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Thursday, 20 June 1996
Page: 2406

Mrs WEST(12.35 p.m.) —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker Reid. May I offer my congratulations to you on your appointment. Would you pass my congratulations to the Speaker and the other Deputy Speakers as each of you continue the duties in this 38th Australian Parliament. I congratulate our Prime Minister (Mr Howard), who, through his strong and steady leadership, was given a resounding vote of confidence by the Australian electorate.

There has never been, and perhaps never will be again, the same make-up of elected representatives due to the extraordinary events of the previous 13 years. The choice of the Australian electorate on 2 March sent a resounding shout from the homes and workplaces across Australia that voters had had enough of Labor tyranny, they had had enough of the heavy-handed bureaucratic decree, and they had had enough of political representatives out of touch with the real needs of the Australian taxpayers, to whom all of us here today are accountable.

For their part in electing me to this the House of Representatives I truly thank the electors of Bowman. It is with pride and humility that I look forward to representing their needs. I pledge today to represent all electors of Bowman, as this was part of our campaign theme—for all of us, not just for some. I congratulate all newly-elected members to the House. I extend to them my best wishes and look forward to working with all members in achieving our policy aims and goals.

To the families, friends and communities of Australia who suffered loss and trauma at the tragedy at Port Arthur, I offer sincerest condolences from myself, my family and my constituents. The tragedy brings home the reality that no-one is safe from the terrors of a disturbed mind: that the sanctity and the quiet domain of a Sunday afternoon can be shattered by the actions of any aggrieved individual. If anything, this whole chapter must alert us to the signs and recognition of such disturbed individuals in the hope that their actions are monitored to prevent future tragedies.

To the families and friends of those recently bereaved through the tragic accident in Townsville, I extend my sincere condolences from myself, my family and on behalf of the electorate of Bowman. To have so many young men die in such unprecedented circumstances in the course of training compounds our grief on such an occasion.

I stand here today in this Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia having been chosen by the majority of Bowman electors and not for the simple reason, as some would have us believe, that it was time for a change. I give the majority of electors of Bowman a greater degree of political astuteness and acumen than that. You see, to actually get me to this seat I required a 7.4 per cent swing. On the day there was an initial 12.2 per cent swing to me. The result after the distribution of preferences was a substantial swing of 9.2 per cent, as compared with the national average to the Liberal Party of 4.9 per cent.

What was once a fairly safe Labor seat is now considered a marginal Liberal seat. That really makes me feel very happy, knowing I have come from having no chance at all to one of being marginal—`marginal', not marginalised. You see, no-one ever gave me or our campaign very much hope of achieving this outcome except, of course, my mother and father, who are here today to share with me this fantastic occasion. I am here now because of my parents' deep belief in me and their positive encouragement along with that of my immediate family, my husband, Jeremy, and children, Felicity, Anthony and Nicholas, who are here today to share this momentous occasion. Thank you for your love and belief and faith in me. To my brother Roger, sister Vanessa and my other brother, my very generous brother John, I truly thank you all for your support through out the campaign. To the rest of the extended family a very sincere thank you.

Although not many people gave us much hope of achieving the impossible, our little band of helpers just kept up a consistent effort. These included the state member for Mansfield, Frank Carroll, Warwick Parer and Jim Killen. Thank you for your advice and support. Mind you, we gave ourselves every hope of achieving the impossible. We did it with the assistance of my very capable and politically seasoned father as my campaign manager. I say `seasoned' because he had spent a total of 20 years as an elected member of the Queensland state legislature as member for Mansfield. He had survived the rigours of party political struggles but, as the very best of any political survivor will attest, the only true determinant of your suitability to the job is the electorate.

I followed this maxim: let the electorate be the judge, and this is where I believe the previous government went gravely wrong. They totally underestimated the feelings, needs and wishes of the electorate. The other motto which our team thoroughly believed in was the idea that if you think you are beaten you are. As an adjunct to this we were consistently inspired by that motivational phrase: nothing is impossible. With these ideas in tow, our small but dedicated band of helpers went about the arduous task of achieving the impossible. And guess what? I stand here before the House today, testimony to a belief in the philosophy that beats in the hearts of so many Australians: you can make the difference.

It was also the collective good wishes of so many people I met through the campaign that gave us heart to just do it. To Sandra Major, Joan Callaghan, Sandy Fox Spencer, Bill Benson, Sam Sermen, Len Quirk, George and Elizabeth Alves and Peter Turnbull: thank you for your unswerving confidence and commitment to the cause.

