Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (16:37): It is a privilege to be able to stand in this place for a third term of serving the good people of my electorate of Wright in the Gold Coast hinterland. It is a beautiful part of Queensland, an absolutely picturesque electorate, taking in Lamington National Park, the Gold Coast hinterland, and the glorious Tamborine Mountain and the surrounding communities that reside close to it.
Can I suggest that my electorate is extremely diverse in its outlook, ranging from some of the richest fertile valleys in the world—the seventh most fertile valley in the world by way of the Lockyer Valley—where we produce food, including vegetables, for the eastern seaboard and for the Australian table. We produce mostly vegetables in the brassica families: cauliflower, broccoli, corn—which is not a brassica—broccolini, onions, and carrots. We have country that can yield up to 20 tonnes an acre: potatoes, 20 tonnes an acre; onions, 15 tonnes an acre. It is such a beautiful and rich agricultural precinct.
Then you have the surrounding communities in the middle of it by way of the Fassifern Valley, with communities like Aratula. If you are ever driving on the Cunningham Highway from Brisbane to Warwick, never miss the opportunity to drive past the Aratula bakery and pull in and get yourself a beautiful Aratula pie, or to stop off at the Aratula butcher, which is always open on a Sunday, and pick up that Sunday family roast.
I am so proud and so privileged to be able to serve the people of Wright. This is my seventh year in this place. This is not just the result of efforts that I have made; it is a team effort that allows me to return to this place. In the seven years that I have had the absolute privilege of being able to serve the electors of Wright, I have learned that this place, the Australian parliament, is filled with some incredible talent on both sides of the House. It is unfortunate that too many Australians see the Australian political landscape only through the very short window of opportunity afforded when they witness the Australian parliament. Unfortunately, they make their decision on how we perform here by watching a snippet of what we refer to as question time. I can assure the Australian public and the electors of Wright that that is not the norm. That is happy hour. That is the theatre. It is the gladiatorial bluster that happens for the cameras.
The real work is done in the committees. The real work is done when the cameras are turned off. If only the Australian public could see the bipartisanship in this place and how much work actually gets done. I sit with the member for Scullin on the Joined Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. That is never going to be newsworthy when people sit and watch the work that we do, but we influence the direction of the country. If only people could see the work that gets done behind those closed doors and in some of the other committees, such as the Public Works Committee. Recently I tabled some documents in the House outlining no less than $1.3 billion worth of funding that we have invested in this country into refits for Public Service offices, whether it be for Defence, Immigration or other areas. It was all done in a bipartisan manner with the support of the government and the opposition and in conjunction with the Senate. That is how our parliament works. That is the truth.
But people are not going to back up to buy tickets to that. It is not sexy when they see the place working well. People back up to buy tickets because they want to see the gladiatorial blood on the ground in question time, and then they complain about the way that we perform. They complain and say that we are childlike and that if it were a school environment we would be punished for our behaviour—and rightly so. On the rare occasions that I have the opportunity to spend time with my constituents in a pub, it is a great leveller. They will often say, ‘You lot are childlike.’ They will say to me quite openly, ‘You’re a good bloke. We like the way that you work for us. You work hard. You get out of bed early. You go to bed late.’ But, when they speak about politicians in the collective, the same people who hold you in high regard will group us all up and suggest that we have our noses in the trough and that we are less than trustworthy.
One of the challenges that I have, with the return on the investment for my time here, is to turn around the minds of a few people in my electorate so that they see that there are some incredibly talented people in this place. When you talk about politicians collectively, the first things that should come to your mind is ‘incredibly hardworking and disciplined’. I will tell you that if you are not a hardworking politician you are not going to get re-elected. There is only one way to success if you are going to stick around this place, and that is: you need to get out of bed early, you need to go to bed late, you need to work weekends and you need to connect with your electorate. And if you do not do that, you will be treated harshly for it.
