Thursday, 21 October 2010
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 1115 CHAMBER
Mr Speaker and members of the House, it is with a sense of history and humility that I stand here as the elected member for Wright, a newly created seat in the south-east corner of Queensland. I thank the electorate for entrusting me with the honour of representing them in this our nation’s House of parliament. I can report that as I moved through my electorate on my path to this place the people gave me some clear messages. My farmers are struggling to get a better price for the product at the farm gate. My businesses, small and large, are struggling with an increasing level of compliance and red tape. My mums and dads are struggling to meet the cost of living as it quickly becomes unmanageable.
In preparing this speech I sought the guidance of political colleagues both in this House and in the Senate, both past and present. I have sought the compassion of family and friends and the wisdom of party members and communities. The overwhelming advice was, ‘Just be yourself and prepare a speech that will have relevance to your electorate now and in 20 years time.’ During my recent political journey I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of my campaign team, who worked tirelessly throughout the campaign along with a great number of volunteers who unselfishly manned booths and scrutineered on election day. It is with humility that I thank you for your contribution to our local victory. Each of you as volunteers should celebrate, knowing that your contribution assisted in such a historic outcome—the election of the firstever member for the seat of Wright. To the electors of Wright, who I now represent, I owe you a debt which I will repay through the long hours of hard work in which I will invest as your member of parliament. Please know this about me: I will never give up.
The seat of Wright is named after one of Australia’s more famous female poets, whose views on the environment and social issues were ahead of her time. Judith Wright resided in Mt Tamborine and had a strong connection with the Australian landscape.
The seat of Wright is a newly created seat, and one could say it is the beginning of an era which is as diverse as the seat itself— from Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast through to the spectacular hinterland of Mt Tamborine and the Canungra Valley, the beautiful fertile Scenic Rim district, up to the west of Logan City, where we have exciting growth with the expected creation of the two new towns of Yarrabilba and Flagstone and right through to the bottom of the Toowoomba range, encompassing the food bowl of Queensland’s mighty Lockyer Valley.
The diversity of the electorate is immense, from its vital food production and associated industries to the smaller sectors and those homeowners and families who seek a lifestyle outside the metropolitan areas. Despite the obvious wealth, there are a large number of everyday residents who are doing it tough.
The Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, Lifeline and similar agencies have large client bases and, sadly, they are growing—yet, I have 22 private polo fields in my electorate. The electorate of Wright contains a collection of communities which represent contemporary Australia in its myriad forms.
However, the links to the past are not far beneath the surface. First came the timbercutters and sawmillers who provided the raw materials for the region and for Brisbane houses. They were joined by the farmers and the graziers who cleared the land and now produce the food that we consume as a nation. Where once the bullock wagons slowly carved their tracks across the landscape road trains are now travelling at a hundred kilo metres an hour. Much of the transport infrastructure built over the past hundred years is now struggling under the weight of heavy vehicles and traffic volumes which our forebears would scarcely imagine. The timber bridges that dot the landscape may have a rustic charm but they cannot meet the demands of modern traffic. What was once a hard day’s travel by stagecoach from the centre of Brisbane to the Cobb and Co. depot at Jimboomba is today little more than an hour’s drive; however, that drive gets more expensive and crowded each day, as the years go by. The outer suburban fringe is now contested territory between energy producers, farmers and urban sprawl. All government services are under extreme pressure. There are not enough hospital beds and a regional transport infrastructure upgrade is long overdue.
It is timely that I now reach back into the history pages and draw on the words of the founder of the Australian Liberal Party, Sir Robert Menzies, in his landmark speech ‘The Forgotten People’, which he delivered in 1942. He spoke of that majority of the population who he identified as, and I quote:
The forgotten class … who properly regarded, represent the backbone of this country.
He went on to say:
But what really happens to us will depend on how many people we have who are of the great, and [sober and dynamic middle class]—the strivers, the planners, the ambitious ones. We shall destroy them at our peril.
This is the very sector of the community I refer to as the silent majority. The silent majority today are struggling with the cost of utilities such as power and water. The silent majority are struggling with the increasing costs of fuel and food. The silent majority go about their business in an efficient way. The silent majority work to ensure a better life for their family and community. I will provide a voice for the silent majority of the electorate. These are not the people you see on the front page of the paper or on the television each night; they do not seek glory or public notoriety as they quietly go about their tasks. These are the many people of my electorate who go about providing random acts of kindness which enrich us all: the staff and families of Rural Lifestyle Options and Beaucare, who work with the disabled and elderly; the charity service providers and the support networks; the Pauline Fathers from the Marian Valley; or the bloke who just pulls over on the side of the road and helps someone change a tyre. We in the parliament have to give greater support to this silent majority and support them in more effective ways, for if we fail to support them we will surely destroy them, and we destroy them at our peril. Those powerful words spoken over a half a century ago remain relevant today.
