Thursday, 28 July 2022
Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank your for very warm welcome to this place. It is a great honour to address you today as the new member for Kooyong. Firstly, let me acknowledge that I do so on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land, and that the traditional owners and original custodians of Kooyong are the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I pay my respects to them and to all the First Nations people of this wide and beautiful land. I honour their wisdom and their culture. I look forward to working towards them having a voice to this parliament. We have an extraordinary opportunity to join in a makarrata—a coming together after a struggle—and an opportunity to walk on this country with its traditional owners in trust, strength and truth.
To the people of Kooyong: thank you for entrusting me with this great responsibility to be your elected representative. I do so with humility and I am honoured to serve you. The electorate of Kooyong sits in eastern Melbourne. Its 59 square kilometres include Balwyn, Kew, Hawthorn, Camberwell, Deepdene, Canterbury, Surrey Hills, Mont Albert and Glen Iris. The seat is believed to have derived its name from the Wurundjeri name for resting place or camp.
In its 122 years, the federal seat of Kooyong has had only seven previous members, including Sir Robert Menzies, Andrew Peacock and Petro Georgiou. Those men were all true liberals. They recognised that open markets are the best way to boost prosperity. They were committed to protecting individuals' rights. Even before Federation, Alfred Deakin spoke in Hawthorn on the virtues of equality of opportunity and of generosity to the less fortunate in society. My predecessor, Josh Frydenberg, a well-respected member of this place, spoke in his first speech of the honourable legacy of previous members for Kooyong. I hope to honour that legacy by representing the electorate with dedication, integrity and effect.
I am the first woman and the first Independent to represent this electorate. I will not be the last. I've spent much of my life in Kooyong, as a child, as a student and now as a parent and a member of my community. My grandparents were first- or second-generation migrants from Wales, Ireland, Germany and Mauritius. For two of my grandparents, a bus trip to Sydney was the furthest they ever went in their lives. With all respect to my crossbench colleagues, they didn't like Sydney much, so they soon came home.
The Australian story is one of opportunity, of evolution, of adaptation to our circumstances. My paternal grandfather, George Alan Davis, was born in 1900—the year the seat of Kooyong was founded. When he was six months old his family tried to move from Bathurst to Melbourne in a two-horse covered wagon. One horse dropped dead as they tried to get through the Blue Mountains, so they turned around and ended up in Sydney. He had to leave school at 15 to support his family, joining the New South Wales Public Service. He admired Jack Lang—'the Big Fella'—and was moved sideways in the Public Service for agitating for an increase in junior clerks' pay, then 60 pounds a year. At age 21, he doorknocked and electioneered for Joe Cahill, a close friend who later became the Labor Premier of New South Wales. My grandfather rose through the Public Service and by 1940 was head of the federal Directorate of Defence Foodstuffs in the Ministry of Supply, an important job in a time of war. When my grandparents lost their elder son in 1943—drowned in Port Phillip Bay—Ben Chifley, the then Prime Minister and a friend of my grandfather, made the trip to Melbourne to commiserate on that loss. But, when my grandfather wrote his autobiography in 1978, he was very clear on who he believed to be our greatest ever Australian: my predecessor in Kooyong, Robert Gordon Menzies, who he described as a brilliant man, superb in wit and dialogue. In a true democracy, one votes on one's values, for a person, not for a party.
My parents were of the first generation in their families to attend university, to travel and work overseas and to dream of bigger lives. My father worked as a senior business executive, but his great love was his lifelong commitment to the nation's service in the Army Reserve; he rose to a senior rank in that force. My mum raised her family. Then she established a charity in Kenya which has in 18 years sent more than 3,500 primary and secondary school children to school and has assisted hundreds of women in the Kibera slums with literacy and skills training. My parents raised their seven children to work hard and to give back to those less fortunate. They gave us unconditional love and an understanding of the paramount importance of family. They gave me a twin sister, Anny, who has always been my best and most loyal friend. My brothers and sisters and I have all made homes in this country. We've been a very fortunate family but for the loss of a gifted boy, my nephew Hector, in a car accident in 2017. Together, my siblings and I have raised 18 members of the next generation, the generation which will deal with the legacy of the world that we in this place make for them.
I received an excellent education at a convent school. The nuns who ran that school were feminists who cared about social justice. Some volunteered in my campaign in Kooyong in 2022. The founder of the Loreto order of nuns, Mary Ward, said in 1612:
There is no such difference between men and women that women, may they not do great things? And I hope in God that it may be seen in time to come that women will do much.
I will be forever grateful to my parents for an education in which it was made clear that I could and should try to do much in my own life. We have in this place an opportunity to support education and to ensure gender equality in all facets of Australian life, which should never be taken for granted.
I grew up in Hawthorn. My husband, Peter, a generous and loyal man, a wonderful father and a steadfast husband, grew up in Balwyn. We have together forged a family with three kind, compassionate and trusting children: Annabel, Campbell and Patrick. I would not be here without their love and support, for which I will be forever grateful. We have a blended family, like many Australian families, which has its benefits and its challenges. The age of the traditional family unit has passed. In Kooyong, as in the rest of Australia, people who love each other live together in all sorts of units. All are to be celebrated.
We love our home: the wide streets; the parks with their big sky; the Yarra, Melbourne's beautiful upside-down river; and Kooyong's sporting fields, shopping strips, libraries and restaurants. At the start and at the end of every day, more than 35,000 children fill the streets of Kooyong, going back and forth from school. Most of them seem to catch the Glenferrie Road tram. The electorate is fortunate to have its own university, Swinburne, established in 1908, ranked in the top one per cent of universities worldwide and recognised for its research in the space industry, medical technology and the first National Centre for Reconciliation Practice. In these last challenging years during the long months of COVID lockdowns, we have realised more than ever how lucky we are to live in Kooyong.
I studied medicine at Melbourne university before undertaking training in paediatrics and paediatric neurology in Melbourne, Sydney and Boston. For 30 years, I have worked in the Australian public health system. Until recently, I was head of the department of neurology at the Royal Children's Hospital. The Royal Children's Hospital is a much-loved institution in Victoria. To be a neurologist for children and head of a department at that hospital was for me, for a long, long time, the best job I could possibly imagine. My area of specialty was nerve and muscle disorders of childhood, conditions which are generally uncommon and severe, the diagnosis of which is complex and treatment of which was, until recently, rarely curative. I was fortunate to finish my training at a time when new therapies for these disorders were just coming into clinical trials and to make a research career from studies into the causes and treatments of those conditions. During that career I led more than 30 clinical trials in Sydney and in Melbourne and at the end of last year my team gave the first dose of gene therapy ever given in Victoria for a previously fatal neurological condition of infancy: spinal muscular atrophy. That treatment was developed in international clinical trials. The children's hospitals in Melbourne and Sydney played an important role in that research. We helped transform the lives of those children and their families, and the lives of those who are to come.
We have in this country a wonderful health system. Our medical professionals are as good as any in the world. The NDIS has the potential to be a world-leading program for disability support. Our medical research is similarly competitive at a global level, but it has been underfunded and ill supported in recent years. The last few years have been terribly difficult for our doctors, nurses, allied health and other healthcare professionals. We have to ensure that health care in this country remains fit for purpose, accessible and resilient. There are many challenges to that, including not just an ongoing pandemic and an exhausted workforce but economic challenges of staffing and technology, new diagnostics and therapies, rehabilitation and disability support. These are challenges both of equity and of ethics. This 47th Parliament contains a number of doctors. I look forward to working with them for better health for all Australians.
But the greatest challenge of our generation is climate change. We have lived through a wasted decade of ineffective action on climate change. As a doctor, researcher and scientist my job has always been to care for children and protect their futures. I stood for election for the seat of Kooyong because I felt, and the people of Kooyong felt, that our previous government was not doing that. In recent years the effects of the climate emergency have been apparent to us all. Science has shown us that we need increased ambition and urgent action in our rapid transition to a net zero emissions world. We stand on the precipice of a great opportunity: a transformation to a new clean energy economy—an economy which will not need to rely on volatile markets and international security for a secure energy supply, an economy that is moving away from polluting fuels and combusting vehicles to quiet electric vehicles and clean air for our children. Our renewable energy resources are the envy of the world. We can use these natural advantages to bring down the cost of electricity for households; to protect our elderly neighbours from heatwaves; to ensure Australian families don't have to decide between heating and food; to support our small and large businesses; and to help position our country as the natural home of energy-intensive industries in the Asia-Pacific.
Taking effective action on climate change also means restoring and protecting our water supplies, sustaining the nation's food bowls and helping farmers put fresh food on our tables. Our systems are all interconnected. We can't have a resilient agricultural industry if we continue to drag our feet on climate change. Strong government leadership is crucial to manage a just transition, facilitate investment in low-cost clean energy and turbocharge economic activity and job creation across Australia.
In recent years the people of Australia have lost faith in our political system. We have been ashamed by the lack of integrity and transparency that it has shown. We have lost trust in its processes and have become disaffected and disappointed. We can restore confidence in our democracy by establishing a national integrity commission, improving whistleblower protections, restoring freedom of the media and legislating for transparency in political donations and truth in political advertising.
In 1949 Ben Chifley spoke of working for the betterment of humankind. He called it the 'light on the hill'. In his first speech the member for Melbourne expressed hope that that light would now be powered by renewable energy.
In these last years many Australians have perceived a dimming of the light of Australian democracy. Many of us felt that our elected representatives no longer reflected our values and that our government was not listening to our voices.
But then in 2012 a candle was lit in the seat of Indi, where the McGowan sisters, their nieces and their nephews and Helen Haines harnessed the power of a community and demonstrated the possibility of a new political paradigm in this country—independent representatives chosen by their community. Australia has had independent members since Federation, but this was something different. That first candle inspired more, individual but with collective effect, first in Warringah and now in Mackellar, North Sydney, Wentworth, Curtin, Fowler and Goldstein.
When I think of the people of Kooyong, I see that same spirit of community burning brightly. It started with Oliver Yates in 2019. By 2021 a people powered coalition of the willing and the passionate had come together and listened to the voices of our electorate, the Voices of Kooyong. We had a core team. I would not be here were it not for the members of that team: Robert Baillieu, Hayden O'Connor, Tamar Simons, Julia Cutts, Carolyn Ingvarson, Helen Sawczuk, Campbell Cooney, Rosemary Wilmot, Jedediah Clark, Brent Hodgson, Nancy Huang, Qingze Han, Peter Garnick, Jennifer Henry, Liza Miller and Elle McKinna. The support of the Climate 200 crowdfunding platform gave us the ability to kickstart a campaign that faced all the power, influence and money of an entrenched incumbent. Most of all, we had that inimitable, tireless, fearless, brilliant gem of a campaign manager, Ann Capling. If you build it, they will come. We built it and the people came. I would not be here were it not for the more than 2,000 volunteers—the Grahams, the Jennys, the Jos, the Kates, the Robs, the Davids, all the Peters; there were a lot of Peters—who brought energy and excitement, optimism and active hope, who gave us their time and their trust, who chopped wood and carried water and together built something.
I'm a child of the 1980s. During that time Steven Morrissey told us that there is a light that never goes out, but perhaps Albus Dumbledore put it better when he said, 'Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.'
Kooyong has always been a seat held by conservative politicians. Since it was formed in 1944, the Liberal Party has always held Kooyong. The last time an incumbent lost his seat in Kooyong was 1922, proof positive that not all once-in-a-century events are bad things. But the Kooyong of 2022 is not the Kooyong of 1922. Nineteen per cent of voters in Kooyong in 2022 identified as Chinese Australian. Thirty-three per cent spoke a language other than English at home. Kooyong has more voters aged between 18 and 25 than any other electorate in Victoria. And it has an above-average proportion of women, all of whom are above-average women. In some ways, Kooyong is a quintessential urban seat and a microcosm of the housing affordability crisis in Australia, with young constituents in the area stretching themselves financially to remain close to their parents and the community in which they grew up. Forty-five per cent of the voters in the Hawthorn end of the electorate are renters, most living in a flat or an apartment. A third of them are in acute rental stress.
The people of Kooyong, like all Australians, value fairness, integrity and respect. They sought change not for their individual interests but for decency and democracy and, above all, for the next generation to be safe and prosperous in a hospitable world. To the rural communities of western New South Wales and Queensland, with farms and towns hit by drought: the people of Kooyong voted for you. To the people of Cobargo and Mallacoota and Kangaroo Island, whose homes burnt during that black summer: Kooyong voted for you. To the people of Lismore and Woodburn, whose houses have been inundated again and again this year by flood: Kooyong voted for you. To those who have dedicated their lives to education, to science, to the arts and to the caring professions, who have felt ill supported by a government which gave pandemic job subsidies to casinos but not to universities: Kooyong voted for you. For those women of Australia who are underpaid, undervalued and unsafe in their homes and in their workplaces: Kooyong voted for you. For immigrants subjected to fear and suspicion, and for the First Nations Australians still struggling for recognition: Kooyong voted for you. For those subjected to detention for trying to come to this country, for those who have been punished for speaking truth to power: Kooyong voted for you. I'm honoured to have been elected by such a community.