Where other campaigns ran on heaps of cash, ours ran on a shoestring budget. I will not tell you how much. Where other campaigns had numerous helpers, we had the same band of about 20. As the time grew short our network grew larger. I am very proud of the contribution that every branch member, friend of a branch member or acquaintance of a branch member made to the campaign. As well, to all those other supporters in the suburbs that networked so busily, thank you for your faith.

My electorate, the seat of Bowman, was created in 1948 and named after David Bowman, a member of the state Legislative Assembly. He was elected to office in 1904 and remained there until his death in 1916. Such a political career path I would not wish to emulate. I would prefer to follow my father's way. He left the state legislature of his own accord, choosing retirement after 20 years of dedicated service to the electorate of Mansfield. My electorate's namesake was also part of an unusual coalition, a Liberal-Labor coalition, something I dare say we will never see again in our political lifetimes. The reason for this is the distinctly opposing views of our political ideology. This factor was clearly evident on 2 March of this year.

John Howard in his victory speech said that the things that united Australians were infinitely more important than the things that divided Australians. It is because of that positive thinking that we sit here today in this the most historic parliament in Australia's electoral history testimony to the belief that the will of the majority has prevailed. That particular fundamental tenet of democracy also covers the right of the minority to be heard. The Australian electorate has chosen a significant blend of talent and character.

There have never been as many women elected to our side of the House as was accomplished on 2 March, and we did it without quotas. This blended representation will broaden by far the lengths and depths of understanding of the diversity of the Australian electorate. Not least important in this blend will be the distinctive feminine influence brought to the House. I look forward to the challenge in the time ahead and of achieving change—change which the electorate expects us to deliver, change from the invasive socialistic government of the past to a more responsive, compassionate reflection of the community at large where the will of the majority prevails.

All of us here aspire to the giddy heights of political prominence, but we must never let our political ambitions detract from the core of our principles, and that is to serve our electorate. In line with this, we would do well to take on the character of statesmanship rather than that of politician. For as the clergyman James Freeman Clarke once said, `A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman of the next generation.' I am very conscious of the state of politics today and I am very conscious of the need to restore the people's faith in politicians. We need to be strong of character and purpose and we need to be conscious of the need to conduct our business in the House with the required and expected dignity.

I believe that faith in politicians is being restored by the efforts of every returned and elected member in this House. From my observations so far, all members—with a few exceptions—are actively engaged in upholding the dignity of their office. For myself, though, I will always be conscious politically of what is right and wrong, for nothing which is morally wrong can ever be politically right.

For my part, I can honestly say that I am glad I was born when I was. There is no other period of history that I believe would provide for me a more important era. For you see, Mr Deputy Speaker, I belong to that generation that knows what life was like pre TV. Yes, I am that old. And yes, I grew up in a neighbourhood where we had to walk down the street to watch TV at a neighbour's house. Home life was exceptionally busy, with all the domestic chores that the whole family participated in. It was a time when neighbourhood gangs went hiking into the bush, played street cricket and cops and robbers, and generally had good, clean fun. Sadly, the connotations of the word `gang' today strike a very different note, one of fear and dread, one in which personal safety is at risk.

My time as a child was also a time when grandma lived within the family. Those halcyon days pre TV, of neighbourhood camaraderie and the security of the nuclear family are all but memories of a long lost past. Our present state of family deterioration is not a legacy of the past but a product of the present—a product of rash and senseless policy over the last 13 years which has aided and, indeed, set the foundations for the deterioration of family life as we used to know it.

The seeds of deterioration were set within the community as long ago as 1972, with the easy availability of divorce and the do-your-own-thing social credo. We can look back now and reflect that sex, drugs and rock and roll have brought us to the very brink of moral decay. His Honour Judge McGuire, President of the Children's Court of Queensland, recently made several observations attesting to this point. He stated:

There are fractures in our civil society. The moral order is breaking down. The family is failing.

He went on to say:

Moral leadership is all about exemplifying excellence. Morality is about developing a now little understood and almost forgotten word—virtue. It is about faith, duty, courage, generosity, trust, self-discipline and love.

As a past teacher, some of the children I have taught have had a fragmented home life, fed on a diet of endless TV and video games. The post Port Arthur period has given us the opportunity to assess the effect and impact of videos—and, indeed, TV—on the development of acceptable models of behaviour.

