Thursday, 4 April 2019
Statements on Indulgence
I first stood in this chamber on Wednesday, 13 February 2002 to deliver my first speech. I was the 40th Member of Parliament under age 30 since Federation. Now, some 17 years, one month and 22 days later, it's my privilege to rise for the final time in this chamber.
I posed the question in my first speech: what is our purpose? It was my intention to outline a road map for my period in this place, a charter to which both I and others could hold me to account, to anchor my decisions and actions in this building to the service of my electors in the pursuit of good government. I spoke of Edmund Burke's observation:
Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
And, although I said at the time I was not a starry-eyed idealist, I think it's fair to say I have always struggled more with the pragmatic side of politics, preferring instead to stay the course on the idealistic. For me, I always preferred the warmth of the roaring philosophical fire to the early-morning flicker of the pragmatic.
Much has changed in the 17½ years I have been entrusted with the privilege of serving in this place. The Gold Coast's population has nearly doubled in the past two decades. We have seen the rise and rise of China. Innovation, smartphones, the digital economy, social media and automation have all advanced with extraordinary pace. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no Snapchat in 2001, but many other things have not changed.
In 2001, I joined the Howard government in the task of paying down Labor's debt binge through prudent economic management. For nearly six years, I was a member of a coalition government that weathered Labor's attacks as they labelled us callous, inequitable, unfair and hard-hearted because we refused to leave the tax-and-spend taps open. I then watched Labor inflict economic damage for six years as they spent and spent and spent, all justified by necessity in their mind because of the GFC. Of course, there was little intellectual honesty, that our major trading partners were driving their economies and powering our economy. And, of course, there was the wastefulness of Labor's spending, from pink batts to cash for clunkers to cash handouts, and school halls for every school, even if they didn't want them. It is little wonder we witnessed our nation's finances deteriorate through tens of billions of dollars of deficit while, at the same time, Labor held that they were delivering year after year of surpluses.
Then, thanks to Tony Abbott and the united team, the coalition was re-elected and the economic and fiscal discipline began again. It culminated earlier this week when the coalition, led by the Treasurer—my friend of two decades, the member for Kooyong—delivered the first budget surplus since the last one delivered by the coalition in 2007. And again Labor snipes that we are callous, inequitable, unfair and hard-hearted. I've seen all of this before. I am confident that if Labor is elected we will sadly find our country mired again in deficit, with Labor finding excuse after excuse to justify it. Australia simply cannot afford Labor's big-taxing, big-spending agenda. Labor talks about equity constantly but they deliver shocking generational inequity as they lumber Australia's next generation with the responsibility of paying for Labor's sweeping gesture policies.
Campaigning back in 2001 was very different. I think it's fair to say that my first campaign was a little bumpy. The outgoing member for Moncrieff was suing me for $200,000 for defamation and left me with the princely sum of around $1,300 in the campaign account. And in a city where the main industry and employer is the tourism industry, Ansett Airlines collapsed the day after the September 11 terrorist attack. But we prevailed, through a dedicated team of volunteers and a small band of donors, wonderful party loyalists and supporters like Graham Ward, Jack and Fay Doherty, Winifred, Leer and Marion, many of them now deceased. They were there at the beginning and the I don't forget their contributions and support.
Those who have followed my political career—which I guess is mainly confined to my family members—would have seen some early evidence of my special gift of successfully always picking the person who had come second in any political contest. As a new MP, at 27, my choice to strongly back Peter Costello over John Howard in some of the leadership tensions made sense. After all, John Howard had been Prime Minister for six years—it was only a matter of time! With that strong start, the world was my oyster. With only a couple of exceptions, it was a record of success that for most of the past 17 or 18 years I was always able to pick and back the person who had come second—the stuff of legend. As my good mates, the members for Stirling and Dickson, the former members for Mayo, Jamie Briggs, and North Sydney, Joe Hockey, would all shift uncomfortably and find fascinating patterns on their shoes to look at whenever they found themselves backing the same aspirant as me in a contest. It was like a reverse Sleeping Beauty fairytale. My kiss would put a person to political sleep for 100 years.
