Wednesday, 14 September 2016
I acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respect to elders past and present. I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands that comprise my electorate of Lyons and pay my respect to Tasmania's elders past and present.
It had been my intention to deliver my first speech around noon yesterday, but the rambunctious nature of this chamber can foil even the best laid plans, as the members for Stirling and Pearce discovered a week ago.
I thank the people of Lyons for extending to me the great privilege of representing them in this national parliament. The weighty significance of that trust is not lost upon me. I take this opportunity to thank Eric Hutchinson, the former member for Lyons, for his service to the electorate, the parliament and the nation. We are on different sides of the political fence, but our contest was a civil one. Eric and his family have my very best wishes.
One of my first tasks will be ensuring the government keeps the election promises it made to my electorate, but I am also prosecuting the case for Labor's agenda in Tasmania—one that is centred on delivering economic growth with fairness. Tasmanians turned overwhelmingly to Labor in July, returning four members in that state, so it is entirely appropriate that government gives more serious consideration to implementing Labor's plan for our state—the plan that Tasmanians voted for. Indeed, a commitment from the Prime Minister to implement Labor's plan would provide for him something more elusive than a Tasmanian tiger—an achievement—and it would be marvellous to announce it on this, the anniversary of the day the Prime Minister employed agility and innovation to give the member for Warringah the boot. Government senators would no longer have to wax lyrical about the history of flags and favourite television shows. They could instead be talking about the government investing in Cradle Mountain, delivering the ex-HMAS Tobruk as a dive wreck of St Helens and completing the Three Capes Track on the Tasman Peninsula. They could be crowing about delivering Gonski; providing Tasmanian schoolchildren with the opportunities they need to advance in the 21st century; providing a sports centre to Longford and a football hub to the Derwent Valley. They could be telling my constituents that they had encouraged Launceston Airport, a big multinational, to cough up the $1 million that it owes Northern Midlands residents in unpaid rates.
All these and more were Labor promises for Lyons that the government failed to match, and all of them would provide the jobs and growth that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are so fond of talking about. Importantly, they would deliver confidence to the regional communities in my electorate that need it most. If the government were to get behind Labor's plan, I would be more than happy to sing its praises. The offer is there and I do hope it is taken up.
Tasmania is a bountiful state and I am pleased to say much of the bounty is produced in Lyons. People in Lyons produce glorious food—whiskey, gin, beer and wine—and I regard it as a solemn duty, as the local MP, to sample as much as I can as often as possible. It is a heavy, heavy burden! Indeed, as I pile into my ute to criss-cross my visually stunning electorate, with its mountains, forests, plateaus and rocky coastlines, I often thank my good fortune. With Springsteen up loud and the window wound down, I know I have the best job in the world. I get to meet incredible people who are resilient, warm, welcoming and tough: a dairy farming family, their livelihood devastated by floods, who still manage to volunteer for their community and lobby for netball courts; a maritime worker passionate about Australian jobs on Australian ships, who despite losing his own job campaigns for others to keep theirs; migrants from Greece who opened a kebab shop in Bridgewater and work morning till night to provide for their family. A woman suffering leukaemia attended a public meeting in Campbell Town to support rights at work. She has nothing to gain personally—she expects to be dead within a year—but she cares so deeply about her country and its future that she ventures out on a cold evening to make the case. And when I compare her courage and selflessness to the self-interested whining of billionaires who demand lower wages for Australian workers, I know whose side I am on.
Nine in 10 of my constituents are Australian-born and 46 per cent of my workforce are tradies, technicians, labourers or machine operators. It is an electorate at work. They do not suffer spin, and God help any politician who tries to deliver a line cooked up by a Canberra spin doctor hipster. I am in awe always of the volunteers throughout my electorate . Whether ambos or firies, quilt stitchers or cooks and kitchen hands, volunteers are the heroines and heroes of Lyons. Their dedication to their fellow citizens humbles me every day.
Across my electorate some really interesting stuff is going on across a range of sectors, especially agriculture. Millions of people are joining Asia's emerging middle class and are prepared to pay for top-quality food. That is the market Tasmanian agriculture is increasingly targeting, and key to growing our $1.44 billion agriculture sector is protecting our precious status for GM-free produce and value-adding wherever possible. For example, Peter in Beauty Point makes bacon better. I know—how is it even possible? He smokes it in all sorts of interesting ways, while Kate and Ian raise biodynamic goats in Bream Creek. They are amongst hundreds of small to medium producers and business people finding new markets.
Aquaculture is rocketing ahead with necessary environmental safeguards, and I am excited about the prospect of trials for seaweed farming. Rod at Boyer has big ideas for the manufacture of eco-friendly solvents and I am keen to progress the possibilities for wood-waste biomass energy and electricity production. I acknowledge there are political hurdles to this, including on my side of the House, but I believe the economic potential for Tasmania is too great to ignore. If Europe can accept biomass as an environmentally acceptable alternative to coal—not as a replacement for solar, wind and wave but as an adjunct to it—I fail to see why Tasmania should not benefit.
Just as an agricultural aside, the anticipated $170 million cost of the government's marriage equality plebiscite is $10 million more than the annual value of Tasmania's entire crop of spuds. So we are not talking small potatoes. Here is my suggestion, for what it is worth: let's have a free vote in this parliament, where all the arguments for and against can be freely discussed. And then let's give every member in this place $1 million, which they can distribute throughout their electorate to community and sporting groups, volunteers and others. That $1 million per electorate could do a lot of good, and there would still be at least $20 million left over. It is just a suggestion. It seems a much better way to spend public money.
I am passionate about the potential for growing new industry in my state and electorate, because behind Tasmania's beauty there are challenges to be faced and overcome. Tasmanians are left behind when it comes to health, education, jobs, social mobility and income. Regional towns and outer suburbs lag behind on most indicators of economic and social wellbeing. Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high—20 per cent in some areas—and I cannot help but feel that is aligned to historically poor educational outcomes. Fewer than half my constituents complete year 12, let alone higher education. Doing years 11 and 12 can be challenging in regional Tasmania, with students generally expected to travel long distances to specialist colleges. Public transport is absolutely woeful, and I am convinced the two are aligned. If we want better educational outcomes, we must offer better ways to access education. I wish the Tasmanian state government every success with its bid to roll out year 11 and year 12 courses to more local high schools, but I fear that, without proper resourcing and without more intensive efforts to encourage young people to stay on, it will not succeed.