The time has come to reflect upon this nation’s over regulation and this government’s waste and escalating mismanagement. The time has come for us to look more carefully at the practices of government. I am concerned that the machinery of government is becoming more reliant on external advice.
The budget expenditure on external consultants and advisors has been steadily increasing and the growing trend of outsourcing the decision-making process has been steadily eroding the capacity of departments to provide quality advice in a timely fashion. In some cases, the terms of references given to consultants are skewed to the political agenda of the government. This is not an efficient use of government money. In my experience in the private sector, mismanagement dooms an enterprise to insolvency.
Efficiency is the pathway to business success and, likewise, efficiency is the only acceptable pathway to good government. These are the things which ensured my success in business and they are the same things which I will bring to my work here.
It is fair to say that some sectors of government are under constant review and are change weary. I understand, that my stance may be met with vigorous resistance from sectors of the machinery of government, with a thousand good reasons why something cannot be done. To them I say: shift your mind to a different place and give me a thousand reasons how it can be done. I want the machinery of government to know that I will always be trying to make things better. I want them to know that on this issue I will be fair and I will be consistent, and I will not give up. I will not give up because my people expect me to pursue these issues to the best of my ability.
The silent majority are the average Australians who, through hard work, tenacity and self-reliance, have played their part in the development of this nation. My electorate contains some of the richest farming land in the nation—and I make the point, in response to the first speech by the honourable member for Riverina: we have some crackerjack country as well! I aim to give maximum respect and support to those working in the agriculture sectors, from the research scientists and teachers at the Gatton campus of the University of Queensland to the farmers and graziers going about their business producing food for our tables and for export. In the early days these were the men and women who cleared the scrub and tilled the soil.
Like their contemporaries, they did not give up when things got hard; they simply worked and hoped for a better tomorrow. Many of those families are still there today.
However, increasing state and local government controls over their property rights and access to water and vegetation management restrictions now threaten their very livelihoods. I am going to search for solutions to these problems, for a reduction in red tape and ways in which we can increase the prices paid to farmers at the farm gate, for without these people we are all poorer; without these people we become captive to overseas producers and overseas markets; without these people we lose our dignity and our sovereignty.
In this my first term in this place I have set myself these goals: I will do my best to represent the silent majority, the forgotten people, the disappointed, the urban fringe dwellers, the long-established families in the Lockyer Valley and the Scenic Rim, the treechange communities in the Gold Coast hinterland, and the outer suburban residents of Logan City and the small towns dotted along the highways and byways of what is truly a beautiful landscape.
One community in particular deserves a special mention: the men and women of the Canungra jungle warfare training centre. It is here that generations of soldiers have lived and trained. They are, in the Anzac tradition, the warriors to whom we turn when the dangerous and difficult work of protecting this nation has to be done. We live with them and their families in our midst and in return it is these warriors who offer their lives and youth in our protection and the nation’s defence.
It will be my privilege to represent those people.
I want to put into Hansard my commitment to family values and the Australian tradition of fairness and hard work and of tolerance, tenacity and resilience. To my electors, know this: as a husband and father I will represent you as best I can. I owe you my place in this House and I will not be silenced on my opposition to those things which threaten our quality of life. I will oppose the sale of illicit drugs, with the terrible scars they leave on society. Businesses and families should know that I will be working for a safe environment for work and play, and for the protection of our youth and elderly. I will not tolerate those who prey on our children and elderly, the very ones who have contributed to this great nation and the ones who will be its future. To those who see the helpless and vulnerable as an easy target for assault, know this: you will not be welcome in the seat of Wright.
At this stage of my speech I would like to share with you a little of who I am and how I came to be in this place. As I stand here today in the centre of the nation I realise how profound the journey to this place has been for me. I am one of four children in my family.
My father died when I was eight years old, leaving my mother to raise us alone, so I am well aware of the financial pressures of being brought up in a household whose sole source of income for many years was a widow’s pension. Mum is a devout Catholic, and we were dragged to every novena, every stations of the cross and every benediction.