Notwithstanding this talent, I can reflect on the past 17½ years and feel a real sense of pride in what I feel I've been able to achieve and to be a part of. In the early 2000s, I was pleased to run with the rebadged 'ginger group', together with Senator Fifield and the former member for Indi, Sophie Mirabella, to agitate for substantial personal income tax relief and the passage of voluntary student unionism. One of my proudest was the campaign I ran, at some personal political cost, against the government's plan for the access card—little more than a national ID card with more costs to personal liberties and the individual-state relationship than any purported benefits. I've been pleased to drive some of the very first calls for the revocation of dual citizenship of terrorists and their supporters, as well as the cashless welfare card in the early 2000s.
Over the past six years, as a frontbencher I've had the extraordinary privilege of helping to shape our nation's engagement with the world. I particularly want to thank former Prime Ministers Abbott and Turnbull, as well as Prime Minister Morrison, for their faith and trust in me to steward the various portfolios that I've held. As Joe Hockey's parliamentary secretary in the Treasury portfolio, we worked so well together and executed a flawless G20 finance ministers' stream. I quickly learnt of the relationship between a junior minister and a senior minister when it came to work dispersal and announcements, and I'm able to say I was able to carry that early lesson and put it into good effect in my most recent role in the Defence portfolio!
As alternative governor to the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, it was heartening to see the world work together to focus on development issues, especially the provision of infrastructure across our region, to help improve the lives of millions of people. I was pleased that we strongly backed the initiative to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the AIIB—again, not without some robust internal discussion. As parliamentary secretary to both Julie, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Andrew, the Minister for Trade and Investment, I was exposed to the critical interplay between our development and engagement initiatives and our trade and investment relationships. This, too, held me in good stead for subsequent roles.
As Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the first for our nation, I was able to steward our relationship with our near South Pacific neighbours. I remember running my eye over the rather lengthy list of recommended inoculations and the subsequent injections I had before commencing sojourns in the Pacific. That said, on each trip, accompanied as I was by the members for Forrest and Ryan and my Labor shadow, the important work Australia performs together with New Zealand in the Pacific region was evident. I firmly believed Australia's national interest was best served by presenting a strong show of bipartisanship in the region. For that reason, I always insisted on having the shadow minister present for most of the engagements.
The highlight of my period in this place though was the extraordinary honour afforded to me to serve as Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. I pay particular tribute to my predecessor in that regard, the former member for Goldstein Andrew Robb, who was a strong advocate for me to replace him in the role. We still catch up semi-regularly, and it's fair to say we share a similar view of how Australia should engage with the world.
Following in Andrew's footsteps was no easy feat. He had finalised critical trade deals with China, Japan and Korea, and the economic impact of those deals will be felt for decades. But I was determined to control the narrative, so I highlighted that Andrew had picked the low-hanging fruit and left the hard ones for me! I launched myself into the role, drawing on my experience as Minister for International Development and the Pacific. I was pleased to successfully conclude negotiations on the Pacific area close economic relations, or PACER Plus agreement. This was followed shortly thereafter by launching and concluding a comprehensive FTA with Peru. Without divulging any cabinet secrets, as I tabled those agreements before cabinet, it caused my good friend the then Attorney-General former Senator Brandis to note, 'Ciobo's more of a small-country specialist.'
In the years that followed in the role, I was pleased to pursue a number of other critical agreements. The work that was done over a number of years—and carried, I think it's very fair to say, by the relationship between the former Prime Minister Turnbull and myself, together with President Widodo and my counterpart Minister Lukita—saw, most recently in August-September last year, the successful conclusion of negotiations around the IA-CEPA, or the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
I pursued this agreement with the most vigour of all, because I know that this agreement, the FTA with Indonesia, will be an absolute game changer for this nation. It will ensure that one of our closest neighbours, one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and a country with which Australia will have a very strong and important strategic future, will be brought to bear as a consequence of putting in place this high-quality agreement. I implore Labor to put aside any concerns that they have, in particular around ISDS clauses in that agreement, to recognise that to focus on that, which more than anything else protects Australian businesses, would be to lose sight of the much bigger picture about the value of this agreement in our bilateral agreement.