In July 2014, I had the honour of being preselected as the first Australian Labor Party candidate for the 2016 election. Nearly every weekend for two years I doorknocked and attended fairs and agricultural shows—not a bad way to spend a weekend. In the last eight weeks of the campaign, I doorknocked just about every day. I talked to a lot of people, but more importantly I listened. One of the first things I committed to was opposing the presence of freezer factory trawlers operating in Australia's small pelagic fishery. I continue to oppose the presence of these voracious vessels—a view I know is shared across the aisle with some government members. I look forward to working with my Tasmanian colleagues to progress this further during this parliament.
It will come as no surprise to anyone here that the key concern expressed at the doors was about the future of health care in Australia: the rising costs, the lack of access, and the long waiting lists in emergency and for surgery. For the record, I want Medicare expanded to include dental coverage for all Australians, more focus on mental and preventative health, and a full rollout of medicinal cannabis treatment. I am not amongst those who regard public health care as an unaffordable cost burden, as something to be sliced and diced whenever possible. It is an essential element of Australian society. Improving health improves lives. We are a wealthy country, and the least we owe our citizens is good health.
Our fellow citizens are crying out for evidence of strong, principled and authentic political leadership, and we here in this chamber have a duty to provide it. When I look at the calibre of the membership of this 45th Parliament, I am confident we are up to the challenge. We have members who have done duty in war zones, met with world leaders and overcome adversity through gender, culture or religion that I cannot even begin to fathom. As someone whose most adventurous moment to date was barely surviving the spinning teacup ride at Movie World, I am humbled to be in such exciting company.
I decided to run for parliament for many reasons, but if I had to give just one it is that I do not want Australia to end up like America, where for 40 years trickle-down economics has made a wasteland of the once great American middle class, with wages flattened, jobs casualised and contracted out or sent overseas and working conditions stripped bare. The 'American Dream' has been smashed by ruthless corporations that pay little tax and low wages but post big profits. The evidence is in and it is overwhelming. Trickle-down is a dud. It does not build prosperity; it merely entrenches wealth amongst those who have it.
We live in a fantastic country, envied the world over for its standard of living, its natural beauty and its welcoming, laid-back culture. But we did not get here by accident. We got here by design, by former members of this parliament taking deliberate action to create a fairer, more inclusive society. Past parliaments, in economic times much tougher than ours, I might add, created a robust social security system and legislated for universal health and affordable education. They had the foresight to invest heavily in public infrastructure, giving us telecommunications, highways, rail, dams and ports, and they created a progressive taxation system and universal superannuation. They recognised women's suffrage, Indigenous rights and embraced multiculturalism and the rights of LGBTIQ Australians. Each of these elements was hard won, in the face of substantial, sometimes vitriolic, opposition; but woven together they now form the egalitarian tapestry that defines our national identity, which has been central to 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth. So it is inexplicable to me why some are so intent on unpicking the threads of this tapestry. They appear to have cast their gaze to America and like what they see: higher costs for health and education, with worse outcomes; the freezing of superannuation increments; cutting social security to pay for high-income tax cuts; and demolishing unions because they are too effective at winning higher pay and better conditions. They make life harder, more miserable, more desperate. It is economic and social madness, and morally indefensible.
I arrived in the parliament around 6.40 this morning, and the cleaners were preparing to go home. I looked at those women—and they are mostly women—and I thought: any of them could have been my own mother, who cleaned schools and hospitals throughout my childhood. Part of the great mission we have in Labor is to ensure these women—all women—are paid fairly for their work and have the opportunity to advance through life. That means child care, education and access to services, and that their sons and daughters are able to aspire to their dreams, constrained only by the limits of their own endeavour and ability. I hesitate to say that addressing income inequality is the moral challenge of our time—that space is crowded with climate change and budget repair—but it comes close. Indeed, last year the International Monetary Fund released a paper and repeated Barack Obama's statement of 2013 that income inequality is 'the defining challenge of our time'. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has written extensively on the subject, as has Robert Reich, who was Bill Clinton's labour secretary.
A message to the Treasurer after today's effort in question time: it is not enough to talk about economic growth for its own sake. We need to talk about the outcomes and objectives that growth must deliver. We live in a society, not an economy. We do not live to serve the economy; it exists to serve us. It is an important distinction. When pensioners in Bridgewater cannot afford their power bill they do not feel prosperous. When a family in Deloraine scraping by on Newstart must choose between rent and food, they are not excited by news of record corporate profits. A man in Midway Point already waiting months for bowel cancer treatment, who is told there will be more delays, wonders why $48 billion in corporate tax cuts is deemed more important than funding the surgery that can save his life. What relevance does prosperity have if it is not shared? More and more economists are abandoning trickle-down economics. They can see with their own eyes the promise of the theory does not match the lived experience. We need a new conversation about how Australia's economy can be utilised to shape better lives for all Australians.
It is my great hope that this 45th Parliament becomes a champion for inclusive prosperity, achieving what Ben Chifley called 'greater happiness to the mass of the people'. I am delighted to have been seated next to the member for Lilley who, as Treasurer, was instrumental in saving Australia from the global recession that devastated so many other countries and who in the years since has been a leading voice for inclusive prosperity. I give him fair warning that he can look forward to a sore left ear in the months to come.
I was born in England and grew up in Maddington, an outer suburb of Perth in WA. When we landed in Australia in 1975 our parents intended settling in Melbourne, but after some months at the migrant hostel in Maribyrnong they decided the weather was too much like England, so we piled into a Falcon 500 and spent a week crossing the dusty Nullarbor to sunny Perth. Of course, if we had stayed in Melbourne I might well have become the member for Maribyrnong. That does not bear thinking about!
My political journey started, as it does for many, at the kitchen table, and was galvanised by an adolescence listening to The Jam, The Specials and The Smiths. My late mother was a Catholic Irishwoman and staunch union member. We would speak often throughout my childhood of the importance of unions, in between religiously watching Sale of the Century with Tony Barber. From a young age I learned Labor stood for working people while the Liberals, led by the then-detested Malcolm Fraser, were for the rich. Middle age has long mellowed my rage towards the fiend who deposed Gough, but a lifetime of adult experience convinces me the principal contention remains sound.
