Tuesday, 20 December 2022
Address to Parliament
Address to Parliament
The SPEAKER (17:19): I report that today the house attended the Legislative Council chamber, where Her Excellency the Governor was pleased to make a speech to both houses of Parliament. I have obtained a copy for the Assembly’s records. The speech is available on the tabled documents database.
Martha HAYLETT (Ripon) (17:19): I move:
That the following address, in reply to the speech of the Governor to both houses of Parliament, be agreed to by this house.
We, the Legislative Assembly of Victoria assembled in Parliament, wish to express our loyalty to our Sovereign and to thank you for the speech which you have made to the Parliament.
It is a privilege to stand here today shoulder to shoulder with my friends in the Labor Party and those across the aisle and on the crossbench in the 60th Parliament of Victoria.
I would like to begin by acknowledging those who came first to the lands that I live and work on and now represent, the Barengi Gadjin people, the Dja Dja Wurrung people, the Eastern Maar people and the Wadawurrung people. I pay my deepest respects to their elders past and present and the emerging leaders of the future. I would also like to extend that same respect to the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung people, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, to representatives of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, including co-chair Marcus Stewart, and to other First Nations people here today.
I stand here honoured and humbled to be the member for Ripon, and I stand here as a proud country Victorian. I grew up on a dirt road in central Victoria in an old miners cottage overlooking one of the sites of the 1850s gold rush. As a family we were Labor through and through, but there is also some blue in my blood. My grandfather John was a spud farmer in England. He was also the town mayor and president of the local Conservative club. My dad Robin had joined the club at age 15 simply to play snooker. But as he grew older he became more and more appalled at the views and values surrounding him, so on his 18th birthday he wrote a letter to the club president resigning his membership. His own father, as the president of the club, had to accept that letter, which made for a very awkward birthday dinner. Dad worked in the local sugar factory and petrol station to save up enough money to travel. He met my mum Heather in a youth hostel in Sydney. They fell in love, and the rest is history. Mum came from a very different home. She grew up in the working-class suburb of Oxley in Brisbane’s south-west. Her dad Ned was a goldminer raised in Ballarat who had driven my grandma Joyce up on his Harley-Davidson in the 1950s to chase the Queensland sun.
I come to this place filled with the love of my family – my parents Heather Holst and Robin Haylett, my sister Freda Haylett, my brother Joseph Haylett, my brothers-in-law Jon Jenkins and Shane Pacarada and my three nephews Leon, Eamon and Ronan Jenkins – and the love of my fiancé Sam Lynch and incredible in-laws Kieran Cumberlidge, Peter Lynch, Caitlin, Madeleine and Isabella Lynch. Thank you for giving me the strong foundations that have brought me here today and for teaching me the importance of the collective.
My family, like many, relied on our public healthcare system. When I was a little girl I had significant hearing difficulties. It often meant I missed what people were saying, especially if I was not facing them. In the classroom it meant I ended up in the naughty corner more than I deserved. As a family we did not have a lot, and without our public healthcare system my parents would not have been able to afford the operation to fix my hearing. But because of our healthcare system and our incredible healthcare workers I was able to have surgery, and when I did it changed my whole life for the better. It is why I am so proud the Andrews Labor government is fighting to protect and improve our healthcare system for families just like mine. It is also why I carry with me a deep determination to fight for those kids who are not given the same opportunities to learn and grow.
Growing up, my mum Heather worked in homelessness and family violence services for years. Women and children would arrive, fleeing violence, often with only the clothes on their backs. Even at a young age I would play with these kids and think about how unfair it was that they were sleeping in a car or on a friend’s couch – kids not so different from me and my brother or sister denied the right to a safe and secure place to call home. Those experiences lit a fire in my belly. It is the reason I went on to work in the housing sector, fighting to end homelessness and build more affordable housing across our state. And it is one of the driving reasons I am here today. I am so proud of this government’s commitment to improving tenants rights and building more than 12,000 new affordable homes, 25 per cent of them in rural and regional Victoria.
But there is always more to do. Access to affordable housing remains one of the biggest issues facing communities in Ripon. There are no rental vacancies in Ararat and St Arnaud. Kids are living in shipping containers around Wedderburn. Older residents have no supported housing options in Dunolly, and too many people are sleeping in tents around Maryborough. Our local industries want to grow, but they do not have the housing to home their workers. This issue must be addressed by building more public housing and affordable private rentals and introducing inclusionary zoning, planning provisions and more. If a first speech is a yardstick by which we might come to measure our contributions in public life, I want to use this opportunity to be very clear: I believe that every family, every Victorian, deserves the shelter, safety and security of a home, and every day I am in this place that is what I will be fighting for.
The Western Renewables Link is another significant and disruptive issue for my community. I want to take this opportunity to remove any doubt: I am not in the business of saying one thing in Smeaton before the election and another on Spring Street today. The project is a disgrace and must be fixed – not through grand statements or chucking money at the problem, but through hard work, genuine commitment and standing side by side with my community.
A feature of rural and regional Victoria has always been overcoming natural disasters. The droughts and fires of the past seemed a distant memory as our streets flooded in January this year and again in October. In the days following I watched in awe as SES and CFA volunteers worked tirelessly and while hundreds more turned out to sweep mud and sewage from scout halls and football-netball clubs. I saw, as we often do, the very best of our community in the very worst of circumstances. As the waters recede, the mud is cleared and the news crews head home, I will be there for them always. I know this government will be too, to rebuild what was lost better and stronger than before, because we know the rains will come again, just as we know that the droughts and fires will come too. We need to ensure our communities and our incredible volunteers have the backing they need to keep responding and that we build back stronger and better every time.
Now, there is a much longer list: investing in rural and regional transport, including the government’s commitment to making the V/Line fares truly fair. We need to ensure our roads are fixed and that we do more fulsome upgrades and less patch jobs. We must continue to support our farmers, their industries and their livelihoods, especially as they deal with the impacts of extreme weather on their harvests, and protect country Victoria’s much-loved pastimes, including camping, hunting, fishing and prospecting. We must boost access to mental health services and GPs in our rural communities, because still the further you are from Melbourne, the less likely you are to find care. And we must strengthen our support for veterans, because we owe it to those who fought and sacrificed their lives for our country. Now, a few lines in a first speech could never truly do justice to each of these issues, but please know that I will carry each of them with me every day in this place.
And now the necessary thankyous: my first and foremost thanks are to the people of Ripon themselves. As a former member, the Honourable Joe Helper, once said, ‘Ripon is the most fantastic group of people anybody has ever drawn an electoral boundary around.’ The boundaries have changed quite a bit since then, but his point still remains. From the sheep graziers of St Arnaud to the spud farmers of Newlyn, the manufacturing workers of Ararat to the printers of Maryborough and the over 100 communities in between, Ripon is home to some of the most decent, hardworking, kind and generous people you will ever meet. I know this from experience, having talked and listened to thousands of locals on their doorsteps, over the phone, over cuppas and at market stalls across our region. To the people of Ripon, whether you saw fit to give me your vote or not, I promise you I intend on being a member who listens, who cares and who is your local voice first and always.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the former member Louise Staley and thank her for her service to our community over the last eight years. That same acknowledgement extends to every single candidate who put their hand up to serve the people of Ripon at this election. We may not agree on everything, but I will always admire those who seek to make our community a better place.
The pursuit of gold has defined the many communities in Ripon since William Campbell first discovered it in Clunes back in 1850. That time in our history saw both triumph and tragedy, from the enormous wealth that famously branded Maryborough ‘a town attached to a train station’ –
Martha HAYLETT: it is beautiful – to the horrors of the 1882 Australasian mining disaster in Creswick, the worst of its kind in our history. The most famous legacy of the gold rush era was of course the Eureka rebellion. My predecessor remarked in her first speech that the lesson from this historical event was clear – that individuals should have the right to go about their business without excessive tax or red tape. Now, this may be indeed true, but I believe there is a far more profound lesson, a lesson that rings true across the dockyards, construction sites and bus depots, a lesson that has defined the growth in character of our state and country for the better and a lesson that was as relevant in the 1850s as it is today: when the workers are united they can never be defeated. Every day that I stand in this place I stand with workers and their representatives across Ripon and beyond. I want to thank the mighty union movement, in particular Mike McNess and Mem Suleyman from the Transport Workers Union, for their unwavering support. I congratulate them on their richly deserved re-election. I would also like to thank Elizabeth Doidge, Ian Fullerton and Paddy Farrelly from the CFMEU for their tireless efforts to support the Ripon campaign; Michael Donovan and Dean D’Angelo from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association; and Cassia Drever-Smith, Ross Kenna and Brett Edgington from Ballarat Trades Hall, the second oldest in the world.
