House debates

Monday, 5 September 2022

Governor-General's Speech


4:55 pm

Photo of Henry PikeHenry Pike (Bowman, Liberal National Party) Share this | Hansard source

It is an honour to rise for the first time in this chamber to make a contribution to the address-in-reply. The opening of a new parliament and the Governor-General's address signify renewal and continuity in equal measure. It is a celebration of both the contemporary and of the enduring. We welcome new members and a new government against the backdrop of centuries-old parliamentary tradition. While our own parliament is relatively young, Australia is in fact one of the world's oldest continuing democracies and, by any assessment, we are one of the most successful nations on earth. But our prosperity, security and stability are not delivered by good fortune or divine providence. Our success has been the product of the industriousness of our citizens, the strength of our institutions and the bravery of our service men and women.

I'm humbled by the incredible honour I've been given by my community to represent them here in the 47th Parliament. But I'm also conscious of the great threat that lies ahead for our nation and the responsibility that falls on all of us in this place to ensure we maintain and accelerate our Commonwealth's extraordinary success. Edmund Burke, one of the great intellectual fathers of conservatism, wrote of society as a partnership not just between the living, but between those who are living, those who have passed and those who are yet to be born. All Australians owe a great debt to the previous generations from whom we have inherited this great nation. Those of us in this chamber have a colossal duty to ensure we pass it on to the next generation in a position of even greater strength and prosperity. My mission, as the member for Bowman, will be to ensure that we live up to our end of Burke's societal partnership.

The division of Bowman is named after David Bowman, who led the Queensland Labor Party to state election defeats in 1907, 1908, 1909 and 1912. Mr Bowman is not a household name, but any political leader who had to endure the indignity of four general election defeats in five years deserves the honour of having a seat in this place named in their honour. The division of Bowman perfectly aligns within the boundaries of the Redlands local government area. Without wishing to offend the memory of the unlucky Mr Bowman, it will be my practice to refer to my community in this place as the Redlands—the same way we refer to ourselves at home. The Redlands denotes the rich red soil of Southern Moreton Bay between Tingalpa Creek and the Logan River, the land east of Mount Cotton, out across the water to Stradbroke Island, including the beautiful islands of Southern Moreton Bay.

For thousands of years, this land was the home to the Ngugi, Nunagal and Koenpul tribes. In 1799, Matthew Flinders became the first European to enter Moreton Bay, and over the subsequent decades the Redlands became home to settlers undertaking many different pioneering industries. It played an important role in the start of Australia's sugar industry and it was home to our first ever commercial sugar mill. For over a century, the villages of the Redlands became centres of primary production, described as the salad bowl of South-East Queensland. Rich farmland has now largely given way to suburbs, but the small-town character remains.

Having grown up in an Air Force family, I've lived in many cities around Australia and overseas and I know that there's something very special about the Redlands. It's more than just our beautiful environment. The Redlands is a community of people that care about each other, and it's a community that's been forged in an aspirational and pioneering spirit. This is the spirit that drove the first Goenpul man to paddle out across to North Stradbroke Island. It's the spirit that drove the pioneers of agriculture in the Redlands, and today it is the driving force that inspires a young couple to break out and form their own gym in Capalaba, start a new restaurant at Wellington Point or even buy a new home in Redland Bay. Those who have moved to the Redlands seek new opportunities to achieve prosperity and establish a better life for themselves and their families. In many ways, the Redlands embodies the values of mainstream Suburban Australia, values I sought and received a mandate to represent in this place.

I don't make any apologies for being a social conservative and an economic liberal, and in that philosophical outlook I believe in the embodiment of what Sir Robert Menzies sought to bring together in forming the Liberal Party of Australia: the conservative tradition, which seeks to protect our inherited customs, traditions and institutions; and the liberal tradition, which advances free markets, individual liberty and small government, but, critically, big reform.

My beliefs have been shaped by my life's experiences and the values that were instilled in me as a product of my family's long connection with this remarkable country. My family's story is a saga that seems to have placed us in the thick of some of our nation's worst disasters and greatest moments of triumph. I have great-grandfathers who fought in Gallipoli, one of whom went on to be written up by Charles Bean as a hero of Villers-Bretonneux. My grandfather fought in North Africa, Syria and New Guinea. My father spent 35 years in the Air Force, and other family members achieved great attainments in peacetime as teachers, cane farmers, bankers, authors, carpenters and, in the finest endeavour of all, raising children in a loving home. From my family I learnt the value of good, honest hard work. I learnt that sacrifice is needed to get ahead. I learnt the importance of service and a strong sense of Australia's national purpose. I've learnt that the most important work being done in this country is not done within this building but within the four walls of the Australian home.

My values have also been shaped by my own professional experience. Prior to coming here, I built a career as a policy specialist and an industry advocate, fighting to remove obstacles to investment and job creation on behalf of some of Australia's most critical sectors, including property, agriculture and the automotive industry. I've seen many bad policy ideas, new taxes and burdensome regulations. I've seen how they get dreamt up, I've seen how they come to fruition and I've seen the very real impact that they have on Australian businesses, Australian workers and Australian mum-and-dad investors.