It is an absolute privilege for me to serve in this place. I walked up to the House this morning. It has a different ambience from driving up in your car. I was on the phone to my brother and I said to him, ‘This is my seventh year in this place and when I walk to this place I am not filled with a sense of pride when I look up on a beautifully clear day and see our flag in full flight.’ I feel an immense sense of pride not because the building I am going to work in is one of the most stunning pieces of architecture in Canberra. I am filled with a sense of pride because I know that, when I get to the dispatch box, whether it be in this chamber or in the other chamber, I can enter into a debate rationally, in a safe environment, without fear for my own safety, as every member in this place can do, and knowing that, hopefully, we are influencing the direction of this country to be in a better place tomorrow than it was today. That is the intention of all of us.
It is my hope that, as Australians, we get to break down the barrier of negativity around politicians. I would love a survey to be done or some statistics to be gathered on what we would actually get paid if we were to calculate an hourly rate and then to apply penalty rates and overtime to it; I would love to see what that hourly rate would look like! I would like to be on any hourly rate that anyone would nominate for me! But you know what? I am fortunate. I would probably do this job—no, I would; I would do this job for nothing. It is a privilege.
I do not know if I would want to do this job forever for nothing, because it takes an incredible toll on your family. The time that you, as a politician in this place, spend with your community is at the sacrifice of the time that you would spend with your loved ones: your daughter; your family; your brothers; your sisters. And I want to acknowledge the contribution that my family and my extended family make—including my mum.
I grew up in a very humble household, as one of four brothers and sisters. My mum ran a single-income household on a widow’s pension. The other day I had the opportunity to take my mum into one of the air lounges in a capital city, and she thought she was a queen! I felt so privileged to be able to expose her to that, because, outside of a political life, we would never have had that opportunity. Yes, we used to fly a lot in our own transport operations, but never at the front end of the plane. So I suppose, coming from a humble background, you do appreciate the trimmings that this office holds.
Closer to my electorate, I am proud of some of the things that we are doing in the electorate. The largest piece of inland road infrastructure in Australian history is happening in my electorate as we speak: the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, a project worth well in excess of $1 billion. For many years, my electorate was saying: ‘When is the range crossing happening? We are sick of hearing about it.’ Now we are delivering it. Construction is underway. Dozers are working. We will have traffic on that road hopefully within two years.
The NBN is rolling out, and, again, the NBN was the child of the now opposition, then in government—
An honourable member interjecting—
Mr BUCHHOLZ: We tweaked it! And there is a debate as to whether or not it is better or cheaper and as to the rollout. But you know what? I think Australians would appreciate a little bit more honesty, and I do not think we would be judged poorly for occasionally offering a compliment to good policy when it is needed, rather than opposing it for the sake of opposing.
People in my electorate can smell—and excuse me—bullshit coming a mile away. And they will resonate to sincerity. I think that, as politicians, if we could have, and be seen to have, a softer heart and to have less of an agitated, always-confrontational spirit then I think we would just get more done in this place. I think there is a desire for us to achieve more. But, unfortunately, if it bleeds it leads in the press. People want to see that gladiatorial conflict, even if it be two opposing members of this place at seven o’clock in the morning on news feeds. And there are virtually whole networks allocated to political commentary. Often the stuff that flashes up down the bottom of the screen is the bad news. But there is a lot of good news that happens in the place—a lot of good news.
Some of the other work that is happening here, which I am proud of, is the work that I do as a government backbencher, in my capacity as secretary to the economics committee and as secretary to the agricultural committee, where we scrutinise bills that go before cabinet. That committee will be meeting tonight and will again be influencing the direction of the country through some of the work that we do there.
I also want to give the Deputy Speaker a quick update on some of the work I do with an organisation that I call A50, the Australian Economic Forum. That 50 is representative of 50 people from around the world who influence the Australian market. I do this in conjunction with Tom Murphy—who started off on the Merrill Lynch desk in New York. He is an Australian who used to play rugby for the Brumbies. How’s that? He can play rugby, and is smart and rich! Tommy and I got together and we thought we would pull together this A50. The 50 is representative of 50 people; 20 are the largest buyers in the Australian market. We bring in buyers from around the world in equities, debt, trade, short money, long money, superannuation and hedge funds. We bring them in from the UK, the Middle East, Europe, America, Canada and Asia, and we stick them next to 20 of the top CEOs of Australian listed companies: the banks, the Caltexes, the BHPs, the Rios and the AMPs. We book a room at the Opera House and we put these guys in it. The remaining 10 people in the room are the top 10 regulators of the country so that they all hear the one story. Those regulators look like the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the trade minister, the Reserve Bank governor, the Foreign Investment Review Board chairman, the ASIC chairman, the ACCC and a number of other regulators.
