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Wednesday, 13 February 2002
Page: 156

Mr TICEHURST (5:59 PM) — Firstly, Mr Deputy Speaker Jenkins, I would like to congratulate you on your re-election to the high office of Deputy Speaker of this House. I hope that you will also pass on my congratulations to Mr Speaker on his election. I am sure that you will carry out your duties with great distinction. I would also like to thank my parliamentary colleagues for being here, offering support today. I owe my presence here today to a number of people, but most importantly to the people of Dobell. Without their support on 10 November I would not be here. They have vested in me an enormous privilege and responsibility. It is an honour that I intend to uphold to the best of my ability. To represent the people of Dobell is a particular honour, as I am only the second person in the seat's history to have been given this opportunity.

The seat of Dobell was created in 1984 and is situated on the beautiful Central Coast. The main townships in the electorate include The Entrance, Wyong, Bateau Bay, Wyoming, Berkeley Vale, Wamberal and Ourimbah. A new town centre with a rail and road interchange is planned for Warnervale. It already houses 15,000 people and it is expected to grow to over 50,000 in the next 10 or 15 years. The seat stretches over 952 square kilometres and it includes areas of both Wyong Shire and Gosford City Council. Dobell contains Tuggerah Lake, many surf beaches, numerous bays, rivers, forests, farms and valleys.

For such a picturesque area, it is not surprising that the seat was named after one of Australia's best known painters, Sir William Dobell. William Dobell is considered one of Australia's greatest landscape and portrait painters. What political affiliation Sir William had is not clear by any means, although I note that the first speech in this place made by my predecessor made reference to the two Dobell portraits dominating a wall in the then Labor party room. I have further discovered that in 1960 Sir William Dobell was commissioned by Time magazine to paint a portrait of Sir Robert Menzies for their front cover. However, apparently the final result was less than complimentary—to the point that even Arthur Calwell thought the portrait was not `handsome enough'. Labor supporters were apparently delighted, while Liberal Party supporters turned against William Dobell. While Menzies never publicly commented on the matter, it is widely acknowledged that he was decidedly unimpressed with what Dobell had created. Perhaps Sir Robert would be smiling now with the knowledge that Dobell has finally been won by a Liberal!

It has taken six years of the Howard government to convince the people of Dobell to support the Liberal Party for the first time in their electoral history. The policy direction set by the government has resonated within the electorate, while the lack of policy from the other side has left many in the electorate feeling let down by the Labor Party and willing to shift their support. Accordingly, I do not underestimate the challenge that lies ahead for me in retaining the seat of Dobell for the coalition, and I look forward to working with the member for Robertson to lift the identity of the Central Coast to a region in its own right.

The Central Coast is a rapidly growing area, extending north into the electorate of Shortland as well as into the Liberal-held seat of Robertson to the south. It is an area that has been closely identified with a retiring Australia. To some extent that is understandable when you consider that 25 per cent of Dobell residents are aged over 55. It has also long been considered a popular holiday destination for Sydneysiders. Early pictures of Wyong show a ferry linking the railway station to The Entrance. It was just a short trip across Tuggerah Lake. Today it would probably be a quicker trip than to drive around the local roads. Many local business make their money for the year in the busy periods of Christmas, new year and Easter. Anyone driving north on the F3 on a Friday afternoon in summer would know how popular the Central Coast has become. But the Central Coast is changing. We now have an increasing number of people permanently relocating to the coast from Sydney in search of a much better lifestyle. Around 30 per cent of the working population on the Central Coast commute to Sydney. Put simply, Dobell is a better place to live and bring up families. The lifestyle available on the Central Coast is second to none, and more and more people are discovering it. Many young families have been in the area and have taken advantage of the government's First Home Owners Scheme. The challenge is to develop and grow without compromising the lifestyle we all cherish.

I have lived on the Central Coast since 1977. Over the past 25 years I too have come to cherish the lifestyle that is available on the Central Coast. In 1978 we were lucky to buy a large block of land down a dusty, bumpy road. In 2002 it is still a dusty, bumpy road. We are compensated with a panoramic view of part of Dobell—across to Tuggerah Lake, The Entrance and the Pacific Ocean. It is also a great vantage point for thunderstorm watching.

A country boy at heart, I was born in Forbes, New South Wales. I would like to remind the member for Parkes that there are still quite a few Ticehursts living in his electorate. My education began at the age of four. My mother says that I started a year early, as I had to keep the dogs away from my elder sister as we walked to school. But my wife thinks otherwise. Even at a young age I had to test the boundaries. When I was aged two, Dad had to put hooks on my highchair to stop me rocking it until it toppled over and I had freedom. We left Forbes when I was six. My Dad was a butcher, and he retained that trade until he retired. He wanted to provide better opportunities for his three children, so we moved to Sydney.

