Member for Fisher Mal Brough’s first speech of the 44th Parliament which includes many of the issues affecting the Sunshine Coast.
Mr BROUGH (Fisher) (12:30): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have spoken here a few times before but I would be very grateful if everybody would behave themselves anyway—it would be a nice change. I congratulate you on your election to this office and the Speaker, Madam Speaker, and the Deputy Speaker who has just vacated the chair. You have a very important role in this place, and I wish you all the very best with fulfilling that responsibility. We saw yesterday some of those challenges, and I am sure there will be more to come in the days ahead. Part of that challenge falls to all of us, the 150 members of this the 44th Parliament. It is not good enough for us to blame the Speaker for lack of order in this place. We are all very honoured to be here and we need to honour that position by our actions and our deeds in this place. I do not think there would be one member of this parliament, new or returning, that has not been accosted in the street by a member of the community or a party member lamenting the standards in this House. It is up to all of us in what we do from this moment on to determine whether or not we can raise that standard. I commit myself to playing my role in ensuring the standards are improved.
I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate all the members who are joining this parliament, the 44th, for the very first time. I have been listening to a number of those maiden speeches and what a diverse group of people are joining the 44th parliament. Winston Churchill once said that:
democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
If democracy can bring to us and our parliament the passion, the diversity, the experience of life that we have heard in the last day and a half democracy has served us well. I want to make one brief comment about one particular member, the member for Bass. His life story and mine started in a very similar way. We both joined the army at 17; both joined the Royal Australian Regiment. Six months before I went to Officer Cadet School Portsea, he did. He was my senior class man 32 years ago. The motto of the Officer Cadet School Portsea, which is now lamentably gone, was ‘Loyalty and Service’. I think it is a wonderful motto for this place: loyalty to our country and service to its people. If we keep that uppermost in our minds, then Australia will be in good hands, regardless of what side of this chamber we sit on and regardless of our political persuasion.
I would also like to acknowledge a very select group of people that I join by coming back to this place on this occasion: the member for Leichhardt, the member for Brisbane, the members for Paterson, Bonner, Canning, La Trobe and Macmillan all have that very special honour of not just coming to this place, but returning to this place. I am very honoured to join them as one of those few who having either, like the member for Leichhardt, through his own choice left or, in my case, being invited to leave by my constituents of having the opportunity to come back and work on behalf of the Australian population.
It was not an easy decision to come back, and again the member for Leichhardt was instrumental in that and I pay tribute to him. In fact, he almost stalked me at times, encouraging me to rejoin the LNP after the amalgamation of the Liberal and National Parties. I want to thank him for having the trust and the faith in believing that I had a role to fulfil in public life beyond 2007. I also thank the Prime Minister for his words of encouragement over that time and also for his will to see me become a part of this place. Someone who I will speak about a little more further down the track, my wife, was certainly the biggest influence in me coming back. Some honourable members here will probably find that somewhat of a surprise that my wife would have wanted me to return, but I will explain a little more further down the track.
My role in this place as the first new face in the seat of Fisher for 20 years is to earn the trust and the respect of the public. That is what I put forward when I put my hand up for preselect ion for the LNP; that was the core of my message to the people of Fisher and it will remain so as long as I am in this place. That is an ongoing responsibility that we all have—the trust and responsibility of us in this place and in our electorates. I will be visible; I will be accessible. I am first and foremost a private member of parliament, which means my responsibility is to the people of Fisher—the people who put me here and who deserve to have me fight on their behalf. I am joined by the Minister for Small Business. He and I came into this place in 1996 and I am sure we would agree on one thing and that is that the former member for Gilmore was one of the most formidable backbenchers and private members of parliament has ever known. I aspire to put the wind up ministers in the way she put it up me and she put it up other ministers in fighting for her constituents. The minister reminds me that I have already done that with some success and thank you for passing me that compliment.
On a serious note, the people of Fisher have paid me this great honour and I feel blessed every day to live on the Sunshine Coast. It is a truly wonderful place—not just the environment, but it is also a caring community. This is a giving community and to be part of that is to be part of something very special. The volunteering ethos of the Sunshine Coast is embodied in the life-saving clubs that stretch from Alexandra Headland down to Caloundra. They are the embodiment because they are there in their very uniquely Australian outfits every weekend of the summer and the spring protecting our beaches and making our tourists safe.