Childhood in Maddington was carefree, if humble by today's standards. We visited beautiful beaches on school holidays, endured bushwalks and flies in blazing summer heat with our bush-mad dad, rode bikes without helmets and could disappear from our parents' view for hours, totally uncontactable. Looking back through adult eyes I can see how hard my parents worked to provide that oasis for my brother and me: two or sometimes three jobs at a time for dad and cleaning for mum, neither particularly well paid. They juggled bills, scrimped and saved for birthdays and Christmas, and neither ever owned a new car. Mum died 14 years ago, with heart disease and a lifetime of smoking finally catching up with her. Don't smoke, kids! Dad went just over three years ago in a car accident. They would both be proud as punch if they were here and it would have been nice to see them up in that gallery today.
I enjoyed high school but largely drifted my way through, earning a reputation for being argumentative with exasperated teachers. I spent a fair bit of time in the office of deputy principal, Ted Parker, for various infractions, and for my year 12 reference he wrote: 'Brian is a determined young man, who will not be used as a doormat.' I took it as praise at the time, but I think it was a warning. At 14 I scored a part-time job at Hungry Jack's, where I stayed for seven years. I loved that job. My eldest daughter, Bronte, now 17, groans whenever I talk about it, complaining it is one of those dad stories I trot out too often. She will groan again that I mention it here, which of course is why I do so!
I fell in love twice at university—first with my journalism course and next with Tania. I joined the university Labor club, got elected to the student guild and made lifelong friends. Uni opened my eyes to possibilities I could not have dreamed of in Maddington, and that is the real value of higher education. It reveals the unknown and it tears away the veil of ignorance. It is, I think, critical to social mobility, and must never again become the exclusive preserve of those with money. I believe to the core of my soul that access to every level of education is a human right, not a commodity to be bartered, and that we should be aiming to wind back the fees that students pay, not squeeze them for even more.
After uni I was offered a cadetship with The Fremantle Herald, a start-up independent weekly newspaper. I went on to become editor for more than a decade. I cannot begin to describe the enormous influence that Andrew Smith, the paper's owner, has had on me. I was barely 22 when I started, and he has been part of my life now for 27 years. He confided to me once that he had employed me over the objections of the then-editor, as he believed his fledgling paper needed someone with 'more arse than class' and he figured a working-class kid from Maddo might prove more resilient than a private school prima donna. It is with no disrespect to my late father that I say Andrew is the single most influential male figure in my life. He has been unerringly ethical, deeply principled and exceedingly generous. I consider myself very lucky to have walked into that stiflingly hot weatherboard office for a job interview in the summer of 1989.
By late 2006 Tania and I decided to up stumps from Freo and move to Tasmania—we were well over WA's heat—and I landed a position with Labor MP Duncan Kerr, another man I consider myself privileged to have worked for and known. In late 2008 our second daughter, Julia, arrived—our own Tasmanian devil—so I gave up the job to put out my shingle as a media consultant. I did that for eight years and loved it. But when it came time to make a decision to grow the business or run for office, it was no contest. If you ask my old classmates from Maddo High, they will tell you I was always headed for this life, and they will probably express surprise it took this long.
None of us gets elected by ourselves, and I have many people to thank. With the indulgence of the House I will continue. First, my campaign manager, Stuart Benson: an indefatigable young man who refuses to even bleed unless it is in official Labor PMS colours. Stuart times his holidays around elections overseas so he can volunteer on them. He is the truest of true believers.
My core campaign team—the marvellous Senator Carol Brown, Gordon Luckman, Sue Bailey, Sharon Carnes, Jen Butler and Michael Fitzgerald. Also Robert, Kylie, and an army of doorknocking and phoning volunteers and branch members—Innes, Dee, Morris, Simon, Justine, Ken, Sandra, Geoff and so many more. I cannot name you all, but you are all deeply appreciated.
Bill Shorten, who visited Lyons so often he should enrol, and Jenny Macklin for so kindly launching my campaign in Brighton—thank you for your lifetime of dedication to our cause. Tanya Plibersek, Doug Cameron and the rest of the shadow team—I always appreciated the visits, support and advice. National Secretary George Wright—missed already—and the national campaign team, Alex, Paul, Bryce, Ben and the rest, who keep the place running on caffeine and Pokemon.
My many friends in the union movement—Tim Jacobson and Robbie Moore, the fantastic team at HACSU and Chris Brown at HSU National—you are simply the best, always standing up for stronger health and community services. I wear my union badge with pride. Jason, Alisha, Sean, Scott and all the men and women at the MUA and CFMEU—I know you fight every day to keep jobs in Tasmania and on Australian ships and people safe at work. It is because you are so effective that you are so targeted. Jannette and Tassie's amazing United Voice team—Jess, Tom, Libby and Viv at the CPSU, John and team at the AMWU, Aaron at the ASU, Paul at the SDA, Rob and co at the AWU—thank you all.
My now colleague in this place, Julie Collins, member for Franklin—you are a star. Senators Anne Urquhart, Catryna Bilyk, Helen Polley and Lisa Singh—thank you. State Labor leader Bryan Green and state MPs Bec White, Craig Farrell, Michelle O'Byrne and Maddy Ogilvie. State secretary Karelle Logan, and the Tasmanian treasurer, Lauren Saunders. My Labor predecessor, Dick Adams, and partner-in-all-things, Dee Alty—thank you for your invaluable advice and assistance. Former state MP for Lyons, Michael Polley—I bow before the master. My life-long friends from the Make Uni Dynamic student guild team, Roger Fletcher and Danielle Wooltorton, who travelled to Tasmania from WA and Victoria respectively to help me out on election day—MUD wins again, so take that, Waddell! That is an in joke.
To my daughters, Bronte and Julia, I apologise in advance for all the things I will undoubtedly miss over the coming years. But please know that while this job is important—I do love it and I am going to give it all I have got—you two are everything to mum and me, and while I may not be home as often, I am always with you both. You two and your mum have all my love, always.
Lastly, to my wife and my life, Tania—I do not know how many more times I can say thank you for the journey that you have undertaken with me so far. We have a while to go yet. After 12 or 13 house moves across three states in 28 years together, 21 years of them married, it is fair to say that you are probably owed a shiny rock of some description. I will get onto Gumtree first thing tomorrow. Thank you.