As I reflect today on my own experiences and the past of my family, I imagine the sort of nation that our next generations will inherit. I want to take this opportunity, probably the only opportunity I'll have to speak in this place without being howled down, to outline what I want to work towards while I'm here—or, hopefully, over on the other side at some point in the future!

The guiding principle of my approach to public policy is the sovereignty of the individual. We are sent here by the Australian people to serve them, not the other way around. Australia is great because her people are great, and Australia is at her greatest, at her most just and at her most prosperous when individuals are allowed to flourish without the long arm of government creating unnecessary obstacles.

More government is too often the prescription that's offered for the problems our society faces. Too often, government programs are assessed on their expenditure and their intentions, as opposed to their value for money and their results. The revenue the federal government collects through the laws passed in this chamber belongs to the Australian people. They have worked hard for it. Every dollar we take, every law we pass and every new regulation imposed comes at a very real cost. So far this decade, Australians have endured an unprecedented increase in government interference in their daily lives and a sharp erosion in their individual freedoms. We have been left with a more divided society and an intergenerational debt that will weigh us down for years to come.

I believe that we have to recast the relationship between government and the governed in this country, and core to that is respecting the inherent rights of the individual. Every single human life is sacred. We are all made in the image of God. Every Australian has the capacity to make a significant contribution to our economy and our society. It is in the national interest that every Australian be given the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, but our people are being held back by heavy regulations, inefficient taxes and bloated bureaucracies. I want to use my experience and my knowledge of industry to help reshape the economic narrative in this country. We can supercharge Australia's growth trajectory, but, to do so, we have to have an appetite for some big, bold reforms and to continue to lower taxes.

In 2008, Prime Minister Rudd commissioned the Henry tax review as a root-and-branch review of Australia's tax system. Like many government initiatives, that report is now gathering dust somewhere in Fyshwick in a government warehouse. But while I'm in this place you can consider me to be undertaking my own perpetual Henry tax review—always on the lookout for opportunities to cut tax, to flatten tax, to make the tax system more efficient, to create tax incentives and establish a tax system that rewards effort. I want Australians to keep more of what they earn, to re-invest it, to take risks and realise their full promise. But a business-as-usual approach won't get us there.

No-one can look at the ways our governments operate and say that Australia's federation is performing as intended. I want to see less power invested in Canberra and more power entrusted at the point of delivery for government services. I want to see the Commonwealth draw clear lines around what is our responsibility and what is the responsibility of other jurisdictions. But as we empower localised decision-making the Commonwealth should use its leverage to drive national reforms, to remove inefficient taxes, red tape and increase our national productivity. I want to see our states and territories compete against each other to be the most attractive places to live, work and do business. I want a race to the bottom on inefficient taxes and a race to the top on economic growth. I'll be working towards this goal because I believe this to be the path to a more prosperous Australia, an Australia where we can afford to provide more for our communities and where our households can provide more for themselves.

Homeownership has long been an intrinsic and admirable feature of Australian society. Menzies described homeownership as giving citizens a stake in the country. It has been a national rite of passage, the cornerstone of the Australian family unit, and the opportunity for Australians to grow their wealth and achieve authority over their own future. But it is a dream that has slowly become less attainable for a large number of Australians in recent decades. In 1971, 64 per cent of my age cohort owned their own home. Today that figure stands at only 50 per cent.

There are many factors that have influenced this change, and of course there's no silver bullet, but my experience in the property sector has led me to apportion the cause of this generational erosion in affordability to years of planning-system failures and rising property taxes. These failures have not just affected the private sales market but have been felt across the housing continuum. In my community, we are facing a rental crisis and waiting lists for social housing have never been longer. We need to do better as a nation to house our citizens, and the answer isn't more government. The answer is not new federal government interventions which pump demand or new tax arrangements which restrict investment. The answer is more supply.

While our states and territories control most of the policy levers which control supply, I believe the Commonwealth has a role to play in bringing the states to the table on a reform agenda which streamlines our planning systems, removes inefficient property taxes and sets national affordability goals. Housing affordability needs to be on the national agenda because it goes to our national character. It goes to the type of society we want to create and the autonomy and financial independence of our citizens.

I want to be a leading voice in this chamber to keep the Australian dream alive, for future generations, by boosting the supply of housing across our country. But this supply needs to be matched by investment in roads and other infrastructure, in our suburban communities, to maintain our quality of life. Major projects in the inner cities have received the lion's share of government expenditure, while our suburban communities have been neglected. For my community, my focus will be to secure more investment in our local infrastructure. The Redlands has experienced massive population growth, but we are suffering without adequate investment in our roads, schools, hospitals and island infrastructure.

It's now less than a decade until my region helps host the 2032 Olympic Games. If governments allow that opportunity to pass my community by without a significant legacy investment in local infrastructure, then it will be to our eternal shame. I intend to be an unapologetic advocate for suburban Australia where the majority of our citizens live, where much of our wealth is created and where the moral heart of our nation resides. The true spirit of modern Australia is not found in our boardrooms or lecture theatres. It certainly isn't found in the twittersphere. It is found around our kitchen tables, on the sidelines of our district sporting fields, in shopping centre cafes and school pick-up zones.