Likewise, I was very focused on making sure that we concluded a deal with Hong Kong. Goods into Hong Kong were tariff-free, but we were able to lock that at zero going forward. But the key with the Hong Kong deal was to focus on the access that we could have around services. In that respect, opening up that market and all that flows from that, particularly with respect to mainland China, was also critical. I was so pleased to see Senator Birmingham conclude and sign that deal only a matter of a week or two ago in Sydney.
I pushed throughout Latin America, recognising the real potential of Latin America with respect to Australia diversifying its economic interests. We know our major trading partners lie in this region, but that just reinforces why we need to ensure the continued diversification of our export markets, and in that respect Latin America is critical.
Commencing a free trade agreement with the Pacific Alliance—the countries of Colombia, Mexico, Chile and Peru—was absolutely critical. That agreement too, I'm pleased to say, is very, very near conclusion and very possibly will be concluded before the end of this year. I was pleased with my counterpart Liam Fox to commence and put in place the very first working group for a comprehensive FTA post-Brexit with the UK. This, of course, would represent a return in many respects to not only a critical market for Australia but also a market of tremendous potential, especially for our high-quality agricultural products and, in particular, wine. The UK—once they find their pathway forward from Brexit—will represent a crucial market for Australia. I was pleased that I was able to position Australia to be at the very front of the queue when it comes to concluding that FTA, likewise putting in place the necessary requirements around the scoping document and feasibility study to commence negotiations for an FTA with the European Union. This will take some time. Any negotiation with the European Union takes time, as the Brits will attest. But, that notwithstanding, the opportunity with what is our single biggest export market, aside from China, will be a very important agreement and one that will hold, again, this nation's diversified export potential at its very core for decades to come.
Another critical aspect that I was very pleased to be able to conclude successfully was the CPTPP, or the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. This agreement came off the back of the then defunct TPP, delivered by my predecessor, Andrew Robb, but thwarted by the decision that President Trump made with respect to the United States. To have been able to pull it together—notwithstanding the odd curveball from the Canadians—meant that we were able to cement in place one of the most comprehensive, far-reaching and ambitious trade agreements, through the CPTPP, that Australia will ever face. I spent years working on pulling that back together. Again, I want to acknowledge the incredible work that was done by all leaders which we, as trade ministers, had the good fortune to lock into place.
On the tourism front, I was pleased to see incredible inbound numbers and spend by tourists. I was pleased to launch, for the very first time, a nation brand working group, headed by Andrew Forrest, to drive a brand for this country that we know can make sure that Australia represents itself under one banner globally. The conclusion of that nation brand will help to ensure that our country is recognised not only for its high quality agricultural exports but also for its services exports and the attractiveness of the tourism industry. I note as well that we were able to do so recognising that we wanted to grow not just numbers but spend, and spend into this country has been growing at more than nine per cent per annum for the past several years.
We took some risks. Of course, the launch of the 'son of Dundee' campaign in the US around Super Bowl was a big political risk. I think it's fair to say that a number of tourism ministers before me had less success when it came to new tourism marketing campaigns for this country, and I learned some lessons from their experiences. But I'm pleased to say that we have seen, now, the fruit from that investment, with growth from the United States in particular being incredibly strong. It's a crucial industry, in particular, for my city of the Gold Coast.
I want to thank the party supporters who put me in this place. I've made the comment at numerous party events that, but for the support of the party membership, their faith in me and their privilege of pre-selecting me, I wouldn't have been able to stand in this chamber for the past 17½ years.