Thirty years ago I was a young journalist, inexperienced, working for 2UE, perched in the press gallery of the Old Parliament House, in my first full-time job, looking down on the 34th Parliament. If you had said to me then, 'You'll be one of those MPs one day,' I can absolutely guarantee that I would have used very unparliamentary language and rejected the possibility outright. I had seen the pressures, the scrutiny and the challenges of being in parliament, and I could not think why you would want it.
Yet here I am—not so young, with much greater life experience—and no-one could be more proud or feel more fortunate than me to be in this privileged position. What I had not seen then, and what you rarely see from that gallery, is the journey a person's life takes that leaves them with no choice other than to run for office.
I acknowledge that today I stand on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and pay respects to elders past and present. I extend that respect to the Dharug and Gundungurra, the people who have cared for my part of the world, the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, for more than 40,000 years.
The 4,300 square kilometres of land I represent is geographically spectacular and dangerous: World Heritage mountains of sandstone escarpments and gum trees that can ignite with heat and wind, a sweeping river whose waters at times engulf the surrounding plains.
I represent villages from St Albans, Mount Wilson and Mount Victoria through to the towns of Glenbrook and Richmond, the rural areas of Bilpin and East Kurrajong, the wilderness of Colo Heights and the suburbs of Mount Riverview and Bligh Park. In no other so-called Western Sydney seat does it take three hours to drive from one end of the electorate to the other, with ferries required to cross rivers along the way.
Historically, the early European settlers were in awe of both these mountains and this river. By the time Governor Lachlan Macquarie, after whom the seat is named, established the towns of Windsor and Wilberforce, amongst others, this was a thriving colonial settlement.
The early goat track across the mountains that is now a much improved Great Western Highway—thanks largely to the efforts of one of my predecessors, Bob Debus—supports the transport of two million visitors a year to see the Three Sisters and experience the uniqueness of the Blue Mountains.
The limitations that nature places on growth throughout my electorate of Macquarie mean we have to be clever. In addition to tourism, we have our Richmond campus of Western Sydney University and our TAFEs, and they need to stay strong, accessible and be able to cater to local business and student needs. We have the Glenbrook and Richmond RAAF bases. We have orchards, farms, market gardens and horse breeding. We have manufacturing and an extraordinary community services sector. Across these industries and more we have a thriving culture of small business and self-employment, from sparkies to artists, writers to builders: self-motivated people who hit the road early to get to a job, or jump on a pre-dawn train and watch the sun rise as they snake down the mountains.
For that reason I am pleased that small business is in my genes. I grew up in my family's newsagency in Sydney. My country-born parents were ambitious to provide for their children. The bank teller turned accountant and the public school music teacher did what many people still have to do to get capital, given that we are one of the few OECD countries not to have some sort of government supported finance for small business: they sold our home to buy their shop. These were parents who modelled hard work—3.30 am starts seven days a week, with Good Friday and Christmas Day the only two days off a year.
There is nothing quite like the experience of being a carsick 12-year-old at 6 am on a Sunday morning in a van, the smell of newsprint surrounding you, freezing cold because one door is off the side of the vehicle so your dad can throw the papers onto front lawns as you read out: 'Tele to 26, Herald to 30, Herald to 32'—sadly, an experience the current generation has been deprived of, thanks to digital media.
Well, Mum and Dad, as it turned out, this newsagency life proved the perfect grounding for every stage of my professional life—working on a breakfast radio show, being a journalist, doing doorstops outside parliament, being a foreign correspondent on a different time zone to Australia, being a long-time commuter and a city-fringe politician—with 5.30 am railway starts no big shock to my system. For me, selling papers was not the calling. Journalism was my choice, but only after an amazing year as a 17-year-old Rotary exchange student to Mexico that opened my eyes to the world and to the challenges of inequality and discrimination in a way my seven public schools had not.
When I first came to this place I unexpectedly found myself the youngest permanent journalist in the press gallery at the start of the second Hawke term in January 1985. Whatever nerves I feel in speaking today were eclipsed back then by the fear of asking a stupid question of Paul Keating, Peter Walsh or Gareth Evans in front of reporters like Alan Ramsey and Laurie Oakes. What a lot I learned about policy, politics and politicians. It has been an honour to have had support over the last seven years from three key figures of that era: Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Neal Blewett—and it is such a privilege to be Neal and his partner Robert's local member.
I covered the 1987 election campaign with both party leaders—a long winter campaign—and, oh, how I want to ask forgiveness from the marginal seat candidates we visited, who, in my radio reports, I barely mentioned. I know now the efforts you were putting in a long way from Canberra, and that your work did not stop when you disappeared from our sight in between sittings.
Only months before this wonderful building was opened my husband and I moved from Canberra to New York and then to London as foreign correspondents. Three years later we were back in Australia. The Blue Mountains became our home. It beckoned because of the big blue skies, the clean air and the lower house prices. Alongside a motivating business partner, Jane Jordan, I started teaching people how to do media interviews. I had crossed to the dark side and become a media trainer.
From Sydney to Darwin, working across a wide range of industry sectors, government agencies and not-for-profits, I had a job that was different every day, intellectually challenging and professionally rewarding. And that is where the story could have ended: a contented life raising two children, operating a growing business and enjoying the commuting lifestyle the mountains offers, with the luxury of dissecting federal politics from afar.
However, John Howard's regime, while benign to many, stirred me into action. I could not sit by and see Australia becoming a backwards-looking and defensive society. Apparently, we no longer cared about being a republic or about Aboriginal reconciliation. We moved away from inclusion and we distanced ourselves from Asia. That was not the Australia I wanted for my children. So I joined the Labor Party, with no clear ambition other than to help get rid of John Howard. Not a bad one.
Then, a decade ago, our family's foundations were rocked by our daughter's first experience of mental illness. I vividly remember a distressing night, standing in my kitchen with my husband, asking: how do other families do this? And while I did not then and there declare my intention to run for parliament, that was the moment I look back on as transformative, when something in me shifted. It turned out we were not the only ones facing the same challenge. Having mental illness in a family makes you question your parenting and your values, and I have learned more from that experience than any other in my life.
I am proud that my daughter, Phoebe, is here today, determined that her history is something not to be ashamed of, but standing tall, knowing she has had the resilience and the strength to battle through some really difficult times. I am equally proud of her brother, Harry, sitting right alongside her, who, like many children in families where illness or disability strikes, has had his empathy and caring genes well and truly developed.