I'm committed to supporting responsible economic policy with foresight and long-term planning. That policy has to be predicated on effective and immediate action on climate change. I'm committed to integrity and honesty in politics and to supporting safeguards of transparency and fairness. I commit to working for world-standard health, disability and aged care. I commit to working for true equality and safety for women and to fostering respect for Australians of all ancestries regardless of when and how they came here, their gender, their sexuality, their religion or their beliefs.
To the people of Kooyong, know this: my vote will always be independent. It will always be informed by evidence and it will always be guided by you. As the first independent elected for Kooyong, every one of my votes will be a conscience vote. I'm honoured to serve as your representative, and I will never take that responsibility for granted. To the people of Kooyong, the community of Kooyong: when our children ask us what we did for our country, we will be proud to answer that we were the change that we wanted to see, and that in doing so we changed Australian history.
My final words are to the next generation, to the future of our country. My children. The children for whom I provided medical care. Those schoolkids on the Glenferrie Road tram. The young adults of Kooyong wondering how to pay for their tertiary education and their own homes: Yours is the light that has guided me to this place. Keep shining brightly. Your voices are being heard.
Here I stand on this hill, a newly elected member of this place, the Australian House of Representatives; the member for Hasluck; a representative. What is that? What is a representative? It is audacious, surely, to claim to represent 150,000 souls, even perhaps to represent anyone other than ourselves. What gall we have and yet here we are. Of course, it is a privilege and an honour. The enormity of the task entrusted to us is never far from my mind.
I am a proud Western Australian and spent most of my formative years in a beautiful regional Wheatbelt town called York. York is the oldest inland town in Western Australia, having been established in 1835. It is a pretty small place but it is full with arts, music and culture, and I immersed myself in all of it. The Balardong Noongar people have lived in the York area for more than 50,000 years, and I pay my respects to them.
My mother and father are here today. They moved us to York for a tree change when I was about nine and my dear, beautiful sister, Sophia, 11. We lived for a while, the four of us, in a small, tiny one-room cabin on a small property surrounded by nature, and we loved it. My mother, Glenyce—apart from helping Dad look after horses, sheep, goats, chickens and us—was a medical practice manager. From her I learned resilience and a strong work ethic. My father, Peter, had many jobs. His absolute favourite, like Ben Chifley, was being a train driver. From my father I discovered a passion for motorcycling and he taught me compassion and to see the world through an egalitarian lens. He also modelled dedication to the Labor Party and Labor values all of his life, and always pushed me to have a political career. Okay, Dad, I got the message! My parents provided me with a wonderful example of equal partnership and of a steadfast and loving relationship.
My husband and soulmate of over 20 years, Nenad Djurdjevic, is also here today. Everyone in this place will know how important it is to have family who support you in this work. I am more than fortunate to have his unwavering moral and practical support.
For the last 10 years we have lived in the shire of Mundaring, which today lies in the geographic heart of the electorate of Hasluck. I love the Perth Hills and our home there. We live near a creek surrounded by the Beelu forest where small groups of endangered red-tailed black-cockatoos will sometimes perch above us munching on marri tree nuts. If I am away from nature for too long I truly feel the lack of it. One thing certain about this job, and many others which I've had, is that there is a continual need to find balance and to return to the natural world. I need to reconnect with nature in some way every day.
The Wajuk Noongar people call the Mundaring area 'Minda-lung', meaning 'a high place on a high place'. I pay my respects to them, some 3,000 kilometres from home. I also pay my respects to the Ngunnawal people, on whose land I stand, and to their elders present and past, and their emerging leaders.
To the Speaker: I congratulate him on his election to the chair. The standard of conduct expected of us by our community is very high and we need to hold ourselves to that high standard. Above all, and more important than any policy or legislation, the Australian people expect us to be leaders with integrity. Leadership requires high standards. Through both legislation and our own behaviour we need to set and maintain those standards. I commit myself, Speaker, to that renewed effort.
I note the great community work done in Hasluck by the former member, Ken Wyatt, and I seek to build on his effort. He was the first Indigenous member of the House when elected in 2010. He was well liked across the chamber and he served with dignity as the Minister for Indigenous Australians. I hope and expect that this parliament will continue to listen to Indigenous people and will rise to the challenge to a full and constitutional implementation of the Voice to Parliament envisaged in the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017. The Uluru statement describes the difficulty facing Indigenous people as a structural problem, as 'the torment of our powerlessness'. The Voice to Parliament will be enshrined in the Constitution—the very centre of our power.
Hasluck today stretches from the bustling Swan Valley—communities like Caversham, Brabham and Ellenbrook, up the Darling Scarp into the hills communities of Mundaring, Kalamunda and Gidgegannup and as far as Wooroloo. Is it the most beautiful electorate in Australia? I don't know; I haven't seen them all. But perhaps it is. People choose to live in the hills and the Swan Valley for myriad reasons—for the national parks, for the farmland and natural environment; for the business opportunities; for the historic centres of Midland and Guildford; for the vineyards; for the active, wonderful and warm communities in each shire and locality; for the freedom; and for the challenges. And there are challenges. Moving around the electorate is one of them, with limited public transport options. Disaster readiness is always front and centre. Communications can be tricky and are patchy at best. The North-East Corridor, which centres on Ellenbrook, is one of Perth's fastest-growing areas and carries all the needs of a bustling mortgage belt. Access to health, education and social services is harder than in most metropolitan areas.
Campaigning in Hasluck also held challenges, and I cannot speak highly enough of the great team of volunteers who coalesced seemingly out of nowhere and helped me each and every day on what was a long campaign. They were many and varied: Labor Party branch members, young—and young in spirit—as well as valiant union members, fighting the good fight; students; pensioners; old friends; and quite a few locals who had just had enough. People like Jenny Elder-Green and Harry Craig sustained me through the campaign. They united to become the change makers.
But it's not the function of a first speech to name everyone, so I will wait and thank each of them as I meet them again. I must, however, thank Premier Mark McGowan, who encouraged me to run and whose support, together with that of Tim Picton and Ellie Whittaker at WA Labor, was crucial. I also thank all those in the great trade union movement for their steadfast focus and contributions in time, effort and support. In particular, I would like to acknowledge Peter O'Keeffe and Ben Harris at the SDA. I thank all my federal colleagues, who were there with me in solidarity every step of the way. I am also very fortunate to have six wonderful state Labor MPs within Hasluck, who were so generous with their time and guidance. I look forward to continuing to work with all of them in delivering for our communities.
I need to mention my mentors: the first member for Hasluck, Sharryn Jackson, as well as Alannah MacTiernan and Stephen Smith, for providing me with their support and sage advice at crucial moments. I particularly thank my campaign team, led by Gareth Thomas, who was ably supported by Ally Lewis, Russel McFarlane, Sam Rowe and Hannah Beazley. They sacrificed their personal time for 10 months, volunteering to ensure that we reached every corner of our 1,300-square-kilometre electorate.
I am here now to serve the people of Hasluck. I don't think there's any point in being here at all unless our actions in this place serve to make people's lives better, to reduce suffering, and to unlock the potential of our communities and so our nation. These are some of the many reasons I chose to run for office.
Another motivation for running was that I could no longer stand by and witness the abject betrayal of the Australian people. The previous government failed to act in our national security interest. They failed our LGBTQI community by recklessly creating divisions in our society and within families. They demeaned and even criminalised people seeking basic support through the NDIS, social security and asylum. They knew there was a need for an anticorruption commission and they failed to act. They presided over a decade of wilful ignorance and indifference to protecting our environment, and they continually failed to lead on a multitude of crises that Australians faced—pandemic, bushfires, floods, climate.
Is this the moment to speak truth to power? Is it? The previous government knew the truth. It was those suffering who were kept from knowing: the 30-year-old hills veteran, his body riddled with shrapnel, broken physically and mentally, asking me why he can't access the support he needs; the seniors in Aveley, borrowing money they know they cannot return to pay rates and bills, wondering to me why there is no action on cost of living; the young man in Swan View asking me why he had to quit his job to care for and to wash and clean his mother, as she lay, with cancer, in a nursing home. The truth—the sad, cruel, cold hearted truth—is that the previous government did not care. The previous government made me angry and motivated me, like my volunteers, to work to make change a national imperative. So on 21 May 2022 the Australian people voted for change. The new members here are a result of that mood for change, as is the new government. Of course, being the beneficiaries of a mood for change carries with it the onus to effect change. We need to deliver.
The experience I bring to this chamber includes work as an adviser for state governments of both persuasions on issues ranging from local content in government contracts to addressing insurance access and affordability, native title, counterterrorism and emergency and security management. From the resources sector, I bring experience in crisis and risk management, international business development and negotiating deals across cultures. From running my own business, I bring an understanding of the need for clarity and certainty from government, which provides the conditions conducive to investment, growth and employment opportunities.
Before all of that, when I was very young, I found the urge to travel, to see new places and different peoples. I began after-school work from 14 so I could save money to travel for a couple of months, backpacking across India when I was 16. My dad came along because he felt he had to. I was going either way. I also spent a year in Japan on Rotary exchange and, later, a time in Bangladesh with UNHCR. These were important experiences for me. I received the gift of understanding that there are many ways for people to live and many ways to approach the same goals. It also entrenched my curiosity in Asian politics, history, language and culture, leading me to study for bachelor's degrees in both economics and Asian studies. Education is so important. It needs to be of a high quality and accessible to all, not only to provide young people with a way to move forward in life but also to combat the racism, misogyny and elitism that a lack of good education foments.
The other thing I learned from my study and travels is the vital importance of government policies that support economic growth. Capital investment in modern times has opened the gates to economic prosperity. Capitalism alone, however, cannot sustain prosperity, because prosperity must also be measured in terms of environmental health and individual wellbeing, not just in gross economic transactional terms. In our complex societies the existence of a social safety net is paramount to ensure that no-one is held back and no-one is left behind.
I have met many people in Hasluck finding it harder and harder to meet their mortgage repayments as they face cost-of-living pressures. Others are caught up in a rental trap and have given up hope of ever owning their own home. Others, still, are homeless or facing homelessness. It is not possible in our society to be happy, healthy and productive when people face stress of this magnitude. This is a housing crisis, notwithstanding that we are one of the world's most prosperous nations. It is a matter of shame and a policy area that governments, at all levels, must address. My own parents benefited from affordable housing policy when they were starting out, thanks to the Whitlam government giving families access to land and housing at fair prices. Today, progress will require coordinated responses and novel, perhaps even courageous, unpopular solutions. I am glad that the new government is making this a priority and is taking the first steps. Shelter and security are human rights.
Equality is important to me. It is the foundation of our democracy, and a denial of equality on any basis—be it ethnicity, gender, sexuality or a lack of income, to name a few—is a denial of the rights of every person and a failure to have our nation realise its full potential both at home and abroad. We have a great untapped wealth of knowledge and experience in those Australians who have migrated here from the very cultures and political systems that we are now endeavouring to rebuild relationships with, trade with and work with. As Gough Whitlam said in 1972, we need to 'liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people'.
Our representative institutions must be representative in order to be legitimate and to instil confidence. The parliament and the government must always lead in this respect, and I am proud of the gender diversity, the cultural diversity and the diversity of life experiences that this parliament is now increasingly reflecting.
Integrity and respect in our national institution is vital, and hasn't this taken a beating in recent years? In a pluralist democracy everyone brings their own belief systems to bear upon their decision-making. Sometimes these beliefs are political, sometimes essentially cultural and historic and sometimes religious. Errors and injustices can occur when one group tries to impose its own world view upon others. I believe in the ready defence of civil rights and a strong civics education to vaccinate us against bigotry and extremism.
I'm also eager to examine and vote on legislation for a federal integrity commission. My community of Hasluck demands more than words. They demand that I, and all of you, do the right thing by them in this place. Throughout my own career as an adviser in government I was always careful to keep my politics separate from my governmental role. This is how it needs to be. A politicised Public Service cannot instil confidence or have the confidence to provide frank and fearless advice when it's needed.
Another institution which needs to be independent is the media. I support the public broadcaster in all its iterations, its proper funding and its right and need to operate without interference from government ministers. I believe in a cantankerous press that the government cannot control and, at the same time, a free press that is not directed in its editorials by privileged moneyed interests.
The problems that confront us are often huge, global, longstanding, overwhelming. Denial, delays, short-term thinking, administrative paralysis, hiding reports: these are not acceptable forms of governing.
We need to come to terms with the many challenges that face us as a nation—economic, health, security and, not least, environmental. This new government has not yet had much time to enact legislation, but it has already started to deliver. New emissions targets; support for a wage increase for lower paid workers; building bridges again with international partners. It may be a new government but it is not shy.
Instability has been a hallmark of our political system for a decade. The Australian people need both to know and to feel that there is now stability at the top. I am proud to serve under this Prime Minister. He is firm but fair; reasoned and deliberate. And the best thing is we know he cares. I look forward to seeing the Prime Minister and ministers visiting Western Australia, particularly Hasluck, a fair bit over the next few years!
