|About this Item||Subjects||Aborigines: New South Wales; Electorates: Canterbury; Ethnic Affairs; Electorates: Willoughby; Electorates: Clarence; Australian Labor Party: ALP: New South Wales; Liberal Party: New South Wales; National Party: New South Wales
||Speakers||Burney Ms Linda; Speaker; Berejiklian Ms Gladys; Cansdell Mr Steve
||Commentary|| Linda Burney: Inaugural Speech Maiden Speech Gladys Berejiklian: Inaugural Speech Maiden Speech Steve Cansdell: Inaugural Speech Maiden Speech
Ms BURNEY (Canterbury) [7.30 p.m.] (Inaugural Speech): Ballumb Ambal Eoragu yindyamarra. Ngadu—yirra bang marang. I pay respect to the Ancient Eora. I say this—good day. The Parliament of New South Wales is the oldest in Australia. It contains its own important tradition and ceremony and is an integral part of the culture of our State. In that context, I observe the significant Aboriginal protocol of acknowledgement of country. We conduct our business on the traditional country of the Gadigal people. The Gadigal people are part of the great Eora nation. The Eora are forged into Australian history as the first nation to experience the brunt of British colonisation or invasion, depending whether you were standing on the shore or on a ship in Botany Bay.
Acknowledgement of country reminds us that we are a place of many stories. It reminds us that there are many maps of Australia. The original map is one of more than 300 nation states—all sovereign, all different and all legitimate. It tells the Aboriginal story. It is a map that should be as well known as the modern map of eight States and Territories. It reminds us that our country is endowed with the wonderful gift of the oldest living culture on earth. Our collective stories weave the blanket that embraces all of us and create the narrative of the whole nation.
Standing here to make this speech this evening, like all first-timers I am awash with many emotions: in debt and empowered by the generosity of people; reinforced and reminded of the importance of loyalty; tremulous about the responsibility of our role as lawmakers and the effects of those laws; humbled to be afforded the task of representing many thousands of people; grateful, wanting desperately to do a good job; and slightly stunned that I am actually in this place. There are some people who cannot be here this evening: my two fathers, Noni Ingram and my dear old step-dad, Fred Stracke, and my best mate, Michael Riley—or, as my kids, nieces and nephews call him, Uncle Mickey. Noni passed away a couple of years ago, Fred passed away during the campaign and Michael is in hospital, too ill to attend. My sister, Kim, and brother, Rodney, could not make it either. But all of them are here in spirit.
I want to share with you this evening a picture of Canterbury through the stories of some of the people who live in this deadly part of Sydney. Now listen, you fellas, in Koori English the word "deadly" means "fantastic; fabulous". So if I ever call you "just too deadly", then look out! I will share a little of my story. I would also like to share some thoughts on what I have learned and believe to be important issues and finally recognise the people, organisations and communities that have played an important role in my life, education and election.
The electorate of Canterbury, like this area of Sydney, is part of the mighty Eora nation. The local group is the Badigal people. It was abundant country: there was the river and the forests. A journey through what is now the electorate of Rockdale to the country of the Thurawhal people gave access to trade and the ocean. Of course, in those days permission was sought to travel through someone's country. Perhaps the member for Rockdale might take note of that. Much of this part of the narrative of Canterbury has, sadly, been lost. But you do not have to look far to find the footprints of the Badigal. The first land grant was given to Reverend Richard Johnston, the Chaplain of the First Fleet.
Urban myth has it that blood flows blue and white in Canterbury. No matter what anyone else says, we love the Doggies—and don't you forget it! Reading through the profiles of that illustrious rugby league team gives me such a sense of what Canterbury is about. Six of the players in first grade were born overseas. Probably the best known, Hazem El Masri, is a young Muslim man born in Lebanon. And can he kick goals! The honourable member for Monaro has reminded me several times of the Canberra Raiders' lucky two-point win over the Bulldogs a weekend or two ago—and lucky it was. All I can say to the honourable member is: What goes around comes around. But I must admit that seven on the trot ain't bad.
There are two major geographical features that define the seat: the good old Cooks River and the infamous Canterbury Road. Some of you might say that they are both pretty crook. In fact, much of the river would be unrecognisable to the Badigal and to Reverend Johnston today. But they are ours and we love them. The $4.9 million announced by the Deputy Premier, Dr Andrew Refshauge, prior to the election will do much to improve the Cooks River further. The stunning thing about Canterbury is its people: they are its excitement and its spirit. The single most important consideration and capacity for anyone in a representative position is leadership. One of the keys to leadership is the ability to take off your own shoes and to stand comfortably, intelligently and sensitively in the shoes of others. So, my friends, take off your heels, your flatties, your loafers and, in the case of a number of you blokes—especially those of the country variety—your RMs. Put on the shoes of some of the people of Canterbury and come for a stroll.
