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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 132


Dr SOUTHCOTT (8:49 PM) —May I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker Jenkins, on your re-election to your position and also, through you, the Speaker on his election. I have served with the Speaker on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics since 1996 and he does have a reputation for being fair and decent and for trying to achieve consensus where possible. I would also like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to several members of the 40th parliament who were not re-elected at the 2004 election: Ross Cameron, Larry Anthony and Trish Worth.

Ross was the member for Parramatta. He was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer at the time of the last election. I think I met Ross in 1996 when we first came in. He was a terrific orator. He made a big contribution in parliament, not least through his convening of the National Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values, which was a bipartisan affair at which both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition used to speak, as well as a number of members of parliament, the Governor-General and so on.

Larry Anthony was also a member of the class of 1996. He did a great job in his ministerial portfolio. I thank him for finding some funding for a literary festival which we held in Boothby in November. He was a very talented minister and did a great job of representing the electorate of Richmond in this place. One of my neighbours, the member for Adelaide, Trish Worth, held what is a very difficult seat for the Liberal Party in four elections. At three out of four of those elections she had to wait 10 days until finding out whether she had been elected, but Trish also did a great job as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs.

Both Ross and Larry have politics in the blood, as you do, Mr Deputy Speaker Jenkins, and I sincerely hope that their talents will not be lost to politics. Similarly, with Trish, I hope that she will be able to do something in the areas which she is so passionate about: breast cancer, mental health and so on.

I am particularly proud to have been reelected, for the fourth time now, to represent the electorate of Boothby. Members who have previously held the seat of Boothby include Sir John McLeay, who was the longest serving Speaker of the House of Representatives; John McLeay, who was a minister in the Fraser government; and former Premier Steele Hall. Interestingly, I found a book in a bookstore about another one of my predecessors, Archibald Grenfell Price, who held the seat from 1941 to 1943. The last time we lost the seat of Boothby to the Labor Party was in 1943; it was a disastrous election for us. Archibald Grenfell Price had a big involvement with St Mark's College at the University of Adelaide and so on.

Boothby was redistributed dramatically in the early 1990s so that the seat is quite different from what it was historically. Much of the western part of Boothby was the seat of Hawker, which was held for a long time by Ralph Jacobi. Along the coast much of it was Kingston, which was held variously by Gordon Bilney, Grant Chapman before him, and Richie Gun for the Labor Party during the 1970s. Having campaigned with Grant Chapman, it is encouraging to see that some of the people still recognised him and remembered him from his time as the member for Kingston. It has been a real honour to be reelected. Boothby is the seat where I went to school and where I worked prior to becoming a member of parliament. It is a great area, the southern suburbs of Adelaide, and it is a real pleasure to represent it.

In reflecting on the election result, one of the key things was the collapse in the Democrat vote. The Democrats made a serious charge in Boothby in 2001. Their vote in Boothby was always about 13 per cent, but in 2001 they actually received almost 20 per cent. In 2004 that fell to two per cent and most of that went to the Labor Party. In reflecting on the result, a group of people who previously voted for the Democrats have now, by and large, gone across to the Labor Party. As the member for Boothby, I have noted that. They are voters who were concerned with things other than the management of the economy, and I am aware of the issues they are interested in.

Looking at the result nationally, I am particularly proud to be part of the team, led by the Prime Minister John Howard, which has been able to win such strong support not only in the outer suburban areas of Australia but also in rural and regional areas. If we reflect on this, this pattern was actually evident at the time of the 1999 republican referendum; you could almost see a correlation between the yes vote and the distance from the GPO. Now we have seen this reflected in the 2004 election whereby a seat like Adelaide, an inner city seat, fell to Labor. But, of course, Labor has lost seats like Kingston and Wakefield in my own state, Bonner in Queensland, Hasluck and Stirling in Western Australia and so on.

I am also particularly proud that the Liberal Party is now the choice of skilled tradespeople, apprentices and blue-collar workers. Looking at the 2004 election, we can reflect on the difference between the sorts of people that the Liberal Party elects to parliament and those that the Labor Party elects to parliament. The Liberal Party crop of 2004 includes an ophthalmologist, a test pilot for the Air Force, a policeman who worked in counter-terrorism and a policeman who worked in the Star Force in my own state. These people represent the range of occupations right across Australia.

Looking at the Labor Party's personnel, we can see that they are by and large people who have worked as either political staffers or trade union officials. Some people think this is a new phenomenon; I do not believe it is. If you look back to the 1949 election, you will see that pretty much the same sort of people were being elected to represent the Labor Party. In the 1949 election, the great crop for the Liberal Party were by and large ex-servicemen, many of whom were officers, who really did a much better job of representing the community. Where the change has occurred has been observed by Barry Cohen. In 1949, going back to when the Liberal Party was first formed, the Labor Party still elected blue-collar workers to the national parliament. Right now very few people in the Labor parliamentary caucus have ever been blue-collar workers; they are mostly apparatchiks, careerists and so on. Until the Labor Party addresses this problem with their parliamentary personnel, it will continue to struggle to find relevance with the wider community.

The central question of the 2004 election was: who do you trust to manage Australia's $800 billion economy? I think now at quiz nights or wherever people always know what the exact size of our GDP is. But the important thing is that almost everyone agrees that the economy is running well: inflation is low, unemployment is low and GDP growth is strong. But this has not occurred by accident; it only comes with discipline and by focusing relentlessly on every single question. The question of forestry versus timber workers really highlighted to me the fact that the Labor Party is not equipped to manage the strong and diverse national economy we have in Australia. Unemployment is at 5.3 per cent; it is the lowest it has been since 1977. There is, of course, more to do. We had two recessions—one in the early eighties and another in the early nineties—and a lot of blue-collar workers lost their jobs. We now have the Minister for Workforce Participation, who will be trying to get more people from these backgrounds back into work.