Parents are the primary arbiters of what constitutes acceptable models of behaviour. I would encourage parents to have the confidence in themselves as primary care givers to grasp the nettle and, in the words of a famous song, teach your children well. Try to be positive, firm and frank. Take time to listen to them and to talk with them—not at them. And, most of all, give them time to be just that—children.

Another issue of a domestic nature is my advice to mothers that we have created a society where it is expected that a woman can only have a fulfilling life outside the home. Yes, we should have equal work for equal pay. But let us also have equal respect for the choices women make. Let us not devalue or ignore the rights of women who choose the home or work life.

There is always a price we pay for the decisions we make. Where the economic pressures are so demanding, there is no choice other than a working lifestyle to support your family. However, the formative years of childhood should be recognised for what they are—the foundations for personality and behavioural patterns. We are seeing the effects now, some years down the track, of unsupervised TV habits, little listening time and the expectation that material possessions are the hallmarks of good parenting and social acceptance.

I consider the points I have just described to be the substance of the duty with which I have been charged to carry out on behalf of the constituents of Bowman. My responsibility and duty, for one thing, is to safeguard the sanctity of the family. As the primary source of security and growth for our future, the homes and families of Bowman are my first concern.   We have a wonderful opportunity with this new government to do a lot of good. Those in genuine need have the governmental network to assist them in difficult times. Bowman has several interagency networks operating to meet the needs of families and members of the community in times of crisis. The Redland Community Centre provides valuable assistance to a variety of members of the community in terms of legal advice, health and recreational advice, the provision of educational support for parents and crisis support. The local, state and federal spheres are involved in the expansion of these services with cooperation and management planning.

As these are so successful in their operation in the Redland area of my electorate, I will work to improve facilities at the Wynnum end of the electorate as well. These facilities need the support of both state and federal funding to see this venture completed successfully. To this end, the provision of a permanent multipurpose community facility needs to be established to house community information and to be a meeting place central to all within the local area.

Bowman is an electorate brimming with natural and human resources. The islands, the history, the fishing and boating pursuits and the Aboriginal history of Moreton Bay combine to provide a potential boom for tourism in this area. The energies of dedicated local entrepreneurs have provided great potential for the tourism industry. The small business community, through their chambers of commerce, foster and develop business and employment opportunities. The region's development is in the hands of local, state and federal government and must be monitored and nurtured wisely.

An area that needs monitoring is the long-term plans and provision for water resources to meet the growing needs of our Redland shire. To manage this resource effectively, we need to plan for the next five, 10 and 20 year time frames so that supply meets demand. The success of our long-term planning can only be determined by what is being done now to ensure the security and availability of this most precious resource.

The Port of Brisbane is the gateway to the rest of the Australian capital cities. With the completion of the standard gauge rail link to the port, there is now the distinct possibility of cheaper transportation costs, with Brisbane being the first port of call for overseas importers. This possibility will become a reality through the vision and enterprise of the federal and state governments and those on the waterfront and in the boardrooms of the companies that want this enterprise to succeed.

I cannot overemphasise the importance which I attach to the issues concerning families and youth, business and enterprise, the environment and communities in my electorate and across the nation today.

These things are, above all else, the cornerstones of our society. How we develop, nurture, support and encourage each of these to succeed will ensure progress towards a caring, prosperous society. It was the previous government that sought to tear down the very fabric of our society. The very fabric of family, business and our future prospects was torn apart with the intrusive negative belief that the state was the primary source of all power. The electorate put paid to that notion on 2 March. The previous government's records rated pretty highly. There were higher rates of divorce, higher rates of domestic violence, higher rates of single parenthood, higher rates of youth suicide and higher rates of small businessmen going to the wall. As the new government we have the responsibility and opportunity to do something about reversing these trends.

As a politician I will work towards a remedy for the woes which beset the lives of many of my constituents. I will work towards providing employment for all by encouraging smarter labour market programs and by building on the successes already established. I will endeavour to foster a more caring and compassionate response from bureaucrats who have lost touch with the clients they serve. It is the responsibility of all Australians to work towards a less violent and intimidating society. The legislation from this parliament must reflect those basic guarantees of security, compassion and hope and reflect broader acceptable community standards.

As the member for Bowman I will do everything in my power to address these issues and will make a start by providing answers and solutions. It will take a great deal of effort, but with a lot of hard work you can achieve almost anything.

In conclusion, may I just state that I intend to do my very best for the constituents of Bowman. Anything less would be a gross failing on my part. With this in mind, let me echo the words of John Galsworthy, the British author, when he said:

I shall pass through this world but once. Any good things, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being let me do it now. Let me not deter it or neglect it.