I want to, in particular, thank Lynda Woods, my FDC chairman. Lynda has been an absolute staple for me and for the party in Moncrieff for well over a decade, and I want to thank her in particular for the support that she has provided me—likewise, Viv and Di Grayson, and the now deceased Mike Milosevic and his wife, Donna. I want to thank all of those who worked on pre-polls, standing there for weeks on end providing support, and of course those who were there from the very beginning, Lee Benjamin and Arthur Chrenkoff, who played such a critical role from their time in the Young Liberals supporting me in my very first preselection.
I want to acknowledge the Young Liberals as well. I've always believed they are such a critical foundation stone for our party's future. The Gold Coast Young Liberals have been a part of my life since I was 18 years old and will continue to be. I thank each and every one of them for the incredible effort they went to and the support they provided me.
On my staff: we all know in this place we couldn't do anything without our staff. They have been terrific. My longest-serving staff member, Alistair Mitchell, tells me that over the past 17½ years I've had 86 staff who have moved through the various offices that I've occupied. But I particularly want to thank Kathy, Kylie, Karen, Bec, James, Kristian, Ben, Jackson, and ministerial staff Brendan Berne, Gisele, Doug, Drew and Britney. All of them have played a critical role in me achieving what it was that I was able to achieve.
I want to thank Karly for her support and work, and I wish her the very best of luck. Karly will be running on Saturday for preselection for my seat, and I think she would make a terrific member in this place—but ultimately it's a decision, of course, for the Moncrieff preselectors.
Alistair Mitchell, who's in the advisers box, has been with me for 13½ years. Alistair has always been someone of impeccable and prudent political advice. He's shaved off some of my excesses—not nearly enough, I think he would say. But he is someone who has been absolutely fundamental to all that I've achieved in this place, and I thank Alistair sincerely and from the bottom of my heart for the incredible working relationship that we've had over 13 years. I think it's fair to say that my strengths are your weaknesses and your weaknesses are my strengths, and I think that's a terrific political result.
I thank early supporters Stuart Bruce, Darryl Gregor and Tony and Thea Cochrane. They were there from the outset and they've supported me every step of the journey.
In this place, I've always focused on relationships. Relationships, I believe, are what make this building. They're what get political deals done. They're what get policy outcomes. In particular, the former member for North Sydney Joe Hockey, the Attorney-General Christian Porter, the member for Aston, the member for Wannon, Senator Fifield, Senators Brandis and Mason, the member for Leichhardt and, of course, previous Senator Santoro—all of these people—have been such wonderful friends and mates, and it's been a privilege to work alongside them.
I want to thank the member for Curtin, Julie Bishop, with whom I had a terrific working relationship in the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio. I also want to thank the member for Flinders, Greg Hunt. I said the other day that the member for Flinders had delivered me my happiest day in this place, and I think he recognises the importance of it. In the gallery today I have a number of family members and colleagues. But, in particular, I've got my son Asher, who's sitting up there. Asher is a heart kid, as many of you know. His experience was a tough one for Astra and me—not so tough for him. But I am so profoundly proud of the support that Greg has given me when it comes to Heartkids, and I was so touched that the member for Kooyong was able to refer to the first initiative that we've made around Heartkids as part of a research mission. This is not about Asher; this is about the families that will follow in our footsteps. We—and Asher, in particular, with his experience—have been so incredibly blessed, but there are so many parents for whom heart kids become heart angels. For those parents, the $26 million that the government is investing into HeartKids—into congenital heart defects in children—is just so critical. That would not have happened without the support of the member for Flinders, and I am exceptionally grateful to him for that.
I acknowledge my mum and dad. Mum and Dad aren't here today, but they have backed me and supported me every step of the journey in this place. They are wonderful parents. My father came to this country from Italy as a refugee. I think it's fair to say—as I said to Minister Canavan, one Italian to another—I'm not an Italian citizen. We ran through that comprehensively, and I'm pleased to say that there were no problems there. But, notwithstanding that, my parents instilled in me from a very early age the importance of a sound foundation in family and a work ethos, and I'm so incredibly grateful to them.