Let us start in Beamish Street, Campsie. You will pass stores bearing goods from all over the world. You can buy saris in colours that are so brilliant they do not seem real. Stop to sample Indian sweets or the wonderful cakes from the Greek cake shop. Eat Vietnamese, Chinese or Lebanese but save some room for the best Korean barbecue you will ever eat. Shop for tomorrow and buy fish, vegetables and halal meat. Walk down Anglo Parade and visit the RSL club and the Korean Resource Centre, sitting comfortably side by side. Drive through Croydon Park and pop into the Aussie rules football club for a beer—and none of your flash variety either!
Picnic in Wolli Creek Reserve at Earlwood on food from the most amazing delicatessens I have ever seen. Visit the churches and the Iman Hussein Cultural Centre. Buy the newspaper from the Hurlstone Park newsagency run by Linda and David Tran. Catch a show at the Hurly Burly, as the RSL club is affectionately known. If anyone has ideas about changing the village of Hurlstone Park they should think again. Just ask the owner of the Dakar Market or Patrick and Paul who run the nursery. Suggest it to Con, who has had his shoe repair shop there for 35 years, and you will not get out of town in one piece!
Keep those shoes on and let me introduce you to a few of the people of Canterbury. Their stories sum up the heart and soul of my electorate. Sam and Hejevah Iskander left Tripoli in 1977 after the two-year war in Lebanon. Like most people who decide to leave their home country, it was for reasons of peace and safety and a better life. They are from the Alawi group. They work at Marrickville High School. They and the Iskander clan are part of the backbone of the Arabic community in our area. They have six children who are all strong in their Islamic faith. I recall eating a meal with Sam and Hajevah. They spoke about their work at Marrickville High and the enormous courage and struggle of the kids from a refugee background at the school. I asked Sam what was important to him about the Labor Party. His response was clear and immediate. It is the party for social justice, for the disadvantaged and for Aboriginal reconciliation. He also said to put a plug in for the Cooks River. I admire the Iskanders. They are as solid as a rock in every way.
Navid and Minaaz Diwan are from Mumbai in India and came to Australia in 1991. They own and operate a small business in Campsie. They have two little girls—Arafah and Suhemah. The Diwans came to Australian because it is a country that is peaceful. They gave me a beautiful scarf to wear this evening, which I have left in my bag. The significance of the colours of the scarf—red, black and yellow—did not escape Navid. He told me yesterday how tough small business can be. They are committed to and feel a part of Canterbury. It is their place. The best political advice I have been given so far came from one of our senior Ashbury branch members. It was, "Girl don't you change." Bill O'Reilly is a man of that ilk. He is a native of South Australia and has lived in Ashbury for eight years. Bill tells me his heritage is mostly Irish. This dignified older man is in our party because he wants to make things better.
One of the great sayings of the Labor party is "rusted on". I just love it. Rusted on—it makes me feel really good just to say it. Two-thirds of the voters in Canterbury are rusted on. Why? Because it was the Labor Party nationally that introduced Medicare—a universal and just health system now under threat from the Coalition. It was Labor that abolished the white Australia policy. It was Labor that introduced the Racial Discrimination Act and the native title policy. It was Labor in New South Wales that introduced a mandatory Aboriginal education policy. It was Labor in New South Wales that was the first government to apologise for the horrendous policy of forcibly removing Aboriginal children from their families. That is why Canterbury is rusted on to the Australian Labor Party, and that is why I am too.
The imperative of social justice is keenly felt in Canterbury. The Australian Bureau of Statistics identifies it as one of the poorest electorates in the State. Despite this, it sets an example for the rest of Australia in terms of social acceptance and cultural diversity. So what of my own personal narrative? I take the lesson of standing in the shoes of others from a book many of us would have studied at school—Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I went to our library to reacquaint myself with this book, to discover it had been out for a very very long time. I am a member of the mighty Wiradjuri Aboriginal nation. Wiradjuri country embraces the Lachlan, Macquarie and Murrumbidgee rivers. The Wiradjuri, like the Eora, were the first of the inland nations to experience the brutality of British occupation. The mighty Wiradjuri leader, Windradyne, and his warriors' resistance were so fierce that martial law was declared in Bathurst in 1823. It is estimated that two-thirds of the Wiradjuri were dead after that four months of martial law. Many of the most brutal recorded massacres in the colony's history happened to my ancestors. I was born in 1957. For the first 10 years of my life, like all indigenous people at that time, I was not a citizen of this country. We existed under the Flora and Fauna Act of New South Wales. [Extension of time agreed to.]
Growing up as an Aboriginal child looking into the mirror of our country was difficult and alienating. Your reflection in the mirror was at best ugly and distorted, and at worst nonexistent. I did not grow up knowing my Aboriginal family. I met my father, Noddy Ingram, in 1984. His first words to me were, "I hope I don't disappoint you." I have now met 10 brothers and sisters. We grew up 40 minutes apart. That was the power of racism and denial in the fifties that was so overbearing. I now have two sets of brothers and sisters. I was raised by my old aunt and uncle, Nina and Billy Laing. They were brother and sister. These old people gave me the ground on which I stand today—the values of honesty, loyalty and respect. Racism was never far away in my youth. I remember being told that we were the closest example to Stone Age man. The life expectancy for a non-Aboriginal woman in Australia is 81 and for an Aboriginal woman it is 66. No-one in this room would agree that that is okay. The core issue is to work with communities to develop capacity and to focus on economic development so that Aboriginal people can move away from the vicious cycle of poverty and welfare. This can only happen in partnership.