So that was how I became someone who did not just sit around solving the problems of the world at a dinner party, but an advocate and an activist. There is rarely a function I attend where people do not raise with me the issue of mental health, whether it is veterans in my electorate or the relatives of serving Defence personnel, whether it is those caring for the elderly or whether it is mums struggling to know what is best for their anxious and self-harming child. This is something we have not yet got right. People who struggle with mental health, and the friends, families and carers who support them, need better tools and better support structures.
It saddens me that we exacerbate the mental suffering of another group of people, people already fleeing from unimaginably fearful circumstances, by abandoning them to indefinite detention. We are responsible and will be held to account for the additional damage that we are doing, and this parliament must find a better way.
And I worry about the mental health impacts if this government proceeds down the path of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, which is an open invitation for harmful things to be said and done. As Amber Jacobus, an ASU member, someone who has volunteered on my campaigns and grew up in my electorate with her two mums, says: 'A plebiscite scares me. I think about the kids like me, who will be made to feel ashamed because they will be told their family is worth less.'
The funny thing about standing up on an issue is that once you start it is hard to stop. Injustice is injustice, no matter what form it takes. And to see schools starved of funding made it easy for me as a P&C president to want to promote the wisdom of Gonski, and more recently to stand alongside so many of my local teachers, members of the Teachers Federation and the AEU to make it a key election issue. The result shows very clearly that Macquarie wants Gonski.
It makes it easy for me to fight for a full fibre broadband service for parts of my electorate that are currently facing the prospect of a second-rate service which does not meet the needs of the home based creatives and businesses that thrive in our region and may be forced to go elsewhere. It makes it easy for me to fight to protect the World Heritage areas of the Blue Mountains and the people who choose to live there from the consequences of climate change and from the impacts of a second Sydney airport, which is planned to operate above our skies 24 hours a day—and night.
And it makes it easy for me to want to fight to improve the travel times for Hawkesbury residents, by advocating for a third crossing of the river—and in doing so, to preserve the oldest surviving public square in the country, in Windsor. It is older than Port Arthur and still occupied. The buildings that make up the Georgian Thompson Square is where the Australian concept of a 'fair go' was enshrined in the naming of this square not after a king or a lord but after a reformed convict.
It is so easy for me to fight for secure employment and workers' rights, for dignity for people who are aged or unemployed, for the ABC and the arts, for renewable energy, for quality early childhood education, for the full rollout of the NDIS, for women's reproduction rights and for same-sex marriage. These are fights worth having. And, as I have demonstrated, time and time again—like my Windsor Wolves footy team—I am not one to give up.
My community in the Blue Mountains had a fight on its hands in October 2013. That year was not one of my favourites. I turned 50, I lost an election and my house burnt down. Nearly 200 homes were destroyed by two fires on the same day, in Mount Victoria and in Winmalee, the worst natural disasters in Blue Mountains history. As a community, though, we considered ourselves lucky. No lives were lost. But our suburban streets were like something out of a war zone.
Personally, we were lucky. As a 19-year-old, Harry was home and was able to save not just the cat, his favourite bass guitar and a couple of laptops but also precious photo albums before the home we built and lived in for 22 years went up in smoke. Others were not able to recover anything. What stunned us as a community was a government changing the rules, while fires still raged, to reduce the number of people eligible for emergency payments. What also stunned us, within 48 hours of the fire, was the realisation that most people were seriously, unintentionally underinsured and that they would not be able to rebuild the home that they had.
Three years on, blocks of land still lie vacant because the gap between the insurance payout and the new rebuild cost is too wide. The codes brought in after the 2003 Canberra fires means that construction in bushfire-prone areas can be $50,000 to $200,000 higher. Insurers know that. Most of us realised it after our homes had burned down. If we do not address this situation, every town or suburb hit by bushfire will have exactly the same experience as the Blue Mountains, as we are seeing now on the Great Ocean Road.
People are then forced to make the heartbreaking decision not to rebuild, and the painfully slow road to recovery for a community after a bushfire will be much slower and much more painful. But, as locals put it, 'You can't scare me, I'm from Winmalee.' We are not easily dismissed, and I am pleased that this year the member for Isaacs, in his role as shadow Attorney-General, recognised that the insurance industry and government could work more closely in ensuring home owners are better informed about the actual rebuild costs they face. Insurers may try to place the responsibility at local government's feet, but they take the premiums, they send the assessors out and they are the ones who need to be part of the solution.
As the member for Macquarie, I walk in the footsteps of many great Labor MPs. I am the 15th person to be the member for Macquarie. Two of my predecessors were Bob Debus and the late Maggie Deahm, and I drew inspiration from them both. Maggie Deahm was the first female member for Macquarie from 1993-96 and Bob Debus was our long-standing state MP and minister for everything, before becoming the federal member for Macquarie and a minister in 2007. He was so effective at securing funding for his electorates, and without him we would not have World Heritage listing for our remarkable Greater Blue Mountains.
But Macquarie was also Ben Chifley's seat, and that feels like really big shoes to fill. I take pleasure in knowing that, like me, it took Ben Chifley several goes before he became a member of parliament; that, like me, he played the violin; and that, like me, he enjoyed a good crime novel and a cup of tea. Many of the battles I will be fighting here are variations of the issues Chifley faced. He established the organisation that has become Australian Hearing, which we know should be kept in public hands. He funded theatre, because he saw the arts as essential in a healthy society. He ensured people had access to medicines and public hospitals so that no charge was made to the patient—an early version of what we would now call Medicare. The social security system was established so that there was a level below which, according to Chifley:
… no one should be permitted to fall and without waiting for anyone first to fall a victim to destitution and grievous distress.
What does it say about us that the other side has already introduced legislation in this term of parliament that will take us back to a pre-Chifley mentality?
Chifley's Snowy Mountains Scheme was a visionary infrastructure project, of which our NBN plan is a descendent. The banking sector was a key priority, and Chifley increased funding for the CSIRO, medical research and university research. His words are even more true today than when he spoke them in 1949:
We live in a scientific age, and money spent on research is a necessity for the maintenance of our standard of living and even for our survival.
It is a lovely symmetry that the night I decided to run for preselection for Macquarie was at the Light on the Hill dinner at Bathurst, honouring Chifley, surrounded by comrades from Calare, Macquarie and beyond. Perhaps the member for Lilley, who was the guest speaker at the 2009 dinner, had a role in it, as he discussed Chifley's 'light on the hill' phrase as embodying:
The hope that a better society is possible, and the duty we all have to create it.