I will conclude on this: my decision to not recontest the forthcoming federal election is based on many things, and I've thought about it for some time. But, in particular, it's also to show my sons, Asher and Tennyson, that, in life, you need to get out of your comfort zone. Getting out of your comfort zone and doing something different is just so important after you feel you've made a contribution. I've never wanted to be a time server in this place and I leave knowing that I've been able to achieve an extraordinary amount in this role.
Relations are critical and, in that sense, I particularly want to acknowledge, in the member for Sterling and the member for Dickson, some of the best friendships that I've made here. Those two have been a fundamental part of the last 17½ years—or, in the member for Sterling's case, the last 15 years—together. They are political brothers of mine and it will be a very different place without us all being able to come together. I thank them for that.
Finally, there is my wife, Astra. Astra has been rock-solid with me on every step of this journey. I don't say 'behind me'. I don't say she 'supported me'. We've stood beside each other. We were starry-eyed idealists, I think, when I first started in this role. Now we're more prudent and, I guess, a little weathered and we're both realistic. But, through it all, we know that the bond of love and friendship that we have together has meant that this has been an extraordinary journey. I can truly say that none of it would have been possible without the love and support of my wife, Astra. So to her, Asher and Tennyson: thank you so much for the privilege of serving in this place. And to all of my colleagues here: it has been an honour and a joy. I cannot thank the chamber enough.
on indulgence: hello, everybody, and thank you for coming. Six years ago, when I rose to make my first speech, the gallery was full. My community was engaged, supportive and present. Today, as I rise to make my last speech, it's much the same. Back then, I quoted Margaret Mead: 'Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.' And how true that is. To the people of Indi in this parliament, thank you for enabling us to be the change we want to see. There is so much more to do. Beginning with the end in mind, my call to action is: our work is not yet done—don't get mad, get elected!
Just a short summary: since that first speech, what have I done? I've delivered 525 speeches and 15 private member's bills, asked 74 questions without notice, moved 35 motions and made 18 amendments to legislation. Over 4,600 schoolchildren from my electorate have come to this place, 225 volunteers and four ANIP interns have worked in my office and, on average, 15,000 constituents a year have sought help, support and advice from the Indi office. Community members, more than I possibly could count, have offered support and advice and have shared their wisdom, and I have grown in confidence and courage.
At the beginning, after agreeing to stand as a candidate, I was so nervous, worried and anxious. Then we won by a magic 439 votes, and I was really nervous, worried and very anxious! But I was determined to deliver. I really did want to prove that my community had done a good thing and the right thing in backing me. It was deeply personal. There had been a fierce competition for me to get here and to stay here. It required enormous emotional courage, strategy, skill, and a huge community effort. The expectations were enormous and heavy, and I took the responsibility of truly representing my community very seriously. So I am so proud to stand here today and say we have survived the ordeal and have hopefully set a benchmark in the process.
My community has grown in confidence and courage, and we have delivered. I use that pronoun 'we' very deliberately. We have delivered confidence in democracy. We have delivered engagement in democracy. We've delivered better governance. We've delivered pride in community. And our voice has been heard. To the major parties, to my colleagues here, I have a short message: Independents do get things done. And every time any one of you says the opposite, the people of rural and regional Australia will remember these words: 'Tony, Independents deliver. Marginal seats matter. Just look at what happened in Indi. We have one-third of the vote. Let's use it.'
Today our community's more confident, and this is important for investment, for jobs and for regional growth. Confidence is important for our young people and our families who, in ever-increasing numbers, are making the decision to return home to north-east Victoria. Engagement across all levels of the community has grown, with more and more people stepping up to leadership positions. I'm delighted that the community, and especially our young people, are now more engaged. They are signing up, turning up, and speaking up in far greater numbers. This active participation in democracy is paying dividends in our community. Right across the electorate, things are also getting done and we have significant investment: over $235 million for the North East Rail Line; 52 mobile phone towers; numerous regional infrastructure projects; the regional deal for Albury-Wodonga; Wodonga Junction Plan; Tallangatta redevelopment; Wangaratta Aquatic Centre; Alpine landscapes; the controversial Wangaratta Hospital, $20 million—and a special thank you goes to Dan Andrews and the Victorian government for coming to the party on that one; infrastructure jobs in Benalla; Mansfield Stadium; the heavy truck bypass; Kinglake Streetscape; Corryong Memorial Hall and Pool, and many, many more other things.