Now, none of us can claim to get here without the support of an army. At the heart of mine was my rock, my love, my fiancé Sam Lynch. He has been there with me every single step – during the tears, laughs and long days. Then there was Gabriella Dawson, a woman wise beyond her years and the best campaign manager in the business. Ours was a community campaign in the truest sense of the words. To the true believers of Ripon, many of whom are here today – the Ararat, Maryborough and Creswick-Clunes branches of the ALP: we turned Ripon red because of you. I stand on the shoulders of giants, including Hilary Hunt, Jeremy Harper, Jean Hart, Carole Hart, Thelma Herbertson, Bev Watkins, Alex Stoneman, Jenny Beales, John McDougall, Pat McAloon and Carmel Roads. Labor shines bright in Ripon because of you and the hundreds of local volunteers and supporters who turned up through it all.
To Daniel McGlone and Sarah De Santis, who ran powerful campaigns in 2014 and 2018 and came so close, your contribution to our movement will never be forgotten. To my core campaign team, who rose to every challenge: Lorraine O’Dal, the matriarch of Maryborough; Mark Karlovic, the steady hand, wise counsel and jack-of-all-trades; Craig Fletcher, who despite what you may have read in Crikey put up hundreds of yard signs far and wide; Craig Otte, the man with a van and a solution for every problem; Mitchell Kingston, the wonder kid from Queensland; Alice Jordan-Baird, who brightens every room she enters; Caley McPherson, who called every person I had ever met to make sure they helped out – she really did; Bassel Tallal, who always is and I am sure always will be just a phone call away to do whatever needs to be done; and to so many others, including Nicola Castleman, Cam Petrie, Jett Fogarty, Jeff Hoober, Jenny and Bruce Mackay, Ash Bright, Susan Crebbin, Brody Viney, Wendy Podger, John Stewart, David Reeves, Frank Kitchen, Maree and John Murphy, Mary and Ian Bruce, Lis and Peter Humphries, David Morgan, Lesley Nelson, Warwick Stagg, Millie Page, James McDonald and Steve Cusworth, thank you for your endless energy and commitment.
I would also like to thank those who were taken from us all too soon but who stood with me in spirit: the endlessly loyal former Senator Mehmet Tillem, to whom I owe so much, and the force of nature Clara Jordan-Baird, who would have been 34 today and whose presence I felt beside me on all those backroads. Happy birthday, my darling. We love you, we miss you always.
I would also like to pay tribute to the Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan. You wrote the book on ensuring rural and regional voices are heard in this place. You paved the way for country women like me to put their hand up for Parliament, and I will always remember how prepared you were to seemingly drop everything with a moment’s notice to help in any way you could.
I want to thank the Ballarat Labor family. To the federal member for Ballarat Catherine King, who took me under her wing and showed me the way, thank you, and to the member for Wendouree Juliana Addison, who gave me invaluable advice every single day; to the member for Eureka, who so generously introduced me to so many of the communities that were redistributed from her patch; to you, Speaker, for your friendship and support; to the member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas for cheering me on; and to the former member for Yan Yean Danielle Green for all the fun times.
To the sisterhood 2022 group – nine strong, incredible women that are all entering Parliament this year – thank you for keeping me laughing along the way. To the former Premier and the man who rebuilt regional Victoria Steve Bracks, former member for Ripon Joe Helper, member for Niddrie Ben Carroll, member for Lara Ella George, former Speaker in this place Judy Maddigan, former member for Southern Metropolitan Region Philip Dalidakis and former senator Stephen Conroy, thank you for your support and for keeping me on track. To Zoe Edwards, whose sage advice at the very beginning of this journey to just jump off the cliff and hope for the best is the reason I am here today, and to the federal member for Hawke Sam Rae, the size of whose heart is only matched by the height of his hair, thank you for everything.
To Chris Ford and your team at head office, Fordy, I thank you for the same reasons that all Labor members in this place thank you. You ran a brilliant campaign that has delivered Labor another four years in government, but I especially thank you for your loyalty, advice and friendship.
Finally, my thanks to the Premier and all cabinet ministers and members for the last eight years of bold and courageous leadership. It is a privilege to stand amongst your ranks. I look forward to four more years of getting on with it.
It will be the honour of my life to serve the people of Ripon in this place. It is why, as I close my opening remarks, it is to them that I make this promise: that I will not measure my success in this place by how many terms I serve or how high up the ladder I may climb; I will instead measure success by how strongly I amplify your voices and the voices of working people in rural and regional Victoria for your right to a safe and secure home, your access to quality health care and reliable transport, your safety and dignity at work and the opportunities that ensure your kids can reach their full potential. You have entrusted me with all of this and more. Rightfully it is a responsibility I take seriously, but I carry with me something much lighter too. I carry with me your unyielding optimism and aspiration, your deep belief in the power of community, your time-tested commitment in caring for one another and your willingness to back a young woman with an appetite for hard work. I will not let you down.
Dylan WIGHT (Tarneit) (17:45): I am pleased to second the motion. I would like to begin by honouring the people of Tarneit for the trust that they have placed in me and honouring the Wurundjeri and the Boon Wurrung people as the traditional owners of the land.
The 2022 Victorian election has taught us that many of the old theories, paradigms and equations must be abandoned. In November the electorate, in their eternal wisdom, punished those parties and candidates who tried to ignore the demographic shifts, who opposed the new way of thinking or who denied the reality of generational transformation. The electorate rewarded candidates who at least attempted to understand what was going on, candidates who reflected the community as it truly is and candidates who had a vision for modern Victoria. Amidst all the change, some immutable facts remain. Voters like governments who say what they mean and mean what they say. Voters like governments who put the community first. Voters like governments who stand for something, who aspire for transformational change. So it is with great joy that Victorians have supported the Andrews Labor government as part of the broader, mighty labour movement.
For each of us there is a unique set of circumstances, motivations and idiosyncrasies that lead us to decide to run for Parliament. I want to talk about what drives me, but first I would like to acknowledge the fact that we all come here to try to help our communities and try to deliver a better Victoria for the next generation, so even when we are in heated disagreement I want you all to know that I respect the fact that you are prepared to stand up for your beliefs.
I, like so many others, developed my core beliefs from a young age. As the son of a blue-collar union convener who retrained later in life to become a public school teacher and the grandson of a man who had nine brothers and sisters, I was told from a very young age, ‘There are three important lessons to take with you throughout your life: always vote Labor, always be in the union and never, ever cross a picket line.’ Whilst these words have stuck with me throughout my journey, it was more than this that created the values that I live by today. I went to school, caught the bus and played sport in a place that relied on Labor governments. I saw firsthand the difference Labor could make. I remember the public housing estate next to my primary school. I went to school with the kids who lived there. We played football and cricket together at the local club. We had play dates at each other’s homes. Those families were an integral part of our community, but without social welfare, without Medicare, without compassionate governments, many of them would have been homeless. That is why politics is so important.
Politics can be a hard pursuit. There is a price to pay, and so often the ones that pay that price are the ones you love – your family and friends. To allow us to do what matters for Victorians in here we spend less time out there – less time at home, less time with those that love us.
I am conscious of making sure that this is not one big thankyou note, but there are plenty to thank, so bear with me. To the two loves of my life, Koby and Kai: I know the last little bit on the journey to Dad’s new job has at times been tough, but the good news is Dad’s good red team won and the bad blue team lost. Watching you boys grow and develop, being part of your lives, is the biggest privilege that I have. Kai, you are smart, sensitive and caring. I have never met another little boy who makes a new friend literally everywhere they go. Some people in life will try and take advantage of those qualities, but never, ever change. Koby, you are dry, witty and inquisitive, always full of questions and always ready to argue with me about why my answers to those questions are wrong, a trait that would not be out of place in here. Boys, there are times over the next four years that will be tough, times that we will not get to see each other as much as we would like, but always remember: whatever I achieve in here pales in comparison to the pride that I get from being your dad. To the boys’ mum, Cassie, thank you for everything you do for Koby and Kai. I could not think of a better co-parent.