Education is the pillar, the cornerstone of social justice. It is what equals us out whether we are from Canterbury Boys High School, Penrith High School or the Kings School. It is education that can bring about equity—equity of outcomes. Many people have said, "What got you into this place?" It is simple: I could read. Education is also about truthtelling. In 1999 in Wollongong, the Premier pointed out that today's generation is the first generation of young people growing up with the truth. Despite our best efforts, we still have work to do here. Throughout the campaign I was struck by young and old people. They want to be included. The young are our future and the older are our wisdom. We must find better ways to meet their needs and deal them into the decisions. The area of disability services is near and dear to my heart. The responsibility of every government is to look to this group of people as being able to make a valuable contribution, and to provide an opportunity for meaningful lives.
We only have one earth. It is the source of our wealth and our communities. It is a complex task but we must look after it. Unless we manage our natural resources sustainably, we are simply passing on the problems to our children. The issues are enormous and we will work through them with co-operation between government and the community. I am determined to make the point that Aboriginal people are part of the everyday life of this State and have views just like everyone else. The days of fringe dwelling are over. The imperative of reconciliation is upon us.
I want to acknowledge Kevin Moss, who joins the distinguished list of those who have represented our electorate, with people like Kevin Stewart and I believe Sir Henry Parkes. There is also the likes of Phil O'Neil, who sat for many years in that other place. I also recognise Maria Acuna and Janice Dufficy, who have spent many years working for Kevin Moss and have knocked me into some sort of shape in the last little while. I do not have time to mention the many politicians who have played an important role in the campaign. At the top of the list is Anthony Albanese. I also mention Leo McLeay, Michael Egan, Kayee Griffin, Ian Macdonald, Meredith Burgmann, Tony Stewart, John Hatzistergos, Carl Scully and many more. But the person from whom I took lessons was, of course, Paul Keating. He said, "You have to be prepared to step up into the big ring and to always assume that you're in charge." I also acknowledge Maurie O'Sullivan and Jack Mundey—good men—and Canterbury Councillors Mark Adler and Fadwa Kebbe. Thank you Warren Mundine for your quiet confidence, and Col and Melissa Markham who are here this evening: old friends.
I want to mention EMILY's List. EMILY has linked up Labor women in this place before we even came in. They taught me the value of "we" and "us", not "I" and "me". There are not enough women in our Parliament in any of the parties. Affirmative action is everyone's business. All I can say is the girls are in town, and there are plenty more where we come from. In everyone's life there are special people who are in it with you for the long haul. Many of you are here this evening—Kay, Bob, Wendy, Janice, Skelly, Jules, Sue, Fergo and Joan, and Jack, Neita, and many more. Thank you for being part of my journey. The Ingram clan: to my elders, Aunty Silvia and Millie, and to my brother Colin, one of the 10 children I spoke of earlier, it would not have been right if you were not here this evening. Thank you for coming. To the members of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, keep guiding me. Let me assure you that you do not stop being black just because you walk up a new set of stairs.
I thank DAA and the Tranby mob for being here. I thank Helen Nazerittis, Damien O'Connor and Verity Firth from head office. Many individuals and organisations contributed to the campaign. Every contribution, no matter what size, was valued. Of course, some was spent on the old corflute. Mine became famous, not because it was a good photo but there were so many of them. A running joke was that we should change Canterbury Road to Canterburney Road. I do not know what comedian came up with that one. I thank our wonderful, wonderful campaign team led by Emanual Tsardoulis. I will not do a roll call; I have thanked you all individually. I now count you all as friends. Your generosity has been overwhelming. It was not my campaign; it was really and truly ours. Rick Farley, my partner—not a bad political adviser to have in your back pocket, let me tell you—was on my side. Thank you, Rick. To Willurei and Binni, my babies who have grown into adults: I love you. Finally, to the rainbow people of Canterbury, I have made you two promises. First, that I will work hard and, second, that I will always do my best. You came on this journey. You trusted, and we created a little bit of history in Canterbury on 22 March: the first indigenous person into this place and a woman—and not the last of either.
Mr SPEAKER: I extend my personal congratulations to the honourable member for Canterbury on her inaugural speech and wish her well for a long and illustrious career as a member of the Legislative Assembly. I also acknowledge the presence in the gallery of a large number of family members and friends as well as local constituents, and also the presence in the gallery of the member for Grayndler.
Ms BEREJIKLIAN (Willoughby) [7.58 p.m.] (Inaugural Speech): Mr Speaker, I stand tonight in this Parliament knowing how important families and communities are in allowing individuals to grasp their potential and the opportunities our great nation almost uniquely offers its citizens. Increasing pressures on families, exponential rates of technological change and continuing global uncertainty have meant that more than ever before we turn to our local communities to offer and to receive support, to effect necessary change and to define and express the type of society we are.
