18 sets of traffic lights from their journey. They will be able to move freely through there now on a B grade of six per cent. It's an amazing piece of engineering infrastructure, and I commend the builders, Nexus, who completed that task, which is Australia's largest inland road infrastructure project, whose opening I was proud to attend. My people will be the beneficiary of that piece of infrastructure.
More recently, over in the Lockyer Valley, I had the opportunity to swing past Stanbroke abattoir and say hello to the 600 workers and management there. It is a little, unsung hero in the electorate. Thank you for the work that you're doing in employing those people in that community. SCT is another organisation that the federal government has partnered with. We provided up to $10 million for a world-class intermodal rail hub at Beaudesert, employing up to 1,100 people through construction and a permanent workforce that's relocated from Acacia Ridge down to our community of Beaudesert. We welcome all of you and the infrastructure and the economic benefit that goes with that project. Those projects go ahead because we have a plan and a vision for the future.
The electorate of Wright is a wonderful place to live and to do business. It's an extraordinary place to raise a family. We're not strangers to devastation from flood and other natural disasters. We had a hail storm go through Warrill View last year. I was fortunate enough to raise a million dollars from our Treasury to appropriate to farmers, who, on the day before they were going to harvest their crop—their corn, their beans, their beetroot, their onions—were wiped out. It was like a slasher had gone through the paddocks and mown them down—not even the trash was visible. It had been spread across many hundreds of acres. I was able to secure some money and help those people recover some of the cost they had incurred in planting that crop, fertilising it and watering it. Hopefully that will keep them afloat until this year so they can replant and rebuild and then continue making a contribution to the local economy and the greater food security of our country.
We have some of the best education facilities in the country. The Lockyer Valley is home to the Gatton campus of the University of Queensland, where there is a veterinary faculty where we're training Australia's next wave of veterinary surgeons coming through.
I commend all those people who come to our electorate and are able to experience the beauty and diversity of our nation through horticulture, through our dairy farming sector and through our agricultural sector. We have two sets of beef selling yards in the electorate, at Silverdale and Beaudesert. It was hard to understand a recent decision where the electorate was not considered to have enough agriculture to qualify for drought assistance.
We're continuing to invest more money in our hospitals through the states. We're investing record amounts of money in health and education. Never before has the government committed this much money to health and education, and we are committed to continuing to invest more money in both of those areas.
Staying with natural disasters, we also had bushfires up in the back of Canungra, where we lost the iconic Binna Burra Lodge. I want to acknowledge the Prime Minister and his gorgeous wife, who travelled into the Gold Coast. We secured choppers because the place was virtually shut down by the Air Force and flew over the affected area, and then landed. The Prime Minister and emergency services personnel were able to see firsthand the level of devastation that had unfolded in that area. They met with members of the local communities and were able to see firsthand the effect that losing every worldly possession would have on a family, and hear how that rebuilding process would start. As a community, I know we will put our arms around those families that have lost and suffered. We've done it before; we will do it again. I praise God that we had no loss of life, unlike during the 2010 floods where we had many, many lives lost.
We have our challenges in the electorate. We have two other businesses, called AJ Bush and Gelita. AJ Bush is a renderer that takes meat waste, such as blood, from the meatworks and butcher shops around the states. Gelita is a large company that also takes a lot of that scrap and makes it into gelatin. When you take a capsule or a tablet that you've bought from the pharmacy, often that gelatin outer coating around the medicine is made in Beaudesert. Gelita sells their product to pharmaceutical companies. Both of those operations are reliant on coal-fired base-load power. They are very energy reliant. I want to share with the parliament the challenges that both of those organisations have. They've both been longstanding customers of a company called New Hope up in Queensland, which runs the mine at Acland. The Labor Queensland government has chosen not to approve stage 3 of the mine. If these two operations don't have reliable energy sources, they will shut. These two businesses employ potentially 150 people between them. The flow-on effect upstream on a couple of thousand businesses and a couple of thousand workers will be enormous. We are trying to secure coal for them from other localities so that they can continue doing the amazing work they do. These are two amazing businesses, but we have many others.
I've got a little organisation up on Tamborine Mountain called Outland Denim. They manufacture jeans. Most people don't even know where Tamborine Mountain is; it's in the Gold Coast hinterland. This little organisation is building denim jeans in Cambodia. They are helping people get out of sweatshops and paying them great money. Meghan Markle, our new favourite royal, is wearing those jeans on the world stage. It's a great push along for that business.
We've got a camel farm called Summer Land Camels that is selling camel feta, moisturisers and nutraceutical products. They're cutting edge and they're exporting products all around the world. There is Stanbroke, which I mentioned earlier, and SET, the rail hub operators. We have a world-class motocross bike park where people from all around the south-east corner bring their families to engage in the sport of motocross over many different styles of bike tracks.
We've got world-class facilities for our rowers at Wyaralong Dam. In the south-east corner at the moment, we are hopeful that we'll be able to secure the future Olympic bid and put the Olympic rowing activities down at Wyaralong.
We have a waterskiing park at Cables, just over on the Gold Coast, which is doing amazing things. And we've got rainforest walks with suspended ropes and skyline walks up on Mount Tamborine. We have some of the most amazing microbreweries, where you can enjoy a flat lemonade on a hot day! Some of the eclectic ingredients that they're using in some of these microbreweries are very inviting, and I encourage all those considering a weekend away to consider the electorate of Wright, and in particular the Scenic Rim. Of course, once a year the Scenic Rim hosts their Eat Local Week campaign. Strangely enough, it goes for a month, and the hotels and restaurants in Brisbane and the Gold Coast which source their products locally from these businesses bring their businesses and their clients out to these locations. They set up flash mobile restaurants where the city folk can come to enjoy and experience the delightful flavours of the Senate Rim.
I just want to acknowledge the amazing contribution that the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has made and his continued commitment to a very well-thought-out and structured plan. You only have to grab a copy of the Governor-General's address to the House to see how comprehensive our plan is. For those who may not have heard it, I suggest that the comprehensive plan spoke at length about the strength of our economy and the tax reforms that are desperately needed. We've moved on some of those, but there is more to do.
It spoke about the regulatory reforms in industrial relations that we need to undergo. It spoke about our track record on jobs and the targets that we've set ourselves into the future, in making sure that every Australian has the opportunity to have a job, because the greatest gift we can give someone on welfare is a job. The plan spoke about the importance of job security, and how that translates to home security. It spoke about our infrastructure rollout plan—$100 billion. That's an unprecedented amount; never has Australia had a point in its history where we have invested more in infrastructure than we are at the moment. That's $100 billion over the next decade.
It spoke about our plan for health, and I have already touched on our unprecedented health budget. It spoke about mental health and the enormous task that's in front of us with reference to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I acknowledge the minister, the member for Fadden, who is doing amazing work in that space.
The plan also included our plan for defence, both for those serving today and of course our veterans. It spoke about the security of our nation and about our foreign policy, and the need to ensure that we continue to pursue free trade agreements into the future. It spoke about energy security, climate change and the environment, and the protection of our Great Barrier Reef. It spoke about regional and rural Australia, Indigenous Australians and older Australians. It spoke about online and cybercrime, and the safety of our nation and children.
In closing, it is a privilege for me to serve in this place. I walk up to this House in the mornings, whenever the weather permits. Next year I will celebrate my 10th year here, and as I walk up I never tire of looking up and seeing the flag above this building. It's a great sense of patriotism and a great sense of nationalism. My other half suggests to me that the day that I lose that sense of pride is the day that I should give this job away.