Thursday, 16 August 2007
I thought it might be instructive to let the parliament know today of my fortnight on foot. During the July break of the parliament I walked around the electorate for a fortnight. I walked right around—150 kilometres around—the electorate. The member for Hinkler should note that I am fitter for it and tougher and slimmer and whatever. It was an extraordinarily good experience and something that was very worthwhile doing. Not many members are able to walk around their electorate—they do not find the time or the electorate is too large or they stay in their office. I can say to the parliament that it was a wonderful experience for me, because you see a lot more and you meet a lot more people than you would otherwise meet by driving around the electorate. I think that stands to reason.
I started up in the Upper Ross in Thuringowa, the city that is soon to disappear forever—
Yes, amalgamated with Townsville City. So we will have the supercity of Townsville. I started off in the Upper Ross up at the Rassmussen school. I might pay a tribute to the Rassmussen school and its teachers and students. I was with the year 6-7 class and the students were invited to ask me questions. They were not primed by their teachers as to what they should ask. Members of parliament know that you normally get asked what your salary is, what sort of car you have, or what the Prime Minister is like. This group at Rassmussen school, which is in a low-socioeconomic area, asked the most intelligent questions that I think I have ever been asked. It was most impressive and a tribute to the teachers that the students were able to ask them.
I saw the local childcare centre; I visited the local shopping centre; I went to the Upper Ross Community Centre and presented some volunteer certificates there, and then I walked on to Carlyle Gardens—a retirement village which is turning itself into a green village. It is quite extraordinary. They are going to run their own sewerage system and recycle their own water. I helped at the council with some problems they were having there, and then I went on to the Salvation Army in Beck Drive and then through to the Willows Shopping Centre.
The next day I was walking along Thuringowa Drive and went to some of the mortgage brokers. I said, ‘What is this thing called “mortgage stress”? Does it exist?’ They said, ‘Too right it does.’ I said, ‘Why does it exist?’ This was their explanation: in years gone by, when young people were buying a home, they would buy within their means. If that meant that they had to sit on milk crates in their lounge room until they could afford some lounge chairs, that is what they would do. These days people go to the biggest and best house and say, ‘I think we’ll have that one,’ and it might be $400,000. And, of course, they say, ‘We’ll have a new car, a new plasma television and a big sound system.’ They just borrow beyond their means and then find themselves in mortgage stress. This was the advice the mortgage brokers were giving me. That was a very sobering thing to hear as I went along.
I visited the Bohlevale School, which is part of the Investing in Our Schools Program, and Bushland Beach—where the community needs a new primary school. I went down to Rose Bay for the opening of a hospice down there. I went across to Magnetic Island and walked from Horseshoe Bay through to Picnic Bay; it is a big walk across the hills. I noted the need for new pedestrian walkways between Nelly Bay and Arcadia. I walked through Currajong, Pimlico, Annandale, Gulliver, Cranbrook, Heatley and so on.
It was a wonderful experience. I met a lot of great people—really nice people. I was able to do a lot for the community and I was able to understand, even better, a lot of the local issues. Out of it came some great future plans. We have done a lot already, and there is a lot more to be done. I will be able to go confidently to the next election and say to the people of Townsville, ‘These are the things that I want to do for you in the coming three years.’
Main Committee adjourned at 12.58 pm.