Article Categories: Speeches, Community, Personal
It is a great privilege to have the opportunity again to represent the people of Goldstein in this place. I have had this honour now since 2004. I would like to thank the people of Goldstein for their continued trust and support, and again commit myself to seeking to represent every member of the Goldstein community. The local interaction with the people of my electorate remains for me the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of my job. As I said, I have now had six years representing the Goldstein community, which is a very vibrant community in a beautiful part of Melbourne on the bay. We have 60,000 households and 50 schools, and I enjoy the contact with all of that, but the 980 community organisations I have identified is an area of work that I have found particularly enjoyable.
What has struck me since becoming a member of parliament is the number of people in each electorate who volunteer to assist with so much of what makes our communities as vibrant as they are. Amongst the 130,000 people in my electorate, I estimate that there are close to 30,000 who do some sort of voluntary work. They make the football clubs, the tennis clubs, the bowling clubs, the community and ethnic organisations and all those sorts of activities work. But the groups that deal with people with disabilities are the ones that I have found the most rewarding to deal with and the ones that I am most in awe of, in a sense. Places like Bayley House, Marriott House and the Berendale School, among others, are wonderful places with wonderful people.
In relation to the overall election result, to get so near to forming government but to find ourselves back in opposition is both disappointing and frustrating, particular considering that we won more seats than our principal opponent, the Labor Party, and 700,000 more primary votes than Labor. It is truly remarkable that the effectiveness of the coalition resulted for the first time since Federation in a first-time Prime Minister not lasting until an election and, for the second time only, a first-time government losing its majority. Much credit should go to our leader, Tony Abbott, who has been truly magnificent in holding this government to account and has continued in that vein very strongly since we have continued in opposition after the election. Tony had a wonderful campaign and has led a united and disciplined team, supported by strong policy work by our shadow ministers. We must continue the efforts of the last 12 months in order to remove what in my view is really a quite dangerous Labor-Green government.
In the three years of the Rudd-Gillard government, very little was done, and what was done involved major increases in the nanny state. I do think that this explains a lot of results. Once people were able to focus on the nature of the government over the past three years and the implications of that, we saw that unprecedented movement against a first-term government. Nothing has been done or said to suggest that we can expect anything different in this Labor term. In fact, the last three years and now the alliance formed with the Greens have shown me that philosophy matters. It shows me why we are here.
It often annoys me that people say that, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is no longer any difference between the two parties. From my observations at both the state and federal levels over the last 30 years, that is not correct. There are two legitimately held philosophical positions but they are fundamentally different. On our side we believe in the great value of the individual, and it is our belief that the collective wellbeing, happiness and prosperity of any community is maximised by government creating an environment where each person is free to make decisions about how they conduct their own lives as long as they do not harm others—in other words, a community where people have choices, the freedom to choose.
That freedom of course carries with it an obligation to take personal responsibility for your own actions and decisions. By contrast, turning to Labor and its Green allies, instinctively both those parties think the best decisions are made by Canberra—that the government knows best and people who make the wrong decisions are victims and need to be protected from themselves. It is a legitimate philosophy, but it is fundamentally different from the philosophy held on this side of the House. And it is that different philosophy that is brought to bear on everyday policies that affect everyday people in the way in which they go about their lives.
In that respect, I feel concern about the danger that is being created for the future years of our community under this government. I feel that, in this context of a nanny state, in the last three years we have seen, arguably, the greatest growth of government in our lives, probably including the Whitlam years. Using the excuse, in many respects, of combating the global financial crisis and now of needing the cooperation of the Greens, the Rudd-Gillard-Brown governments have taken every opportunity to impose their will on our lives.
We are the only country in the world that re-regulated the labour market during the global financial crisis. We are the only country in the world that I know of that is renationalising its telecommunications sector. We are the only country in the world that sought to bring in the most bureaucratic, most taxing—$114 billion in the next 10 years—and most invasive emissions trading scheme imaginable. We were looking to auction 70 per cent of permits from day one; in Europe, they auction four per cent, and in Europe it is just a pilot compared to what was proposed here. And we were going to lead the world! Of course, now the US have said they will not be bringing in such a scheme. How stupid would we have looked last year if we had, lemming like, followed the Prime Minister of the day into that most invasive, bureaucratic and difficult scheme.
In the last three years, we have seen the government seek to undermine and ultimately get rid of private health insurance. We have seen them seek to get rid of employee share ownership. We saw them seek to set up a government bank while systematically removing 25 years of building up competition—25 years of competition in the finance sector all gone because they botched the introduction and the use of the wholesale and the deposit guarantees. Now the government are trying to back-pedal and find some way to improve competition at the margin. When the Treasurer agreed to the merger of St George Bank, what a folly that was. He also agreed to the merger of other banks and agreed to the disassembling of trust funds that in some cases had been there for 50 years.
We have seen the attempt to control the internet with filtering. We have seen the mining tax, with an attempt to introduce nationalisation of 40 per cent of the mining industry. When you think about it, it beggars belief. But that was what was on the table—all rush, all without consultation, all for political motives, all through instinct, because they think government know best. Tax, spend and borrow is the instinct to solve a problem. Of course, paying back $90 billion in debt, with tax increases for many years to come, again reduces choices. It is a bad government; it is a dangerous government.
Notwithstanding the disappointment of losing the election, we as an opposition need to very assiduously keep this government to account so that we can in fact be successful at the next election and try our best to reverse much of the damage done, the incursion and the introduction of the nanny state, writ large, over the last three years.