My education was furthered with six months in Manly, then completing high school at Granville and Fairfield, after my parents bought a house in Merrylands in 1952. In those days we did not have a family car. We could walk to the station and then take a train to Cronulla Beach, or a train and ferry to Manly. It was the real era of rock and roll—the fifties and sixties—a great time to grow up. I was able to combine my love of radio music and electronics by making crystal radios. My first sales were to kids at school. I studied electrical engineering at Granville and Sydney TAFEs and began a career in the manufacturing industry. My first job was building switchboards for Central Coast power stations. In this job I met and worked with people from many nations. They were mostly people who came to this country from war-torn Europe. What a tremendous contribution they made to our country. I also had my first `taste' of the Electrical Trades Union. As always, I preferred to do my own bargaining.

Much to dad's concern, I moved through a number of jobs—always to a new part of the electrical field and always to greater opportunities and greater rewards. Sometimes I stayed 12 months; sometimes a couple of years. I then took a job that led to designing high voltage switchgear and instrument transformers. That was an unusual endeavour in those days. At one stage, we needed a high voltage test transformer to deliver 200,000 volts. The company could not afford to buy one from Switzerland, so I designed one and we built it in-house. I am happy to say that that transformer is still working today in Melbourne. Indeed, it was a conservative design!

In 1977 I moved to the Central Coast to work for a then Australian multinational company. My job was to sell electrical power transmission line components within Australia. I travelled the country far and wide, visiting every capital city and many regional centres. From 1982 to 1990 I was the managing director of an Australian operation of a British multinational company. We manufactured lightning arresters and high voltage fuses at Caringbah in Sydney's south. On the occasion of winning a major contract for the SEC in Victoria, I was able to invite the then member for Cook, the late Don Dobie, together with the Premier of New South Wales at the time, Nick Greiner, to visit the works. I am pleased to say that my marketing director at that time is here as a friend in the gallery today.

Each year I made a pilgrimage to the UK to present the Australian business plan. We represented other companies within the group, so I also visited Europe, the United States and many other destinations. Despite extensive travel over many years, I can find few places that could match the lifestyle of the Central Coast. My interest in high voltage electrical storms led me to leave the weekly visits to the bright lights of Caringbah to begin my own business on the Central Coast, smack bang in the centre of Dobell. The challenge of introducing a new commercial service of real-time lightning tracking was just too great.

It took 20 months from the commencement of the business until we received the first cheque for our new service. Several times I have been down `struggle street'. The diversity of the work force in Dobell is reflective of my own varied professional history. While I never presume to understand each person's particular circumstances—because each person is different—I believe that I can at least have a greater empathy for the challenges that they face. Together with my family we built our house in 1983. There were no first home buyer schemes at that time, and we built it at weekends. I have worked on the factory floor and I have been managing director of a multinational company. I have also started my own business, which is what I was doing up until November last year. I would not profess to understand every problem faced by the electorate of Dobell, and I would not claim to be able to solve them all. However, what I can commit to is to give my all to provide the best representation I can for the people in my electorate. For too long they have laboured under poor representation.

I come to this place not only as the representative of the 82,000 electors in Dobell but also as a representative of the Liberal Party, so I would like to take a moment to thank the Liberal Party, without whose support I would not be standing here today. The support I received from the state and federal secretariats, led by Scott Morrison and Lynton Crosby respectively, was fundamental to my success. They both run highly professional outfits with immensely talented staff—staff very skilled in their craft. Also, my thanks go to Senator Coonan and Senator Tierney, and state members Chris Hartcher and Mike Gallacher, who assisted in my campaign and made sure we got across the line. Also, my thanks go to the others who visited during that time—Mrs Bishop and Senator Ellison.

One of the highlights of my campaign was having the Prime Minister and Mrs Howard visit the electorate on Melbourne Cup day. Less than a year ago the pundits predicted the defeat of the Howard government, not an increased majority. Indeed, when I spoke to my father in February last year and told him that I would be the candidate for Dobell, he too thought we had no chance. I told him that when both sides were required to face the electorate with their plans for the future only one team had the goods. The leadership of John Howard has been and remains an inspiration. It is something that Australia has not seen since Robert Menzies. I would like to place on record my thanks to the Prime Minister for his support both during the campaign and since I have been elected.