I want to thank Mark Andrews for the conversation that started the ball rolling and for the seven years of quiet, unfailing support since then. And Luke Foley, who a few days later, did not laugh at the idea. And every one of my Macquarie branch members who preselected me—not just once, but three times.
Senator Doug Cameron, now my constituent, deserves particular mention, because, along with his staff, he has in many ways been a de facto member for Macquarie for years, and I would not be here without him and his team. Doug's support was crucial in ensuring the smooth delivery of every one of our 2010 election promises—from the construction of the Springwood Hub and Glenbrook National Park upgrades to the new Wolves grandstand and road improvements for North Richmond.
Member for Blue Mountains, Trish Doyle; Hawkesbury councillor, Barry Calvert; and Blue Mountains mayor, Mark Greenhill, and his Labor councillors—the part you have played over many years in fighting the Tories in our part of the world at different levels of government has made my task easier. Thank you. As has the ongoing support of the Macquarie FEC and my loyal comrades vice president Susan Elfert and secretary Peter Letts. To my campaign teams and volunteers from 2010 and 2013: I would love to name you all, but if you got fed by Ron and have a purple Susan T-shirt you know you were there from the beginning. Equally, if you have a T-shirt that says 'I'm supporting Harry's Mum', that one is a limited-edition!
Those in the public galleries who have travelled to be here today and those who could not be here know that while I have loved every minute of it, my journey to this place has not been done lightly or easily. We had a grassroots campaign, with hundreds of locals, and, whether you wobbled or stood in the rain, the wind and the snow, or broke a limb—as two of my volunteers did—or sat on phones for hours on end, I thank you for being part of it. If you stuck with me through not just one campaign but two or more—like Suzie and Moz; Brian; the Kims; Helen and Mike; Maree and Ian; Denise; Pete; Margaret and Bryan; Tori; Chris and Jan; and my new staff, Madeleine and Jack—I am humbled by your support.
To my 2016 team: Mitch Wilson; Sebastian Henderson and the CPSU crew; Tom HB; Hawkesbury campaign coordinator extraordinaire, Leonie Wilbow; Rose Jackson; Kaila Murnain and John Graham in party office; my EMILY's List mentor, Helen Westwood; and members of the ASU, the AMWU, United Voice, the MUA, the RTBU, the FSU and the CFMEU, and of Sally McManus' ACTU 'secret army', helped by the HSU, Nurses and Midwives, Blue Mountains Union Council and Penrith Valley Community Unions—thank you. When you live in an area that has big hills and long walks between driveways, you particularly appreciate the young women and men in Young Labor. Each generation has been amazing, and I hope a beer at the Macquarie Arms helped. Thank you.
To my good friends Anna Grutzner, Alison Reedy, Jenny Nethercote, Mark Carnegie, Phil Davey, Greg Holland, Peter Primrose and Kris Neil, I am grateful that you never gave up hope. And to all the other friends where I have missed gatherings and you have not made me feel guilty—or you have at least forgiven me—thanks; that made it a bit easier.
And, of course, Ron, who would rather I did not mention him at all, but without him I would not be standing here fed and ironed. To my wonderfully creative children, Phoebe and Harry, who did not know what they were in for. But, like my parents, Jan and Bob—who do not seem to mind if I am just popping in to their place for a quick change of clothes or to use the loo—they all accept how important this is to me. I want to thank my brother David, who is here today, and sister-in-law Sarah, and their children, Stella and Henry, who hopefully will be my constituents within a few months. And a shout out to my other brother, Rob, who seems to think the fact of living in Spain excuses him from handing out on election day!
Virtually every member of the Labor frontbench, both in government and in opposition, has been out to my electorate—more than once—and I am pleased that I can now invite Bill, Tanya and the team to my part of the world as a member, not just a perennial candidate. It has taken 20 years for Labor to be once again entrusted with the responsibility of representing Macquarie with the current boundaries. That in itself is a humbling achievement, and I take the responsibility seriously.
When I am asked, in years to come, what I consider my greatest achievement as an MP to be, I promise there will be no hesitation. I cannot predict now what that achievement might be, but what I do know and what my electorate knows, and what this chamber will soon see, is that I will be tirelessly, resolutely, doggedly here to deliver for the people of Macquarie.
I am very honoured to address the people's house today as Wide Bay's choice to represent them. I thank the electors of Wide Bay and recognise the trust they have placed in me. I understand my responsibility to repay that trust with hard work, honesty and fearless advocacy on their behalf.
Wide Bay is a stunning part of the world. The beauty and diversity of its geography is only matched by that of its people and culture. Its pristine beaches stretch from Peregian on the Sunshine Coast, some 200 kilometres to Sandy Cape at the northern tip of Fraser Island, the largest sand island on earth. This magnificent stretch of coast is home to a vibrant and growing tourist industry that boasts destinations such as Sunshine Beach, Noosa, Tin Can Bay, Rainbow Beach, Kingfisher Bay and many more. Wide Bay's communities of Gympie, Maryborough, the South Burnett, the Mary Valley, and the Fraser and Cooloola coasts offer the best of regional living and are amazingly affordable. Wide Bay is a great place to raise a family, which is what my wife, Sharon, and I have done for the past 20 years.
The region proudly celebrates its people and attributes each year with events and festivals such as the Gympie Music Muster, the Gold Rush Festival, the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival, the Kilkivan Great Horse Ride, the Noosa Food and Wine Festival, Maryborough's World's Greatest Pub Fest, the Reconciliation Fun Run from Murgon to Cherbourg—and the list goes on.
Our early settlers knew the communities of Wide Bay for its port and goldmining towns. Later these communities were transformed into agricultural centres producing grain, beef, sugar, dairy and other crops. Wide Bay also has a proud history of sustainably drawing on its natural assets, with its timber and seafood industries being strong contributors to the economy.
Whilst the Wide Bay is already a great place to live, it has the potential to be so much more. Being located close to the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane makes it perfectly positioned to take advantage of the growing south-east corner. But we need all levels of government to work cooperatively to leverage the opportunities of the future.
I stood for election not because our world or our country is perfect. I came here to work, to advance the interests of my electorate, to make Wide Bay a better place. An issue that burdens Wide Bay is unemployment. Much of the Wide Bay division has historically seen high levels of unemployment, and unfortunately this is still the case. It is incumbent upon all levels of government to see this as unacceptable and to act on it.
