(Murray-Darling) [7.40 p.m.] (Inaugural speech): At the outset I congratulate the Carr Government on its re-election on 27 March. In particular, I congratulate the Premier, Ministers and all those who contributed to a victory for good taste and commonsense. I recognise that today is National Sorry Day, and I totally support the aims behind the events being conducted today. I have a large number of people to thank. When I list these people - I have listened to other maiden speeches - I apologise if I omit anyone. First, my wife, Lesley, and my daughter, Georgina, who are present in the gallery. Without Lesley’s support, enthusiasm and commitment I am sure I would not be standing here tonight on this occasion. I thank Lesley.
I thank Bill Beckroge, who was the member for Broken Hill. Bill was elected as the member for Broken Hill in 1981 and decided to stand down with the advent of the Murray-Darling electorate. He became my campaign director. Many people have said - and I think it is true - that he worked harder
during my election campaign than he worked during any of his own campaigns. I have come to that conclusion simply because he had a safe seat and mine most certainly was not.
I thank my office manager, Wayne Robbie, who was a mighty performer. The situation in Murray-Darling is difficult. I come to Sydney and I hear about all the branch stacking that is going on. Let me tell honourable members that I do not have any branches to stack other than my own one and one at Balranald. So the work falls on few shoulders indeed. I thank also Tex Condon and John Caesar who worked in the office. I thank Graeme Reville - familiarly known as Shorty - who did a lot of driving and similar. I thank Rob Allan from the national secretariat who was very active in the campaign.
I thank Mark Obib and Damian O’Connor who worked for me during the campaign. Mark did say that he would be here tonight but I have not seen him yet. He will never forget the 3½ days he spent in a bus making three different television advertisements. The bus itself was an act. I thank Laurie Brown, who was mighty in his advice and even mightier in one particular achievement. I thank the many members of the Australian Workers Union [AWU] who drove me around and worked so hard on the campaign. I thank the Ministers and members of caucus committees who visited Broken Hill from time to time over the years; they were of enormous assistance in this campaign.
Earlier the honourable member for Port Stephens mentioned Bob Martin. Bob Martin is a personal friend. He was invited, and he agreed, to open the campaign down at Hay. Bob has assured me that he still intends to do a four-wheel drive tour through Broken Hill. I thank Richard Amery, Carl Scully, Richard Face, Ernie Page, Bob Debus and Sandra Nori, all of whom played a salient role in the campaign. The electorate of Murray-Darling should be called Western New South Wales. Dorothea Mackellar got it right in her poem:
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons . . .
That is the seat of Murray-Darling. People refer to the Murray-Darling as being beyond the sunset. It is where the New South Wales Labor movement was first developed, with the political labour leagues of the late 1880s and early 1890s. It is where the first meeting of the AWU was held in New South Wales - at Balranald. The seat of Murray-Darling embraces 39 media outlets: seven television stations, 14 radio stations and 19 newspapers. And other honourable members think that they have problems. Finally, the seat of Murray-Darling is completely Liberal Party free. We have none of the cocaine-sniffing north shore yuppies we heard about last week.
I must talk about the place of my principal affection, Broken Hill. I got off at the station at Broken Hill after being sent there in the days of the bond. The best thing the Liberal Minister, Charlie Cutler, could possibly do for me was send me to Broken Hill. So there I was on the bond in Broken Hill. When I got off at the station all I could see was the red flags flying. As a consequence I spent 30 years teaching at Broken Hill, and I loved it. Broken Hill is a very special place, and I acknowledge those people in the Department of Education who have assisted me over the years by swapping teaching periods and that sort of thing. I retired as a science master on 26 March this year.
Many words have been written about Broken Hill. It is a place where, literally, the profits, royalties and taxes were generated to change the nature of Australia, the agriculture base and the gold base, into the industrial nation that we all love today. It is a place of art, it is a place of film and these days it is a place of tourism. I was fascinated by honourable members who, in their maiden speeches, talked about the wonders of Kiama, Port Stephens and Bathurst. Why do all honourable members want to go to Broken Hill? I shall leave that question as a rhetorical one. Undoubtedly, the great passion in my life has been local government and all its facets.