Residents of the Willoughby electorate have every right to place high expectations on me as their newly elected member of Parliament. In this, my first speech, I wish to pledge to all my constituents that for as long as I have the honour and privilege to represent them in this place I will always put my local community first. I will strive at all times to remember the words of Edmund Burke, who said, on being elected the member for Bristol in 1774, that a representative should:
… live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention.
I will dedicate the next four years and beyond to proving to my constituents that their trust in me is well placed, because for me, first and foremost, politics is about people. Willoughby is a richly diverse electorate, from the bustling central business district of Chatswood to the quieter suburbs along the foreshores of Middle Harbour. In Willoughby we have an extremely strong sense of community. We have prominent chambers of commerce, Rotary clubs, progress associations, Lions clubs, church communities, Neighbourhood Watch groups and sporting clubs. Informal street meetings and gatherings amongst neighbours are frequent.
In Willoughby we have a strong and proud tradition of revering and supporting our ex-service men and women. The Chatswood RSL Club, Willoughby Legion Club and Anzac Memorial Club in Cammeray remind us that so much of what we have today is due to the men and women who defended our nation's honour in times of war. For me, it was also of a great deal of personal interest to learn that the fifth member for Willoughby, Edward Larkin, who was sworn into this Chamber in 1913, died on the battlefield of Gallipoli in 1915, alongside thousands of other young Australians. The plaque behind me in this Chamber recognises his ultimate sacrifice.
In Willoughby we are passionate about our natural heritage and environment. When in 1788 Governor Phillip set out to explore Middle Harbour he found a very beautiful and rugged foreshore unsuitable for settlement. Due to the rough terrain much of that foreshore was not touched for over 100 years and fortunately for the most part it remains in the same pristine state today. Willoughby Falls at Flatrock Creek, the unique architecture and streetscape of Castlecrag—ably protected by the local Walter Burley Griffin Society—the famous bridge at Northbridge, 1920s California bungalows and Federation homes dispersed throughout Willoughby, Naremburn and Artarmon are but some of the other unique heritage and environmental features within the area.
In Willoughby we welcome cultural diversity. Locals of many backgrounds contribute in every facet of community life. According to the 2001 Census, 55 per cent of constituents in Willoughby have at least one parent who was born overseas and 32 per cent speak a language other than English at home. Despite these natural attributes and a great sense of community, regrettably many State government services are deficient in Willoughby. Our police in Chatswood, in the centre of Sydney's fourth-largest central business district, should not be forced to work from an old home and demountable buildings which comprise the current police station. It is not even deemed fit enough to be opened to the public on police open days. The Coalition committed $1.5 million to fund the shortfall between private sector development of the site and the total amount that is required. I urge the Government to match this commitment. I put on notice that I will be pursuing it vigorously on this issue until the new station is built.
The unique character of our local neighbourhoods in Willoughby is being threatened by this Government's heavy-handed approach to planning and development. The wishes of the local community and the character of our neighbourhoods need to be considered in the wake of inappropriate blanket policies such as State environmental planning policy [SEPP] 5 and SEPP 53. Chatswood train station is one of the busiest on the northern line, yet there is no access for the elderly or disabled from the platform up to the station. How much longer must we wait for this basic service?
If you travel around the Willoughby electorate during peak hour you will notice frustrated bus commuters who spend too long waiting in long queues, especially in Naremburn, Cammeray and North Cremorne. Other areas such as Castle Cove require new routes. I have also recently learned about the cancellation of services from Willoughby bus depot and will demand that the Government reinstate these services. Traffic congestion throughout the electorate is a serious problem. But what incentive is there to alleviate some of the stress through encouraging public transport usage when current services are so lacking? This situation cannot be allowed to continue.
I will be vigilant also to ensure that Willoughby receives its fair share of public education funding. Thanks to the efforts of my predecessor, Peter Collins, and the local community, Chatswood High School remains, notwithstanding the Government's earlier decision to close it. But there remain grave concerns regarding access to public education throughout the electorate, especially in relation to class sizes, special needs education and general resourcing issues. I intend to set a rigorous pace in communicating with my constituents, in working with the many local organisations, in being accessible and by being an effective voice in this place on their behalf. The recent election in Willoughby was hard fought and the result was close. I want to take this opportunity to place on the public record that I look forward to developing strong working relationships with both Willoughby and North Sydney councils. I thank the Willoughby councillors who are here this evening.
From a very young age I was imbued with a great appreciation of all the opportunities I had and how fortunate I was to be born and raised in a country like Australia. My parents each migrated to Australia in the 1960s, met in Sydney and were married in the Armenian Orthodox Church in Chatswood, in the heart of the Willoughby electorate, in 1969. Our family involvement in the activities of the local Australian-Armenian community cemented my growing interest in community life. Many of my childhood memories are of attending Armenian Saturday school at Willoughby primary school, as well as being involved in other activities, such as the 2nd Willoughby Girl Guides and local sporting groups. This experience taught me to be proud of my cultural background but, more significantly, to value the importance of being a good Australian. This includes being proud of my surname. I thank the good people of Willoughby who voted for me, even though they could not pronounce it.