To Dad Phil – Bartos: you are an educator, an activist, a confidant and at times an ATM. But above all that, you are my best friend. I consider my childhood to be one of privilege relative to many others. But things were not always easy. The love, support and downright patience that you showed Jarrod and me is the overwhelming reason that I am here. Dad was a Labor candidate in 1996 for Geelong – a campaign that unfortunately resulted in a re-elected Liberal government. During the campaign my mother Marie fell ill, diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. Mum, born and raised on a wheat farm in New South Wales, was as tough as they come, but by February of 1997 she was gone. Now a single parent, Dad put his political ambitions to the side to raise Jarrod and me and decided not to contest preselection for the 1999 state election. He instead supported a great friend to our family, the former member for Geelong Ian Trezise. Dad, you belonged in this place as much as anybody sitting in here this afternoon. You gave up that opportunity for Jarrod and me, and that is a debt that I can never repay. Although I was only seven when Mum passed away, her love and her care for us is permanently imprinted in my brain, and there is not a day that goes by that I do not think about her.
Jarrod, my brother, carrying on the family business as a public school teacher, is a family man, a musician and a far better surfer than I am. You are everything that every husband and every father should aspire to be. Watching you raise your beautiful children, my nieces Lottie, Ines and Eleni, with Kylie has been nothing short of a gift. To Dad’s partner Mary, perhaps the most vital cog in the Wight machine – so often you play the role of carer to Koby and Kai whilst I am out beating the drum – you may not hear this enough, but thank you.
And of course there is my partner Jess, a soldier, a serviceable volleyball player and an electrician looking after our state’s energy grid. You have been with me for almost the entire journey since being preselected 12 months ago. I could not have done it without you. You keep me grounded for so many reasons. But for the most part, how can you complain about anything to somebody who just got home covered in oil, waiting to return to work at midnight to repair a transformer or a breaker so that Victoria can keep the lights on? You are funny, sweet and supportive and all of the good things. I am looking forward to spending much more time with you and Odie in the months and years ahead.
There are so many more to thank, some still with us and some not: Nan, Pa, Pop, Marie, Casey, Tori and the girls, Sharnee, Stef and the boys, Pam, Geoff, Bert and Ricco, Mitch and the old Thomson crew, the Geelong boys – you know who you are.
To my union, the AMWU – Ian Jones, John Herbertson and Paul Difelice, I am eternally grateful for your support and guidance, as well as to Minister Gayle Tierney. Tony Mavromatis, Tony Piccolo, Lou Malgeri and Vince Pepi, thank you for the opportunity, the work we did together and the ongoing friendship and support. To Michael Watson and Troy Gray from the Electrical Trades Union, Lisa Darmanin from the ASU, Susie Byers from the CPSU, and the entire Victorian union movement, thank you.
It is indeed a journey to get here, so to everybody that has been part of my journey – communications extraordinaire Hannah Dillon, my campaign manager Josh Spork, Casey Nunn, Clancy Dobbyn, Kos Samaras, Ros Spence, Michaela Settle, Josh Bull, Darren Cheeseman, Julijana Todorovic, Vicki Ward, Sam Rae, Alan Griffin, Mat Hilakari, Joanne Ryan, Nicola Castleman, Chris Ford, Sonja Terpstra, Raoul Wainwright and Kim Carr – you have all been part of my journey, and for that I am incredibly lucky.
To all those involved in my campaign, Tina and David Garrick; Rosy Buchanan; Robert Szatkowski; Vincent Bellosi; Jas Sidu; Nusrat Islam; my predecessor in Tarneit and new member for Laverton, my friend Sarah Connolly; Tarneit Titans and Wyndham Suns football clubs; Tarneit Harmony Club; Club 60; Pritam Singh and the Tarneit gurdwara; Rifai Abdul Raheem and everybody at Melbourne Grand Mosque; Ravneet and the Hoppers Crossing gurdwara; Dr Rafiqul and Golden Wattle mosque; Sheikh Abdullah and Virgin Mary Mosque; and of course the legendary Mohamed Masood – my greatest thanks are reserved for all of you.
I am grateful because it is an honour and a privilege to represent Tarneit in this Parliament. The spirit of the community is amazing. A statistician would look at the electorate and tell you that half the voters have a mortgage, half the voters were born overseas and half the voters were born after 1981. Two out of every five voters follow a religion other than Christianity. But our community is much more than a list of stats. We are much more than Hoppers Crossing, Mount Cottrell and Tarneit. There is a palpable sense that we are building a diverse, dynamic and caring community from the ground up. As the local member, I want to champion that new way of community building.
One priority will be delivering the infrastructure the community needs that works the way the community wants. I will work hard to get a fair share of infrastructure investment. The Growth Areas Infrastructure Contribution Fund, for example, can and must do more for Tarneit. Another key focus area is public housing. Past generations have shown us how vital public housing infrastructure really is. Luminaries such as the Prime Minister, the head of the Business Council of Australia, the member for Melton and the member for Geelong all started their lives in public housing. Now we get to enjoy the benefit of their skills and their abilities. The question we need to ask is: what future leaders will we lose if we do not provide the same opportunities for the next generation? The estate I spoke about earlier, next to my primary school – I am proud to say that as a result of the Big Housing Build, it is currently receiving a $21.6 million upgrade. We have done a lot, but there is much more to do. In Victoria people are our key resource. Investment in public housing is an investment in that resource.
Another investment in that resource is making sure Victorians are safe at work. From bitter experience I can tell you that there is an unequal distribution of risk among Victorian workers. Blue-collar workers face a higher risk of being killed or suffering serious physical injuries at work. Having seen what I have seen, I am convinced that there is much more that needs to be done to both prevent injuries and support those workers that have suffered an injury, and I plan to work hard on that for all of my days.
I am excited about the rebirth of the SEC, not only because of the impact it will have on delivering energy responsibly, sustainably and affordably; I am also excited because of what the policy says about the apparatus of government. It says we can all come together under this umbrella called government to make things right. Of course the SEC will be all about jobs. We must aspire to a future based on high-skill, high-paid jobs. We cannot rely on the rest of the world; we need to make things here and be self-sufficient. Effective government procurement policies are vital in this endeavour. Victorian manufacturers and Victorian manufacturing workers can innovate, design and deliver what we need to be front and centre in this endeavour, and I look forward to working with the mighty AMWU in supporting manufacturing jobs in this state. For decades we were told, ‘We have 2000 level crossings around Victoria. We are stuck with them.’ This government has blown that old thinking out of the water. We must continue on in that spirit for the people of Tarneit and for all Victorians.
The SPEAKER: I acknowledge Zoe McKenzie MP, member for Flinders, in the gallery. I acknowledge Aaron Violi MP, member for Casey, in the gallery, and I acknowledge the Honourable John Pandazopoulos, former minister, in the gallery.
Sam GROTH (Nepean) (18:05): I rise today with the honour of delivering my first speech to this, the 60th Parliament of Victoria, proudly representing the district and constituents of Nepean. It is an incredible privilege to be elected to this place, representing my community. The southern Mornington Peninsula is a unique and special part of our great state. Sandwiched between Bass Strait, Western Port Bay and Port Phillip, it is an incredible part of the world. Sand beaches on the bay side, surf beaches on another as well as rolling hills filled with vineyards and orchards in between – quite amazing for so-called metropolitan Melbourne.