I was first elected to Broken Hill City Council as an alderman in 1977, and I was elected as mayor in 1980. I tell all those people in council with whom I have come into contact over many years that it has been a wonderful experience. Despite what National Party members might say about the Labor Party, Labor government or whatever, winning awards does not add much credence but it gives people greater pride in their local government area. I enjoyed immensely my days in the Local Government Association [LGA]. I can remember back in 1978 when colleagues in the Labor Party told me that Labor would never gain control of the LGA.
In 1979 a meeting was held in my motel room in Coffs Harbour. Many people were there; Robert Tickner, Tony Reeves - both of them were from Sydney City - and I formed a small group. I still remember walking into the caucus for that particular
LGA conference and saying, "We don’t want your ticket. This is the ticket we will hand out." Years later at the Queanbeyan conference I put myself on the ticket. I have had an extraordinary experience in the LGA and its various committees. It is fulfilling to spend time in local government; once a decision is made one can see the mortar and bricks going up virtually the next day.
Incidentally, on the LGA executive I met Greg Bartels, who was actually a decent cove. His daughter, Mrs Chikarovski, who is the Leader of the Opposition, visited Broken Hill not long ago and announced that the Coalition would like to win the seat of Broken Hill. I said, "Certainly they would. Anyone from Lane Cove would want Broken Hill; it is called social climbing." And it still is!
I have served for years in the Western Division and I am currently the senior vice-president of the Western Division. Despite what Dubbo might think, the Western Division is the heart and soul of the Shires Association. We are the toughest group in the Shires Association and conference after conference one can safely say that we dominate the agendas of the shires at the annual conferences.
Where is Dubbo?
It is a coastal village where they get the sea air. I have to also acknowledge the sister city Bankstown program, which is another facet of local government that I enjoy. In particular I acknowledge the national treasure out at Bankstown, Kevin McCormick. I met Doug Shedden and I am going to his farewell on Saturday; he is a terrific local member. I mention another chap, Bo Bo Harrison, who became a very close mate indeed. I have to comment about the election itself. Various people have said go doorknocking. You spend 2½ months of your life doorknocking and what have you got? You have two slammed doors, two dogs and one negligee. What you hear about doorknocking is all nonsense; it does not happen. I wore out a pair of shoes.
The greatest thing about the campaign and going round was the solidarity of local government. I cannot say just how important local government was not only to the result in the Murray-Darling but also to the results in other places. Isn’t it lovely to see those Independents get elected? I acknowledge the role of Ian Hunter, the South Australian general-secretary whose grandfather, Keith Hunter, was a miner at Broken Hill. They manned booths down south for me. I acknowledge also Wendy Shirley, who came across from South Australia and organised it. We also had members of the Mildura, Swan Hill and Bendigo branches and it was a massive exercise in a seat where we do not have too many members. [Extension of time agreed to
I want to talk about the role of One Nation. One Nation was more than kind. Down south Don McKinnon, the Mayor of Wentworth, is a popular mayor. We are getting all these National Party members moving through One Nation and eventually they will get to Labor. That is all right. I was asked on the Monday after the event to describe the campaign. I said, "It was like this: you had the One Nation dog and the Labor Party both dining on the National Party carcass", and that is what it really boiled down to. I had been spending some time giving the then Leader of the National Party, Ian Armstrong, a bit of a profile and a lot of National Party members were out there saying, "It is not like the old Country Party, is it?" I must refer to his last statement before he was overturned, or whatever goes on in the National Party. He was criticising his Federal colleagues for the rural doctor shortage, the Murray-Darling Basin water cap and the black spot funding. It was amazing stuff. That really helped his cause, particularly down south by taking the two cents off the dairy farmer. I thought that was brilliant and of great assistance.
George Souris was a problem, though. I got the profile of Ian Armstrong well and truly up, then George Souris comes along. I mean no personal disrespect to him but the problem was that down south nobody had heard of him and I could not even crack any accountant jokes. Genetic memory of course also came to play in the election. Certainly many people remember the infamous deeds perpetrated by the Greiner-Murray Government in particular, and can I give the results? The Broken Hill vote was truly magnificent. At Balranald we won on two-party preferred, the first time since Al Grassby, but there the comparison shall end. In Hay it was 50 per cent of the primary vote, and over 60 per cent of the two-party preferred - the first time since Lin Gordon.