I am deeply thankful for the support I have received from my friends in the Australian-Armenian community, many of whom are here tonight and many of whom I have known since childhood. I take this opportunity to salute the contribution they continue to make to New South Wales and Australia, just as I salute the contribution made by all the culturally diverse communities in Willoughby.
Whilst I did not realise it at the time, my upbringing and the values instilled in me were core Liberal values. In a society increasingly cynical about the political process and organised institutions, I believe it is more imperative than ever to have a constant point of reference, a core set of ideals and guiding principles to rely on, an anchor when one's mettle is tested and tough decisions need to be made. For me, that anchor has been, and always will be, the tenets of modern liberalism. For me, the essence of liberalism is having the opportunity to pursue and achieve your life goals, irrespective of your background, and then give something back to society by ensuring that this opportunity is created for others.
Liberalism ensures that government will always support those in need and allows individuals to live freely so long as they do not impinge on the freedom of others. I believe the challenge of modern liberalism and the challenge of governments all around the world can best be summed up by John Stuart Mill, whose following statement is as relevant today as it was two centuries ago. He said:
There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.
I stated at the outset my principal belief that politics is about people. I strongly believe that governments should strive to achieve the liberal principle of equality of opportunity as opposed to the Labor Party's ideological position of equality of outcome. Labor's position thwarts innovation, and engenders mediocrity and conformity. In the context of modern State government, a key component to equality of opportunity is a strong education system—both public and private. I deeply appreciate the opportunities I have enjoyed as a product of the New South Wales public education system. I will fight hard so that all schools in Willoughby have the necessary resources to educate our successive generations.
The people we represent in this Parliament will have access to equality of opportunity only if they are provided with adequate essential services such as education, health, public transport, safety and security. To provide these services we need fiscally responsible governments and sound economic management. A well managed economy means that adequate services are provided where they are needed. It is therefore frustrating today, in 2003, to see that Labor is failing to deliver better services and standards of living to the people of New South Wales. Whereas the Federal Government made the tough but necessary decision to address taxation reform by introducing the GST and allowing the abolition of several State taxes, the State Labor Party has tried to sweep the issue of taxation reform under the carpet. [Extension of time agreed to.]
Despite record State Government revenues and budget overspending, services in New South Wales are deficient. Furthermore, the Labor Government has failed to create a climate conducive to business growth. And the result? The average taxpayer is now left bearing the burden of funding this Government's inefficient economic management. It is high time that State taxation reform was firmly on the public agenda. When the Labor Party came to power in 1995 it stated that there would be no new taxes and no tax increases. Since that time, Labor has introduced the insurance protection tax, the owner occupied land tax, the parking space levy and now we even have to pay tax when we go fishing.
It has also increased land tax on investment properties and registration on motor vehicles, and payroll tax has increased by 58 per cent during Labor's eight years in power. Alongside these taxes, revenue has exceeded the budget estimates by more than $3.3 billion in the past two financial years alone. In fact, in the past eight financial years the Government has increased its revenue in real terms by more than 34 per cent. It is of great concern that against this backdrop of rising State Government revenue streams, increasing taxation and the successive budget spending overruns, the people of New South Wales have had an inadequate return on their hard earned tax dollar. Waiting lists continue to blow out, our transport infrastructure is at breaking point, our classes are too large, and the list goes on.
My constituents in Willoughby have every right to demand to know why Chatswood cannot have a new police station or why the elderly and disabled cannot have escalators at Chatswood railway station, or why residents have to pay land tax on the family home they have owned and lived in for 30-odd years. But again the question beckons: If these additional revenue sources are not fixing the many problems we have in the delivery of essential services, or if they are not being used to ease the tax burden on the people of New South Wales, where exactly is the money going? For the sake of the hard-working taxpayers in Willoughby and across the State the Government must urgently address these legitimate questions. Furthermore, the Labor Government can ignore genuine tax reform for only so long, particularly with respect to payroll tax and land tax.
Payroll tax is a disincentive to job creation and business growth, particularly for smaller and medium businesses. The New South Wales payroll tax rate of 6 per cent is uncompetitive with the rates in Victoria and Queensland. The Government should have worked harder to stay within budget and delivered a program for reduction of, at the very least, a full percentage point on the payroll tax rate. As for land tax. Land tax on the family home needs to be abolished and the burden of land tax on investment properties needs to be reduced. The land tax on investment properties is indirectly a tax on tens of thousands of renters because landlords are inevitably forced to pass the increases to their tenants. Such increases also affect small business operators. There also needs to be greater transparency in the land tax valuation process to address concerns about massive and inconsistent fluctuations.
Beneath the Government's spin about its record of economic management lurks a series of time bombs, highlighting the need for more comprehensive budget reporting standards. Honourable members should compare this situation to where New South Wales could be today. We have the people, we have the resources, but we lack a State Government which can make the necessary tough decisions and which can manage the economy efficiently. Working in the financial services sector for the past five years has given me an insight into the many pressures placed on business. I thank the senior management of the Commonwealth Bank for taking a risk in entrusting me as the general manager for a core part of the bank's retail business, with business responsibility for over 2½ million customers Australia-wide. I leave behind many friends and dedicated colleagues.