And so where will we be as a nation 20 years from now? I hope to see an Australia confident and secure in its place in the world, and well connected with its neighbours. A serious country that takes itself seriously, and one that our region turns to naturally for help with serious problems. A country that has invested just as much in protecting its people from the real risks we face—from fire, floods and cyclones—as it does on defence. An Australia that can look back over 20 years of sure action on climate change and be proud, and more than a little relieved. An Australia with a strong, circular economy in a world where having a few digital Australasian dollars is regarded as a good thing. A country where Australians are still a little cynical about politicians, for that is part of our DNA, but where there are fewer reasons they can point to for that cynicism. A country where politicians speak less of the need for cultural and gender diversity because it has become the norm. A country where the First Nations voice informs the work of the parliament on a daily basis, and where First Nations cultures and languages are flourishing. An Australia where the wellbeing of the nation is underpinned by the wellbeing of each of its citizens, who know that in times of need they will be able to rely on universal Medicare, child care, aged care, superannuation and the NDIS, and in a just and superb education system that is accessible and free. An Australia where a new flag flies over this place as the political centre of a young republic. And a country where, 3,000 kilometres away, back at home in the shire of Mundaring, perhaps still at the heart of an electorate called Hasluck, Nen and I have noticed that the red-tailed black-cockatoos have increased in such number that we sometimes find it hard to hear ourselves speak.
According to Plato, the beginning is the most important part of the work. In that spirit, Deputy Speaker Goodenough, we are both beginning in this 47th parliament, albeit in very different roles. I congratulate you on your role as a Deputy Speaker of the House.
It is an honour and a privilege to stand here before the parliament of our great country as the representative of the people of Hughes. The swings and roundabouts of life are borne out through my return to Canberra in winter following my recent election. Sixteen years ago, in May 2006, my husband, Michael, and I were flown by emergency air ambulance to Canberra Hospital, where our twins, James and Nicholas, arrived 13 weeks early, weighing one kilo, two pound two; and 930 grams, two pounds in the old system, respectively. At the time, we had no idea what lay ahead. Very premature babies often face significant challenges throughout their lives. We remain eternally grateful for the care the boys received at the neonatal intensive care unit within the Canberra Hospital and the support given to Michael and me over the many months we were living down here. I should add that, looking at our tall and broad sons today, nobody would presume the challenging start to their lives.
While I'm slightly overwhelmed, I'm also overjoyed to look up and see so many good friends in the gallery. I am reminded of the many good friends who travelled to Canberra during that cold winter of 2006 to support us, as well as the two best grandmothers in the world: my mum, Jan, and my late mother-in-law, Barbara.
The electorate of Hughes was named after William Morris 'Billy' Hughes, the seventh Prime Minister of Australia. Hughes served in the first Australian parliament in 1901 and remained there for a record 51 years and seven months. Billy Hughes may have been small in stature, but on any measure he lived an extraordinarily large life. Hughes's passions and positions led him to be expelled from three political parties and to play a leading role in forming three other parties. As a loyal member of the Liberal Party of Australia, these are not things I desire or intend to emulate. As a wartime leader, Hughes divided opinion during the First World War. He was viewed either as a great patriot and 'little digger' by returned servicemen or as an opportunistic warmonger who pushed for conscription. However, to use the modern vernacular, Hughes was a conviction politician with his advocacy for compulsory military service. At the Paris Peace Conference, as the leader of a country of little more than five million people, Hughes famously defied the great powers by standing up for Australia, ensuring that we would be independently represented and protected. Having been given the privilege of serving the Hughes electorate following the federal election, I will advocate for and represent the people of Hughes and Australia as tenaciously as my electorate's namesake.
I acknowledge the two most recent members who represented the electorate of Hughes in this House. Craig Kelly served from 2010 until the election this year. Preceding him was my friend and supporter, the Hon. Danna Vale, who became the first female to hold this seat when she was elected in the Howard landslide of 1996. Danna was also the first female to hold the veterans' affairs portfolio. This is especially fitting in the Hughes electorate, as the Hughes electorate contains the Holsworthy military barracks, one of Australia's major defence establishments. Hughes is proudly home to the Royal National Park, which spans 16,000 hectares and includes popular attractions Wattamolla Beach, Honeymoon Track, Wedding Cake Rock and the Figure Eight Pools.
Like many within the Hughes electorate—almost 80 per cent, according to the most recent census—I was born in Australia, as were my parents and grandparents. I did not trouble the Liberal Party or the Australian Electoral Commission with section 44 constitutional issues when I nominated to run in the seat. My parents chose Cronulla to raise my sister, Jacqui, and me. I was a third-generation student at St George Girls High School, Kogarah, following in the footsteps of my mum and nanna. This was unusual in a public selective school where the values of old girls' traditions and alumni are not as customary as within the independent school system. I attended between 1983 and 1988, during a time when selective high schools, under a state Labor government, did not enjoy the popularity and support they do today. Regarded as elitist, there were many attempts to close down this model of providing an environment to nurture and support those who are academically gifted. I acknowledge my close friends Alex Wilson, nee Halyard; Jenni Maher, nee Jens; Carolyn Rider, nee Harries; and Trish Moore, with whom I travelled the traumas and triumphs of our school years. The friendship of our group of five has survived and flourished through weddings, divorces, children, parents' deaths, careers, businesses and the highs and lows of our post-schooling life.
I studied law after high school and specialised in planning, government and environmental law. At the time, this was not a jurisdiction that was particularly well known or sought after by junior lawyers. For me, it was a decision, probably unconsciously propelled by my property-loving father. As an aside, whilst most children of my generation were taken to parks and the zoo, my formative years were spent at real estate agents and looking at various properties around Sydney with dad. He never once attended a sporting match or taught me to throw a softball; instead, he instilled in me a strong interest in and love for property. Most of my legal career was spent in private sector law firms, including as a partner of national law firm Piper Alderman. During this period, I worked for local government clients as well as major property developers, and on some of the major sites around New South Wales. In 2013, fed up with a long commute and with a desire to become more involved in my boys' schooling, I joined Hurstville City Council as its inaugural general counsel. I also laboured under the very false impression that legal practice within local government would be less stressful and less busy than in the private sector. Instead, it simply paid much less.
In 2016, the then Baird government legislated its council amalgamation policy, and I became the first director of legal service and general counsel of Georges River Council. I worked under the administration of John Rayner and the CEO, Gail Connolly, two of the most capable and competent local government operators within our state. I cannot express how much I learnt under the leadership of Gail, who, now that she's no longer my boss, is a close friend. She presided over an executive team that was 75 per cent female, a first in local government and, sadly, unusual in the private and public sectors in 2022.
I am extraordinarily proud that I practised for most of my 26-year legal career in the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales. I acknowledge the significant impact the Hon. Justice Sandra Duggan SC had on me both professionally and personally. We first worked together in the Abbott Tout local government and planning group in the mid-1990s. At her swearing-in ceremony as a judge of the court, Her Honour made reference to the truth of the statement, 'You cannot be what you cannot see.' In that context, she was referring to her reality: that it took her five years of legal practice to see her first female barrister. For Her Honour and for many of our solicitors and barristers alike, the apparent barriers to ambitions collapsed with the historic appointment of the Hon. Mahla Pearlman as the first female judge of the court. With her appointment, she became its Chief Judge and the first female head of any jurisdiction in Australia.
My political ideology is driven by what I consider to be the best elements of liberal and conservative traditions espoused by Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill. Edmund Burke, father of modern conservatism, was, throughout his parliamentary career, also an acknowledged champion of liberty. He supported trade liberalisation, due process and constitutional protections while being critical of the overbearing state and its influence. John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist, advocated for the harm principle, an expression of the idea that the right to self-determination is not unlimited. An action which results in doing harm to another is not only wrong but wrong enough that the state should intervene to prevent that harm from occurring. However, his most important contribution was his advocacy for mandatory and widespread education for all citizens. This included the most disadvantaged and poor as a way to provide a fair start in what he called the 'race of life' for all people, so that everyone would have the opportunity to prosper.
Eighty years ago, when forming the Liberal Party, Robert Menzies spoke of the forgotten people, middle Australia, described as 'salary earners, shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professional men and women, farmers and so on. These are, in the political economic sense, the middle class'. In 2022, it is the Hughes electorate that embodies these values for which I stand. Our largest employer is the construction industry. These are skilled tradies, most of whom are simultaneously small-business owners. This is why I'm committed to liberalism, the rights of the individual, support for individual enterprise and governments facilitating an environment where individuals, families and businesses can thrive. My vision is to achieve what Menzies termed civilised capitalism, unleashing the power of the individual and their enterprise, while always providing a safety net for those who, despite their best efforts, are unable to cope.
In this 47th Parliament, my immediate objective within this House is to work within my party and under the leadership of Peter Dutton to hold this government to account. In the longer term, I intend to participate in the rebuilding of the Liberal Party within Hughes, within New South Wales and within Australia. This means embracing our females. I do not accept that the Labor Party is the natural or only home for Australian women. It was our Liberal founder who specifically spoke about the need for women within the party and as members of parliament. Furthermore, my role in rebuilding the Liberal Party will be in developing policy relevant to Australians within the Liberal brand of a strong economy and a fair society.
During the campaign and since being elected, housing affordability has been one of the key issues confronting people in Hughes and in Australia more broadly. This is not just a financial issue; it is a social issue and a political issue. The average median house price in the Hughes electorate is $1.5 million. We need to facilitate an environment where we as a country deliver broader housing choices, including greater choice for the 30 per cent of Australians who will always rent. Furthermore, we must develop a system that provides security of tenure, such as longer term leases, particularly for our most vulnerable, many of whom are often Australia's children. I will use the skills, expertise and experience I gained throughout my legal career to develop policies for the better planning and development of our cities, rolling out of infrastructure and provision of better housing and employment opportunities for Australians.
This year we celebrate 100 years of female suffrage in New South Wales. As a newly elected female Liberal, it is appropriate, and probably not unexpected, that I intended to support, mentor and empower women within Hughes and the wider community. This means addressing issues related to women's pay disparity and women's security. From my discussions and meetings with women support groups and our local police, it is clear that family and domestic violence is one of the leading concerns within the Hughes electorate. Federal governments can assist state and local governments to better resource refuges and provide for women fleeing violent men. As a mother of sons, I've always been conscious of the need to be a role model for them and to teach them how to treat women and to not be afraid of or threatened by women. Just as we teach our girls about the behaviour to which they are entitled and disentitled, we need to educate our boys about their treatment of women.
This 47th Parliament will be considering climate change. It is one of the leading contemporary issues facing our country and our world. It is important, though, to remember that when we are talking about climate change it is not just about the climate. It is about the environment. It is about the local environment—the parks, the waterways, the green spaces and biodiversity. The environment was a key issue that the people of Hughes stated as a concern during the recent election campaign. My approach to addressing this is through traditional conservative pathways. We can and should use the markets to incentivise small businesses to innovate and embrace high-tech manufacturing.
Furthermore, it is important to encourage and embrace cutting-edge technology. In that context I specifically mention SunDrive solar, located in the Hughes electorate. It is a solar technology start-up company that was founded in 2015 as a small PhD project in a garage. It is now producing some of the most efficient solar cells in the world. SunDrive has developed a new breed of solar cells that are more efficient, free of precious metals and less prone to degradation. All of that means cheaper solar panels and less environmental impact. I was fortunate to visit SunDrive during the election campaign. It is now gearing up to start high-tech manufacturing all within the Hughes electorate. This operation is an example of the best way to combat the challenges of climate change and address environmental issues under the cloak of both conservatism and liberalism.
As His Excellency said on Tuesday:
Acting on Climate Change is a priority for the Government—and an opportunity for Australia. Embracing the transition to clean energy will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
How do we transition to new technologies and a new economy while still maintaining affordable and reliable energy to Australian households and businesses? As coal was essential to the Industrial Revolution in Britain and Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, to propel us into modernity we now need to move into the next economy without total reliance on coal. This can only be done through hybrid models of renewable energy and must include nuclear.
Hughes has the only nuclear reactor in Australia. Because of that, I am committed to approaching how we can utilise the technology and innovation developed at Australia's Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, ANSTO, with nuclear medicine to answer our energy questions. Whilst my 15-year-old self, with a bedroom full of Midnight Oil posters and records, would be shuddering, the nuclear of 2022 is a very different thing to the nuclear of the past. Going into the future, as we develop an energy policy that will produce sufficient base load power, the research already undertaken and the development of innovative solutions at ANTSO should then become part of our national solution to our current energy crisis.
The last major platform I wish to address is education. I've been involved in my sons' education, from preschool, as president of the Gymea Community Preschool board, through to primary school, where I was the P&C president and vice president for six years. When I made my pitch for P&C president, I quoted Nelson Mandela's immortal words:
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
We need a national curriculum that is relevant, is empowering and builds in our children a lifelong love of learning. We need a TAFE and university system that is first-class, leads the world and provides students with job-readiness skills. We also need to recall the words of Plato, a proponent of women's education:
If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.
This was stated in 376 BC.