The coalition government has a comprehensive range of employment initiatives to help people into work. In addition to those, I announced with Minister Fiona Nash that the coalition government will deliver a $20 million jobs package that will be available exclusively to the Wide Bay Burnett region, enabling local businesses to expand to create local jobs, grow skills in the local workforce, pursue export opportunities and strengthen the economy.
The Wide Bay Burnett Jobs Package will attract matching funding from participating businesses to deliver $40 million in new investment in the region. This specific, targeted and tailored investment pool will assist existing local businesses to grow and create new, sustainable jobs. Grants from the package will enable businesses to diversify their operations, support infrastructure projects, and invest in skills development and training programs. Local communities will be involved in developing local investment plans, assessing our region's economic opportunities and competitive advantages to create a community-driven investment partnership between the coalition government, business and local communities.
While the jobs package is a good example of how government can assist business, we also need to ensure that government gets out of the way. The growth and sustainability of the rural areas of Wide Bay are very much tied to the success of its agricultural industry. This sector must not be burdened by extreme, ideologically driven, environmental policies that serve to do nothing more than hurt future generations.
An example of this was the recently defeated extreme vegetation management bill brought forward by the Queensland state Labor government. Agriculture is a $1.1 billion industry in Wide Bay. The most sustainably managed enterprises I know are the agricultural small businesses in my area. Many of them have been operating successfully for generations. The high-quality produce of our nation's agricultural sector is a key driver of our economy that will help to sustain the fortunes of Australia through uncertain times ahead. We need to help our agricultural enterprises, not hinder them.
When it comes to agriculture big business needs to play fair. The Coles and Woolies milk price war has had a devastating effect on farmers who deserve to receive a fair price for their product.
As the ninth member for Wide Bay since Federation, I follow some very prominent figures. Indeed, the first member for Wide Bay, Andrew Fisher, served as Prime Minister on three separate occasions. But there is no doubt for me that the most influential figure in my political life was my immediate predecessor in Wide Bay, my political mentor and friend Warren Truss. I acknowledge him and his wife, Lyn, in the gallery as I make this speech.
Warren is a man who has given a great deal of service to our country. From humble beginnings Warren, in his uniquely Australian way, quietly but surely worked hard, delivered for his regional community and subsequently rose to become the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and one of the great National Party leaders. I thank Warren and Lyn for their encouragement and support of both Sharon and me over the years.
In his maiden speech in 1990 Warren spoke of the need for greater funding for road construction. Even though during his 26 years in this place there proved to be no more enthusiastic or successful road builder than Warren, in 2016 roads remain a priority for me as the member for Wide Bay. Since 1990 Queensland's population has grown with Wide Bay growing faster than the national average. But more significantly, since 1990 the number of vehicles registered in Queensland has more than doubled to about 4.5 million. Whilst rail, air and sea are important forms of transport, the future economic growth of our country relies on a safer national highway with greater capacity.
Where in 1990 Warren's statements were made due to a lack of road funding from the former Labor government, in 2016 I am proud to say that my call is for the great momentum created by the coalition government to be continued. My priority is to see Wide Bay continue to get its share of the $8.5 billion allocated by the coalition government to the Bruce Highway over the next 10 years. This includes securing funding for the 26-kilometre section D of the Cooroy to Curra Bruce Highway upgrade, as well as further upgrades north and south. I will also work with my classmates of 2016—friends and colleagues the member for Fairfax, Ted O'Brien, and the member for Fisher, Andrew Wallace—to ensure that the Bruce Highway south to Brisbane is upgraded, so that all our communities can enjoy the benefits of a faster, safer highway.
I believe that this generation of members in this place will be judged on how well we manage the Australian economy in the face of massive amounts of debt, shrinking revenues and increasing expenses, all while operating in a very uncertain international economic environment. We have the challenge of repairing our budget so we don't leave to our kids an Australia that is burdened by debt, while properly funding aged care to address the needs of our ageing population.
Over the coming decades, as the baby boomer generation requires care, we will enter uncharted territory in the aged-care sector. Already the greater emphasis on home care is seeing those people requiring much higher levels of acute care when they come to enter residential care. In Wide Bay, which has an ageing demographic, the way we fund aged care now and into the future is a very real concern to me and my electorate.
My values and beliefs fit clearly within the very broad church of the Liberal-National Party of Queensland. I believe that all families are precious and represent the cornerstone of society. I have a strong belief in personal responsibility, that initiative and hard work should be rewarded and that laws and regulations should only exist where there is a real need.
I am proud to be Australian and I love the Australia that I grew up in. Our country is strengthened by its freedoms of religion, speech and association, and a degree of multiculturalism. In saying this, we also need to acknowledge that there is a significant proportion of Australians who have real concerns about the protection of our borders and the threat of terrorism. I share these concerns and want to make sure that our nation is safe and secure for all Australians.
I wonder if any member has a typical journey leading to this House. I doubt it. My journey to this place has not been a high profile one, it has been one of a regular man whose family is the most important thing in his life and who also loves his community.
My high school education ended shortly after completing year 9. At that time my mother was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of motor neurone disease. Mum was given a year to live. She wanted to stay at home as long as she could, so at 15 I left school and took on a role as a full-time carer.
My mum, Yvonne, was a softly spoken gentle lady who loved life. She loved community. She saw the good things in life and she took time to make sure that I saw them too. Over the course of mum's final year she taught me many lessons. She taught me about courage, selflessness and honesty. Whilst the illness relentlessly broke down every physical power she had, it could not dent her love of life and people and her desire for me to understand it. While she was dying, my mum taught me the most valuable lessons on how to live and treat people. Those are the lessons that I bring to this place.
I was 16 when Mum passed away at home, and life was not easy. When I was 17, I met the love of my life, Sharon, and things took a dramatic turn for the better as we went about planning our future together. For me, my late teens and early 20s were about putting a feed on the table while the country went through Labor's recession we had to have. I did everything I could to find a job. I worked on farms, in factories and anywhere else I could earn a wage. I understand what it feels like to be desperate for the most basic job and unable to find one. I also understand the power of employment, and the dignity that comes along with it.