But to my work in this place: the commitment I gave was to strive for good governance, and I think it is evidenced in the parliamentary work we have been involved in and which I mentioned briefly at the start of my speech. I'm particularly proud of the efforts in changing the rules for vulnerable witnesses and the rules governing gender dysphoria. Other highlights include the private member's legislation for the National Integrity Commission, and a code of conduct for all members of the parliament, recognising that our community expects more of us, its elected representatives. I was so proud to work with Griffith University, Transparency International Australia and the Accountability Round Table to introduce that legislation. A Senate committee is due to report on those bills tomorrow, and today in Melbourne, Transparency International released an assessment of Australia's national integrity systems. I call on all sides, everybody, to give the required resources to do this well. It's unfinished business.
A private member's bill for an office for regional Australia made sense. Working with the member for Mayo for a minister for young people made sense. Representing my communities on refugees made sense. Giving my support for the refugee medivac bill was the right thing to do—but it's unfinished business. I'm proud of the inquiry into regional development and decentralisation, and I note Senator McKenzie is in the House. I'm looking forward to that report, Senator. I am also proud of the inquiry into regional higher education, and I note that the minister for higher education is in the House. I'm looking forward to that report, Minister.
Yes, the work is unfinished. On climate change, we haven't been able to do as much as we wanted in this space, but we did manage to save the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ARENA, and we did manage to save the Clean Energy Finance Corporation—that infrastructure that was so important and was going to be done away with. But climate change and its mitigation remain serious issues in my electorate, and I know in Indi it's going to be a climate change election.
So many bits of this work had been seconded by my colleagues on the crossbench, so a special call-out to the member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie; to the member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie; and to the member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt—and occasionally Bob Katter, the member for Kennedy, has also seconded my amendments. I'll come back to the opposition a little bit later because you haven't done so much seconding!
An opposition member interjecting—
Yes, there's a hierarchy! In my first speech, I committed to making a public statement in this place to recognise and acknowledge past mistreatment of our Indigenous community, and I'm proud to say that I did it in my first year, in my first term. I also committed to improving public transport infrastructure and access to telecommunications and health services and I worked to reduce the red tape that hinders the growth of business in our cross-border regions. There has been significant progress in all those areas. I committed to bringing the voices of the community of Indi to Canberra, and what greater example of success have we got than in the gallery today? I committed to a vision for a prosperous and caring community where businesses grow, agriculture flourishes and everyone can reach their potential. We have made great progress.
Now I turn my words to comments of acknowledgement, honouring and thanks. Clearly, words are inadequate for some things that we know are so deep and lasting. You know who you are and you know what you've done. To my colleagues in this parliament, members and your staff: I do appreciate the warmth of the welcome that you extended to me when I first arrived. It was beyond all expectations. I have received your friendship and professional support and I want to say thank you very, very much. Everybody in this House has added value to the work that we have done. I want to make a special mention of the many ministers, some here today, who have visited Indi. We have noticed and we appreciate it. Thank you. To all the other wonderful people—the staff and the ones who make this place function, too many to name—I want to say thank you for making our jobs here so much easier. I can't name you all, but you're there.
And now to my special friends on the crossbench: we have all worked together—long nights, big days—and together we've reflected the diversity of Australia. We've worked with great respect and generosity together. Talking to the crossbench and of the crossbench, I want to make a special call-out to the people of Australia to pay attention to these extraordinary people and the work done here. Thank you. Clearly, our work is not yet done. In giving you my blessing: may you grow and multiply; may you all win your seats with increased margins; and may you continue to be the voice of reason, the voice of the marginalised and the voice of the forgotten.