In conclusion, I recently campaigned to deliver a fresh start for Hughes. The campaign was short, intense and grassroots. I thank my team, headed by Chris Downy and Cameron Walters, and managed by Max Bail and Haris Strangas, with Cameron Mort, Greg Barker, David Morris, Tony Walker and Steve Nikolovski forming the remainder of the executive team. I had many Young Liberals, Liberal Party members and non-party friends who assisted at pre-poll with letterboxing, doorknocking and social media, and ran booths for me. It was a team effort, and we got there against what seemed like insurmountable odds when I was endorsed only the day before the election was announced.
I thank my now federal colleagues Andrew Bragg, Marise Payne, Simon Birmingham, Angus Taylor and Paul Fletcher, who provided tremendous support throughout the campaign, and two no longer in this House: Josh Frydenberg and Jason Falinski. I thank my state colleagues and MPs: Lee Evans, member for Heathcote; New South Wales Attorney-General, Mark Speakman; and our Premier, Dominic Perrottet. To Ned Mannoun, the rockstar Mayor of Liverpool City Council: thank you for opening doors into the multicultural community within Hughes which were not open to me at the beginning of the election campaign.
There are a couple of others who need to be singled out for their mentoring, for their support, for refusing to give up on me and for ensuring that I remained in the race. To Michael Douglas, David Begg and Natalie Ward: thank you. To four staunch members of the New South Wales Liberal Party state executive who remained unwavering in seeking a democratic preselection process—Matthew Camenzuli, as well as my good friends Sally Betts, Sammy Elmir and Matt Hana—thank you for your courage. To my lifelong friends with whom I grew up in South Cronulla, Aruna Nair and Michelina Blasco: thank you for being here. We've been through everything in life together.
My staff have been instrumental in keeping me sane, establishing my office and knowing what to do on the many occasions when I have not known what to do. Jacob Sich, my chief of staff, thank you for staying one step ahead of me and for everything else you've done. Jessica Plater, Louise Eddy, Angus Ellisdon-Morris and Charles Swindon—you're the best staff ever. 'Thank you' seems inadequate—also, for your assistance with this speech. If there is disappointment, the fault is in the delivery rather than the content.
Last, although certainly not least important—my parents, Jan and Rob, without whom I wouldn't be here. My father instilled the highest of work ethics; my mum instilled a love of history and sport, as well as the mantra 'just be kind'.
My sons, James and Nicholas, have taught me so much, given me so much support throughout the campaign and continue to be my main reason for being in this House. Boys, for you and your generation, I am here to address issues so that, when you and your generation are running our country and our world, you'll be able to address your contemporary issues with confidence, compassion and competence. Boys, please remember to look after Tilly when I'm in Canberra.
To my husband, Michael—my rock, my partner in crime—thank you. Last year, in March, I turned to you and said, 'I have a question for you.' You said, 'Yes.' I said, 'You don't know the question.' You said: 'You want to run in Hughes. Go and do it. Go and win it. And don't worry about the boys; they have a father.'
To the people of Hughes, thank you. You have given me the best job in the world. I will always strive to be worthy of the faith and trust that you have placed in me.
I'm Elizabeth Watson-Brown, a proud Greens MP. I come from Meanjin—Brisbane—the lands of the Yuggera and Turrbal peoples, and I acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri owners of this land. I acknowledge the deep wounds to Australia's first peoples, their lands and their culture. I acknowledge that sovereignty of these lands was never ceded. I acknowledge the ancient truth of the ancestors and the shameful truth of our history with elders past, I sincerely undertake to seek treaty with elders present and I vow to listen respectfully to the voice of emerging elders.
My electorate of Ryan encompasses Brisbane's west side. It extends from the inner suburbs that line Maiwar, or the snaking Brisbane River—including Toowong, or bird call; Taringa, or place of stones; and Indooroopilly, or place of leeches—and fans out to the south-west, to the Pullen Pullen fighting grounds on the Moggill, or water dragon, peninsula. To the north-west, Ryan extends past Enoggera, or the corroboree, along the ancient walking tracks leading towards the Bora Grounds of Samford. At its heart is Mt Coot-tha, the honey mountain.
Today the electorate, I feel, is like a cross-section of contemporary Australia, from inner-urban apartment living, through suburbs and outer acreages, to farmland and major eucalypt forests. It has a mixed economy anchored by high-level research at the University of Queensland, CSIRO and the Wesley Hospital; bustling commerce at Indooroopilly and Toowong; and the presence of the Enoggera army base.
Ryan is diverse. Ryan has areas of real struggle—people the economy has left behind. Doorknocking, I met people, even with good secure jobs, who were facing eviction and homelessness because of the government's failure to seriously tackle skyrocketing house prices and rents.
As an ecology, Ryan provides a large, but increasingly precarious, habitat for native fauna. It's also becoming an increasingly vulnerable habitat for humans exposed to creek and riparian flooding, large areas of bushfire hazard and the rising risks of urban heat island impacts. On a good day, however, the view from the lookout on Mount Coot-tha—and you joined me there once, Adam—is spectacularly beautiful. And what I see when I see that view is like a map of my own life, holding key moments of my personal history and the places and people I love.
Growing up, my family was not overtly political but was centred on love of life, friends, each other. I'm so sad that mum and dad have not lived to share this day. It would have been another good excuse for a family party! Testament to mum and dad is the abiding closeness of we siblings, and my two loving sisters, Margie and Jane, and other family members that are here today, as they always are for me.
Also here, as always, is my husband of 44 years—patient, clever, kind, funny, supportive Peter. And sorry, Pete, for upending the retirement plans. We share a passion for architecture and for our sons, Bill and Alex, both wonderful men too, with partners and families that we love. So blessed. Thank you.
As parents in this room know, children bring an extra dimension that grounds and enriches life, and creates a deep, deep desire for a better future. It was the arrival of my beautiful and innocent grandchildren that spurred me to more direct political action. No longer content to yell at the news—because enough of the cruelty, right; enough of the venality, right?—I joined the Greens and took to the streets of Ryan. I knocked on many thousands of doors, talking with and listening to my community about how best to shape our shared future. I was supported, uplifted, inspired by a tremendous, tireless army of Greens volunteers and organisers, and mentored by my friend, Greens state member for Maiwar, Michael Berkman, and the remarkable Greens team. I just can't thank you enough. Thank you.
And to that remarkable team—some of whom are here today, and others watching together in Ryan—thank you all, because my presence here is not just the result of any one person, nor even just one election campaign. It's the result of years, of decades, of hard yakka—volunteers donating countless hours of work, building their community, talking to their neighbours about Greens ideas, working to make the change that we desperately need, showing how politics can be done differently.
My own politics was forged during my studies at the University of Queensland in Ryan—proudly—in the 1970s—that dates me! This was a really exciting time of political change and of cultural aspiration. Gough Whitlam's liberation of access to education and an expansive vision for Australia was contrasted by Joh Bjelke-Petersen's authoritarian state that set the police against we peaceful protesters for political, racial and environmental justice. We arrived at UQ in the month of the 1974 floods. Much of the campus had been underwater. Our first project as fledgling architects was to go and document the flood damage to houses. Of course, what we really saw was huge damage to people, to lives. That was heartbreaking, that was salutary and, since then, I have experienced two more unprecedented major Brisbane River floods in Ryan.
Our architectural education was at an exciting time. The bland international style was giving way to community architecture, social housing and heritage conservation. As a student and a graduate I was fortunate to work alongside talented architectural designers, but very few women. In 1981, I was one of the few women to establish her own architectural practice in Australia. So without any models or obvious mentors, I first had to design how to do it my way. I was shocked when my bank refused to let me open a business account without my husband's signature. My male colleagues have remembered the eighties as a time of corporate indulgence and long tax-deductible business lunches, while I was shocked to find that I could not deduct the childcaring costs that enabled my practice to exist. And I remain absolutely appalled that the cost of and access to child care remains a major impediment to equity of opportunity.
With determination and the support of my incredible staff and family I've had a long and successful career in architecture. My practice, Elizabeth Watson Brown Architects, grew over 21 years from one to 12 staff before merging with a national architecture practice when I was invited to be their design director. Throughout this whole time, whether in my own projects or on government advisory panels and juries, my design and life values have always been to prioritise the needs of people and their community and the specifics of the environment and the place.
As I've always said to my students and staff, what we're doing is really important. We're building the infrastructure of the lives we share. We'd better do it well; we'd better do it responsively and responsibly. I've worked across all scales, from the intimate to the urban scale, in design. But one early project of which I'm particularly proud was designing the first purpose-built refuge in Queensland for women and children escaping domestic violence. At its heart, of course, was a nurturing subtropical garden.
I say all this to try to explain where I'm coming from. I haven't followed a traditional path to politics. I didn't study politics. I haven't been a staffer for an MP. And obviously I've come to it later in life than most. In fact, my candidacy was the first time I'd ever done that, so it's been a bit of an adventure. But it's these values—prioritising the needs of the community and the sustainability and amenity of life, of our climate and environment—that I bring to represent my Ryan community in this chamber. These values are shared by the people on Brisbane's west side. Over the past few years I've met so many good Ryanites. I've personally knocked on at least 10,000 doors. The volunteers have done a lot, of course—more than that, in total. I've spent countless time at markets, at schools, with community groups. I truly love it. I'm a bit weird and a bit of a nerd about doorknocking—and I know Max shares that with me! And I intend to continue.
The key message that keeps coming from these conversations is that the people of Ryan want their politicians to put the needs of the community and the sustainability of our environment ahead of corporate interests and petty politicking. Despite what's often been said about the Greens in the media and in this very chamber, I reckon our ideas are really just common sense for most people. A planned phase-out of coal and gas in favour of renewables and green manufacturing: that's common sense for the people I've spoken to across Ryan. Bringing dental care into Medicare so no one has to skip the dentist because of cost: that's common sense for the people I've spoken to across Ryan. Making billionaires pay their fair share so we can afford the things that make sure everyone has the basics they need to live a good life: again, that's common sense for the majority in Ryan. Building enough public and affordable housing so everyone has a place to call home; neighbourhoods that are walkable and cyclable and not being trampled by the interests of big developers or airport corporations; public transport that's cheap or free and that is fully accessible and genuinely integrated—these are all logic; these are all commonsense values shared by the majority of people in Ryan and, I would suggest, across the country.
I think if everyone genuinely listened to their communities then perhaps they'd realise this, too. But, unfortunately, I believe that instead of listening to everyday people the major parties in this country over recent decades have increasingly listened to the interests of big corporations. Why is that? Is it to do with the millions of dollars in donations flowing from big corporations to both the major political parties, or the revolving door between major political parties, big corporations, lobby groups and indeed government boards? Or is it to do with the now decades-long bipartisan addiction to neoliberal economic thinking, which—despite all evidence to the contrary, I believe—holds that the private market is the best way to deliver everything, including essential services and infrastructure? What I heard from the people of Ryan was that they were heartily sick of that. They felt ignored and abandoned, and they clearly wanted change. I think the new complexion of this House reflects that.
As the Greens spokesperson for transport, cities and infrastructure in this parliament, I wanted to end by returning to the question of design and development, because in my career I've seen firsthand the problems caused by the belief that public infrastructure should be developed and owned by private corporations. This has a profoundly negative effect on our ability to deliver for everyday people and communities. My experience of public-private partnerships, or 'PPPs' in the lingo, is that the private 'P' bit is what undermines the benefit to the public, as do planning regulations favouring private developers and profits. I'm here to say that public infrastructure should be in public hands, and that we need a public led approach to the way we develop our cities.
This is particularly urgent in the context of the climate crisis and the inequality crisis—so closely interrelated. Australia's cities actually house about 85 per cent of our population and generate the majority of our carbon pollution. Without exception, Australian cities were established at places of great natural resources and beauty. Our reliance on private cars is rapidly obliterating these natural assets, with unsustainable outward sprawl, inward traffic congestion and concrete chaos. Our conditions in Australia should allow us all to harness the power of the sun and breezes to heat, cool, electrify and vegetate our cities, yet unthinking planning to this day treats energy as a throwaway resource. On a social level, the diverse humanity of our cities is lost when only the rich can afford a roof over their heads, and when those who have been dealt hardships in life are moved on, out of sight.
The climate crisis, caused by the greed of coal, oil and gas industries, now continually tosses up unheard-of temperatures, floods, fires, droughts and heatwaves. Our buildings and our cities should protect us from these attacks, but they only make them worse. Urban hardening multiplies flash flooding effects, while devegetation accelerates urban heat island effects that amplify deadly heatwaves. We must design our settlements to accommodate and nurture everyone, to resist natural hazards and to allow us to flee safely when the next catastrophe inevitably strikes. In our last unprecedented, devastating flood, whole suburbs in Ryan were trapped. People had nowhere to go, with no help when they needed it. We need to do better, and we need to do it fast.
These are exceptional times, and we Greens are committed to ensuring that this House faces up to these unprecedented challenges and has the collective will to enact climate action now. That includes climate-proofing our cities and infrastructure. We've got to confront these serious issues together in this, the 47th Parliament, and not delay action. Australia's leading scientists, environmentalists, planners, designers and the community are keen to help. We need to invite them to the table.