After Sharon and I were married we set about starting a family. Sharon supported me while I gained the qualifications that would enable me to take on a stable career that would support our family. Like my mum I have always been a community-minded person, and helping people is something I enjoy. With this in mind, Sharon and I decided that I would join the Queensland Police Service, which is what I did. Policing turned out to be a good fit for me. I did help many people, and I was able to be a positive role model for my own kids, which is something very important to me.
Policing also gave me the opportunity to see and experience many things that shaped my view of the world and motivated me to serve in a different capacity. As a bloke whose life has been enriched and guided by the powerful women in it, responding to incidents of violence, particularly incidents of violence against women and their children, made my blood boil. We as a society must do more to prevent all domestic and family violence. Seeing the effects of drug addiction and homelessness also made me contemplate how we can do things better.
Early in my career, I became qualified as a traffic accident investigator and I found myself responding to some of the most serious accidents on the Bruce Highway between Cooroy and Curra, which at the time was known as one of the most deadly stretches of the Bruce Highway. The nature of country policing and the role I had sometimes meant that I was the first emergency service person at the scene and then the last to leave. It was a job where you'd be hit by the confronting sights, sounds and smells of absolute tragedy and trauma. As time sped by, you would furiously do what you could as a first responder: the injured would be taken care of and helicoptered out, the dead taken away, the wreckage removed and the debris swept off the road. Then I would be there with a tape measure and a clipboard, watching the traffic flow past at 100. Those drivers, going on with their lives, had no idea about what had just occurred. Yet I did, and I knew it would happen again and again and again.
It is those experiences that made me contemplate how I could serve in a different way, to make the community safer. Much of that deadly stretch of the Bruce Highway has now been rerouted or will soon be bypassed, and it is in no small part due to the funding secured by Warren Truss after the 2013 federal election. That I played a supporting role by managing Warren's campaign in 2013 was very meaningful to me. In Wide Bay, both Warren and I know that so many lives will be saved by these upgrades.
The 2015-16 Health needs assessment summary: Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast PHN identified that rates of mental illness in the Primary Health Network area were higher than those observed elsewhere in Queensland and Australia. Across the three measures, psychological distress was highest on the Fraser Coast, and suicide rates were highest in my home area of Gympie. The leading cause of death of Australians between the age of 15 and 44 is suicide. Approximately 2,500 people die by suicide each year—double our national road toll. Whilst we are doing such great work reducing our road toll, our national suicide rate is not going the same way, and it is hitting rural and regional areas worse than anywhere else. Each year good Australians are choosing to take their own lives. These people are mums and dads, sons and daughters. This is a problem for all of us, not just the families of those who have taken their own life or those who are at risk of taking their own life.
Again, we need to do better. For many years now, both as a police officer and in my personal life, I have done my best to help people experiencing mental illness. I would not be the man I like to think I am if I did not take this opportunity to speak about a cause I believe is very important. It is addressing the stigma associated with mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety. Mental illness does not discriminate. It can take effect at any time. And it affects millions of Australians every day. This stigma stops people from taking the vital steps needed to get treatment and commence their recovery. The fear of being labelled weak or facing discrimination stops people from addressing this serious problem.
Over a decade ago, in my policing career and as a traffic accident investigator, I went through a very intense phase which saw me struck down by depression and anxiety. This soon led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. I was absolutely floored. But my story of recovery is a successful one. With a supportive employer in the Queensland Police Service, and my amazing wife, it took more than a year to get me back to the job I loved, which at times I thought I would never return to. I will more than likely need to manage my PTSD for the rest of my life. But with an understanding of my condition, and my great support network, including my good friend and Queensland Police Service human services officer Dale Donoghue, who has helped so many police, I stand here happier, more resilient and more capable than I have ever been in my life. We can all benefit greatly by ending the stigma associated with mental illness so people feel comfortable about talking about their symptoms, getting the early help they need and commencing their recovery so they can live a fulfilling and happy life. I tell my story to reduce the stigma and hopefully make it easier for others in Wide Bay and the broader community.
There are many people I need to acknowledge who share my values and who have helped me in life and on my journey to this place. I am deeply committed to the values of our LNP Party. I joined the National Party and I was a member when the Liberal and National Parties in Queensland united to form the Liberal National Party. I was honoured to serve in a number of roles in Wide Bay before being elected as the party's vice president. I particularly valued the opportunity to work with my friend and LNP President Gary Spence, who with his wife Sabrina has given so much to the party.
I especially acknowledge the support of my parliamentary colleagues Barnaby Joyce, Fiona Nash, Tony Abbott, Darren Chester, Michael McCormack, Keith Pitt, Senators Nigel Scullion, Barry O'Sullivan, James McGrath, Ian Macdonald and Matt Canavan, who helped through the campaign. I also thank former president Bruce McIver—who is in the gallery today—Bernard Ponting, Michael and Kythe O'Dwyer, and Greg and Joyce Newton, who have each encouraged me and provided sound advice to me along my political journey. I give very special thanks to my campaign team, led by Ben Ellingsen, my FDC Chairman and good mate. Ben did a wonderful job rallying the troops over the long campaign.
To Wayne Plant, Dr Richard Pearson—who is also here in the gallery—Lloyd and Anne Maddern, Mel and Linda Harris, Guy Burnett, Ted Barnes, Ray Zerner, and David and Robyn Kemp: thank you for all your work. And thank you to all the helpers and workers who contributed so much throughout the very long campaign. I pay tribute to a bloke I call my adopted dad, Retired Assistant Commissioner Laurie Pointing. He has been a great source of wise advice during my policing career, and I am proud to count him as one of my closest friends and confidants. To an amazing little family from Cave Street, Kilkivan, Amy, Riley and Jacinta Olsen—we have all been through much over the past year and we know we can count on each other.
To my great mate, Simon Kelly, now chief of staff, and to his partner, Kieren: thank you for your friendship, loyalty and very honest advice over the past 10 years. I also thank my electorate staff, Rae Hurley, Barbara Morris, and Rebecca Kuhn for their support and service to our electorate. I would not be where I am today without the support of my mother in law, Lyn, known as Granny—I so wanted to have that put in Hansard! Lyn has always: been there for Sharon and me through our journey, looked after the kids, and helped us tremendously.
Finally, to the people I treasure most in this world, my wife, Sharon, and my children Rees, William and Yve: I would not be here without your love and support. I know that you now have to share me with 103,328 electors in Wide Bay, but it is through the strength of our family that I am able to give my best to my electorate as the federal Member for Wide Bay.
Ordered that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour.