Tuesday, 23 July 2019
North Sydney Electorate
This is the first opportunity I've had to speak in the parliament since the general election on 18 May, and I want to use this occasion to firstly thank the voters of North Sydney for giving me the incredible honour of continuing my service in this parliament. I stood at that election with what I think was a very positive platform and record about this government's contribution towards the community of North Sydney, which has been my home for almost 20 years and is very dear to my heart. During that campaign I was able to highlight the considerable support and achievements of the government in improving the quality of living standards that exist in our part of the world. We do live in a spectacular part of Sydney, bordered, as we are, by the harbour and the Lane Cove River and Middle Harbour a little bit further to the north, and we are home to some of the most vibrant and multicultural communities that our city has to offer.
I was proud to highlight to residents our work in delivering better sporting facilities, including the wonderful sporting precinct redevelopment at Gore Hill, projects like those at Bedlam Bay, support for rebuilding the much-loved Lane Cove Pool, and other projects across the electorate; our increased funding for local schools and increased funding for health facilities, including record funding for the Royal North Shore Hospital, which is obviously the major hospital in my community; our support for local community groups, particularly voluntary organisations, who do such an amazing job; and the funding I've been able to secure for solar panels to support those that are trying to make sure that they're supporting our actions to reduce climate emissions.
Going into the election, I was particularly proud of the fact that I was able to secure commitments from the government for two important projects which will be fully implemented in this term. The first of those is a $10 million commitment that we've made to support North Sydney Council rebuild the beautiful and historic North Sydney Olympic Pool. For those of you from outside Sydney, North Sydney Olympic Pool is one of the nation's most iconic. It was built for the Empire Games in the 1930s. It is listed—how you measure these things, I'm not quite sure—as one of the 10 most photographed swimming pools in the world for Instagram. Sitting as it does beside Luna Park and the Harbour Bridge with its beautiful art deco architecture, it is a special place. Unfortunately, it's showing its age and risks significant failure, which could see it close. This commitment from the federal government, which I hope in due course will be matched by the state government, will allow North Sydney Council to make sure that the pool has a long-lasting and permanent role in the life of Sydney and our local community.
The other commitment I was and am very proud of is one that continues the work that I've been undertaking to make sure that the former submarine base, Platypus—now known as Sub Base Platypus—is converted into a wonderful community asset. Platypus sits on Neutral Bay, beside the harbour. With funding already secured, it is now, for the first time in living memory, open permanently to the public. In the budget we committed another $10 million or thereabouts to continue the work to make a open-space parkland along the harbour, but also a precinct that is vibrant and exciting. I look forward to working with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to ensure that that process continues and is completed.
I am proud to represent the North Sydney community and I was thrilled to be re-elected on 18 May. I've given my community the commitment that I will continue to work exceptionally hard for them over the three years ahead. I want to reflect briefly on the election campaign itself. I have to say that in North Sydney— perhaps reflecting the fact that it wasn't deemed by other parties to be a marginal seat—the campaign was exceptionally civilised and friendly, as, in my view, it should be. I suspect just across the border in Warringah there was a slightly different experience. So I wanted to firstly thank the six other candidates that stood in North Sydney for ensuring that we had a campaign that was so civilised.
Various candidates participated in the campaign to various degrees, but I did want to particularly acknowledge Brett Stone, the Labor candidate, and Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, who on this occasion was an Independent candidate. Arthur, who I know well, is one of those people who—like one of my predecessors, Billy Hughes—has tried a range of parties. He actually started in the Young Liberals. Then he was a member of the Australian Democrats in the New South Wales parliament, before joining the Greens, and on this occasion he stood as an Independent. I'm told—but haven't confirmed it—that this was probably his last bid for parliament. I want to thank him for his participation. I also acknowledge and thank all of the other candidates who stood during the campaign, and all their volunteers. It is wonderful when you can go to prepoll and polling booths and actually have an enjoyable experience working and talking to the other candidates and their supporters.
I want to reflect briefly on one aspect of the campaign that I haven't reflected on publicly before, and that is, for me, the most difficult and the saddest part of the campaign, but it also emphasised how important our democracy is. As some of you may know, an elderly couple, voting for the first time in Australia, left the prepoll centre in Crows Nest, and the wife of this couple, Mrs Maharaj, was in an appalling accident in which she was, very tragically, killed by a cement truck. Unfortunately, I was there when this accident occurred. It's fair to say that for all of the polling booth workers there, it was a very, very difficult and emotional day. I raise it because I had spoken to them on their way into prepoll. I had helped present their citizenship a few months before. They were a beautiful couple in their 80s who had migrated from Fiji—they were of Fijian-Indian heritage. And what was so wonderful was that they were just so excited about voting for the first time in an Australian federal election. The fact that that experience ended the way it did is something that our community will regret for a very long time to come.
I want to conclude by thanking those who supported my campaign. I had a large team of supporters, as you'd expect, and I particularly want to thank my FEC president, Gail Giles-Gidney, my campaign manager, Pamela McClelland, and all of those who supported our efforts, both before and on polling day. The member for Gellibrand yesterday managed to read a list of, I think, every single volunteer that he had on his campaign, which I thought what a bit ridiculous. But then I thought, well, if he can do it, I can as well. I'm not going to read the name of every volunteer because I would need an extension of time, but I do want to thank all of those booth captains. I should start by acknowledging Mary and Greg Blainey, Bob Lawrence and Iain Bartholemew, the Zhu family, those in the Armenian and Chinese communities that supported me. I want to thank campaign booth captains like Aldina at Mowbray, Scott Benison at Lane Cove, Carrington in Chatswood, David in North Sydney, Councillor David Brooks-Horn at Lane Cove Public School, Councillor Ben Collins at Boronia Park, Greg Curie Dupont, Mark at Chatswood, Hugh and Victoria Eriksson at Castlecrag, Alex at Naremburn, Helen at Northbridge, Andrew at North Sydney Girls, Chris at Chatswood, Bill at Cammeray, Liz at Anzac Park Public School, Andrew at McMahon's Point, Mary at Northbridge, Matthew at North Sydney, Bob at Chatswood High, Barry at St Aloysius College, John at Lane Cove Council, Vince at St Mark's Church, John at Greenwich Public School, Max at Northbridge, Councillor Zac Miles at Hunters Hill Public School, John and Paul at Cammeraygal High School, Bill at Chatswood High School, Paul at St Michael's Lane Cove, Justin at Greenwich Public School, Gaurav at Lane Cove West, Karen and Alastair at Cammeray Golf Club, Tom at St Peter's in Cremorne, Stuart at St Andrew's Uniting Church, Hamish at Artarmon Community Centre, Councillor Christine Tuon at Artarmon Public School, Councillor Brendon Zhu at Dougherty Community Centre—and I particularly thank his parents Jackie and Irene for their work on prepoll—Lisette at Waverton Uniting Church, Angelo at Willoughby Public School, and Tim, Trevor and Brian at Willoughby Park and Willoughby Uniting Church.
I also thank my staff and the volunteers who worked in my office during the campaign. They put in that extra mile. Many of them were former staff who were coming back to volunteer or work part time. I particularly thank my team led by Flynn McDermott, including Nikki, Mitchell, Jack, Lachlan, Sinclair, Alex, Laura, James, Melina, Leona, Riley, Hunter, Brendon and Nick, who all did an outstanding job. Election campaigns are times of the political cycle that I love, because it is a unique opportunity to meet those who really determine the success of our democracy. I thank all residents in North Sydney for their participation in the general election.