In politics it is almost impossible to achieve anything on your own. I would like to thank my friends in the Liberal Party, many of whom are here tonight, who through their loyalty, honesty and counsel have assisted in my development over the past decade. In this category I place my predecessor, the Hon. Peter Collins, QC, who served the people of Willoughby with great distinction for 22 years. His contribution to the good governance of this State has been outstanding, particularly in relation to the arts, health, Treasury and his leadership of the Liberal Party. I extend a special thanks to the two Federal members covering my electorate—Joe Hockey and Brendan Nelson for their mentorship and continuing support.
I would not be here were it not for the training I received in the New South Wales Young Liberals movement, and I will forever be proud of having served as the President of the New South Wales Young Liberals in 1996. The Young Liberals play a major role in the leadership of our country, and it is a testament to the organisation that both our Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard, and State Leader, John Brogden, are former New South Wales Young Liberal presidents. I thank the Liberal Party Women's Council for assisting me to take my seat in Parliament—without quotas I might add—and for preparing me for what lies ahead. A special thanks to my friends on the State Executive, especially Sam Witheridge, to the staff at the State Secretariat, the party membership at large, and to my personal staff for their unstinting support.
To all the members of my campaign team, led brilliantly by Deborah Klika, and to all the members of my local conference, under the exceptional leadership of Peter Davidson, you were all with me every step of the way, including those long 13 days after the election. In the first instance you bestowed upon me the great honour of being your candidate and then worked tirelessly to ensure that I became the member. I regard you all as part of my extended family and am excited by what we can achieve together for our local community in the years ahead. It is special to have former Premier Nick Greiner here this evening. I thank him for continuing to inspire a new generation of Liberals. I also note the presence in the gallery of two former members of this Parliament and distinguished Ministers in Robert Webster and Wendy Machin, who I am proud to call my constituents and who have been of enormous support. As you see, the Coalition is alive and well in Willoughby!
To my father Krikor and mother Arsha—whose birthday it is today—thank you for making me believe, ever since I can remember, that the sky is the limit. A special thanks to my sisters, Rita and Mary, who have always been my strongest supporters. Thank you also to my uncle, Father Razmig, who continues to be a constant source of inspiration. I stated at the outset my core belief that politics is about people. At the end of my parliamentary career I would like to look back and believe that I have contributed to improving the opportunities and standard of living of the people of Willoughby and the people of New South Wales.
I am particularly moved by the words of Johann von Goethe (1749-1832), who said, "Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you will help them to become what they are capable of being." I am proud and humbled to be here tonight to represent the values of my family, my party and my community of Willoughby. These are things that will always guide my words and actions in this place. Thank you for your courtesy.
Mr SPEAKER: I extend to the honourable member for Willoughby my congratulations on her inaugural speech. I note the presence in the gallery not only of a large contingent of her family, friends and constituents but also the former Premier, the Hon. Nick Greiner; the Federal Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Joe Hockey; former Ministers Robert Webster and Wendy Machin; and the former member for Ryde, Michael Photios.
Mr CANSDELL (Clarence) [8.22 p.m.] (Inaugural Speech): It is a privilege earned by few to be able to present a maiden or, to be politically correct, inaugural speech in the Legislative Assembly. It is also a tremendous honour to represent the electorate of Clarence in the New South Wales Parliament. In taking up that position I must acknowledge the people of the electorate who have given me a clear and overwhelming responsibility. In public life, as in business or social life, we have to be doers. I assure the constituents of Clarence that I will be a strong voice on their behalf in the New South Wales Parliament and that I will fight for their interests fearlessly and energetically. For those who did not vote for me at the ballot box I say, "Thank God for our democracy, a democracy that gives us the right to choose our political representatives, the right to choose our religious beliefs, the right to live alternative lifestyles and the freedom to express our views in the public domain without fear of recrimination or repression."
I am proud not only to be the member for Clarence but also to be part of an old and distinguished party. The National Party has long been a strong voice for rural, regional and coastal communities. We will continue to fight for our communities to ensure that they get their fair share. Members of the National Party worked hard for me during the recent election campaign, as they did for the previous one, and I extend to them my sincere gratitude for their untiring efforts. I thank the people from business houses, fishing, timber, cattle and all our natural resource industries, local councils and all those who believed in me. I will not attempt to name all those who have made it possible for me to be here. Their major thanks will be the effort and results we achieve in the years ahead. However, I must mention my wife, Della, and my family for their support and the sacrifices they made. I thank them for being here tonight on this special occasion, one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
I would also like to recognise my good friend and mentor, Ian Causley, a true statesman whose encouragement and advice will always be welcomed. I also thank his wife, June. Please bear with me for one minute while I acknowledge the efforts of Rod and Janet Gould; Harry Green; Jeremy and Sue Challacombe; my gals—I got into a lot of trouble from one of the papers when I mentioned my gals—Debbie Newton, Holly Kelsey-Henry and Sharon Davidson; Graham McKellar; Noela Powell; Sue Doust; Eddie Cox; Michael Griffin—thanks mate; my colleagues Andrew Fraser and Melinda Pavey; the Federal member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker; the entire Coalition team from John Brogden and George Souris to Bryce, Scott, Suzanne, Tanya and crew; and Michael Priebe and his team at head office. Your support will always be remembered. All of you worked hard to ensure that I was elected. I would also like to pay a special tribute to the late Frank Glasson, a tireless worker for the National Party and a good friend. He will be sorely missed. I wish my predecessor, Harry Woods, all the best in his retirement.