I have asked myself numerous times in preparation for this moment how I ended up here as a member of the Victorian Parliament. Born in Narrandera, a small town in the Riverina, and growing up as the eldest of three children to my parents Phillip and Melinda, I had dreams to play footy for the Swans or play on the hallowed turf of the centre court at Wimbledon. We had a modest upbringing, my dad working six days a week to try and give his family a better life. But never, as a kid riding his bike to school in Corowa or to the local tennis courts or football ground at John Foord park, did I ever dream or envisage that I would be sitting as an elected member of this chamber. My family always made plenty of sacrifices for me to be able to travel and play tennis as a junior, and I know, looking back, it was a stretch for them, but I am forever grateful for that opportunity, and I worked hard every day to make sure that that sacrifice was not for nothing. It is that work ethic and mentality that I bring to this place as well.
These first 35 years of my life have seen many a career change. Moving to London at just 17, a year after my parents moved their family from Albury to Templestowe, tennis was my passion. I was lucky enough to be a member of the Victorian Institute of Sport and later the Australian Institute of Sport. As a 17-year-old boy from the country away from home in a foreign land, you grow up quick. At 21 I played my first Australian Open singles and thought I knew it all. But 2½ years later I was playing suburban footy at Vermont in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. After a year away and meeting my now wife Britt, I went back to tennis, and eventually I did walk onto that centre court at Wimbledon as well as the biggest stadiums my sport had to offer. I proudly represented Australia, just the 105th man to play in the Davis Cup for this country, and became an Olympian at Rio in 2016. But at 30 that career was over – and so I moved into the media.
Tennis commentary of course was the natural move but what followed – hosting a travel show and writing opinion – all became part of the package. I thought, ‘This is me. Set for the future, commentating grand slam finals and helping showcase the very best our state has to offer.’ I remember when all that changed, on 13 March 2020. I was an ambassador for the 2020 Formula One Australian Grand Prix, and my brother was getting married on the Friday. We had taken a day away from the track for a round of golf before the ceremony, and I received a call that the event was being cancelled because of the coronavirus. A year later and after numerous lockdowns I made the call: ‘How do I help make a change?’
I joined the Liberal Party, contested preselection for the district of Nepean and now I stand here as the MP for my community. And while the change in government I had hoped would come a few weeks ago did not, I am here with a voice for the future of this state and for our party. With four years ahead of me representing Nepean, the state but also the Liberal Party, my mind turns to what the future may hold. For Nepean, I am committed to being the best local member possible. I made the move to the Mornington Peninsula with my wife Britt and our twins to give them the best start possible to life in a supportive community built on our mutual love for the unique environment and lifestyle. However, over the last eight years Nepean has been neglected by the Labor government – deprived of critical investment into facilities, services and infrastructure that we need to sustain our thriving communities. The southern peninsula is a global tourist destination and one of Victoria’s ecological jewels. Despite this, it has been forced to cope with a lack of health and transport opportunities.
Nepean deserves its fair share of services and investment from the Victorian community, and I look forward to being a vocal, active and effective voice for my electorate in Parliament. I consistently campaigned for vital infrastructure, including the Rosebud Hospital and Jetty Road overpass, throughout the election period, and I will continue these campaigns as the local member, because my work as an MP should be focused on providing the best outcomes for the local community which has put its faith in me to advocate and deliver every day in service to them.
The Mornington Peninsula is unique, and I am dedicated to preserving and protecting it from overdevelopment and environmental degradation. I will work hard to ensure the peninsula way of life is upheld and that government legislation is scrutinised for its impact on our local area. For the state of Victoria, I will be an active and involved member of the Victorian opposition, working alongside our leader and shadow cabinet to ensure that we put forward a constructive and positive plan for the future of Victoria.
Following the re-election of the current government for its third term, it is more important than ever for Victoria to have an opposition of united focus, to ensure that accountability, transparency and integrity are upheld. In the Liberal Party we are faced with a choice, having only held government for four of the last 22 years – to rebuild for the future or continue offering more of the same. This election, the Victorian electorate again sent us a clear message. When my Liberal predecessor, the Honourable Martin Dixon, rose to deliver his first speech in 1996, he reflected on the Kennett government’s success and how the Liberal Party would be determined to listen to the people, to learn, to change and to evaluate its vision. This is the sentiment we must now refocus on for the next four years.
Victorians expect a Liberal Party that represents the contemporary values of Victoria and reflects the diverse and modern community we are proud to have in this state. Clearly we did not satisfy this expectation, and that is something we must take meaningful and substantial steps towards changing and correcting. It is vital that we connect with our mainstream community through a fundamental re-evaluation of our platform while maintaining our core Liberal values on which the party has seen so much success in the past. There will be arguments after this election about whether we need to move right or left, but the reality is we need to move forward, and Victorian voters have made it clear that they will only accept a true Liberal Party representing a fiscally conservative and socially moderate agenda – a 21st century party for a modernised and cosmopolitan state. That is something I will work tirelessly to deliver for the Victorian electorate.
I will always be enormously grateful to the Nepean constituents for supporting me to be their local member, but I would not be here without the support of a number of people in particular. Firstly, my parents Phillip and Melinda; my brother and sister Oliver and Sophie; and my in-laws Mitch, Trish and Jacinta. To my campaign manager Edward and electorate chairman Bryan, as well as Robb, Anthea, Gael, Brian and Marshall from my campaign team, I want to thank everyone who volunteered, giving up time to open the office, stand at shopping centres and markets and to man the booths during pre-polling and on election day. I would not be here without all the hard work that you all put in. Thank you to all the donors who contributed to the campaign. To my friend and the federal member for Flinders, Zoe McKenzie, I look forward to working alongside you to deliver the best outcomes for our Mornington Peninsula. I thank the Liberal Party members in Nepean for putting their trust in me as the candidate and the people of Nepean for electing me to represent them.
I thank the members that I am now honoured to sit here beside and across from, knowing now the dedication and sacrifice it takes to sit in this place. Thank you to those that I have worked with over the last five years in the media – especially Emily, Ben and Brent – and to former member for Nepean Martin Dixon for his knowledge and always sound advice. I want to thank my two close friends and mentors: Josh Frydenberg for his political guidance over the last two years; and Todd Woodbridge both in my tennis days but especially in the last five years working alongside me and always being a guiding hand.
Most importantly, to my wife Britt: you have always been the most amazing support to me, no matter what I do, and somehow never once questioned why I would take on this journey. I am doing this for the future of this state so that our twins Mason and Parker have the best opportunity in life. This is going to be different for our family, but I know you will be there with me every step of the way. Britt, I love you.
So now, as I prepare for my first Australian summer without tennis for more than two decades, I look forward to being able to serve again, albeit in a different way. I thank the house for its indulgence.
Daniela DE MARTINO (Monbulk) (18:19): Deputy Speaker, congratulations to you on your election to the position. I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we gather, the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung people, and pay my respects to their elders past and present and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait people with us here today.
I would like to begin by thanking the outgoing member for Monbulk the Honourable Mr James Merlino for 20 years of service to the electorate and to the wider state of Victoria. Mr Merlino most recently held the roles of Deputy Premier, Minister for Education and Minister for Mental Health. My thanks go to him for his two decades of dedication and for his friendship and mentoring of me. Thanks must also go to his wife Meagan and their children Sophie, Emma and Joshua in supporting him to undertake his important role. Mr Merlino certainly set a high bar for all of us in this place, not least of all me. It is not often one would describe a politician as beloved – sorry, fellow members – but after the thousands of conversations I have held across the electorate, where so many expressed to me just how well liked and respected he was, I believe I can safely make that claim here today. Victoria’s loss with his retirement is now Hawthorn Football Club’s gain as he takes his place on their board of directors. But I would please like it noted that Mr Merlino’s unwavering love for Hawthorn just proves that no-one is perfect.
The electorate of Monbulk now takes in the majority of the Dandenong Ranges, located to the east of Melbourne. Its western border commences in parts of Ferntree Gully, Boronia and the Basin, and it extends east to the town of Gembrook. Thirty-five towns with their own proud histories line this district of hills, gullies, a multitude of waterways, temperate rainforest and an abundance of trees. It is a beautiful place. Monbulk has a thriving tourism industry, including the famous Puffing Billy Railway, the 1000 Steps and the Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden. The soon-to-be opened Chelsea Australian Garden at Olinda is sure to become another Victorian if not Australian icon. This is all in addition to the natural beauty found across the ranges, to which tourists have been daytripping since the 1870s.