On the local front, in my electorate we saw a similarly disciplined and effective campaign to the one run nationally, which produced a swing of almost half a per cent to us, compared to the disappointing statewide swing of almost one per cent against us. In general, the result in Victoria was disappointing and we need to take stock. But the future is bright. We have introduced very significant changes in the way in which candidates are preselected in Victoria. This time it threw up a most outstanding field of candidates. Many of them were successful, as many others have been in the last election or two. In Victoria and around the country we really do have reason to be very confident over the next 15 or 20 years about the skill that is now available at a young level. Some people need more time in the paddock, but they will be the future leaders of our party and the country. I think those who support our side of politics have every reason to be enormously confident in the capacity of the coalition to strongly lead this country for a long time to come. We have a good mix, as I say, of experience and youth. Again, we have to use this three years in opposition to keep the government to account and to give the talent that is coming through every opportunity to gain the experience so that we can have a very powerful influence over the politics of Australia in the years ahead.
As always in my electorate we have a very highly experienced and committed team of party members. I have almost 700 members of the Liberal Party in my electorate. I have had wonderful leadership, in Jeannette Rawlinson, of each campaign for the three elections that I have contested. She is a person of great experience and a good friend. She has served the party with great skill and certainly supported me. The leadership was even more important this time round, as I had other significant responsibilities at our campaign headquarters. I needed to have the organisation very well finetuned so that I could spend what time I had most effectively in my own electorate and not have to worry about any of the logistical matters. I have never had to do so in the three campaigns that I have contested. Our campaign saw over 500 Liberal volunteers, helping with prepoll and mobile booths, providing office assistance, doing street walks et cetera. I would like to sincerely thank those 500-plus volunteers and take this opportunity to mention very briefly a number of them, most of whom have helped me not only in the last 12 months and during this campaign but also over the six years that I have had the great privilege of representing all of those people who live in the electorate of Goldstein.
Jeannette Rawlinson, who I mentioned, was my campaign manager. Kaye Farrow, who has been our FEC chair now for three years, did another outstanding job as deputy campaign manager but also took so many other responsibilities. Ralph Wollmer, Ramon Frederico, Colin Gourley, Terry Farrow, Brett Hogan, Leonie Abbott, Fazal Cader, Andrew Hudgson, Andrew Tame, Lee Trevena, Mike Rawlinson, Hanife Bushby, Tim Wildash, Tammy van Wisse, Kim Dunstan—all of those people and many more provided great assistance. I wish I had time to go through some of the things that they turned their hand to. It had been in some cases many months in getting properly organised. It really did run as a very smoothly oiled machine.
My staff have been exceptional. Many other members are similarly blessed but in my case Vanessa Kimpton, my PA, is a wonderful person and highly skilled and a great office manager and PA for me. Nick Troja and Cameron Hill are fellows of great skill and commitment and a pleasure to work with. Within my electorate office Skye Buttenshaw and Samantha Russell have been so well-regarded by all of those who have the need to contact my office. I am very blessed with the campaign staff and the office staff I have got. Young Scott McCloud has served me very well as a part-time member of our team while he completed his university studies. Finally on that front, I mention my wife and three children. Maureen is long-suffering not only with this responsibility but many before it, having flown over 2,500 return domestic flights in the last 30 years in different jobs. I think it probably is the best way of explaining the load that my wonderful wife has carried, with our three kids, Tom, Joe and Philippa. This time I have the great pleasure of my son Joe, who was in the campaign headquarters looking after social media, which he has had a strong background in. So I not only had the pleasure of his company but also was brought up to speed on my social media skills at the same time. That was an added bonus for this campaign.
I would like to finish on a couple of other points. Firstly, I would like to take the opportunity to announce the winner of my annual Christmas card design competition. Lachlan Williams from Larmenier, an outstanding school in Hampton in my electorate, is this year’s winner with a bright and happy drawing of Jesus in the manger complete with Christmas star and approving animals. Each year I have a competition with different organisations dealing with disadvantaged or disabled people, young people usually but not always. Lachlan Williams’ piece of art will feature on the front cover of thousands of Christmas cards, with an inside picture of him, my wife, Maureen, and me. It is a truly outstanding school located in Bluff Road in Hampton in my electorate. It is run by the Catholic primary schools and families within the Archdiocese of Melbourne, dealing with students displaying social and emotional and behavioural difficulties which may contribute to learning difficulties. They take these young people in, they go one or two days a week or perhaps full-time, and then they integrate them back into the schools whence they have come. The dedication, the patience and the faith in every human being that is displayed by the principal, Patrice Duggan, and her staff are things I am totally in awe of. They are wonderful people, highly skilled, who do an outstanding job. I have seen so many young people come from all parts of Melbourne and go to that school, and it might take 18 months or two years but it has had an enormous effect on their quality of life and future. We all owe them a great debt of gratitude for what they do in a selfless way for our community, but in this case it covers all of Melbourne.
Finally, in the short time I have left, I would like to acknowledge and thank so many people on both sides of the House. I have had a depressive condition in the mornings which I had never confronted—and I have had it all my life. I had never admitted to it. It used to lift at eight o’clock but in the last few years went on to nine o’clock, 10 o’clock or 12 o’clock. I was finally forced, for certain reasons, to confront it. I thought it might mean that my political career had come to an end, but that was not the case. I have had thousands of emails from people which have been an enormous source of encouragement. There is still a strong stigma, which probably explains why mental health is still the poor relation amongst health services. But, as I said, I would like to thank everyone on both sides of the House for the way in which they have given me encouragement.
Fortunately, in my case, after six months of experimentation and lots of uncomfortable side effects, I have found something that helps, and for the last five months I have had mornings that I have never had in my life. I have never been better. I am looking to demonstrate to millions of others that you can have this sort of condition. It is just like another illness. Not in all cases but in many, many cases you can deal with it effectively, get on with life, stay in the same profession and hopefully even do better in the same profession. So thank you to everybody on that front. It has been an interesting phase of my life. I am now looking to move to the next.
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