Wednesday, 28 October 2020
Ten years ago to this day, I stood and spoke in this chamber for the very first time, delivering my maiden speech. I stood surrounded by the class of 2010. We quickly became friends, and those friendships have endured. It was a great day—the culmination of a lot of hard work for a lot of people. As I look back on that speech, most of the people I thanked then are still with me. I didn't have time that time to thank everyone in that 30-minute speech, and I certainly don't have time this time with only five minutes. But, suffice it to say, thank you to everyone who helped regain and retain Bennelong through four elections and one character building by-election.
Has much changed since then? In 2010, we didn't know it, but we were about at the beginning of a revolving door of prime ministers. In 2020, we have finally left that chaos in the past. Obviously, the pandemic is new and destructive, but its symptom—a sluggish economy—is something we are as familiar with today as then. A lot of the problems I spoke about then remain live today. Housing remains overvalued, and the market is even more volatile than it was back then, with Bennelong seeing some of the greatest fluctuations. Sports facilities underdeveloped, underutilised and going to the wall across Australia. But perhaps my biggest concern is the continuing lack of interest in the funding and planning of infrastructure.
The impact on the economy of the COVID virus demands government stimulation to recover, and central to this is the need for major infrastructure projects. The Treasurer has stated that we will spend astounding amounts on infrastructure and that it will be funded out of debt and future generations will repay the debt. I've been working for most of these ten years on parliamentary inquiries which have looked for ways to have this infrastructure paid for by the very beneficiaries who gain the most.
Evidence during the current inquiry demonstrates conclusively that the phenomenal gains in property values have occurred on the back of infrastructure announcements, especially around Badgerys Creek most recently. With each successive announcement—from the airport itself to the most recent announcement of the locations of stations on the metro rail line from the airport to St Marys—prices have moved from a base of rural agricultural use to what no doubt will be high rise, high density around the train stations. Therefore those chosen property owners, whether recent or long term, are the beneficiaries of huge windfalls. Twenty or 30 years ago, acreage in this region would have been valued at less than $2,000 an acre. Now, an acre within 500m of a train station is likely to fetch well in excess of $10 million. Does the infrastructure pipeline going forward mean that the taxpayer will fund even more phenomenal gains for some while impoverishing future generations of taxpayers? This is emblematic of the injustice of infrastructure funding for over 100 years. Will this result in our Commonwealth becoming a kingdom of indebted serf tenants—subjects to their lords?
For now, I'd like to end with some lines from my maiden speech, delivered ten years ago, as I believe them now as fervently as I did then:
Let us debate in this chamber a contest of ideas, a contest of visions. As with any endeavour in life, true and honest competition unfettered by political bias will produce, in this case, the best plan and the best result for our nation's future. We need the courage to attack this challenge. It has been ignored for too long. To shirk this responsibility, to say it is too tough, would be an affront to those who fought to make Australia what it is today—our forefathers, who had a plan, an optimistic vision, and who made the most of their opportunity to have a go.