We sell a simple message: Australia is open for business. I make an effort to pull that group together—and we have done it for the second year in a row; it is extremely successful—because the people in my electorate need security in their future through Australia being a net importer of funds. When I am in the pub, people say to me: ‘Why would you invest so much time in that? How does that affect me?’ When the value of a superannuation fund held by anyone in my electorate is going south, it is mostly because those 20 guys are pulling their money out of Australia, and it has taken the value off. So I add value to their superannuation funds when I can convince those that invest in our markets that Australia is a good bet—it is a good short-term bet; it is a good long-term bet—and convince them to continue to stay here. There was money looking to leave the Australian market in the downturn of the resources sector. We did a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the 20 that were in the room. The net funds under management from that 20 were in the vicinity of $17 trillion. That is what these guys bring to our economy. That is why it is important for me and Tom Murphy to spend time talking to those companies, letting them know that Australia is a place to invest in in the future and that we are a good bet.
I can talk about projects in my electorate—and during their address-in-reply speeches, members will do that—but electorates expect members to deliver projects. You are not going to get re-elected because of the size of the projects you do. You are going to get re-elected if you can connect with your electorate. You are going to get re-elected if you can empathise with your electors, if you can truly believe in your elector’s concerns and if you do your best to address them. In this place we so often become consumed with issues that we believe are important to our electorates, but when I go back and sit in the pub they are not talking about gay marriage and they were not talking about section 18C. It is so easy to become distracted because a journalist sticks a microphone in front of your face as you are walking into this place—which we refer to as ‘the doors’—and asks you about something obscure that happened in the last 12 hours, as if it is the most important thing to them. It is not important to our people at home—to the people we love, to the people we represent. What is important to them is security. It is making sure that they have enough money in their pockets so that they can live a comfortable and safe existence. What is important to them is making sure that there is an economic environment where they can get a better price for their product at the farm gate today than they were getting yesterday. Unfortunately, that is not often the case—in particular, for a number of dairy farmers who are in my electorate; it is beautifully rich country. At the other end of the scale, my cattle market is extremely buoyant and my cattle boys are performing well. I have two or three major selling yards—Silverdale Saleyards, the Beaudesert Saleyards and Boonah. Cattle are going off extremely strongly at the moment. Our grain prices are strong. And in my electorate we have some of the most beautiful country.
In closing, I would not be here if it were not for the incredible generosity of so many people in my electorate and in the LNP secretariat. I also want to acknowledge my staff. It would humour the House to know that I was fortunate to celebrate my birthday this week on the 27th, and that my chief of staff also celebrates his birthday on the 27th. My constituent officer, Alice Warby, is turning 70—Alice, I should not have told the world that, but happy birthday to you—also on the 27th. It is as if you cannot get a job in my office unless your birthday is on 27 March! Greg Birkbeck, thank you for the work you do for me. You have been with me since day one, and I think that is a sign of the respect that I have for you. Alice Warby has been with me since day one—it is now our third term; again, that is because of the trust that I show in her and the solid nature of the way that she has my back. Coming onto staff more recently is Rochelle Richards, formerly Rochelle Maloney. Rochelle was my first PA, when I first started my transport business back in 1992 and, after having three children, she has come back to work with me. That humbles me. Her father used to work for me in the transport business for nearly 20 years. My PA, Jo Dempsey, an incredibly strong woman, has gone through some hardship, but Jo is just shining every day, as she learns more and more and grows in the position. To all of those within the LNP branches who drag themselves out to attend branch meetings and to assist on election days, whether it is handing out how-to-vote cards, manning booths or sticking up posters—there are too many of you to mention, but I stand here as a result of your efforts and, in return, I will give everything I have to make sure that I earn your confidence to elect me again as your candidate at the next election. God bless.
Video of speech: https://youtu.be/mqC5lX87S_0