My early years were spent in a happy environment with devoted parents and three sisters in Dubbo. As I was the youngest and only son I was given a lot of attention and a lot of love. As fate may have it my childhood was brought to an abrupt end at the age of 11. With the sudden death of my mother I was sent to a Legacy school at Baulkham Hills, then back to Dubbo High School for a while and, finally, I finished my schooling at an English orphanage at Molong, where rising at 3.30 a.m. to milk cows and feed pigs was almost compensated for by riding horses and chasing rabbits on weekends.
When I left school at 16 I took up a position as a commercial artist. Around the same time I also developed an avid interest in boxing, a sport I took to like a duck to water, or as my little grandson Willow would say: Winnie the Pooh to a honey pot. As I climbed the ratings as a professional boxer the contradictions of my two lines of work were highlighted by the media with headlines such as "Painter with a Punch", "Steve and the Noble Art" and, after one resounding defeat, "Artist on Canvas". I should have been a comedian! I remember clearly one fight in 1970 when I was 19 years of age and up against a top-rated Australian boxer. The referee was former world bantamweight champion Jimmy Carruthers. By the fifth round I had been knocked down five times. The referee held my gloves, looked into my eyes with some concern and asked, "Are you all right son?" I was not, but I gave him a wink and replied, "I'm okay, Mr Carruthers." He reluctantly let the fight continue. I was fortunate enough to win on a knockout in the sixth round. I can assure the House that I was not always as lucky.
All my successes in life, in and out of the ring, have been hard fought and hard won. I have never walked away from an issue that I believe is worth fighting for. This is one of the reasons the people of Clarence supported me and why I am here tonight to highlight the concerns and the opportunities we have in this part of New South Wales. In speaking of the Clarence electorate we should be mindful that its history goes back far beyond the 200-plus years of European settlement. Aboriginal people have occupied the area for thousands of years. I reaffirm my commitment to support and promote indigenous culture and heritage. The Clarence electorate is a dynamic area, and its future depends on thriving industries. As the name suggests, the Clarence electorate covers almost all of the catchment of the mighty Clarence River and some of the Richmond River. The region has great traditional rural industries, including timber, fishing, beef, sugar cane and dairying, which are of enormous importance to the State as a whole.
The Clarence electorate has an abundance of tourist attractions, including many famous beaches, seaside ports, and historical and natural attractions. The New South Wales economy remains dependent upon agriculture. The rural sector, though a minority grouping, is of fundamental importance to the standard of living of all Australians. The people of my electorate of Clarence, along with many other country Australians, are suffering from the environmental correctness forced on country people and farming families by extreme groups and governments purporting to act on the community's behalf.
Country people practise sustainable development and conservation. Unfortunately, their sacrifices are ignored and their achievements go unrecognised. Present policies are damaging the Clarence electorate's vital industries, such as timber and fishing, and selling the community short in jobs, aspirations and regional prosperity. The North Coast of New South Wales is an area of high unemployment, yet the New South Wales Labor Government continues to bring in legislation that serves only to exacerbate the problem.
It was with interest that I read Ian Causley's first speech, made in this very Parliament on 8 May 1984—almost 19 years ago to the day. The speech was on the Forestry Revocation Bill. Labor was in government then, as it is now, and it was attempting to lock up huge productive areas of forest that were invaluable to local economies. Ian's speech was quite prophetic. He spoke about the problems that adjoining land-holders would face with feral animals and noxious weeds as more and more national parks were declared wilderness areas and access to them was denied, and he outlined the risk of bushfires with the enormous build-up of combustible fuel. It sounds familiar, doesn't it? He mentioned the loss of jobs and whole communities being destroyed by legislation put together by academics and city dwellers who had no grasp of the economic implications of their holier-than-thou ideals.
Trees are important, but people are too. Reserves have been set aside, but we also have to provide security for people, their families and country towns. We need fewer tree-huggers and more management. Forestry and grazing have been the economic backbone of the Clarence electorate since European settlement, and there is no reason why they cannot continue as the mainstay of the economy with careful management. The Regional Forest Agreements [RFA] legislation was designed to help the timber industry prepare for the future by securing resources and providing the right support to face the challenges of the new decade. The bill was based on scientific facts embracing areas of generic species, and the process would honestly assess areas to be put aside for wilderness, national parks and working, sustainable forestry.