But whether it is the young or the old, the veterans community or the environmental groups, our community strives for success on the back of volunteers and the strength of the people in the community. Being an ex-soldier, the veterans community is dear to my heart and I have always been very close to them. Today we are now seeing for the first time young veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan in particular. I was privileged to meet one the other day who is disabled because of frostbite of the toes. He is fighting to get his pension while trying to get his education back. I met him at the Mooloolaba Surf Club on a Thursday morning with a bunch of Vietnam veterans—it was wonderful but they were inviting another veteran from another era to share their stories, their troubles, their aspirations and their hopes. Just being there together, in an informal setting, said so much about mateship, which underpins our society and underpins our Defence Force.
We also have a lot of young caring people in our electorates. I am sure we all do. I went to the Chancellor State College the other day, having received two letters from two young year 7 students—Chloe and Hannah. I hope they read this. Today the Minister for the Environment introduced a bill into this House about protecting green turtles. That is what they wrote to me about. They wanted to see what they could do—not just what the government could do but what they could do as well. These young people deserve not only every bit of praise but also every bit of assistance so that they can benefit our community and our environment. This speaks volumes of the caring community that I am so privileged to be part of.
Unfortunately our community has been hit pretty hard in the last few years. We have so heavily relied on the construction industry—new housing—and tourism. They have both been hit. They have been hit because of economic conditions but they have also been hit by the decisions made by the previous Labor government. The Minister for Small Business, when he was shadow minister, came to Alexandra Headland and stated this incredible figure: 21,000 new and amended regulations impacting upon our society. You wonder why people complain. All business is asking is for us to get out of the way. That is not much for us to do. The challenge for the Minister for Small Business and the executive is to get the opposition to work with us to peel back some of this unnecessary regulation which puts barriers in the way of businesses and prevents them from making profits and employing other Australians. That is our role.
The first debate in this parliament was the carbon tax. We are going to hear about the highfaluting, high-level, macro-economic picture but let me bring you down to the grassroots. Let us talk about a bloke who makes his living going out to sea and catching prawns. These boats rattle and roll, and they have to have on them the highest quality refrigeration you can get. When those units leak, instead of it costing a few hundred dollars or maybe $1,000 to replace the gas, it now costs $8,000—in one case $20,000. I ask members opposite where does that money come from? These people do not have overdrafts for that sort of money. It tears families apart. There is the IGA owner who, through no fault of their own, having increased their maintenance and done everything they possibly could, finds that their refrigeration gases have escaped and they have to find these extraordinary amounts of money which just are not there. Is it Maleny Dairies, or the butcher’s? They are all in the same boat. These are consequences of a policy that was not thought through and that has deep and lasting impacts not only on the people in those businesses but also on their ability to employ their fellow Australians. It has hurt our community. But it can stop. The decision was taken on 7 December to have it stopped. All we ask is for those opposite to respect the decision of the Australian population on that day and fast track those decisions.
There are many very innovative businesses on the coast that despite the hardships, despite the downturn, have succeeded. These are the champions of the coast; these are the people who not only give of themselves by putting their hard earned dollars into their businesses and innovate and employ but also give back to their community through various not-for-profit organisations. There are organisations that some of you know well, like Australia Zoo. I was privileged to know Steve Irwin as a friend, and his wife Terri today continues to send the animal welfare message and the message of Australian tourism to the world. She is now doing that through Bob and Bindi. There is the Big Kart Track, with Ferre. It continues to grow because he innovates. There is Aussie World, with David Thompson. These are tourism operators who have gone against the norm and are succeeding where others are failing. We have nationally award winning accommodation houses. We have Mark and Jo Skinner, from Narrows Escape. These are people who are reaching out to the world and bringing European visitors to the Sunshine Coast, not just taking the drive trade. That takes guts. They have got what it takes and they have a product that the world wants.
There is Bassett Barks. Would you be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, that we export compost from the Sunshine Coast? We export compost to the world—some of the best that there is. There are these little secret gems that no-one knows about. Some people might think some of that compost is coming from me today! Sue Joseph has done that, and Sue and her family are another important part of the fabric of the coast. There is Hall Contracting, who have worked in Fiji and are now reaching out to Malaysia and Indonesia to extend our capacity in those parts of the world. When people tell me that manufacturing is dead, they are wrong. The Budden family invested several million dollars recently in off-road campers. They produce almost every single component of these world-class campers at Caloundra. They do not get the seats and the fabrication done in a sweat shop; it is done in Caloundra. They employ 70 tradespeople. It can be done. When you talk to Steve, he will tell you about the challenges that politicians have imposed. If we want businesses to grow and to succeed, we need to get out of their way.