I have a vision for the future of what I might contribute to this place. There is a theory in the Murray-Darling that the National Party members all have six fingers and only one set of grandparents between the lot of them. However, there are a lot of good National Party members and these are the people coming across, and I welcome them. I have to also say that I will work with people outside my electorate, and I have here a letter from Lachlan. I am making arrangements next week for Brewarrina and Walgett shires which do not want to go through the member for Barwon. I mean no disrespect to him but how in the hell could he be appointed as
shadow minister for western New South Wales, I do not know; I am only a member. Maybe he has a bit of a glass orb or something. I also read in the press releases my old mate Doug is coming back to play with me too.
In Trangie people went to work with Mayor McGrane and I can understand why the good citizens of Trangie would want to do that. I will continue to stand by strong local government. I have a meeting of my 12 mayors next Tuesday. I have to refer to this press release: "ALP should stay out of rural local government." I do not know what happened in the National Party last Thursday but they sent this to Ballina, Broken Hill and Muswellbrook. How silly is this? Broken Hill elected the first Labor mayor in the world in 1900, Jabez Wright, and they wanted it published in the BDT, which was established in 1908 and is owned by the workers. They supported Labor and local government for all those years. Country Labor has extended its representation.
Listen to this synopsis. They said in a press release, "Labor faction powerless". But the figures for the bush, for country Labor, are: Bathurst, Cessnock, Clarence, Kiama, Maitland, Murray-Darling, Port Stephens, South Coast and the Tweed. They have taken on 387,000 square kilometres. What is the total for the National Party - 305,000. Labor is back in the bush; we are back in the saddle. Look at the Libs and our wonderful Independents, who have 62,000 square kilometres. The four so-called country Liberals have less than half at 31,000.
We have got the National Party down to only 38.8 per cent of regional and rural New South Wales, we are sitting on 49.24 per cent and after we get Burrinjuck or another one or two seats in the next election, it will be well over 50 per cent, I can assure the National Party of that. Here we are on State of Origin night and they still want to play State of Origin but there are only 13 of them. As a former president and chairman of selectors of the Broken Hill and District Rugby League Football Association for 10½ years, let me tell you that you cannot play State of Origin with 13 players and no reserves. They should stick to cricket or baseball because, let me tell you, they will be with the Hon. Richard Amery playing bowls after the next election.
I see my time is just about up, although I could comment on infrastructure. But I pledge to work with the trade union movement. I am one who strongly believes in the Labor movement having two wings; you cannot fly with one. I conclude by saying that I am looking forward to making friends with Andrew Fraser. I really regret that Darren Jones missed out on Manly, my old playmate when we were younger, but Andrew Fraser has the same body language. I look forward to other contributions. I am in the process of trying to get set up three electorate offices if Judge Sully will allow it and I will have to dispose of some of these notes. I pledge that the National Party members will know that I am around for at least the next four years and after that they might not remember; their memory is very short.
(Keira) [8.00 p.m.] (Inaugural speech): As I sat in this Chamber listening to my local government colleague and now a colleague in this Parliament, the honourable member for Murray-Darling, I thought, what have I done, what an act to follow. What other cliché could be used after hearing Blackie speak than that? Like so many other members who are making their initial speech, I can only express the pride that I feel to have been elected to this place to have the opportunity to represent the people of Keira.
Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your re-election as Speaker and thank you and officers of the Parliament for their courtesy and assistance in this period of trying to settle in to this place. There have been a number of words used but whichever term - first, initial or inaugural speech - I want to note and comment on the fact that it reflects a change from the word "maiden". Indeed, this language demonstrates leadership in the concepts of tolerance, equality and non-discrimination. I want to note that today is National Sorry Day with the commencement of the national Journey of Healing.
In the spirit of tolerance, equality and reconciliation that today represents, I want to advise the Parliament of the background of the word "Keira", the name of the electorate that I am very proud to represent. Keira is an Aboriginal word which has three meanings. One is a large lagoon, another is a high mountain and the third is wild turkey. That demonstrates again the need for us to show tolerance for the concept of indigenous issues. Of course, there are different meanings to different words but those three words are reflected in the electorate of Keira.