The name Monbulk is believed to come from the local Indigenous word Monbolok, meaning ‘hiding place in the hills’, where it is thought that warriors would go to rest after battle. So it is clearly a place where people have gone to find peace for thousands of years. But for all its beauty the district of Monbulk is also vulnerable to bushfires, storms and landslips. The duality of the majestic and destructive force of nature is all too apparent across this electorate. The spectre of bushfires from years past still lingers for many. This coming 16 February will mark the 40th anniversary of the Ash Wednesday fires. The town of Cockatoo was devastated by the fire. They have not forgotten; nor should we. When storms hit, the power goes out, sometimes for days. In the case of last year’s storms, many were without power for weeks. Along with the loss of power comes the loss of telecommunications. These two issues are critical for all who live across the electorate. The solutions are unlikely to be simple, but I will work with all levels of government towards finding them.
My story, like that of many others here in Victoria, started with immigration to this country. My father Paul and his parents and three siblings emigrated from Naples, Italy, in 1969. He was 17 years old – a year younger than my son is today – moving to a foreign country with a foreign language on the other side of the world. My mother Renata was born here just after her parents emigrated from the Veneto region of Italy in the late 1940s. When my nonna gave birth to my mum she could not understand the nurses speaking to her in English. I can only imagine how frightening and overwhelming that must have been for a young woman of 23, away from her family and community, birthing her first child with no clear understanding of what was happening to her. How brave she was.
The courage my family had to start a new life in a completely different country is the story of many who form a part of the rich multicultural tapestry of our state of Victoria. Last year’s census found that 30.2 per cent of households in our state used a language other than English and both parents were born overseas for 41.3 per cent of Victorians.
This is something of which we should be incredibly proud. For as long as we continue to welcome and support those who seek a better life here they will enrich our society with their culture, skills, different experiences and perspectives, not to mention the amazing food – speaking of which, my interest in politics started at our family dinner table in my early teens. It was a frequent topic of conversation. My parents were committed believers in social democracy and the Labor Party. They never voted any other way. The names of Whitlam, Hawke and Keating were hallowed in my house. Although they were small business owners from the time I turned four, my parents always identified with the social justice values for which the Labor Party stands – ultimately that no-one should be left behind. They believed that those who were less fortunate were deserving of support and that ensuring people could live decent lives would result in a better society for everyone within it.
I also have a very good friend who now sits in the other place, Ms Lizzie Blandthorn, who would talk of politics with me on the bus, in class, before school, after school – anywhere and everywhere. Her connection to the Labor Party and the union movement was strong, as were her powers of persuasion, and I decided in my late teens that I should join the party too. It was and is the party for the people, for the workers, for those who are not fortunate enough to be born into privilege, for those who need a hand and for those who will lend one to them.
My interest continued throughout my university years when I studied politics at the University of Melbourne through my bachelor of arts. I was fortunate enough to go on exchange for a semester overseas at the University of Manchester and found myself a job working in the local student pub. It was a dive. It is not uncommon when you are young to presume that the world as you know it is largely replicated across other countries. Whilst working in Manchester I learned that in the case of industrial relations our Australian system was quite special and certainly not the same as in the United Kingdom. In 1998 my hourly rate at the pub I worked in was £1.95. A few weeks into my new job I went to buy a toothbrush from a Boots pharmacy only to discover it cost me £2.50. My hour of work could not buy me a toothbrush. My indignation and fury were palpable. How was this possible? Wasn’t there a minimum wage like we had back at home? The short answer was no. In fact it was not until April 1999 that the United Kingdom’s first minimum wage was introduced. By contrast, we established a wages board in 1896 in Victoria, and the Harvester decision of 1908 set our first minimum wage. We beat the English by 91 years, but who is counting? If I was not already assured of the importance of the Labor Party and unions in this country, I was utterly convinced of it after experiencing the paltry wage many of us were subjected to back in the UK.
A couple of years later I heard the calling to become a teacher and completed my diploma of education. I entered the classroom in 2002, teaching English, history and geography over the next seven years at Firbank Grammar School and Pembroke Secondary College. I loved it. It is one of the great privileges to be able to teach young people and guide them on their journey into the next stage of their lives. Some of the best people I know are teachers and educators. Indeed, most of my closest friends and my two sisters-in-law are or have been. They are selfless in their work and dedicated to the education and wellbeing of young people. We all owe them our gratitude. Alison, Sally, Kate, Jacinta, Jane, Michelle and Jenny: you are some of the best of us.
Education is the great leveller, and this government has done so much already to ensure Victorian children get the best start in life. I will advocate strongly for schools so that staff have the best settings to deliver exceptional education for students. One of my proudest moments during the campaign was announcing the upgrading of Emerald Secondary College. I look forward to seeing this come to fruition.
When my teaching schedule clashed with my capacity to secure child care, the plight of many a working primary carer, I found a new part-time role at the national office of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, where I worked as an industrial officer. With the memory of my experience in Manchester still fresh, I was full of passion for the work which unions do in securing better conditions and pay for workers.
We defended a tax on penalty rates and won the case to change the adult rate from 21 to 20 years for workers in retail and fast food. Some of the most brilliant minds dedicated to improving the lives of others were in that office. Greta Brewin, Ian Blandthorn, Julia Fox, Sue-Anne Burnley, Therese Bryant, Katie Bittlestone and Matt Galbraith – I learned so much from all of you, and I bring that knowledge into this place with me now. The collective power of people working towards a common good should never be derided or diminished. We need only look to countries where minimum wages mean people barely subsist, conditions like annual or personal leave do not exist or are grossly limited, and occupational health and safety is largely ignored. They are places where unions have little presence, if any at all, and consequently workers are treated poorly. Unions give voice to the vulnerable, and I will always proudly support the important work they undertake.
After five years of industrial relations work I decided that I needed a different direction and a job closer to home. Mike and I bought the local organic store, which turns 40 next year. Climate change and environmental issues more broadly are the biggest existential crises we face across the globe. In running this business, where we minimised waste and packaging and we championed sustainable chemical-free farming and food processing, I was able to live my values once again. We have only one planet, and as custodians of it we must do our utmost to mitigate the change which is occurring. It is the least we owe to our children and their children to come.
Although I am the daughter of small business owners, it was only after managing my own for six years that I truly appreciated the hard work which goes into running a business and employing staff. Small businesses are the largest employer collectively in this state and across the country. I truly understand the challenges they face and will bring those experiences into this place. Thriving, stable businesses employ happy, well-treated staff. They are deserving of our support. To the staff we employed over the years, some of whom are here, my thanks to them all for being the best staff anyone could find. Some have become my friends, and I am so grateful to them for their work and friendship.
It is through a desire to help others that I find myself here today – to give voice to those who do not have one or struggle to be heard over others. It has been said by those who know me well, and probably by most people who have been more than five minutes in my company, that I can talk underwater. I was even berated for talking and singing in class one day when I was not even present, so clearly my reputation preceded me. Well, I am here to put my capacity to speak to good use, but with the promise to always listen more and to listen carefully to what the constituents of Monbulk have to tell me and to bring their stories into this place with me in an effort to help those who need it most.
Being elected to Parliament required the work of many wonderful people who gave of their time freely to support our campaign. I thank them all, including Amit; Andrew; Anne; Bev; Ian; Kate; Kara; Kelly; Maria; Mr Michael Galea, currently giving his inaugural speech in the other place – he has probably already given it; Michelle; Sophie; and Tricia. Thanks to you all. I must also make special note of Pam, our secretary, and Liam, our campaign director. Both are deserving of the highest thanks one can give. The work they undertook was demanding yet executed with precision and never a complaint. To the members and friends of the wonderful Monbulk branch of the Labor Party, thanks for climbing the mountain with me to knock on doors, for picking up the phone to talk with voters and for standing at street stalls and stations in the rain, hail, more rain and very little shine. Special mention must be made of Andrew, Tricia, Warwick, Rudy, Vander, Lynne, Adam, Pat, Ken, Di and Lucius – the amount of time they all gave up to help this campaign was extraordinary. Thank you also to Mr Michael Donovan, national president and secretary of the Victorian branch of the SDA, and Dean D’Angelo and the hardworking SDA young Labor crew, notably Ella Gvildys and Adam Steiner, for all their support and effort.