When asked if I'm ready for the rough-and-tumble of this House—and I witnessed some of it yesterday—I reply that I have worked more than 40 years in a male-dominated profession where heated disputes over money, timing and outcome are not uncommon. I spent a lot of time on building sites, too. My role in practice, however, has been one of collaboration, not conflict, helping lead design teams, clients and builders towards creative solutions that benefit and endure. My campaign T-shirt featured the motto 'designing our future together', and I'm really determined to carry the spirit of collaboration into this chamber to reflect and represent the interests, the needs and the smarts of the people of Ryan. Thank you, Ryan, my home, for the faith and hope you've placed in me. I'm going to work hard with my amazing colleagues to honour it for a future for all of us.
Thank you for the privilege of participating in the debate on the address-in-reply today, and I commend the member for Ryan on her speech.
I acknowledge that I'm speaking today on the land of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, and I pay my respects to their elders and the elders of the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation, the traditional custodians of my home in Western Australia.
When I was five, I visited Parliament House. The only thing I remember is that, in the cafe, I saw a man eating a banana with a knife and fork. It was very intimidating and a little bit strange—a little bit like this week has been. I never thought that I would end up here. In January this year, I was asked to run as an Independent candidate in the seat of Curtin. For two weeks, the thought of it made me feel like vomiting. There were so many reasons not to do it: my three kids, the lifestyle of a Western Australian federal politician and the inevitable public scrutiny and attack. This was a safe Liberal seat, the election was only four months away and I had no political experience. But there was one main reason to do it, and that was that it mattered.
Increasingly, our community did not feel represented in the decisions of the day. It seemed that the serious work of policy development had been overshadowed by short-termism and political pointscoring. We were not addressing the big issues that would affect whether Australia flourishes over the next generation. I spoke to my husband and my three children about the decision, which obviously had serious implications for them. The next day, my 10-year-old daughter said, 'Mum, I think this would be bad for me in the short term because we'll miss you, but I think it'll be good in the long term because it will be good for Australia.' That was when I knew I had to do this.
I came to be here because of a community group. The Curtin Independent group started with a cafe conversation between Tony Fairweather, who had a niggling sense of dissatisfaction and a folder of papers, and Sarah Silbert, who helped Tony turn that feeling into action. They connected with Louise Jones, Anthony Maslin, Justin Kennedy and Charlie Caruso, and the community grew, looking for a candidate. When I agreed to run, this community group formed the core of the campaign team, supplemented by some wise and trusted advisers like Sarah Allchurch, John Atkins, Fred Chaney and Liz Constable. I'm very grateful for the incredible support and energy of the whole team. We planned to launch the campaign in a park, with a week's notice. We stood in the sunshine, and then we watched as hundreds of people streamed in from all directions. We slowly realised that we were not alone in our dissatisfaction and our desire for change.
Seventeen-year-old Ruby Paterson came with her little brother, her parents and her grandmother. I'd never met Ruby before, but she became a symbol in my mind of why I was here. She's in year 12, brimming with potential and hope. Ruby and her family wanted to see politics done differently, so they turned up and they became the movement. They formed bonds of trust with a pop-up community that shared the same thirst for long-term thinking, compassion and integrity. They arrived expecting the best from themselves and each other, and so they were not disappointed.
Change happens at the speed of trust. Trust grew rapidly, and, in four months, we achieved the improbable. Nearly 900 volunteers and 500 donors brought their diverse skills and enthusiasm to grassroots politics. Most of them had never been involved in politics before. We had Ian, a surgeon, folding T-shirts; Wendy a retired teacher, riding her campaign bike around the electorate until it faded; Jimmy, a physio, knocking on doors; and hundreds of people delivering flyers. Our campaign was positive, it was hopeful and it was fun. I'm not going to attempt to thank the campaign team and the volunteers by name as there are too many. You know who you are and I thank you for the time you put in, seen and unseen. You have done an extraordinary thing. Just thinking about this community, which didn't exist at Christmas time and is now so rich with goodwill and optimism, brings me close to tears. People are amazing. In the words of Margaret Wheatley, 'There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.'
Curtin stretches between the edge of Perth and the Indian Ocean, bordered by the beautiful Derbarl Yerrigan—the Swan River—from Mosman Park up to Gwelup. Its lakes, rivers and coastline are cared for by a network of volunteer environmental groups who form part of its rich social fabric along with sporting clubs, numerous primary and secondary schools, and nine local councils. With a university and a hospital, it's full of knowledge and experience. It has almost entirely been represented by Liberal members since its establishment in 1949, most recently by Celia Hammond and Julie Bishop before her, and I thank both of them for their service to the community.
Knocking on 10,000 doors, the team and I had a glimpse of the diversity of life experience and expertise within Curtin. No matter what their circumstances were, far from the confected outrage of social media, in person, people were kind, compassionate, wise and concerned for our future. My community expressed a deep desire to see better long-term thinking in our leadership and a more collaborative, positive approach. People told me they cared about climate action, returning integrity to politics, economic reform to meet the challenges of the future and support for inclusive, compassionate communities.
Democracy is messy and imperfect, but it gives me hope that communities can successfully put up their own candidate in the face of the historically dominant two-party system. I, and the other community Independents who now surround me, have overcome an uneven playing field. Many of us were supported by the thousands of donors to Climate 200, who could see that action on climate was going to require some new voices in the parliament. I'm grateful to Climate 200's thousands of donors and the vision of Climate 200's founders.
So why me? I was brought up in Curtin in a large family that values service to community, whether in education, business, law or politics. From my mother, Rose Chaney, I got a sense of optimism and community. My father, Michael Chaney, gave me his thinking style. My siblings, Tom, Anna and Amelia, have an incredible generosity of spirit. If you ask for help, the answer is always an immediate and genuine 'yes'. I have had the advantages of a stable, supportive family, high expectations and many opportunities, which I took up with the earnest, nerdy enthusiasm of a first child. I'm very aware that it's not fair that I had these opportunities. It's difficult to know the best way to respond to the unfairness of your own privilege. I know that good fortune is not merit. But I can use what I have to work for change.
My career in law, strategy, management and community services has prepared me for what I hope to achieve in this House. As a lawyer, I advised companies on mergers and individuals at Redfern Legal Centre on debt matters. As a strategy consultant, I grappled with problems in Sydney boardrooms and remote communities in Cape York. In the private sector, I developed reconciliation action plans and a sustainability strategy for one of Australia's largest companies, and in the community services sector I worked in partnership with government on innovative service design. Through these jobs, I've learned different approaches to solving complex problems and how to build consensus. I've learned about the deep disadvantages experienced by some and the challenges in building support systems to reduce those disadvantages. My career so far has taught me that there is rarely a black-and-white answer, there's always room to improve a solution after consultation and there is no one right way of thinking. I believe these will be useful lessons in this House.
I worked part-time while we had young kids, and my husband, Bill, who has a significant career of his own, has shared the parenting and the domestic work. I'm very grateful for his strong support and I will miss his cooking while I am in Canberra. I'm incredibly proud of my three kids, George, Fred and Olive, and I thank them for their support in this unexpected life change.
I have agonised about how much I should talk about my wider family. I am here because of my community, but my family has contributed to who I am. I am in the extraordinary position of having five relatives across the last four generations to serve in Australian parliaments. There's a thread to my family political history of independent thought.
On my dad's side, I have two uncles who served in this parliament for the Liberal Party between the seventies and the nineties. Fred Chaney was much loved by both side of politics and was ahead of his time and his party on Aboriginal rights. Ross McLean, my other uncle, referred in his first speech to the importance of marrying free enterprise with social justice.
My grandfather, also Fred Cheney, who was a rural school teacher after returning from the war, came from a strong Labor family whom he shocked when he entered politics as a Liberal. In his first speech he acknowledged that the acceptance of new migrants was proof of Australia's coming of age.
On my mother's side my great-grandfather and his father, Hubert and Henry Parker, were both in the Western Australian parliament. My great-great-grandfather was known as 'The People's Harry' because he sided with the underdog. In fact, he ran, unsuccessfully, in 1905 as the leader of the short-lived Independent Party.
It's hard to accurately see your own influences and dangerous to retrospectively fit them into a neat narrative, but I am sure these men in my family tree have in some way contributed to my strong sense of social justice and public service.
The women in my family have served their communities in quieter ways, as was expected in their time. My grandmother Delphine Anderson, who is currently recovering from COVID at 96, told me the other day about going with her father to the meeting where Sir Robert Menzies made the case for the establishment of the modern Liberal Party in the 1940s.
I have never felt a pull towards either political party, feeling stranded in the middle, but I feel a pull when I read the words of Menzies, who said he looked forward 'to a better distribution of wealth, to a keener sense of social justice and social responsibility'. I wonder if that might've been a party I would've been willing to join.
In reflecting on the first speeches of my relatives I noticed that some things in politics don't change. They all speak about the distribution of limited resources, where the government is spending too much or too little and the balance between state and federal roles. These issues will continue to occupy the minds of the people in this House. But I am struck by the huge challenges we faced and overcame in each generation. How we chose to address these challenges informs the assumptions of the next generation. In the 19th century it was the concept of federation and the need to develop fundamental infrastructure for an economy. A generation later it was the Depression, then nuclear war and waves of migration, and the economic headwinds of the 1970s.
The promising thing is that we managed these challenges. We built railways, ports and telegraph lines. We became a federation. We emerged from the Great Depression and various recessions. We saw off the immediate threat of nuclear war. We welcomed new migrants. It's important to remember this as we face the long-term issues of our day.
The challenges we face today require an even longer-term view than the seven generations of my family in Australia. We need to learn from the perspectives of our First Nations people, such as my friends Carol Innes and Colleen Hayward, Noongar elders who carry the local histories of not a mere seven generations but thousands. They have a collective memory of the time when Wadjemup, Rottnest Island, was joined to the mainland of my electorate more than 6,000 years ago.
Their sense of the long term brings a deeply sophisticated knowledge of a society in delicate balance with its natural resources, in tune with the cycle of time. This was dramatically interrupted by the painful arrival of a people with a linear view of time. Even in Western cultures the concept of time as linear is only 500 years old, but it's deeply embedded. We believe in the inevitability and inherent rightness of 'progress'. We measure progress in GDP, and assume that more is always better. This concept of progress has provided incredible leaps in life expectancy, population growth and interconnectedness. But we are now at an extraordinary uncomfortable juncture where even this assumption must be questioned in the policy decisions of the day. The trajectory of 'progress' that we're on as a species may cast us as the engineers of our own extinction. We're facing the reality that endless material growth is a myth built into all of our systems and decisions. We must find different ways to define and measure progress and wealth.
Questioning fundamental assumptions like this is painful. We can learn from the deep wisdom of First Nations ways of thinking and being. In Paul House's words at the opening of this parliament on Tuesday: 'Please look after the land and the rivers, and the land and the rivers will look after you.'
Our ability to address climate change depends on a uniquely human attribute. As a species we've thrived on this planet because of our ability to cooperate and work to a common purpose as communities. It's this spirit of cooperation that will be needed. The climate bill that was introduced into this House yesterday is a symbolic step in the right direction. We need to go further, but we need to start somewhere. The opportunity is huge—Western Australia should be leading the world in renewable energy. As decision-makers in this House we must balance this long-term imperative with shorter-term, more human-scale issues, to ensure stability and a smooth and fair transition.
My community recognises that we must rebuild trust and confidence in our institutions. We'll only be able to make these long-term decisions if the people of Australia believe that we are acting in their best interests. Politicians are frequently seen as the least trusted of all professions. Rebuilding trust in our democracy will require structural change and cultural change. Australians need to know that corruption will be uncovered and systems reformed to prevent it happening again. I'm optimistic that the proposed anticorruption commission is a step towards rebuilding trust in our public leaders. My community also wants to see transparency in political campaigns—they want to know who is funding their candidates in real time.
Cultural change will be harder. People in my electorate are sick of politics being about petty pointscoring and the poor treatment of women. They want robust but constructive debate on the issues. We need to take the best ideas from wherever they come, and to treat parliament as a policy workshop not a gladiatorial battleground. I'm optimistic that this is possible, even though battles entice more clicks than respectful collaboration. Politicians must be able to change their minds when new evidence arises, without being accused of flip-flopping, to give credit where it's due without being considered weak, to try new approaches that sometimes fail. We can't be paralysed into inaction by fear of unpopularity or criticism.
We're likely to have some tough economic times ahead, with a global downturn, rising interest rates and inflation confirmed by yesterday's announcements. We have wage stagnation, flatlining productivity, labour shortages and almost a trillion dollars in debt. Economic reform has ground to a halt over the last decade. Addressing many of our economic challenges will require bold, long-term thinking. We need a tax system that's fair, equipped for the demographic challenges of the coming decades, and that can fund dignified support for our elders, people with disabilities and people experiencing hard times. We need a long-term plan to ensure that the purpose of housing is to provide people with homes, and that a home is within reach.