Let me turn to a few broader issues that are also local. I have a great belief that part of this nation’s future is in primary production. It is not a ‘nice to have’; it is a ‘must have’.
When dairy deregulation came to the coast it hurt us badly, but certain operators grasped the opportunity and changed direction, like Maleny Dairies. I believe that if you go into some places in Melbourne today, they will tell you that you can have your cappuccino with Maleny milk—and they are right; it is special. The Hopper family have combined tourism and a quality product. They have kept eight dairies going and they have employed 40 direct jobs. Another offshoot is a Swiss family who came to Australia as premier cheese makers and established Maleny Cheese. Sara and Markus employ 30 people and keep another six dairies going. We probably would not have a dairy industry on the Sunshine Coast if it were not for these innovative people investing their own money.
Let me turn to another diverse industry. The last time I stood in this place was six years ago, but let me go back to 1996. If I had talked about the pineapple industry then it would have been that it was on its knees, that Golden Circle was on the way down, that the plant was closing. Today, Murray Pike and the Pike family will tell you that unlike most parts of the industry where the average age of the farmer is 60-plus in the pineapple industry on the Sunshine Coast the average age is now the mid-30s. He has never known better times because they grasped the opportunity to plant new pineapples, to embrace the fresh food market, to go away from practices of the past and they have made their own way. It can be done but, again, it needs our support. It needs our support at the borders so that we do not import infestations into this country that can decimate our industries and it needs our support with Austrade to make sure that we push our product overseas and we create new opportunities. They have done their bit; it is now up to us to do our bit.
To other national issues. To the credit of the Labor Party they introduced the NDIS. It is now going to be up to both sides of this House, without politics, to get this right. There are far too many of our fellow Australians who live with or have someone whom they live with who has a disability. They deserve better than this country has given them in the past. The NDIS is an opportunity and it is an idea that now needs to have substance put behind it. It is going to require an enormous amount of hard work and I pledge myself to being part of making sure that it delivers the promise that so many people have asked for.
To the challenges of broadband. It is a necessity. It is going to be crucial. The data era will offer opportunities and jobs for places like the coast. We can consider having some of our bureaucrats, state and federal, working from home, part time, full-time, in the regions, decentralising our workforce and taking away some of the congestion issues because we will have the data capacity. Labor said we would have broadband in 2013, yet not one house on the Sunshine Coast has got it. Today, I stand here and say that the minister has said we will have it by 2016 and I will hold him to account. I will hold our side to account as I wished the Labor Party had held their side to account. Too many businesses needed to make decisions and those decisions were built on a lie. We cannot do that. To get confidence back into the business community, we must deliver.
I mentioned veterans. It is going to be an ongoing challenge for us to meet the needs of our latest veterans. We have good people like Gary Phillips of the Sons of ANZACS. We have the centenary in 2015 of the landing at Gallipoli. But it is also the 50th anniversary of the deployment of the Australian task force to Vietnam and that is equally as important, and we must acknowledge that in an appropriate way. We have the lads from the Vietnam veterans at the Mooloolaba surf club and we have Tony Dell, who promotes the debilitating impacts of PTSD through his Stand Tall initiative.
Before my time elapses, a couple more issues and first off is Indigenous affairs. This is something that was dear to my heart when I was the minister and it remains so today. Some very important steps have been taken and there are some very important steps to come. But we have still failed our First Australians. There are still far too many of them who do not have the basic rights that we enjoy. It is the responsibility of every Australian and the 150 people who sit in this place and those in the other place to ensure that we do not just close the gap in some time line and just set reports but that we change lives, we give opportunities and we do it now. I commit myself and I commend you all to doing just that.
Finally, some thankyous. Like all of you, you do not get here on your own and mine was a rough road to get here. I want to thank my party, my campaign team, my party membership and the 450 army of supporters who believed in what I believed in and a better way for the Sunshine Coast. All of them are important to me and to all of them I owe a debt of gratitude. To my family: when I first stood in here I had a family of three—Thomas, James and Sarah. They were all primary school children. Today, they are all adults. I have grown that family. I have a daughter-in-law, Tennille, and I welcome her to the family. And I now have young Trey, our first grandson. To my wife: thank you for your passion, your dedication and your commitment to public life, and for letting me come back to this place to play a role in Australia’s future. I love you. I respect you. I will continue to do what I can with you on behalf of our community for Australia. I thank the deputy speaker.