A large lagoon is evident just across the border in the electorate of Wollongong. When on the high mountain called Mount Keira one can see that lagoon. When on Mount Keira in the rainforest one can see and experience the brush turkeys, which are the wild turkeys. The whole of Keira, which is part of the city of Wollongong, is land which was traditionally owned by the Wadi people. Tonight in this House I acknowledge those people.
While I am talking about the meaning of the word "Keira" I want to acknowledge that a
grandniece, named Kiara, is here this evening. The spelling is a little different. She is four weeks old tomorrow and is asleep in the pram. I am very proud that Kiara Spence is with us this evening. I talked about the principles of equality, tolerance and reconciliation. Of course, those principles are very much reflected in the background of the Australian Labor Party.
I am pleased that I have been a member of the Australian Labor Party since the mid-1970s. I am proud that two gentlemen, Jim Leonard and Joe Smith, encouraged me to join that party when I came to know them and talked about things that were important to me. I have served and enjoyed membership of the Australian Labor Party and that led me to have the opportunity to be elected to Wollongong City Council in 1987. For the last eight years I have had the privilege to lead the community of Wollongong as its Lord Mayor.
I note that today this is the fifth inaugural speech and that four of the last speakers, including me, were Labor Party mayors of different local government areas, something that we can reflect on proudly. The ALP obviously supported me in the recent election. I acknowledge the work of the Premier, his Ministers and the party office. The electorate of Keira is not particularly targeted in an election campaign, but without the overall campaign and the strategy behind it things would have been extremely difficult for a lot of members. Certainly it would have been difficult in the electorate of Keira, so I make that acknowledgment.
More is required to be elected to this place than simply membership of a political party as all honourable members in this place would know. One needs to know the local community, understand the needs and the values of the community, have contact in that community and know how to work within that community. I say, in an extremely modest way, one also needs some skills and experience. I have had the opportunity to gain all those things through membership of a number of organisations over a long period of time.
But, more importantly, what is needed is a lot of hard work by supporters, friends and family. I want to acknowledge that there are many people who have worked very hard to get me elected to this place who are in the gallery this evening. I acknowledge Councillor Ian Hunt and his wife, Judy. Ian Hunt was my campaign director and I think unofficially, as it turned out, Judy Hunt was a co-campaign director. They and their family worked extremely hard over very many long hours and put in a huge effort to co-ordinate things to make sure that I was successful in winning the seat of Keira for the Labor Party, and I say thank you to both of them.
As has been said on a number of occasions during inaugural speeches in this Chamber, it is difficult and risky to name names. However, at the risk of leaving some people out and/or someone saying it is a bit like the Romper Room rollcall, I want to take the liberty of mentioning a number of people: Bill and Aileen Carr, Dick and Morvie Simpson, Joe Scimone, Alison Byrnes, Tania Brown, Susan Owen, Barrie Wright, Paul Brickell, Paul Tuckerman, Lin Hampton, the Hon. Stephen Martin, Valerie and Munir Hussain, Dorothy O’Brien, Faith McIntosh, and Peter and Alice Weber. Of course, there are many others who I need to thank and could name, but to all of those people I say a very heartfelt thanks and I trust that I can live up to the expectations that they have of me in this place.
Community service is not possible without the support of family. I learnt the concepts of hard work and a preparedness and an understanding of the need to speak up, to talk the truth on all occasions from my parents who worked and struggled through the 1960s and 1970s to raise me, my sisters Beverley and Anne, and our brother Glenn. Although Margaret and Harry Campbell are in Queensland this evening, I know they are very proud that I am standing in this Chamber.
I need to say thanks to my wife’s extended family - Merle Harris, Rhonda and Rob Spence, Lorraine and John Beattie and their families, along with Glenn and Anne Campbell, Amy, Peter and Luke - for their support, nurturing and encouragement over the period of time I have been in public office. Without question they have always supported my family as I have been carrying out the duties of a councillor, mayor and more recently a candidate. At any time those people were there to support my wife, Edna, and our children, Ross and Grant.
On this occasion I want to acknowledge three people who are now deceased. One, a gentleman called Neil Atkins, taught me without any shadow of a doubt the meaning of the word "loyalty". Second, a lifelong friend, Greg Bragg, committed suicide a couple of years ago. I learnt from that never to be afraid to ask for help and never to be afraid to offer help when it is asked for. A woman called Nessie Bolton has taught me all the principles and concepts of being proud and working very hard.