I have always believed in the Liberal Party. It is the party that I have supported all my voting life. It is the party which I believe better represents modern Australia. It is a party whose beliefs I share: the freedom of the individual, the right and freedom to choose one's destiny, and a belief in the balance of individual rights and responsibilities in an open, modern democracy. I have lived by the credo that says that if you work harder and put more into your community then you deserve to be rewarded for your efforts. I have also believed that you make your luck happen. The harder you work, the luckier you become.

Since becoming the candidate for Dobell in February last year, and since my election on 10 November, I have spent a great deal of time meeting people in the electorate, getting to know them and also the issues that affect them and are important to the local community. One of the greatest attributes that I believe anyone, particularly a member of parliament, can have is the ability to listen. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. Many years as a salesman and business manager have reinforced this lesson. In the short time that I have been the member for Dobell I have been working with the local community to identify the key areas where together we can advance the interests of the electorate. I have been bringing community leaders together, whatever their political viewpoints, because I believe that through a consultative process I will be able to provide a higher level of representation.

Three areas in particular are vitally important to Dobell: education, employment and the environment. Not only are they vitally important, they are also intrinsically linked together. The Central Coast Campus provides a unique learning centre. It contains a university, a TAFE and a community college, as well as some operational small businesses. By expanding the educational opportunities, and in particular the VET training, our work force will have school leavers who are ready for duties. In my experience, a university education is not of paramount importance. In Dobell, more than 70 per cent of jobs do not need a university education. We will always have a need for good trades and service people, just as we have a need for more highly educated people.

An area such as Dobell, with such a rich and important environment, provides almost endless opportunities to advance not only the education of the electorate but also the local employment opportunities. Dobell has high rates of youth unemployment that need to be reduced. Government programs such as Green Corps, Green Reserves and Work for the Dole have been enormously successful, but there is still much more that can be achieved. The unfair dismissal laws have been an enormous impediment to the advancement of small business in Dobell. I welcome the comments of the Governor-General when outlining the government's plans to make further advancements in this area. Small business needs to be able to create full-time jobs, not just short-term and casual jobs. People need the level of stability that only full-time employment can provide. It is important that we increase the attractiveness for business to invest in new projects and to take on new staff if we expect to expand and develop areas such as the Central Coast. There is no reason why the Central Coast cannot be equally considered as an alternative employment destination and a holiday destination. The 30 per cent of the working population that currently commutes to Sydney could be reduced if more opportunities existed locally.

The government faces a number of great challenges over the next three years in these areas. The tragic events of September 11 have forced us all to re-evaluate our lives. We have been forced to look at our place in the world, yet we have had the strength and conviction to face those challenges and come through well. It is often said that you do not appreciate what you have until you lose it, and that was never so true as after the terrorist attacks on the free world perpetrated in the United States. We lost our innocence on September 11 and we realised that complacency brings with it an enormous cost. Many of my friends and former colleagues in the USA were most gratified by the support and comfort provided by the Australian government and the Australian people.

Our freedom and our democratic process are things that we have all taken for granted, for they are things that we have considered sacrosanct. However, recent events have reminded us that we are not infallible and that we need to take solid steps to protect that which we hold dear. This government has taken those steps. We stand with our close ally, the United States, in the war against terrorism. We stand strong in protecting our borders and we stand strong in ensuring that Australia remains safe, free and democratic. Direct policy action achieved this aim. Determination and a desire to act in the national interest, despite the critics, achieved this. The people of Dobell, along with the majority of Australians, appreciate strong leadership.

To the staffs of the parliament and the Government Members Secretariat who have made my transition to public life as seamless as possible, I record my thanks. We have started with largely a blank sheet of paper in Dobell and they have provided much support in the process of setting up our offices both in the electorate and in this place. I would also like to thank my colleagues who have welcomed me and who have offered much advice and assistance over the past three months. I thank the people who have travelled here today—in particular, my wife Trisha; without her tremendous support I would not have accepted this challenge. I thank my family, my friends, my former work colleagues and customers and, last but not least, my staff Clem, Jo and David, who are all in the gallery here today.

There are many people who deserve a specific mention, so as to avoid leaving anyone out, I offer my sincere thanks to all those who have supported and assisted me—you know who you are. I would also like to offer a special thankyou to my mother-in-law, now in her 92nd year, who is also in the gallery. Unfortunately, my own parents were unable to travel to be with us here today, but I thank them most sincerely for all the sacrifices that they made in my upbringing. We owe a lot to our older generation for the many things that they endured in order to give us this great nation of Australia. I stand here today as the representative for all the people of Dobell. I thank them sincerely for the privilege, honour and opportunity they have given me. I will devote my energies to making a real difference for them and I sincerely hope to earn their continued support.