I will champion the issues that matter to the people in my community like rising energy costs, the impact of inflation on household budgets, the challenges of raising children in the modern world and protecting Australia's heritage and way of life. There are many in this building who hold these suburban values and our national traditions with disdain. They conspire to change our flag, our head of state, our national day and our services of remembrance. But our traditions, our heritage and our way of life aren't relics of the past. They've been core to our nation's success. We need to protect what has served us well and take a natural Australian scepticism to big symbolic gestures that promise so much but deliver so little. Empty symbolism isn't harmless. It distracts the attentions of government, the media and the public away from the real issues that affect vulnerable Australians and delivers a false sense of achievement, which undermines efforts that will get real results.

I'm an eighth generation Australian but, whether your people have been here for eight generations, 80,000 years or you were sworn in as a citizen eight days ago, I believe that every Australian should be equal. No Australian citizen is anyone's guest in this country. Arguments over our national identity at home threaten to undermine our capacity to respond as a united country to external threats. Over the horizon, we face a challenge like we haven't seen in eight decades. All sides of this chamber need to be awake to the realities of this danger and united in taking the action required to prepare for it. This will be the greatest public policy challenge that my generation of Australians face.

It has been the Australian way ever since the birth of our federation never to kowtow to tyrants and never to leave a friend in need of assistance. Australia must never trade her sovereignty for economic convenience, and, equally, we should never stand by and watch our freedom-loving friends in the Asia-Pacific be swallowed by authoritarianism or be reduced to vassal states by the actions of local elites. Australia must have the capacity to respond to threats as, when and where they emerge. While I sound this warning, I do hold out great hope for the future of our region. I believe it is inevitable that the people of the world currently living under authoritarianism will seek to cast off their yokes. It is not just the West that yearns for liberal and open society. The spirit of freedom is inherent in every human being.

A time will come when the light of liberty burns too brightly for central committees to control, and history has taught us that external pressure is key to igniting the embers of internal change. I posit that Australia has a role to play in sparking the flame of liberty in our region. Our abiding national purpose in this century should be to prosper in the face of economic pressure, to defend against expansionist aggression and to stand as a symbol of hope, aspiration and mateship to all the peoples of the Asia-Pacific. While I'm in this place, I intend to do what I believe is right and say what I believe is the truth without fear or favour, safe in the knowledge that we have a higher judge than just our voters. If He is for us, who can be against us?

Of course, I have been assisted by many friends and supporters on my journey here, and I want to name just a few of them today, many of whom are in the gallery and have been in the gallery for several hours this afternoon. Bear with me; there are a few of them: Robin and Cynthia Archer; Josh Bull; Chris and Loretta Reeves; Marcel and Paula Dudants; Bob Neish; Greg Jamieson; Rhonda Gladwell; Savanna Labuschagne; Fred and Gloria Olsson; Nathan and Laura Althouse; Carl Sharples; Rajiv Saha; John and Gail Howie; Ian and Ella Marshall; Kent and Jo Wilcox; Samuel Chamberlain; Catherine and John Steins; Alistair Coe; Matthew Graham; Ben Damiano; Sam Jackson-Hope; Tom White; Jimmy Kiplox; Nathan Percy; Jed and Rachel Connors; Rob and Val Simmons; Santo Santoro; Cheryl Boyce; Alan Mason; Andrew McEwen; Peter and Von Hosking; Peter and Linda Grieve—I told you there were a few of them!—Mark and Julie Robinson; Jared Noble; Vicki Sloman; Adam and Amanda Stoker; Senator Matt Canavan; Zed Seselja; David Goodwin; Rohit Pathak; Mitchell Dickens; Alan and Janice Lucas; Phil Richards; Councillor Jacob Heremaia; Linda and Robert Buchi; Rob Murray; Gay White; Barbara Bentham; Adrian Aldicott and Frank Mawson. Thank you for all the contributions you've made, the loyalty you've shown and the friendships that we've enjoyed. Thank you to the Liberal National Party preselectors who entrusted me with the honour of representing our values in our community.

To the voters of the division of Bowman, I say thank you for the faith you have shown in me. I will work every day to represent you to the best of my ability.

But, most of all, I want to thank my family, who have done more than anyone to get me here today. To my mother and father, Toni and Jon Pike, whose example of service and sacrifice taught me so much: you set me up for success and have always been there to support me. Thank you for all you have done. My darling wife, Kate, has dealt with the pressures of being a political spouse with wonderful grace. She is the most generous and kind-hearted person I've ever met and I don't know what I ever did to deserve her. And, finally, to my children, Laura and Christian, often referred to on social media as the 'Pikelets': I could not be prouder of the two of you. You are my greatest joy and greatest achievement. Oh, that's sweet! No father could have ever loved their children more than I love you.

If I remain in this place for three years or three decades, I will gauge my success by whether I have had some influence in setting our Commonwealth in a stronger position for Laura, Christian and the next generation of Australians. Thank you and God bless.

Debate adjourned.


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