The people of Curtin want to be able to work hard and reap the rewards, but protecting individual rights need not erode our sense of community. Humans need each other, and individual rights come with community responsibilities. We are lonelier, more depressed and more stressed than we used to be. Government support systems need to be designed to empower people to support and connect with each other not to punish and isolate them.
The people of my community have told me they want to look our history in the eye and rewrite the future of our relationship with our First Nations peoples. The First Nations voice to parliament will not address the urgent issues facing remote communities, but it will give us a chance to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma. It's an important piece of long-term thinking that will need to be accompanied by policies to address the immediate needs of First Nations people. My community no longer wants to wince when it sings the second verse of our national anthem:
… For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share; …
We want to treat asylum seekers with dignity and compassion and feel proud that Australia is fulfilling its international obligations in a way consistent with our great privilege. We want to live in inclusive communities, where people can be their whole selves no matter their gender, sexuality, race or religion. It's these values and priorities that I bring from my past and my community into this House.
Our challenge as leaders is to listen deeply—beyond the daily rhythm of the Twitter feed, the weekly rhythm of the lead media story, the yearly rhythm of the pandemic and the electoral cycle rhythm of the rise and fall of political parties—to the deep, slow heartbeat of the decades. Our decisions need to balance all these rhythms and turn them into the music of our generation. As a mum I am driven by the heartbeats and the future of my children. I balance the short term and the long term every day, making decisions for their long-term welfare even if they'd much rather stay glued to their screens.
At the end of this century, I hope that my great-great-grandchildren will look back with gratitude and wonder on the decisions I was part of; I hope they will see the assumptions we challenged and overcame and the way we used cooperation and ingenuity to turn our planet around. Of course, it will all be history by then and so immutable, just as we take for granted the outcomes of wars, the ending of recessions and the granting of rights to marginalised people. I hope that, by then, we will have the luxury of taking for granted our decarbonised economy, the care of our most vulnerable, our focus on wellbeing, and the integrity of our political system. I hope that, by then, we can move on to more subtle and less existential challenges, and talk with amusement about the time when we extracted our energy from the earth, not the sky.
These are big words and concepts. They raise the inevitable question of what I, as one voice in 151, can possibly achieve. No matter your role, it's easy to feel powerless, but the only way anything changes is if people believe it's possible. My very wise uncle Fred, who's an inspiration to me, advised me to listen to Hal Wootten, an Australian judge, who said:
I believe it is not just judges, but every man and woman who, in everything they do, can give the world little nudges that, in conjunction with all its other little nudges, can affect where the world goes.
As I join the 1,240 people who have served in this House since Federation, I will apply little nudges in the direction that's consistent with my values and the values of my community in Curtin. I will always vote with my conscience. I will be constructive, collaborative and optimistic. I will speak truth to power when needed, driven by the desire for better outcomes—not the desire for the appearance of influence. I will act in good faith, with integrity and in the interests of our children and our grandchildren. I'm excited about the challenges ahead, and I thank the community of Curtin for the faith they've put in me to represent them.
It is difficult to put into words the enormous pride I feel standing here in the chamber of the House of Representatives as part of the 47th Parliament of Australia to deliver my maiden speech. It is a political milestone for me, as I have now represented my communities at all three levels of government: local, state and federal.
There is much to say and there are many to thank, and, as my fellow parliamentarians will know, the stony road to parliament is not a journey that one makes alone. Rather, it is an effort of many: family, friends, volunteers, donors, political party people, complete strangers and, of course, the voting public. All have made a contribution to make my campaign a success. I would sincerely like to thank everyone who has helped me to achieve this position as the federal member for Flynn. It is truly an honour to be elected by the people of Flynn and to join the ranks of the parliamentarians who have come before me. I do not take this lightly, and I pledge my loyalty to the people of Flynn and earnestly thank them for putting their trust in me. I will be their champion, and I will most ardently defend their future and their prosperity.
There has been one universal constant throughout my political career so far, and that is my wife of 35 years, Terri. Terri has been a monumental rock of unwavering support and certainly my biggest supporter and, at the same time, an unrelenting critic. There's been an old, longstanding adage that behind every good man is an incredible woman, and there in the gallery is living proof of that. I would like to thank my children—Sarah, Tom and Scott—and their families for their assistance in supporting me during the campaigning and for maintaining our rural properties while we were travelling the electorate of Flynn. I would also like to acknowledge my mother, Inge Lise, who is unwell in hospital and, I know, will be watching today.
My first memory is of sitting on my father's lap beside a wood stove. It was early in the morning and it was cold. On the table before us was a radio in a brown leather case, and the man who was reading the news said, 'The President of the United States of America, John F Kennedy, is dead.' So profound was the voice of the newsreader that I remember it to this day. That was my first experience of an event that changed the world. In my life I have seen many events that have changed the world, how we do things and how opinions change. I have seen many droughts, floods and fires. I have learned that Australia is a land of extremes, yet I am yet to see the record floods that happened in Queensland in the 1890s, two generations ago, and that bring meaning to Dorothea Mackellar's words:
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
I grew up in the bush in central western Queensland. I remember candles, kerosene lanterns, kerosene fridges, 32-volt lighting plants, party-line telephones, mosquito nets and flypaper. There were the wood stove and the wood heap; the axe and the chopping block; the chook pen where the eggs came from; and the garden where the vegetables grew. Trips to town were rare events, and with the exception of the mailman, who came weekly, we would see no-one other than our immediate family for weeks. Times have changed. No longer is this lifestyle normal in rural Australia; rather, it is the exception. This is because of the advance of technology, the availability of energy and the options and opportunities that this has provided.
One of the biggest issues the world faces is food security, and our ability to provide enough food will be one of our greatest challenges as we move to the future. History has shown us that there is nothing like hunger to drive political change and turmoil. Both the French and Russian revolutions were driven by the fact that the people were starving. We are seeing a situation unfolding right now in Eastern Europe, which traditionally produces one-quarter of the world's wheat crop. This production is likely to be severely limited given the war in Ukraine. This will ultimately affect Australia, as a world shortage of wheat will increase the commodity value. Bread will more than likely become more expensive as a result. If you live in sub-Saharan Africa or any other Third World country, the prospect of famine is ever more real.
Closer to home, look at what is happening in Sri Lanka, where a small nation that produces a surplus of food now cannot feed itself, all because of a seriously bad political decision to ban agricultural chemicals and fertilizers and become totally organic. This has resulted in riots and political turmoil. The advent of lumpy skin disease and foot and mouth disease in Indonesia, and particularly Bali, and varroa mites in our beehives in New South Wales, has highlighted the fact that biosecurity needs to be taken seriously by all of us to ensure Australia's ability to produce food. We need to be ever-vigilant and more proactive, educating people how vulnerable our industry is, rather than reactive after the fact should exotic diseases come to Australia. These diseases and pests could severely limit our ability to produce food.
Mankind is changing and adapting, as it always has, ever since we evolved from the creatures of the Rift Valley. Climate is changing, as it always has for billions of years since the dawn of time. We have geological and archaeological evidence from the past that shows us that there have been many changes in the earth's history, from ice ages to the era of the dinosaur, to the evolution of modern man. We must use our technology and look at the past to understand our history and learn from it so we can better understand our path to the future.
Flynn is a large electorate in Central Queensland, approximately twice as big as Tasmania, covering some 132,000 square kilometres. It has three coal-fired power stations—Stanwell, Callide and Gladstone—providing generation capacity of 4,635 megawatts of baseload power. There are 15 large coalmines, projected to produce 90 million tonnes of coking and thermal coal this financial year. There is the CSG gas industry, producing approximately 25 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas, which is exported to the world through the port of Gladstone.
Gladstone is home to Rio Tinto, Boyne Island alumina smelter, the Yarwun alumina refinery and the QAL refinery, which is one of the world's largest refineries, with a capacity to produce 3.9 million tonnes of alumina. Gladstone is Queensland's largest multicommodity shipping port and the world's fourth largest coal-exporting terminal. We support a huge agricultural sector, producing everything in terms of food and fibre for Australia and the world. The heavy engineering sector and the transport sector of road, rail and shipping all combine to make the Flynn electorate an economic powerhouse that generates the wealth for Australia, for the Australian economy.
The industries of Flynn are heavy carbon emitters and therefore most vulnerable to the economic effects of any emissions target proposals, and it is these arguments that pose the biggest threat to our jobs, our livelihoods and our future prosperity, both as a region and as a nation. There has not yet been a definitive explanation to what effect zero net carbon legislation, renewable energy targets and environmental constraints will have on people's jobs, particularly in Central Queensland, where everyone is connected to the agriculture, mining, resource, heavy industry, power generation and transport sectors in one way, shape or form. This is a question that needs to be answered.
The Central Highlands Regional Council, based in Emerald, derives approximately half of its rate revenue from the coal and resource sector. If we as a nation are to oversee the demise of the coal and gas industries, where is this revenue going to come from? This is a question that needs to be answered.
The argument that global warming has been caused by human emissions and there is a need for drastic action is based entirely on computer modelling. Climate, atmospheric and ocean temperature models over the last few decades have all been checked with actual measurements, and all of the predictions have been wrong. There have been the most outrageous claims made in recent decades about pending climate catastrophe that simply have not happened: 'The icecaps will melt. There will be catastrophic sea level rises. The polar bears will die. There will be tens of millions of climate refugees. We've got 90 days to save the planet,' and so on. It is preposterous to suggest that computer models can predict the climate future when input data and parameters are manipulated, flawed and wrong—rubbish in, rubbish out. If there is one universal truth, it is this: if the theory does not agree with practice, the theory is wrong every time, no exceptions.
Last year some 25,000 world leaders and bureaucrats converged on Glasgow for the climate conference. Many nations of the world, including Australia, agreed to the proposal to reach zero net carbon emissions by 2050. Since then, Russia has invaded the Ukraine, and Eastern Europe is at war. This event has exposed energy policy and national security in many EU countries as desperately lacking. Germany is arguably one of the world's most technologically advanced industrial nations on earth. They find themselves in a position where their renewable energy and emissions policy has exposed their national security. Russia now has the ability to bring Germany to its economic knees simply by turning the gas off. As a result, the German government has overturned its decision to phase out coal-fired power stations and nuclear power plants. France is considering more nuclear power, as is Italy. The UK has realised it cannot meet its carbon emissions commitments.
The world is demanding more coal, gas, petroleum and nuclear. Nobody is asking for more wind turbines or solar panels. The reason for that is simple: for the foreseeable future, the world is reliant on fossil fuels and nuclear for its energy. The renewables sector simply cannot supply frequent baseload power. Recent media reports say that Europe is abandoning net zero. It's quite clear that carbon emissions commitments made at Glasgow are now viewed by many to be nothing more than aspirational virtue signalling agreements that are unrealistic and unachievable in the real, practical world given the geopolitical events of recent times.
Here in Australia we seem to ignore the lessons being learnt in Europe. We are preparing to legislate carbon emissions targets and make them law. We as a nation are proposing to phase out the coal-fired power generation sector while the rest of the world are building and demanding more. World carbon emissions continue to rise, and we as Australians seem quite prepared to adopt energy policy and environmental policy that will lead to economic ruin and achieve and prove nothing in relation to the rest of the world. This has been clearly stated by Australia's former Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel. What Australia is trying to achieve amounts to virtually nothing.
There's a proposal to build an industrial-scale green hydrogen industry at Gladstone that will repower business and industry of the world. It will eventually replace coal and gas industries and be a world-leading alternative energy source. This green hydrogen will be produced by water electrolysis, using electrolysers powered by renewable energy from wind farms and solar farms. The production of industrial-scale hydrogen has huge issues and problems that have not been addressed or discussed publicly. Hydrogen is promoted as a saviour, the silver bullet for future energy needs. It will power everything from the backyard barbecue to an industrial blast furnace.
Hydrogen is extremely dangerous. It is extremely flammable and has specific qualities that make industrial quantities of hydrogen very difficult to produce, store, transport and use. In 1937 the zeppelin exploded. In 1986 the space shuttle Challenger exploded. In 2011 in Fukushima, Japan, a nuclear reactor plant exploded. More recently and close to home, the Callide C4 coal-fired generator exploded. These are all catastrophic hydrogen explosions.
You can't mine hydrogen; you have to make it. Through water electrolysis we can destroy the water molecule and produce hydrogen and oxygen. This is the basis of the proposal at Gladstone. The amount of renewable energy required to power the electrolysers to produce industrial quantities of green hydrogen is enormous. I will attempt to outline a ballpark scenario with back-of-the-envelope figures that will give an idea of the gargantuan scale of trying to produce industrial quantities of hydrogen similar to the CSG gas industry at Gladstone.
Coopers Gap Wind Farm in Jandowae in Queensland is Australia's biggest wind farm. It has a generation capacity of 430 megawatts. If you multiply that over a year, Australia's biggest wind farm has enough power to make approximately 30,000 tonnes of hydrogen. This is very little in terms of industrial quantities. If you multiply that by a factor of a hundred, you get three million tonnes of hydrogen, which is getting into the realms of industrial quantities. So you have to multiply Coopers Gap by a factor of a hundred. Coopers Gap has 123 turbines, so you would need 12,300 wind turbines, or the equivalent, to power a three-million-tonne-per-annum hydrogen industry. Coopers Gap cost $850 million to build. So, by my estimates, there would have to be in excess of a $100 billion investment if we want to go with the wind farm scenario to generate power to make hydrogen—just at Gladstone.