To my dear friends and family here in the gallery today and those who could not make it, including my in-laws in the UK, Anne and David, Alison, Sally, Simon, Pete, Amelia, Tom and Sam, I am grateful to have them all in my life. My sister Laura and my old friends Jane, Connie, Michelle, Kate, Lucy, Louisa, Sarah, Matt and Sam, thank you for decades of friendship and for putting up with my political chatter over the decades. Now I have a position where I can talk politics all day long and possibly leave you all in some peace – possibly.
To my mother and father, who is no longer with us, thank you for raising me and imbuing me with your values of social justice. Thanks for all your love and support. I know that wherever Dad is he is proud and he is loving this moment.
To my husband Mike: when I went to study in Manchester, I travelled with the dream of exploring the United Kingdom and Europe and spreading my 20-year-old wings. I came back with a fiancé, almost giving my parents synchronised heart attacks. Here we are, 25 years later. I am so glad we found each other. Mike, you are my greatest supporter and defender but also the first to tell me when I need to pull my head in. I am blessed to have you, and I love you. My Alex and Bella: the resilience each of you has shown through the challenges you have had to endure in your short lives is remarkable. I stand in awe of you both and how you have coped with all that you have experienced. I could not be prouder, and I love you with all my heart.
It is a true honour to stand here having been elected by the people of Monbulk – to represent them and give voice to their needs in the Parliament of Victoria is a privileged position. It is a responsibility which few have the chance to hold, and I will not take it for granted. Never in my wildest dreams, as the granddaughter of poor migrants and as a pub worker earning less than a toothbrush an hour, did I think I would be standing here in this place, a member of the most progressive government this great state of Victoria – indeed Australia – has ever seen. I am so very grateful and so very proud to be a part of it. I promise that every time I enter I will pause to remember the work I have to do for the people I represent, with a true desire to leave this place better than I found it. And I hope that when I leave these chambers for the final time, I will have made everyone proud.
Jade BENHAM (Mildura) (18:42): First and foremost I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of my electorate, the Ladji Ladji and Barkindji people, who have enriched and continue to enrich us with their culture, which will forever remain enshrined in our region. I also pay my respects to their elders past and present.
Today I begin my journey to represent them and represent every man, woman and child within my entire community. For that I am forever grateful, and over the period of my term in office as the member for Mildura I will never take that for granted. I am indeed honoured and humbled by the support and comfort that the voters in my electorate in the far reaches of the great north-west of Victoria have afforded me. It has been overwhelming, yet it has given me a great sense of expectation that the work starts now.
It was hard work that the Mallee was built on, and I have witnessed firsthand the triumphs and tragedies that have impacted this region, even now with a significant flooding event, with a potentially devastating disease that has ravaged our growers who produce the vast majority of our country’s dried fruit and table grape exports and with a sudden hailstorm which has wiped out cereal crops across the southern Mallee. They are part of my community. They are my friends. They are my neighbours. By representing them in this Parliament I hope they receive the support to get them through a wasted season – another one – with no income for another year.
Just imagine for a minute in this chamber – or any of your constituents – living for one year with no pay, trying to put school shirts on your children’s backs, unable to provide them with sporting gear so they can enjoy the crisp Mallee air of a Saturday morning playing the sport of their choice, let alone have aspirations of greater education and career opportunities ahead. Ours is a region that faces these challenges over and over and over again. This is the reason I am here. This is the reason that I fought so hard to be in this Parliament: to fight for the people of the Mildura electorate. Now here I am, because in the Mallee we need to fight tooth and nail for everything we get. But too often something has to give: the crops fail, the floods come. Our socio-economic status is one of the lowest in the state; our unemployment rate is one of the highest in the state. And yet we fight on. That is what we do in the Mallee – we are full of fight.
In year 11 I was told by a teacher – not one like you, Daniela – that I would never amount to anything, as are many in my community, whether it is because some believe that we will just end up blockies’ wives, I kid you not, or blockies ourselves. Or perhaps it is due to the perceived lack of opportunity or vision for something bigger. I hope now I can be that vision for young people who know their parents cannot afford to send them on to higher education or who are told over and over again they will amount to nothing. Guess what? Yes, you will –with just a little bit of fight. The opportunities are honestly endless in the great north-west; you just sometimes have to create them for yourself.
I come from a long line of women who had a whole lot of fight in them and refused to stay quiet – shocking, I know – who refused to be the victim simply because of the place where they lived. My Italian grandmother emigrated out here to be with a man she did not even know in the 1950s. She could not cook – yeah, we got ripped off – but she had the fight in her. She fought to come out to this country because she knew there was a better life waiting for her future family here in Australia and the place that we now call home. Every day she worked so hard to grow her family the food they needed to survive and ultimately thrive.
My maternal grandmother, daughter of a World War I hero, grew up on harsh Mallee country in the 1920s and would tell stories of the hut that they lived in and of the Natya school where she was educated. She went on to become the first A-grade netball umpire in our part of Victoria in the 1970s. Imagine the work, dedication and effort that must have taken in the 70s. But she had the fight in her. She was determined. She got there. Now my own mother, my sister and I carry that legacy today, although none of us have been able to reach the A-grade status that she did. But she fought for it, and she won.
My mother at just 26 years old faced the prospect of having a nine-month-old baby and the fight of her life on her hands – to run a grape block as well as raising her new child, me, alone at 26. Where were you at 26? I bet it was not running a farm with a toddler on your hip. Now, fight or flight should have kicked in here, and it probably did. She chose fight. Whilst her husband – my dad – was booked for a course at Castlemaine college courtesy of Her Majesty, she fought every single day to make sure it was all there when he got home. She was there. The farm was there. Everything was there because of the fight in her. Under the most trying circumstances she refused to be a victim and walk away. She refused to give up. She knew that if she put her head down and her bum up, she could get through this, and then they could get through anything. Despite being wiped out with hail later on down the track and a few other ups and downs along the way, I am happy to say that they are still married and sitting over there after 47 years and still live on that same block that they bought together when they were first married – the one she ran while dad was on ‘holiday’. She fought. She won – and she is still winning.
I am a second-generation Australian on my father’s side and a World War I soldier settler’s great-granddaughter on my mother’s. The Mallee is in my blood, and in the Mallee we fight. We always have. The entire Mildura electorate is a marvellous place – very, very different from end to end. It is probably the place where the last carrot you ate came from; in fact there is a 35 per cent chance it came from just up the road from my place. Smashed avo on toast – yes, we are growing that too. The avocados and the grains that go into your sourdough – that is coming from us. And the almond latte you order from your barista in the morning, that is us. In fact we are producing 60 per cent of Australia’s almonds in our region, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Grapes, legumes, sultanas, oranges, Mallee prime lamb, asparagus, wheat, lentils, stone fruit – they are all grown right in my patch, and they will land on your plate without notice or consequence. You will enjoy them – you might even compliment the chef – but without our visionary, innovative and dedicated efforts in the far north-west, you would be missing out.
Next time you do eat the glorious things we have grown for you, spare a thought for the fight that it took to get to your plate, fridge or fruit bowl. Think about the many families out on farms right now as we sit here – harvest wives making sure that the crews are fed in the hope that they can have Christmas Day off, or the families in the district who on the daily have to fight ever-growing numbers of trucks on roads with gaping potholes, crumbling shoulders and huge drop-offs, quite often having to leave the road entirely and come to a stop because there is no other choice if we want to stay alive on our country roads. Think about the school bus drivers that fear for their precious cargo’s lives every time they turn a corner that has not been maintained, or think about the fact that whilst your food is delicious the cost is far greater than the money you are paying for it.
Thankfully, Mallee growers are full of fight. They have to be or none of us would ever eat. That lamb or granola, grapes, carrots or whatever it is has caused our growers incredible stress and heartache. It has cost them more to produce this year than it ever has before because of chemical prices, freight costs, labour issues, flood, hail, disease and so on. Think about the actual price of getting it to you. It is a lot more than $2 an avocado, I promise, but we fight on. We fight because we have a job to do, and that job is feeding your family.