To my staff past and present, many of whom are here today and, I have to say, looking resplendent: I acknowledge your dedication, your persistence, your tolerance, your loyalty, your tact, your diplomacy and your courage. You have been my and Indi's arms, legs, eyes, ears, heart and soul. We thank you very, very much.
At this stage, can my family please raise their hands. To my family: it is a truism to say I need you and I'm better because of you. Thanks to each and every one of you for your personal support, the phone calls and the debriefs on the long drive home from Canberra after a huge week. Can the niblings raise their hands. I thank them for their special help and advice, particularly during the marriage equality debate. I really appreciated your wisdom. Thank you for turning up today, because I know you have travelled great distances.
I turn to the communities of Indi, those here today and those listening to the broadcast. You heard the call and you rallied. We could do better. A huge thank you to you. Your belief, your trust and your courage has made this crazy, brave experiment possible. Thank you so much.
Thank you to the media. In particular, I would like to do a callout to media of rural and regional Australia, particularly in my electorate of Indi. Without fail, you turned up. Those post-parliamentary Friday presses in Wodonga have become such an important part of our routine. We had regular catch-ups, and your desire for accuracy continues to make Indi a much, much better place.
Now let me turn to the future. The community took a huge risk in voting for me not once but twice. However, today it feels less risky to vote for an Independent and more like a sane, sensible alternative for the one-third of the population that lives outside the metropolitan areas and for those who live in metropolitan areas. I say to the people of Indi: we have called the government to account and we, all of us, need to continue to hold the next government to account. It is important that parliament join the dots on regional and rural Australia. Regional communities are ready to work with government and the government needs to take the time to listen to us. That's why, through the Regions at the Ready report, I have been advocating for a new approach to regional policy, strategic planning and a strengthening regional Australia development network. We need a white paper on regional Australia, one that is developed with communities and with regional Australia.
I make a special callout now to the young people of regional Australia. It was the young people of my electorate who got me here. They nagged, they plodded and they harassed me. But they also saw the potential. They dragged me into the digital age of social media and they provided me with the constant inspiration to be my best self. I say to the young people of regional Australia, to the young people of Australia, on behalf of this parliament: we love you. We want you to be part of our democracy. We want you to be part of what we do here. And, sadly, you're not here in any way, shape or form in the numbers we need you. We know you've got wonderful lives. We know you do creative, innovative and amazing things. But we want to see you in government. My call to the young people of rural and regional Australia, of all Australia, is: don't get mad; get elected. For every organisation in Indi, I say: look at your leadership. Where are the young people? Are you passing on the baton?
Talking of getting elected, I extend an invitation post this speech to all of us to attend the launch of my sister Ruth's book. It's called Get Elected and it is a step-by-step campaign guide to winning public office. It is at one o'clock at Queen's Terrace. It's a great gift to extended family and friends who complain. You can just say, 'Don't get mad; get elected—here's the book!' There is a special discount for Indi people, I think—Ruth, is that right?
For me, it is time for the succession plan to be implemented. I am really looking forward to Sunday when Helen Haines launches her campaign in Wodonga to be the new Independent candidate for Indi. I wish her well. Helen is a nurse. We love nurses. Helen is a midwife, and we know they deliver! Helen has a PhD in public health, and we know how much we need good input into public health. She is an exemplary candidate and I ask my colleagues here to extend to her the same warmth and collegiality you have given to me, assuming she wins. Helen is the change we want to see. Respectful, engaged and clear in her motivation, she is a community grassroots candidate—we say we are different horses but from the same stable.
And now to the end. The single and most important lesson for me is that political and community engagement is to be part of a team—it is to turn up, to sign up for a job and to speak up, to put your hand out to others and give them a leg up. In closing, I have run one leg of this relay, and the independent banner carries a precious legacy for our future. And I'm not going away; I'm merely taking a step back as I pass the baton on and allowing others to step forward. I leave you with this quote from the back of the toilet door at Mittagundi. 'The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the making of these pathways changes both the maker and the destination.' Thank you.