Once completed, the RFA process would allow long-term resource agreements to be signed, effectively guaranteeing resources for up to 20 years. However, the Labor Government has manipulated the RFA process in New South Wales by reducing available resources, thus also removing certainty and security and undermining confidence in this vital industry. It has done this without conducting a socioeconomic impact statement as it promised it would. The timber industry cannot be expected to invest millions of dollars to allow value-adding if it cannot be guaranteed long-term access to resources. I believe it is time the New South Wales Labor Government started listening to people who know and understand the industry, instead of playing politics, because it is not helping the State and it is certainly not helping workers or their communities.
Another important issue that is affecting the future viability of industry in my electorate is the need for dredging of the Clarence and Evans rivers. The present poor state of the rivers is impacting greatly on all users and many businesses. If maintained, these rivers have huge potential for increased trade, fishing and tourism. The Evans River is in desperate need of dredging to maintain a safe channel for the passage of commercial and recreational fishing craft. The river is the lifeblood of Evans Head. It provides access to the sea for the commercial fishing fleet and recreational fishermen. The failure to maintenance-dredge shipping lanes has driven many commercial fishing vessels, such as the tuna fleet that once went into Evans Head, into Queensland and is denying export and tourism opportunities. Some 1,200 families derive their income either directly or indirectly from the Clarence River alone. One business being affected is the Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative, which is the largest fishermen's co-operative in New South Wales, turning over some $30 million and supplying 21 per cent of fresh seafood marketed through the Sydney Fish Markets. [Extension of time agreed to.]
The co-operative is a significant exporter through the port of Yamba, earning valuable export dollars and reducing impacts. With more than 80 full-time staff, it is estimated that more than 600 individuals and their families rely on the co-operative as their main source of income. Yamba Shipping is another company experiencing problems. Waiting for high tides to move freight in and out of the port causes delays and incurs time and dollar penalties. This is having a negative impact on the port's ability to procure and sustain business.
Koppers Timber Preservation is the largest single exporter remaining in the region, and 50 per cent of its business in Grafton is dependent upon being able to export out of Yamba. Last year, delays caused by lack of depth for one shipment incurred a substantial loss. To be forced to use another port, such as Brisbane, would put Koppers out of the export market and out of business in the Clarence. This is not acceptable. The dredging of the Clarence and Evans rivers is the single most effective activity that can be undertaken to turn around the economy of this region. The answer has always been readily available, but the New South Wales Labor Government has not been prepared to take the initiative and apply solutions. I call on the Government to declare the Clarence and Evans rivers as high-priority jobs, and to take positive, preventive action to rectify this situation.
I also support calls from Clarence councils for higher priority to be given to funding of local roads. As I travel around the electorate I find that the local road network is badly run down. People continuously tell me that more resources need to be put into fixing and maintaining local roads. Greater investment in infrastructure is required so our communities can secure the viability and competitiveness to provide a stronger platform for regional development. It is impossible to ignore the deterioration of local roads and bridges in the electorate, and it is patently obvious that local government authorities do not have the resources to meet the community's needs. Governments at all levels need to improve infrastructure and new policies must be developed to stop further deterioration.
We have the people resources and natural resources to make our region grow and provide more jobs, but we must have the right policies and willingness from government. Seeing our young people leave the Clarence in search of work is a tragedy, and we must fight to reverse that state of affairs. We have to offer them a future and a career that is more viable than the dole. Youth unemployment can only be addressed through the creation of real, long-term, sustainable jobs. TAFE institutes in the Clarence electorate play a critical role in the educational and economic infrastructure of the region. However, the New South Wales Government needs to acknowledge that there are difficulties and extra costs involved in delivering regional courses, and that the institutes face significant burdens, which are not sufficiently recognised in the present funding provisions.
I urge the Premier and the education Minister to recognise that the system has been seriously underfunded, that it continues to carry unmet demand and that it falls far short of the kind of investment that TAFE directors have been calling for. While on education I would also like to bring to the Premier's attention the dire financial state of our community preschools, particularly in rural areas, with many struggling to keep their doors open and only doing so by staff working for lower than expected wages. In fact, expenditure per child on preschool services in New South Wales has been approximately half the national average for the past five years.
Health and dental care is another area in which the New South Wales Labor Government has held expenditure below the optimum level, with waiting lists in Clarence for elective surgery and dental care alarmingly high. Surgeons in my electorate have resigned in protest over funding cuts that threaten to increase elective surgery waiting lists to four years. People who require urgent dental treatment are being assessed by a computer. The pressure is building. The Government simply cannot put off more spending in these areas because Australians have legitimate expectations that, in a society such as ours, governments will deliver the level of goods and services they believe a modern first world society is entitled to. We must create new jobs and provide people with confidence and skills through enhanced educational and training opportunities. At the same time, we must continue to support and encourage our existing sustainable natural resource industries as they are not only our past and present, they are the platform for tomorrow. That is what the people of Clarence expect. That is what they deserve. To my dad, Radiator Bill Cansdell: You are one of Australia's true heroes. Thank you.
Mr SPEAKER: I extend my personal congratulations to the honourable member for Clarence.