Whilst our growers are incredibly stressed – and I know this because I am married to one – seeking help for those health issues, both mental and physical, that manifest is getting increasingly harder in the Mildura district. Imagine being in a mental health crisis and being told a GP appointment for a mental health plan is at least eight weeks away or that your four-year-old requires antibiotics urgently but you have no idea where you might be able to get a script for that. Because of the recent closure of Tristar Medical and other issues surrounding rural medicine and GPs we cannot get a doctor’s appointment for three months or a telehealth appointment for at least 10 days now. Just this week I had a gentleman contact me who, in his mid-seventies, requires pain medication and who throughout COVID has become accustomed to telehealth. Imagine him, living alone, being told he would not be able to have his medication for Christmas because there are simply no appointments available. And imagine him being told that he should try going up to accident and emergency at our hospital. He does not want to do that, of course, because he knows the pressure that Mildura Base Public Hospital is under. He knows that he would have to sit outside for a RAT and wait times could be lengthy.
Imagine being Mildura mum Katrina, wife of Scott who, with an undiagnosed heart condition, suddenly died because he could not get an angiogram in a regional city of over 40,000 people. When Scott’s heart condition took a turn, even though they lived only minutes from the hospital, ambulance services could not get him to life-saving treatment. Now she fights with every fibre of her being so that the people of our tri-state area of Mildura have access to specialist care and procedures like angiograms. The Umback family have just celebrated their fourth Christmas without their husband, dad, son, brother and uncle over the weekend. I plan to help Katrina fight.
The great north-west of this state is just getting greater, but our roads and healthcare systems are failing us. I believe it is worth fighting for basic services for those that provide you with your family’s food every day. It does not seem like a huge trade-off, does it? Decent roads and transport infrastructure to get food to market and port, a doctor’s appointment when you need one and a rural healthcare model that grows with our region and does not force those who need support to move to larger centres where they can get it – these are just two of the issues that gave me the fight to run for the seat of Mildura. Now that I am here my intention is to follow them through. I have only ever wanted the best for my community, and my promise is to do that each and every day of the week.
My family has been and continues to be my strength. To my husband Luke, who is the backbone and heart of this operation, words will not ever be able to thank you enough, but I will work so hard that the outcomes just might be. To my children and stepchildren Brooklyn, Scarlett, Peyton and Parker, your generation is why Mamma is always working. I will think of you every day that I am away for work. I love you to the moon and back and all the twinkle stars. To my mum and dad, who filled me with this fight in the first place by showing me exactly what it looked like, thank you. I hope I have made you proud despite the green boots.
We are only just getting started. To my ride-or-die squad, Kel and Brylee, thank you. To the National Party dream team, Matt and the team at head office, and our campaign committee on the ground – Daniel Linklater, Jon Armstrong, Grace Walker, Brylee Neyland, Xavier Healy, Alan Malcolm, Gerry Leach and John Watson – you all have the fight in you and you are amazing. Thank you to the federal member for Mallee, Dr Anne Webster, for all your work – I cannot wait to work closely with you for the betterment of our community. To the volunteers who hung or hosted signs or handed out how-to-vote cards on polling day and over the course of pre-polling, I say thank you. It takes stamina and fight, and you had plenty.
I welcome other new members of Parliament and look forward to working with the current government and other members to get a fair go for the Mildura electorate – the region that puts food on your plate and champions on racetracks, and punches above its weight every day. I invite all of you to come and see it for yourself. I am deeply humbled that my journey to represent the people of Mildura begins today. Thank you.
Chris CREWTHER (Mornington) (19:03): It is an honour to be elected to serve as Mornington district’s representative, covering Mount Eliza, Mornington, Tuerong, most of Mount Martha and Moorooduc, and part of Baxter. We live in an amazing part of the world. To all I promise to be genuine, humble, compassionate and hardworking and to have courage of conviction, put myself in others’ shoes, stand up for justice and make a difference. Today I will outline my background, principles and changes needed.
Grace and I live in Mount Eliza with our kids Yasmin and Edward, who attend a local child care and public primary school. Yasmin has missed her last day of grade 1 today, but what a learning experience!
I grew up in Horsham with my three younger siblings Sara, Katrina and Lee. My dad Barry was born in Mildura. His mum tragically died at 23, and his sister at Kew Cottages years later. He moved in with Melbourne relatives, later moving back in with Grandpa when he remarried. At 16 Dad started in the army apprentice scheme at the old Balcombe army barracks in Mount Martha, now housing young people through Fusion. Dad then worked as a mechanic and a financial planner and recently ran the Wimmera’s community transport program. My mum Debbie was born in Jeparit, living on a farm at Ellam. After a family split she moved with her siblings to Melbourne with my nanna. In my early years Mum danced and taught ballet but, growing up, mostly worked as our mum.
Now for a story. My nearly 95-year-old grandpa Bob McIntosh and his cousin Noel had neighbouring farms. They shared farm equipment and their kids played together, including Mum. Coincidentally endorsed on the same night last year, I am now privileged to serve in neighbouring chambers with Noel’s grandson, my third cousin Tom McIntosh, Labor’s member for Eastern Victoria, also covering Mornington.
I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth; nor was Grace, whose parents moved to western Sydney from South Korea when she was aged three. Seeing my parents work hard to create a better life, I followed their example, starting as a paper boy aged 11, then at BP and at Franklins supermarket.
My spark to make a difference was lit seeing significant disadvantage growing up and doing YMCA’s Victorian and federal Youth Parliament over 20 years ago at Camp Manyung in Mount Eliza and this Victorian Parliament. After attending mainly public schools in Horsham and Murtoa, I completed a law degree and two masters degrees in international law and diplomacy, on break working in canola and wheat breeding. Professionally I have worked as a magistrate’s associate, lawyer, project manager, international lawyer through the UN in Kosovo, CEO of Mildura Development Corporation and head of strategic partnerships for the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. I have been on several boards and committees, including Global Voices, Mt Eliza Woodland Residents Association, my daughter’s primary school’s parents and friends association, and Australia’s Modern Slavery Expert Advisory Group. I am also patron of the Tourette Syndrome Association of Australia.
Previously I represented part of Mornington district as a federal MP from 2016 to 2019. Nationally I was chair of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Aid Subcommittee and the government’s home affairs and legal affairs policy committee, bringing about Australia’s Modern Slavery Act. With locals I delivered many projects, including Mornington Little Aths track, Mount Martha Soccer Club fields, Peninsula Home Hospice’s building, the National Centre for Healthy Ageing and more. I am perhaps the only MP to have stood now in four federal and state elections against the Nationals, the teals and Labor and to have served at federal and state level. But that is the past. I will use this experience to build for our future.
From preselection on 9 December last year to declaration as Mornington’s MP on 9 December this year, I have worked hard, hand in hand with locals. For the next four years I will work with constituents, Liberal and National colleagues and parliamentarians to improve Mornington district and Victoria.
Liberals must be different. Before the next election Liberals will have spent 23 out of 27 years in opposition and won one election in 30 years. So we must offer an alternative and stand up for what we believe in: aspiration, free enterprise, families, reward for effort, lean government and of course freedom, equality of opportunity, preserving our environment and justice, which I will now address.
First, on freedom: Liberals and I believe in the basic freedoms of thought, worship, speech, association and choice. In my experience this campaign was the most others and I have been targeted for being or associating with people of faith – often not for what was said but on the basis of guilt by association. In saying that, anyone should be able to express their views and try to persuade others. It is not wrong to be a Christian or a person of faith. Under a secular democracy, one should not try to impose their world view or restrict the rights of others. Christians, atheists, Muslims and others applying these principles have more in common than those who do not. That does not mean, though, that one cannot express their faith or non-faith in politics or acknowledge God, as I do. Principles and values shaped by one’s faith, world view, experiences and upbringing are crucial. Importantly, we must value each person equally, strive for justice and treat everyone with kindness, not as ‘the other’. We must abandon generalised labels like ‘religious right’, ‘right-wing nut jobs’, ‘loony left’ and so on. This simplifies politics and humanity and enables ad hominem attacks based on group identity, whereas an individual can have views ranging from left through to right. So this term I will stand up for people of faith or non-faith to freely speak their mind and for private schools and organisations to freely associate and employ based on their values and beliefs.