As a young adolescent, to make time go quicker at mass, I became an altar boy. I was always ambitious. I remember even as an altar boy I always wanted to be the Pope. We had a warm and loving childhood, and I thank all my family for their friendship, love, support and encouragement.
I acknowledge my mother and family here today in the gallery. To each of you: I thank you for your guidance, love and support. With tongue in cheek, I disclose to the members of the House that the constant thrashings I received in my childhood were unfounded and ill informed at the time and have left me a shy and reserved shell of the man I once was. To each of you: I love you all very much. Most importantly, in the gallery is my loving wife, Lynn, and daughter, Grace. To Lynn, who looks after me, loves me and sacrifices time with me so that I may serve my community: your commitment to our marriage and friendship is immeasurable, and for that I will always love you. To Grace: I am so proud of the many personal achievements that are already part of your young life. Know that your dad is your No. 1 ‘clapper’, mate. I love you very much.
I also acknowledge my friends and relatives who have travelled here all the way from Queensland, including the senators in the gallery, and take the opportunity to acknowledge and thank Senator Barnaby Joyce for encouraging me to pursue a political career in the House of Representatives.
I grew up in Rockhampton and have worked in Clermont, Blackwater, Emerald, Toowoomba, St George and Beaudesert—all great regional towns of Queensland. I started my career as a ringer on a station halfway between Clermont and Charters Towers in the Kilcummin district, where I learnt the principles of hard work with no concept of time, only that of working until the job is done, from daylight to dark—a skill set of a strong work ethic that serves me well today. I then worked in Emerald in the finance industry, specialising in agri-finance, where I gained further skills in fiscal literacy that gave me the economic fundamentals to assist clients. These skills served me well both in my own business enterprises and later in boardroom activities.
My transition to self-employment was accelerated by tendering for and winning a courier run from Emerald to Rockhampton six nights a week, transporting the local papers and, later, courier parcels. I built that business to 14 depots across the state, employing 105 permanent staff and subcontractors. My wife and I have now divested ourselves of much of that, retaining only our specialised services division, comprising eight staff. Our company’s growth was built on a two-pronged strategy: one of internal domestic growth and the other of growth by mergers and acquisitions. It is this skill set that served me well in my role as chairman of the transition action committee that worked on the due diligence process for the merger of the Liberal and National parties in Queensland to create the Liberal National Party of Queensland.
The success of the LNP in Queensland has contributed to delivering the coalition to the threshold of government. This was no accident, just as it is no accident that the LNP now have a strong membership that consists of 13,000 contributing Queenslanders. We put aside three-cornered contests which saw us compete against ourselves and delivered 11 new capable, motivated federal members. I also acknowledge the class of 2010. To each of them: I acknowledge your arrival in this place and wish you every success and a long, effective political career.
I recognise the strength of the federal Liberal Party and its long history of national leadership. I stand here as a representative of the newly formed LNP, the Queensland division of the Liberal Party of Australia, which also has an affiliation with the National Party of Australia. They are both conservative parties that have a long and proud tradition of serving their communities and governing the nation.
I acknowledge the contribution and friendship of the LNP state president, Mr Bruce Mclvor, and his entire executive, in particular the LNP state treasurer, Mr Barry O’Sullivan, who is in the gallery today— friendships that I will honour for the rest of my life. It was a proud day when Barry and I registered the LNP as a political party with the Australian Electoral Commission and the Electoral Commission of Queensland. While there will be many tasks in front of me here in this place, I acknowledge the single interest groups who seek to influence the decisions made in this House. I will be fair in my support for each cause and I will treat each case on its merits, but my support will always be skewed to the protection and encouragement of the silent majority of my electorate.
To conclude, I return to my opening comments about what my electors have told me and I give them these undertakings. I will endeavour to fight to get my farmers a better price for their product at the farm gate. I will fight for my small and large business operators who struggle with ever-increasing costs of ‘over-compliance’ from all tiers of government. I will fight for the mums and dads of the electorate of Wright who are struggling to make ends meet. I will oppose unnecessary new taxes which threaten to take more money out their pockets each week.
Although my immediate focus is on the electorate of Wright, I will always try to take the national interest into consideration. Therefore, when it comes to fighting for my electorate, what is good for my electorate and what is good for my nation, I will not give up. From now until the day I leave this place, I will try to make things better. Know this: I will never give up. Thank you.