Monday, 17 September 2007
Valedictory speeches are always hard. It is a time to thank people who have been involved in your career—its highs, its lows, it achievements and its mistakes. However, after nearly 12 years of campaigning in Lindsay, my list of thankyous is so long I dare not start in case I forget someone from the electorate, this place, my family or friends, or anywhere else. But I know who they are and I thank them all again now, as I have on other occasions.
However, there is one person who I do want to thank by name, personally and in public. He is someone I have often forgotten to mention and frequently forgotten to thank. He has been there for the highs but more particularly for the lows and especially for all the times in between—my husband, Gary Clark. I do not believe that marriage to me has been easy. I am amazed I am leaving parliament still married to the original. It should not have taken me so long to realize that time with my husband is very important. Public life means that evenings out with the Glenbrook scouts or Penrith councillors, attending CUA stadium to watch my mighty Panthers, presenting trophies to netballers at Jamieson, soccer players at Glenmore Park, cricketers at Emu Plains, hockey winners at Kingswood and all the Penrith Valley footy codes combined, manning Liberal Party stalls and attending party meetings and other AGMs of worthy organisations like the Red Cross, the CWA and seniors clubs, take priority over family time. All those things combined lead your spouse to feel that they rate very low in your priorities. I know Gary understands that I was achieving something worth while. I am sorry for the neglect I know he frequently felt. Australia is in a much better position to cater for our children’s future now than when I entered this parliament in 1996.
It was about this time in 1995 that I was preselected for the Liberal Party in the seat of Lindsay and it seems I have been campaigning in a marginal seat ever since. I was very surprised to win Lindsay on 2 March 1996, but I was not the only one. John Howard was equally surprised, but when I was disqualified from serving on 11 September 1996, no-one worked harder for my re-election than John Howard. The Lindsay by-election on 19 October 1996 has gone down in the political lore of both sides of the House. I owe John a lot and wish him every success in the future and hope he sees my 12 years of unexpected service as repayment. I apologise for not being with John in the trenches for this one, but Gary is thrilled that he finally rates higher in my priorities than the Prime Minister.
In my first term I served on two committees, which are listed elsewhere. I was re-elected at the 1998 election on 3 October. Again I was surprised to return, when 19 of my colleagues who also fought the GST election with me did not return. Keeping the confidence of the voters of Lindsay at that time is something I am very proud of. Hindsight shows they were right to trust me and the government and not the vicious scare campaign of the Labor Party.
I was appointed the Minister for Sport and Tourism and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Sydney 2000 Games on 21 October 1998. During my time as minister I got married, had one child and was pregnant with my second when I sought re-election in 2001. I oversaw the preparation of our athletes at the Australian Sports Commission for the Sydney Olympics. Although not very many world records were broken, our Australian athletes collectively gained more medals than at any other games and were higher up the medal table than ever before. This was in large part due to the strong anti-doping stance I took in the lead-up to the games, the international conference of concerned governments I convened in Sydney and the new EPO test this government was able to introduce in the weeks leading up to the games. Sydney is widely regarded as one of the cleanest games in recent memory.
I was the tourism minister during the infamous collapse of Ansett airlines and the associated hardships for that company’s employees, but, due to my action and that of the transport minister, the tourism air routes were back to capacity within weeks and the tourism industry rode relatively unscathed through this incident. I introduced the green paper for tourism, which resulted in a very successful white paper appropriately funded, which has stood the industry in good stead for many years. The vast number of evening engagements in this industry put incredible pressure on my family life and, combined with other personal issues, resulted in me lowering my workload after the elections on 10 November 2001 and taking on the duties of Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister on 26 November 2001.
I cannot recommend to any woman campaigning in a marginal federal seat while seven months pregnant. My husband was there through it all and I truly owe him that election. I oversaw urban sprawl and the status of women in a very varied role with the Prime Minister. In 2003 I had a very bad car accident, nearly killing myself and my two children. It was with a lot of cajoling from my colleagues that I ran for re-election on 9 October 2004. I thank them for that and this term was for them. During this term I resigned all higher offices and focused on my true loves of innovation and technology. I was the first person to use a laptop on the floor of this House. In fact, the then Speaker kicked me out for it. I am glad we see things differently and have equipped this House for laptop use in the chamber. I also was the first person to have an iPod in here. Luckily I did not get kicked out for that infringement.
I just wish this House had been as ready to action my ideas on a child-care centre for this place. Thank you for the 22-place centre for children under 18 months, but I do not think it will be very successful, and the issue will need to be revisited in the future. I will not be able to benefit from the centre, but hopefully parents who come after me in this place will be able to manage a better work-life balance than I have been able to because of the modern use of the space in this place. I give full credit to this government on all we have achieved in child care but urge those who will be staying to continue the instalments on work-life balance for working mothers. We need flexibility, and our employers can do that for us. Employers must be a part of the child-care solution for our nation.
I believe our future is in hydrogen fuel cells, not nuclear, but that is a question that is 30 years away. From my experience in the planning of Badgerys Creek airport, 30 years out from ever needing a solution you often get yesterday’s solution to tomorrow’s problem. Technology is rapidly evolving, so do not discount new innovations that provide solutions, be it an offshore airport, fast-train technology or silent jumbo jets. However, there are some things that do need to be planned now, such as roads. Major roads should be built by those who can afford them. Therefore, I support the Pacific Highway and the M2 extension to Dubbo becoming roads of national importance so that, finally, New South Wales residents can get action, rather than waiting for the nincompoops in the New South Wales government to get it right. Given my experience of the ineffective, inefficient New South Wales Iemma government, I believe our government will be re-elected because we have been a good government, and that is a rare commodity in politics today. The last 12 years of hard work have not been in vain. We have many achievements already listed in other valedictories. I think we have many achievements still to come, such as a single number for citizens to identify with government agencies, a national smart driver’s licence, rollover for departing defence members to gain the most from their MSBS contributions and many more which I will list elsewhere.
Motherhood is the greatest thing we do. I am not sure that anyone would read anything that I have said in Hansard 100 years from now or even 10 years from now, except my children, Dominique and Lachlan, who are watching this on webcast—or maybe their children or their grandchildren. As a government we have done a stupendous amount to give mothers the financial choice to stay at home with their children if they choose to: family tax benefit part B; the $5,000 baby bonus, regardless of whether you have worked part time or full time for 12 months or just two; the child-care benefit, even if you are not in the workforce; the First Home Owners Scheme; the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate; and assistance with your school of choice. In 1996, families in Lindsay earning the average wage of $40,000 were paying 43c in the dollar tax. Today, families on $75,000 are paying only 30c in the dollar tax. This has helped families tremendously with managing on one income and paying a mortgage—or paying exorbitant rents in Sydney, thanks to Morris Iemma’s incompetence.
I am going to take advantage of the opportunity to be there for my children during their critical years—at least after 3 pm and on weekends. No doubt I will get busy with my various interests in technology and innovation but nowhere near as busy as I am now. May I advise those in this House and those listening that a good marriage is based on more than finding the right partner; it is about being the right partner too. Gary, my one true love, father of my children, I could not have done it without you. I go back to live amongst the residents of Lindsay with my head held high.