Wednesday, 14 September 2016
No, Member for North Sydney, you may not. You may not borrow it, Member for North Sydney, because the Elvis jacket is being reserved for Scott Barrett, who will do an excellent job as the next Nationals member for Orange.
I have been lucky enough to have some very loyal and talented staff working for me through the years. They have constantly gone above and beyond the call of duty, working long hours, and have achieved many amazing results for constituents. They have seen and done it all with courtesy, professionalism, humour and a desire to help people from all walks of life. I am very grateful for their hard work and support. In fact, I would not have been able to serve as an MP without them. They are Kimbalee Morris, Rosie Pritchard, Paula Elbourne, Sarah Hayes, Anna Hipsley and Judith Patton, and also Georga Nonnemacher, plus international dog judge and man of mystery Don Mahoney JP. I would also like to mention the support of the great Bec Mackay and acknowledge the work of Bev Glover, Travis Russell and Rachel Hayes.
In my time as a state MP, it was the community campaigns that marked the time in the electorate: the fight for Gulgong hospital and ensuring that promises made were promises kept; saving the Drip near Mudgee and having it declared a national park; the fight for a 24-hour rescue helicopter service; the fights for better radiotherapy at Orange and also better roads; and saving the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health.
In Sydney, the last five years or so were marked by regular scans and check-ups at the Sydney melanoma unit after being diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma during a state election campaign of 2010. Professor John Thompson is not here today, but he and the cancer researchers like him are the unsung heroes in Australia, and I am very grateful to him for patching me up and getting me back on the paddock. In fact, when after my operation I asked him whether he thought I would be right to contest the 2011 state election, he replied that, if it was a political career I was contemplating, perhaps he should book me in for a brain scan. That is medical humour for you, but I appreciate all that Prof. Thompson has done for me.
All family members of politicians have to make some big sacrifices, and mine have been no exception. I am extremely lucky to have a close-knit family and could not have served effectively as a local member without them. My children, who are in the gallery today, are notoriously picky when it comes to how they are mentioned in any speech that I make. When I asked them about this speech, Jonathan, who is in year 2, said he wished to be referred to as a future Australian cricket player. Sam, in year 6, said he wished to be referred to as a son of unlimited potential who predicted I would be here. That is what he said. Ally is in year nine and she simply said she wanted two mentions in this speech. Thanks Ally. Tick! Amanda, who is in year 11, has traditionally been a conscientious objector to what she always saw as a frivolous and inherently uncool exercise, but she now wishes to be referred to as 'campaign trooper'. Of course, I need to thank my wife, Tina, for her love and support; my parents, Melva and Bob; my brother David and my sister-in-law Vanessa Gee; Alison and Andrew Blackman; Matthew and Joanna Gee; my aunt, Jan Lintot; my in-laws Scott and Ross Halverson; and the entire Halverson family. I would also like to express my appreciation for the flying squad of nephews and nieces who made many an appearance at polling booths around Orange in the freezing cold. A special mention must also be made of my old school friend and Novocastrian Warrick Boyd whose determination and strength I am in awe of. His daughter, Madison, and brother, Peter, are with us today.
Today I also thank the people of Calare. When I entered politics in 2011, I committed to representing the people of our communities with the same qualities that they themselves possess: courage, passion and energy. I reaffirm that commitment today. But to communities of the west I further commit to this: I will fight for you, Calare. Every day I occupy this office I will fight. When I am out in our communities I will fight. When I am here in this place I will stand up and I will fight for you, Calare. I will fight and we, all of us, will fight with an unshakable faith in the future of the west. Together we will make this time count for something. We will make these years Calare's years, and together we will make this Calare's time.