With the pandemic we have also seen a massive incursion into people’s freedoms to protest, express themselves, freely practise their faith or even go to the playground. We saw the power of state governments and the limited power of federal government. In my 2016 maiden speech to federal Parliament I noted that most freedoms are not guaranteed and can be whittled away with a simple parliamentary majority. I just did not see it happening in 2020. Thus basic freedoms and liberties should be included in Victoria’s constitution with special majority and/or referendum protection.
On vaccinations, another topical subject: firstly, I support vaccinations. They have done a great job globally with measles, smallpox, polio and more. However, people should not be forced, coerced or pressured on vaccinations through mandates, job losses, financial losses or exclusion. Vaccination uptake should only be based on education, persuasion and positive incentives. For that reason, I do not support mandates. We need less-restrictive options that bring larger vaccination gains.
On drug use, having worked in a Magistrates Court early in my career, I know that many of these cases take a lot of police and court time away from dealing with more serious matters, so on this point I also personally support decriminalisation of drug use and targeting dealers, not users.
On social media, we need laws targeting algorithms that divide society, feed people different information on the same topic, create confirmation bias and echo chambers and connect similar people. Instead social media should be an open marketplace of ideas, feed people a variety of information, promote creative thinking and randomly connect people.
Second, on equality of opportunity, we believe in equality of opportunity, ‘with all … having the opportunity to reach their full potential’. People should be able to follow their dreams and aspirations regardless of background, postcode, socio-economic situation, sexual orientation and so on.
On education, schoolchildren are disadvantaged on school choice because of their postcode – particularly due to zoning – and socio-economic situation. This perpetuates advantage and disadvantage, and artificially inflates and deflates house prices. It does not increase school choice, particularly for disadvantaged kids, create school competition, incentivise improvements or intermix society. Thus we must look at the way we do zoning, if at all. We should also look to a HECS-based system for schools so children have maximum school choice no matter their socio-economic background. Further, we must increase child education levels, looking to places like Finland. There should be a high minimum tertiary entry standard for teaching while concurrently greatly increasing teacher pay and reducing administrative burdens. We must see, respect and reward teachers in the same bracket as doctors, as they are in, say, South Korea.
Starting primary school, I recall seeing kids without uniforms being picked on. We need to expand up-front coverage for uniforms, excursions, music, dance, sports and more in schools and implement a post-school model, like in Iceland, to give young people positive alternatives. We must also invest in education infrastructure based on need, not on margins or politics. In Mornington district examples include Mount Eliza Secondary College, with nearly 50-year-old buildings, and Mornington Park Primary School.
On connectivity infrastructure and services, we must decentralise and invest to attract industry, business, jobs, people and services, and grow opportunity no matter one’s postcode. This includes investing in public transport, rail, airport, port, road, power, freight, health, education, sport and communications nodes across Victoria. I will continue advocating for passenger rail to Baxter and Mornington plus to places like Mildura, Horsham, Koo Wee Rup and elsewhere; Hastings to Mornington with a bus service and a bus service to our local retirement villages; fixing potholed roads; redeveloping Rosebud Hospital; and upgrading reserves like Emil Madsen, Dallas Brooks, Narambi, Moorooduc and Ferrero. Much of the Mornington Peninsula is further than Geelong is from the city, but we get 10 times less investment. Like Geelong, we must be reclassified as regional while protecting our green wedge. With the growth of telework under COVID, more people can work from anywhere, so with connectivity infrastructure we can reduce urban sprawl, productive land loss and commutes; revive regional communities; improve people’s way of life; support farmers and miners; grow high-quality manufacturing; and enable energy investment.
On public housing and homelessness, we must end grouped or concentrated public housing, which perpetuates disadvantage. Instead we must invest in distributed public housing across Victoria that intermixes society and improves support networks. Years ago I got funding for a Melbourne City Mission trial to match people needing a home or a room with those offering them. Such a program could be implemented across Victoria, with land tax, stamp duty and rate reductions to incentivise home owners to offer accommodation. Longer term stability can change lives, and there are more than enough under-utilised properties in Victoria to house every person experiencing homelessness. We must also fund and replicate proven holistic models like Fusion and Zoe Support Australia.
On payroll tax and stamp duty, these should also be phased out and replaced. Payroll tax punishes employment. Stamp duty lowers first home ownership, disincentivises housing turnover and impacts house prices.
Third, on the environment, we believe in preserving our environment for future generations. That is why Liberals like Alan Hunt pioneered the green wedge. This is a major issue for Mornington, including the old Reg Ansett land and mansion, the decommissioned South East Water reservoir and protecting our beaches from eroding due to human interference such as dredging, inadequate drainage and Mornington’s wave wall. We must stop inappropriate development, save sites like the old reservoir as wetlands and invest in long-term beach solutions.
Fourth, on justice, we believe in a ‘just and humane society in which the importance of the family and the role of law and justice is maintained’. Enhancing justice is essential. Injustice begets injustice, but with justice comes a caring and humane society. And so I was honoured to be appointed as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Justice and Corrections and today as Liberal Party Whip in the Legislative Assembly. Thank you, John and team. I will also have more to say on these roles, but I will strive to use my experience to bring about a better and fairer justice system, improve youth justice outcomes, tackle modern slavery and more.
Without an incredible team of hundreds of volunteers I would not be standing here today, so thank you. Thank you to my executive and campaign committee: Mornington chair Stephen Batty, campaign chair Peter Rawlings, campaign manager Jackie Hammill, Anita Josefsson, Susanne La Fontaine, Linda and Robert Hicks, Colin and Dawn Fisher, Greg Dixon, Josiah Matthew, Lisa Francis, Sophie Stuart and Michael Stuart, James Balmer, Steve Perera, Dreena Gray and Emma Buchanan, and also Edward Burke as initial campaign chair.
Everyone who donated, put up signs, encouraged me and volunteered – thank you. And to those who have gone above and beyond that I have not already named, including Emile Nicholas, Ruth Sutton, Sabe Saitta, Kerry Beard, Jan Strong, Renate Hadoway, Robin Amos, Britt Lloyd-Doughty, Di Goetz, Mark Burke, Louise Ashby, Judy Shearman, Amedeo Sacco, Colin and Linda Price, Michael and Jenny Hall, Travis Mitchell, Massimo Cannatelli, Ian Morrison, John and Pam Power, Amy Mitchell, Tom and Maree Shelton, Peter Royal, Dennis Gist, Wayne Gibbs, Rob Cook, Len Martin, Annie Neil, Monica Hughes, Jake Robison, John Healey, Victor Doree, Andrew Lennie, Robert Latimer, James Ludlow, Callum Carter and so many others – naming people is very dangerous, so I apologise if I have missed anyone.
To driver Bayley Sacco, Matthew Baragwanath and Veuga Taviri, Jordie and Progress Signs and Dush and Snap Frankston, thank you.
Thanks to MPs who have given me support, particularly Bev McArthur MP and shadow ministers who came out. Locally, thanks to Renee Heath MP, David Burgess, Zoe McKenzie MP, the Honourable Greg Hunt, Neale Burgess, Cathrine Burnett-Wake, Sam Groth MP, Ann-Marie Hermans MP plus amazing local candidates Briony Hutton, Bec Buchanan, Michael O’Reilly, Phillip Pease and Manju Hanumantharayappa– your time will come. I also acknowledge the 16-year service of my predecessor David Morris and his wife Linda. Thanks also to Liberal headquarters, members across the party who have supported me and all candidates for Mornington.
Finally, thanks also to Neil King from Horsham College, who sparked my interest in politics; my parents Barry and Debbie and parents-in-law Justin and Sarah; my grandparents who could not be here, Grandpa Bob, Grandmas Verna and June; relatives; and those who are here in spirit.
Lastly, thank you to my amazing wife Grace and our two young children, Yasmin and Edward, and every dedicated supporter who is here with me in the chamber today. Especially I would like to thank the people of Mornington. I will not let you down.
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to.
Ordered that debate be adjourned until later this day.