I pay tribute to my immediate family - my wife, Edna, and our sons, Ross and Grant. As other
honourable members have said in their speeches, we cannot sustain our effort without the support of our families. Sadly, Edna and Ross are home in bed with the flu, very disappointed that they are not able to be here. Our youngest son, Grant, is waving the flag. Might I say how proud I am of the three of them. I love you, and I thank you for your support. I will try to overcome the emotion by going for a quick Cook’s tour of the Keira electorate.
The electorate starts in the north in a suburb called Austinmer. A traveller going down the coastline through the northern suburbs of the city of Wollongong covers eight patrolled surfing beaches. After Mount Keira, coming back along the escarpment, one can walk through the rainforest that I mentioned earlier. Without a doubt, this is one of the most picturesque parts of New South Wales. It is a place that is very special to many people. The Keira electorate consists mainly of residential suburbs of the city of Wollongong, but importantly the University of Wollongong is located within the seat of Keira. I will say more about the university a little later. There are many galleries and cafes, particularly in the north of the electorate. I extend an invitation to honourable members to come and visit the electorate at any time. It is a very friendly place to visit.
I want to touch on some issues that are important to me and to the people of Keira. We hear a lot in this place about unemployment and jobs. I recognise that as an issue that is important to all honourable members. The electorate of Keira, being part of the Illawarra region and the city of Wollongong, has an economy that has been undergoing structural change for 15 years. We continue to suffer a reduction in employment opportunities in the steel and coal industries, the traditional industries of our economy. Therefore we must look to other opportunities to improve our economy and foster new industries. I will expand on that at a later stage.
I would not like to give the impression that it is all doom and gloom for employment and industry in the seat of Keira. I want to acknowledge a small business that employs 50 people in the suburb of Fairy Meadow. It is the Australian Lock Company, which manufactures a product called Bi Lock. Honourable members who have been in this place for any significant time would know that the offices of new members are being fitted with new locks and keys. Those keys and locks are manufactured in the electorate of Keira, in Fairy Meadow. As I have said, the Australian Lock Company employs 50 people. This financial year it expects to increase its business by 30 per cent, and obviously is targeting export as its next stage of growth. I encourage that firm.
I used the Australian Lock Company as an example to make the House aware that it is not all doom and gloom for jobs in the Illawarra and particularly in the electorate of Keira. The State Government has implemented a number of initiatives to overcome some of the economic problems in the Illawarra. This week, the Government had the courage to introduce legislation to ensure that the Walsh Bay development could proceed, creating considerable employment. A couple of years ago the Government introduced legislation to ensure more than $200 million worth of investment in the Port Kembla copper project. It is expected that 300 people will be recruited under that project between now and the end of the year. [Extension of time agreed to
The Premier has worked hard to ensure that a firm called APC Socotherm, a pipe-coating company, will locate in the Illawarra. During the election campaign an announcement was made of the $10 million Illawarra Advantage Fund, along with an announcement of an opportunity to establish a regional gateway tourism centre in the Illawarra. The State Government announced also that the State Superannuation Administration Authority, with 300 employees, will relocate to Wollongong. Of course, the payroll tax measures recently debated in this House will be important in boosting employment in the Illawarra.
I now turn to the University of Wollongong, which is located within the Keira electorate. This is an important place of educational excellence, but it also plays a significant role in the local economy. The university is now the third largest employer in Wollongong, and contributes significantly to the local economy. I am proud to say that my son Grant started this year as a student at the university. The University of Wollongong also plays a role in research and development. In that regard I want to talk particularly about telecommunications. About four years ago the capacity of research and development in the telecommunications industry at the University of Wollongong led to the formation of what is called the Illawarra telecommunications task force. I was proud, as Lord Mayor of our city, to establish the task force and I am proud to continue to chair it. I acknowledge the support of the honourable member for Wollongong and the Federal member for Cunningham for that body.