What really troubles me is the amount of land that would be required. The footprint of a large wind turbine is approximately 25 hectares. In rough round figures, 3,000 square kilometres of land would be required for the wind farm scenario. To put that into perspective, there'd be a wind turbine every few hundred metres all the way from Gladstone to Biloela in a corridor 30 kilometres wide. I shall require more staff in my office to deal with the complaints.
The ability to produce enough freshwater is another big issue that remains unresolved. You need 10 litres of water to create a kilo of hydrogen. Industrial quantities of hydrogen require industrial quantities of freshwater. There are no plans to build any large water storages to supply a proposed industrial-scale hydrogen industry. There are proposals to build desalination plants and use seawater, but this requires more energy and creates the problem of dealing with the brine that is created. Pumping brine into the ocean would be devastating for the Great Barrier Reef. Desalination plants have notoriously been inefficient and expensive, and I look forward to the ABC investigative journalism team reporting on this. Ordinary hardworking people in Gladstone and in Australia deserve to hear the truth.
I support the development of new technology, including hydrogen; however, I would question the huge amounts of government subsidies that have been allocated to such proposals, particularly when there are many issues that have not been satisfactorily addressed—aged care, child care, health care, the cost of living, social housing, housing affordability and so on. I have no doubt that a hydrogen industry will be developed in Gladstone. However, the practical and economic realities of doing this on a huge, industrial scale have not been investigated or understood. It should be the market that provides the bulk of the investment to such proposals, not the government.
To my fellow Australians, I say this: caveat emptor. Ordinary Australian people require and deserve the basics of life—food security, water security, energy security and national security. I have made a mound, and I stand upon it. I will be on good terms with all persons as far as possible without surrender, and I will leave the House with one final thought: de omnibus dubitandum—question everything. I commend my speech to the House.
It has been wonderful hearing the new members from right across the parliament share their stories and their hopes for this parliament. I too would like to do that. It's been a long time since Labor sat on this side of the chamber. It's the first time I've had the privilege to do so, and I'm very honoured to be here.
The issue that we have faced, which I've spoken about many times from the other side, has really been about the failure of those who sat on these benches on this side of the House to pay heed to the needs of my electorate, the electorate of Macquarie, the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, which has so many natural attributes but has also suffered so much since I have been in this place. The overwhelming emotions that people shared with me when the election result was known were of hope—hope that things could now be different, that they could be better—and a sense of relief that now the grown-ups were back in charge. We absolutely intend to meet the expectations that our communities have of us with the privilege of being on this side of the House.
In the last 2½ years, my community has faced four natural disasters plus many other weather events that don't rate as natural disasters. That has created a community that feels really under the pump. You add COVID to that and you have individuals feeling anxious and stressed. You have children who feel fearful when it rains, or have flashbacks of the 2019-20 bushfires when they smell smoke. You have a local economy that feels like a pressure cooker. There is not as much money flowing through the local economy, and people are telling me they're really feeling pressure that they have never felt before. I think we have a job, now that we are in government, to do everything we can to alleviate that pressure, to allow people to live their lives without the feeling of a threat hanging over them. That's certainly what many of the commitments I made during the campaign, and have made over many years, will allow us to do.
The very first of those commitments is, of course, related to legislation that we already introduced this week, and that is action on climate change. Many of our issues are related to that. We are at the forefront of experiencing the effects of climate change. It's not something esoteric to us. It's not something off in the future. It's something that happened a few weeks ago, a couple of months before that and a year before that. We are feeling that. I've just come from a briefing with the insurance industry, who advised me that my community has the highest premiums in the state. We are already paying the price for a lack of action to tackle climate change, thanks to those who for the last decade were in the position that we're in now. That's just shameful.
Our action on climate change is going to be one of the things that fundamentally gives hope to my community, hope that we can mitigate some of the effects that we are feeling. On top of that, I'm very proud to be able to provide tangible supports. One of the things we rely on right across Australia when there are natural disasters is volunteers. The volunteer workforce—who are in the Rural Fire Service, who are in the SES and who, in fact, are people who volunteer for Anglicare or the Red Cross—are the ones who keep stepping up and stepping up, time and time again.
One of my commitments relates directly to the Rural Fire Service and the SES. I've made sure that they are going to see funds coming to them that allow them to make decisions for their own rural fire brigade, their Rural Fire Service headquarters or their SES headquarters that make their life easier and make it easier for them to serve the community in the way they choose to do it. Every rural fire brigade in my electorate will receive $50,000, and that will allow them to make decisions about what their volunteers need. Already they're starting to think about what might be useful, and it ranges from mental health support through to a washing machine. Quite frankly, they are at the point of realising they do not want to take contaminated, smoke-filled clothes back to their family homes to ask family members to wash, or to throw in their domestic washing machine. So these are really practical things that make it easier for them to be volunteers. That is how we can start to alleviate some of the stress on the ground, and I hope that what it will do is make up for years of not being able to fundraise. When you're in the disaster and when you're recovering from the disaster, it is very hard to go to your community and ask them to give more, given that so many of them are suffering themselves.
I really want to shout out to the RFS and SES, who, of course, only in the last few weeks, have yet again stepped up. They're not alone. I spoke yesterday in this place about some of the many volunteers who get involved when there is a disaster, in the operation of it and in the recovery. We have a commitment to make sure those recoveries are easier. It's never going to be easy, but we need to give people a way forward. I have high expectations that, over the next little while, people will say, 'Right, I can see a difference between how a Labor government responds to a disaster versus how the previous government did.'
I'm going to give you one example of my personal experience of a disaster, back in 2013, when my house burnt down in the Blue Mountains bushfires. The very next day—the day after the fire, when about 200 homes had burnt down—a Liberal cabinet made a decision to cut emergency support. They cut it so that, if you had been unable to return to your house for a number of days, you were no longer eligible for support. If your house was still standing and didn't catch on fire, you weren't considered to have been disaster impacted. They also cut out the ability to access a small amount of support—we're talking $1,000—if your house was without power.
Originally, under the Gillard government, we had said to people, 'If you've been without power in your home for a number of days, you've got spoilage, you've got waste; your life has had an upheaval,' and no doubt many people will have had to have found alternative accommodation. But, no, the Liberal government decided that was not part of it. That amount, that $1,000, is not a big amount. If you've lost your house, it certainly doesn't cover all the costs that you're going to face. But it makes a difference then and there. It's the first little step to relieving the pressure that you're under, financially.
I really want to commend the minister in the House, the Minister for Government Services, for reaching out to me to say, 'We want to make sure those payments get through to people quickly and effectively.' I will continue to do that and identify the ones where we're seeing glitches in the system. But I know that, as a government, we're going to do this better. We are already doing this better. The comparison for me is that, during the last flood, my office was inundated with distressed people who'd been unable to access that small amount of money. This time we have seen a much greater speed with which it's flowed through, and I really welcome that.
When we think about the pressures and climate change, there's real hope in many of the commitments that we've made and will be delivering over the next three years. One of those is very practical for my community, and that's community batteries. I've committed to having one in East Blaxland and one in Hobartville. That will be part of the pilot we roll out, saying to people, 'We know that not everyone can afford to put a battery that their solar feeds into in their home.' Not everyone has those thousands of dollars sitting around to invest in this, but the community battery will allow us to do that on a community scale. That is going to make a difference for many people. Both Blaxland East and Hobartville have a high take-up, with about a thousand homes with solar on the roof, but neither of them have very many—if any—registered batteries. Again, people have looked at practical things, and I'm so proud of the policy set we've put forward. It says to people: this can actually be a win-win. There is not a loser here. This is about it working for everybody.
The Blue Mountains is World Heritage listed. That makes it a pretty special place and one that deserves protection, but, equally, the Hawkesbury has an extraordinary river. That river not only has been damaged by natural disasters but it also has a whole lot of other erosion issues. There hasn't been very much money in the last decade invested in that river. I think that's a tragedy. It is not only our source of water; it can also be a huge source of threat to us. But the river is the thing that makes the Hawkesbury what it is. It allows us to have the agriculture we have. It also allows us to have an ecosystem—a beautiful river ecosystem. One of my commitments is to ensure that the Hawkesbury Environment Network receives a million dollars to be able to invest back into our local Hawkesbury environment. The Hawkesbury Environment Network brings together a whole lot of community groups, and they will have time to think about the most effective ways that we can do that—no doubt collaborating with other organisations, whether it is our council or others involved in the catchment.
And that is, again, another really practical thing that we can do for our environment. It is a precious area, and I am not under any illusions that we don't have challenges. Every single person in the Blue Mountains knows that the flight paths for the Western Sydney airport are going to be an enormous challenge for our community. My commitment is to work that through as transparently as we're able to. I can guarantee engagement with the community so that views are properly heard, unlike the processes we saw when the environmental impact statement for the Western Sydney airport was first done and the community's views were really just brushed aside. Everyone on this side knows that there are going to be lots of challenges that face us, and we face them knowing that we have a community with a huge amount of expertise and a huge commitment to the areas in which people live, and we will work with them on those issues.
When you think natural disaster you might not instantly think mobile phone, but, quite frankly, that is life-and-death in a natural disaster. One of the challenges we have faced in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury is that there has been very sporadic coverage. There are black spots all over the place. On my way to work from my home in Winmalee in the Blue Mountains to my office in Windsor in the Hawkesbury—it's about a 40 minute drive—I go through two black spots. Both of them are in highly bushfire prone areas. So I am very pleased that there is already the funding now to fix some of those black spots. One of those is Hawkesbury Heights. Oakville is also smattered with black spots. I am very pleased to see that we have Oakville in the PUMP. Bullaburra is another one, but there are many others that need to follow. My commitment is that we will get fixes to the issues that face Bowen Mountain with their mobile coverage. Again, that is another highly fire vulnerable community, and they also at risk of landslides with those extraordinary rains that we have seen. Blaxlands Ridge is another area that has been neglected. I can't think of a single thing that those who were in government prior to us did that would have helped with the services for Blaxlands Ridge, but we will not be forgetting small communities—vital communities—like that. Maraylya is another one, along with Mount Tomah and Yellow Rock.
Let me tell you the Mount Tomah story. When the previous government sat on this side of the parliament, they promised to fix Mount Tomah, a black spot on Bells Line of Road—one of the major routes that people use to travel from Sydney to the west. They promised a mobile tower. In fact, it was there and it was committed, and then all of a sudden it disappeared. I couldn't work out what had happened to it. What had happened was that the job got a little bit too hard. The government decided that there was somewhere easier for it to go, and they sent it out west to a safe Nationals seat. The vulnerable communities of Mount Wilson, Mount Irvine, Berambing, Mount Tomah and Bilpin lost a vital, potentially lifesaving tower. We will restore that tower. We will make sure that that black spot is fixed.
Yellow Rock thought itself lucky when it got given a mobile tower by those opposite. Sadly, that tower does not provide mobile coverage for the bulk of the Yellow Rock community. So, yet again, one of the things we will be doing is cleaning up the mess and fixing the things that were half done—the things that did not meet community expectations. If what they'd done had met community expectations, I wouldn't be standing here, I can tell you. They failed to meet community expectations. They were all announcement, all glitz, but on the ground they didn't deliver. We will not make that mistake. I'm sure we'll make mistakes, but it won't be that one. We will work to deliver every single commitment that we have already spoken about.
Looking at the natural disasters that we've had, I see that finding refuge has been a really tough one for families because we don't have any purpose-built places. We have a challenging community, with one road that goes from the top of the mountains to the bottom and with real traffic and crossing problems when the rivers flood. One thing that will improve the access to help for people across the river on the North Richmond side of the Hawkesbury will be upgrades to the North Richmond Community Centre. My concern about the Hawkesbury is that it's a very large area; it's 3,000 square kilometres. So I'm not going to promise that it's going to be the solution for everybody, but what we'll be doing is upgrading the centre so that people can go there and take refuge. It will be much better appointed for that, with showers, toilets and better space. I'm looking forward to working with the council and the community to make sure that that facility meets expectations. We talk a lot in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury about disasters. That's because we face them a lot. But I'm so pleased to see that our government is going to be making daily life better for many people.
One of my areas of passion is mental health, and I can't count the number of times I've spoken about it in this chamber. I'm very pleased to see that we have already, in only nine weeks of being in government, announced additional funding for the Katoomba headspace. I look forward to talking more about the detail of that. But the big change will be having a headspace for the Hawkesbury. This is a big commitment but could save lives and change the lives of kids in the Hawkesbury and their families. It's only possible because of the enormous support the community has given to that. It's sad that it's taken this long to achieve it. We could have had it six years ago. We could have had it after the 2019 bushfires. We could have had it after the 2021 floods. Sadly, we've had to wait for another two natural disasters before we're deemed worthy of it by those opposite. It's taken a long time and a lot of advocacy. But that's one of the things that we want to do: make life better for people, to address the concerns that they have.