Through our efforts, the Illawarra region has been recognised as a centre of excellence for telecommunications in the Illawarra. This is one of
the new industries for the new millennium, and it will be important for employment opportunities in the Illawarra. Telstra has one of three Australian research laboratories located at the site. The Canadian firm Nortel has a research laboratory employing 80 people. I look forward to an announcement within the next couple of weeks of a doubling of the size of that project. Sometimes it can be fortuitous to receive a telephone call when about to make a speech such as this, but I must say I am pleased to have been tipped off about that expansion this afternoon.
I move on now to talk about the issue of storm damage. Most honourable members would be aware that on 17 August last year a significant storm struck the city of Wollongong, causing a great deal of damage and consternation in our community. A similar storm occurred in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, and we know of the effort that is required to deal with those sorts of events. A lot of people in the electorate still need assistance following last year’s storm. That work is continuing. I want to acknowledge that the Hon. Richard Amery, as Minister for Land and Water Conservation, visited some storm-damaged sites, particularly in the Thirroul area. Most of the damage from the storm occurred in the electorate of Keira. A lot of reconstruction work and flood mitigation work needs to be undertaken. I look forward to continuing to work with the Minister to ensure that that occurs.
That leads me to the need for a national disaster fund, an issue that the Premier has raised on a number of occasions, and a proposal that I fully support. Unfortunately, the Federal Government continues to refuse to acknowledge the need for that sort of initiative. There will be many occasions on which I will take the opportunity to stand in this House and get stuck into insurance companies that continue to do the wrong thing by their customers, whether they be in the electorate of Keira or elsewhere. I note that this House on 29 October last year debated an urgent motion expressing concern about the performance of insurance companies. Let me say that nothing has changed, and QBE particularly is in my sights.
Another issue important to my electorate is transport, and in particular public transport. The Government’s Transport 2010 strategy deals with some issues of particular significance, including the need to complete the Northern Distributor and the injection of more effort into the rail corridor and the jigsaw puzzle that is Transport 2010. I look forward to working with the Minister for Roads and Transport to ensure the implementation of that strategy. As the Lord Mayor of Wollongong, I have chaired a group called the Illawarra T Team, which is considering issues related to integrated transport. About 97 per cent of trips to work in the Wollongong subregion are made by private motor vehicles. There is little effective use of mass public transport. That is a problem that I want to work hard on. The Minister, in reply to a question that I asked yesterday, referred to more than a million dollars worth of improvements to railway stations within Wollongong. That will assist in that approach.
I now turn to the need for a regional approach. Keira, in the Fifty-second Parliament, is made up of parts of the former seat of Keira and the former seat of Bulli. I acknowledge the work of the now honourable member for Wollongong and the now honourable member for Heathcote as members formerly representing the area. I look forward to working with them and other regional colleagues on a range of issues, such as jobs and transport in particular, as well as funding for the Westpac lifesaver rescue helicopter, a service that is important to the people of our area. I will take just a couple of minutes to talk about the myth, to which reference is often made, about a safe Labor area. People say that the Illawarra is a safe Labor area, so that we will never get anything, that State Labor governments never give us anything. I want to blow that myth out of the water. Firstly, I want to talk about hospitals. The former Coalition Government was going to close Port Kembla District Hospital, sell Coledale District Hospital and downgrade Bulli District Hospital. At that time there was at Wollongong Hospital a hole in the ground about eight metres deep.
This Government has reversed that and has done great things. It has built an entertainment centre, allocated money for a science centre, improved the port infrastructure, built a boat ramp for recreational fishermen in the outer harbour at Port Kembla and implemented a neighbourhood improvement program for the Department of Housing estate in the suburb of Bellambi. That is the area in which I grew up, and I am very proud of that. On Monday the Minister announced that $128 million had been allocated for tertiary treatment of sewage effluent and to encourage reuse by industry. Earlier I spoke about equality and equity, two important issues which I will continue to work on in this place.
I want to be involved in opportunities to overcome issues involving domestic violence and I want to encourage early intervention for families at risk. I want to be involved in solving the drug problem, which is a challenge for all of us, as emerged from last week’s Drug Summit. Cathy
Haney and Tania Brown have worked with me in my electoral office. Between us we want to work for and with the people of Keira. I am extremely conscious of the responsibility afforded to me by the people of Keira. I understand that it is not my seat. It is their seat and I have a responsibility to work with them and for them. I pledge to do that in the years ahead, and I look forward to those challenges.