Another way we're going to do that is through the veterans hub. I'm very much looking forward to working with all the stakeholders to see where we put a veterans hub that is for veterans and takes into account the needs of defence families, who will ultimately be users of that service. These are things that won't be used by everybody, but they'll be used by people who really, really need them.
Something that will have a wider use is support for the Merana Aboriginal community association. I've committed $150,000 to upgrade their building so that we can facilitate in-reach to them so that medical practitioners can come and services can be provided within that facility. Again, for some people, it won't mean anything to them, but, for those who use it, it could potentially be life changing. Merana is an organisation that does a lot with little. I'm very, very proud to be able to support them.
There are a range of other commitments that I've made to my electorate: things like upgrading dog parks—small commitments but, gee, that can also change the way you use your local parks—improvements for parks across the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, and a shared pedestrian footpath and cycleway from Hawkesbury Heights to Winmalee. I remember how good it was when I was able to get out and push my kids in a stroller when they were young and have one in a trike riding alongside. These are the sorts of things that make life better—that give you a sense of hope that you can get through a day, sometimes—and they're the sorts of things that this government will do.
We're going to do the big things like tackling climate change. We're going to do the small things that actually make people's lives bigger. I'm so very proud to be part of that government.
It is an absolute honour to rise in this debate having gained the support of my local community to continue to represent our wonderful corner of Queensland on the southern Gold Coast. This debate is always a very special time. It's when we get to learn about our new members in their first speeches, and these speeches are always a great expression of aspiration, of hope and of determination. For those of us who have been re-elected, it's an opportunity for us to reflect on our goals and on the challenges for the coming parliament. We have a new government and, as people who love this country, we on the opposition benches sincerely hope they succeed in their goal of contributing to our great Australian story. We, of course, will hold them to their promises and we will hold their actions up to scrutiny in the national interest, because that is our role and an effective opposition makes for a better government.
Having served in the last parliament as both the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology and the Minister for Home Affairs, I'm incredibly proud of the previous coalition government's achievements, especially in very difficult and exceptional circumstances. The worldwide pandemic was not something contemplated when we came to office in 2019, but we saw the country through that difficult and unprecedented time. Let's never forget the COVID-19 pandemic was a seismic global event that has challenged the status quo and disrupted lives and livelihoods right across the world. At my National Press Club address in May of 2020, I spoke about how the challenges had also presented opportunities, particularly for the manufacturing sector. Australian industry pivoted to produce PPE and other products impacted by supply chain disruptions, and we recognised the opportunity by acting swiftly to support the sector and to ensure our long-term sovereign capability. Our 2020-21 budget included an investment of $1.5 billion in our Modern Manufacturing Strategy—a bold plan to allow Australian manufacturers to scale up and to compete internationally. The strategy was based on direct industry input, and the priorities and grant schemes were carefully developed based on our areas of comparative advantage, to ensure value-add and make sure there would be some very lasting outcomes for the investment that was being made by the Australian people.
I've been personally very disappointed to hear about and read reports of the incoming government blocking vital manufacturing grants that were announced well in advance of the election being called. I will very happily look at any plan that they bring to this place to provide more support for manufacturing in this country, but I don't know how they justify blocking funding for projects that businesses are ready to invest in—projects where businesses have fully developed plans that had been vetted by the department and are ready to go. It makes no sense to pull the rug out from beneath those companies that were notified that there would be funding coming to support them and that had made plans based on that.
I was also listening carefully to the government's rewriting of the priority manufacturing sectors, and I noted the omission of a standalone space sector. Why Labor would ground this soaring sector and the promise of more than 30,000 jobs over the coming years is really, quite frankly, beyond me. I am comforted by the fact that they have talked about defence and enabling sectors. I will always argue that the enabling sectors clearly include the space sector, but my clear preference would be to make sure that that fledgling industry that we have here in Australia that has enormous potential—the space industry—remained a standalone sector.
I don't want this government to look at how it's going to pursue sectors based on ideology. I want the government to look at how they are going to support industry in these growth sectors and make sure that we are supporting manufacturing here in Australia and developing it, so I will be watching very carefully over this coming parliament and continuing to act and advocate on behalf of manufacturers, especially Gold Coast manufacturers, as I always have. The Gold Coast has a very strong innovative manufacturing base, and I intend to do all I can to keep it growing.
The other deep concern that I have is that Labor will reduce the record levels of funding that the coalition provided for our national security and law enforcement agencies so that they can continue their vital work of keeping all Australians safe over the coming years. It was alarming that one of the first actions of this government was to dismantle the Home Affairs portfolio, moving the AFP and a number of agencies to the Attorney-General's Department, essentially reducing Home Affairs to a shell. Again I ask, why? Why would this be done? Why would you go backwards to the more siloed structure that used to exist? How does that make Australians safer? What is the reasoning behind this decision by the new government?
I know that Australia has the best operational law enforcement and security agencies in the world. Enabled by record funding and new powers that the coalition passed, they have achieved absolutely remarkable results over the past decade. To run through that list of achievements would take much more time than I have today, but there are a few that I would like to touch on. A great example is Operation Ironside, which was supported by legislation that the coalition passed. This joint operation with the FBI seriously impacted on organised and transnational criminal gangs. More than 2,260 charges have been laid against over 350 offenders and more than 6,000 kilograms of drugs have been taken off our streets.
Drugs destroy thousands of young lives every year and have a devastating impact on families. Anyone who has seen the damage knows how important it is that we stop those who deal in this evil trade. It's an example of why we need to make sure our law enforcement agencies have the resources and the powers they need to make our communities safer. It was an enormous honour leading the men and women of the Home Affairs portfolio, whose diligence continues to keep Australia prosperous, secure and united. I will continue to do all that I can to support them.
When I became the Minister for Home Affairs at the end of March last year I identified cybersecurity as a priority. In my time as minister I was proud to spearhead several significant cybersecurity improvements that will directly benefit all Australians for years to come, including supporting industries to grow online through the National Plan to Combat Cybercrime; cracking down on cybercriminals by funding a dedicated AFP led cybercrime centre; securing landmark reforms to national security legislation to better protect our critical infrastructure; making all Australians safer through the passage of important legislation to revolutionise the way Australian agencies investigate and prosecute cybercrime; ensuring our law enforcement agencies have much-needed powers to combat crime on the dark web; cracking down and protecting Australians from ransomware through the Ransomware Action Plan; facilitating the exchange of digital information with United States authorities by signing the CLOUD Act agreement with the United States; and launching a public information campaign to increase Australians' cybersecurity.
The other thing I was very determined to ensure was that we would keep Australia's borders secure. Of course, it's a matter of record that the coalition, with Operation Sovereign Borders, had stopped the boats that came under the previous Labor government. I wanted to ensure that the people smugglers did not attempt to restart their evil trade. I was not going to have people dying on my watch. It's something that we can never afford to take for granted. And, as we've seen in the past few months, if the people smugglers think Australia's resolve has wavered, the boats will come again. When we made this point during the campaign, we were accused of scaremongering, but we were proved correct when multiple boats once again attempted to make the journey to our shores. I have called on the government to reconsider their policy to abolish temporary protection visas, which would send a further signal to the people smugglers, and I hope that they do that. The world continues to face uncertain times, and the threats to Australia's future are many.
Today I have only touched on a fraction of the work in Home Affairs and what they did during my time as the Minister for Home Affairs and previously under the coalition government, but it's work that they have done to keep our nation safe. I am very pleased to have played a part, as the Minister for Home Affairs, in ensuring that Australia is better prepared for the unexpected and is capable of responding quickly. I urge the government to build on our strong track record rather than to dismantle it.
I also took time in a speech yesterday, as shadow minister for child protection and the prevention of family violence, to commit to working in a bipartisan way with the government in order to continue providing practical support for children, women and families experiencing violence and sexual abuse. Every time we can help someone escape a violent situation, we help create a safer and stronger community. And, of course, reducing the incidence of violence through education and prevention makes us even stronger in the future.
Of course, local communities are where we all live. What impacts our neighbours affects us all. And, when it comes down to it, the primary job of each of us is to represent our electorates and to be their voice. This is the role that I have cherished most over the last 12 years since I was first elected. So it is with grateful humility that I once again sincerely thank the people of McPherson for re-electing me.
I have spoken in glowing terms many times about the southern Gold Coast, and I will continue to speak up and speak of the wonderful opportunities that are provided to people who live and work on the southern Gold Coast. It's the small businesses, it's the industries there, it's the natural beauty, but, above all, what is important on the southern Gold Coast is the people who live and work there: those who volunteer at surf lifesaving clubs, the RSLs, the P&Cs, the chamber of commerce, environmental groups, sporting clubs, senior citizens clubs, SES and rural fire services, Rotary, Quota—the list will go on, and, now that I have started naming some of those groups, I'm concerned that I will have missed some of them out. But can I say to each of the volunteer groups that work not only on the southern Gold Coast but across the Gold Coast, across Queensland and across Australia: thank you. We could not exist without the work that you do, so thank you.
I am constantly inspired by the community spirit that makes the southern Gold Coast such a wonderful place to live and to work. I thank, again, the local residents who put their faith in me on 21 May. My message to all residents of McPherson, including those who did not vote for me, is that my door is always open to you. I want to hear from you, and I will always work to represent you here in Canberra. I am your elected representative in Canberra. My first and foremost role is to serve you, the people of McPherson. I wish that there was actually more time for me to detail some of my goals in the current parliament, but what I can say is that there are many issues in my local community that I will continue to work with my community on to make sure that the views, the opinions and the issues that I bring to Canberra are the issues that they want me to represent them on. One of the things that I highlighted during the campaign was the need for all levels of government to genuinely listen to the views of local residents. We should never adopt an 'I know better' approach.
A case in point is stage four of the Gold Coast Light Rail. This project will fundamentally change the southern Gold Coast and will impact the environment, yet both the Gold Coast City Council and the state Labor government have refused to listen to local concerns about the current proposed route. I will continue to fight for local residents to be heard and for their views to be listened to. We all agree that transport solutions have to be developed for the future, but they must be the right ones. Despite Labor's posturing during the campaign, Labor's new federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government recently confirmed they have not provided any federal funding commitment for stage 4. I hope they listen to local people before they consider it.
I will also continue to push for the fast-tracking of heavy rail from Varsity Lakes to the airport, because I know that this will open commuting options for locals and ease pressure on our local roads. While I was pleased to deliver funding for successive M1 upgrades, I'm acutely aware that we can't be complacent. Our growing population will mean even more demands on southern Gold Coast infrastructure in the future. I will continue to fight for funding for our roads, schools and hospitals and the services that locals rely on.
Of course, like others I also want to take time in this debate to most sincerely thank the many local residents, friends, branch members and supporters who helped me throughout the campaign. We all know it takes a small army, and again I wish I wasn't constrained by time and could mention everyone who has supported me over the years. But I do want to thank and mention some special people, and you know who you are: those who stood on roadsides waving in the early mornings and afternoons, those who worked for weeks at prepoll in mostly wet and unseasonably cold conditions on the Gold Coast, those who braved near-constant rain all election day to hand out how-to-votes and those who missed the drinks and food at the afterparty because they were scrutineering. I can't thank you all enough, literally hundreds of people. I do wish I could mention you all, but know you have my very sincere thanks. A special shout out to the federal and state campaign teams, to my LNP branch members, including my FDC executive: you provide the values, direction and manpower that will help rebuild and make our party stronger going forward.
To my Home Affairs ministerial staff, led by Jess, who left the role to go on maternity leave—congratulations to Jess, her husband and their new child—thank you, Jess. To Lachlan, who stepped into the role following Jess leaving to go on leave, thank you very much. The people from my ministerial office are the finest group of people I have ever worked with, and one of the most heartbreaking things on election night was to stand with them knowing they had lost their jobs. I am letting you know one more time how important your tireless efforts were to me, and I cannot thank you enough for your work. I will call out one of those staff, Ian, who was actually my longest standing ministerial adviser. He was second to none in his support and the tireless hours that he put in. Thank you, Ian; and thank you, everyone on my ministerial team.
To my electorate staff: over the years they have been absolute standouts, and of course they worked flat out during the most recent election campaign, dealing with issues within the electorate office. I will call out my longest serving staff in my electorate office, Margo and Bruce. They have been just an enormous support to me over many years. Margo and Bruce, you will always have a special place in my heart.
I have one other group of very remarkable people that I want to give a shout-out to, and I know that they would hate the recognition. But I want to sincerely thank my close personal protection team, who were with me since the time that I was appointed as the Minister for Home Affairs. These men and women are trained specialists, and they work every single day to keep their principals safe. I cannot thank them enough for making what could have been a very difficult transition from being able to be out and about in the community on my own to having a security detail. You are second to none in your work, and I thank you very much.
My final comments and my thanks go to my wonderful family. I could not have done this role for 12 years without them. Can I thank my mother, my sister, my three children and my husband. You have been an enormous support to me, and I cannot thank you enough.
Ordered that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour.