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Wednesday, 13 February 2002
Page: 165


Mr CIOBO (6:38 PM) —Thank You, Mr Deputy Speaker. What is our purpose? For me, this question will underscore all I say and everything I do here in this most special place. Our purpose, both individually and collectively, is the keystone upon which our nation is built and for which our parliament was established. In coming to this place I am certain that each member has their purpose in mind. This purpose, however, can sometimes fade—a victim of exposure to the intensity of life in this role. In rising today, I hope to sketch my purpose. I hope to provide, as much for myself in future years as for all those present now, a piece that conveys my commissioning and that will not fade with the years.

The foundation of my canvas and the pillar of my purpose is the individual and a belief in the supremacy of the market. My focus, however, lies on the electors of Moncrieff and the future of Australia. Standing now in this place, draped as it is in the tapestry of our nation's history and composed from the rich and diverse fabric of our society, I am humbled and truly honoured to have been selected.

I have been commissioned by the electors of Moncrieff as only their second representative. The former member, the Hon. Kathy Sullivan, held Moncrieff since its inception in 1984 and will be remembered for the length of her service. Moncrieff is a young seat, only 18 years of age, and together with the other Gold Coast seats of McPherson and Fadden forms a unique part of Australia, embracing some of the most magnificent country and people in our nation. I do not say this flippantly. On any given day, 53,000 people are holidaying on the Gold Coast. Their presence provides the best evidence possible of the attraction of a region with 57 kilometres of beaches, 270 kilometres of waterways and lush hinterland forests. The Gold Coast is Australia's sixth largest city and our population is growing by 3.4 per cent each and every year. By the year 2011 it will be home to over 550,000 people. It is a population explosion fuelled by remarkable opportunities and a free enterprise culture.

In being charged to represent the people of Moncrieff in this House, my purpose is to hail the success of my city, to properly portray the challenges we now face, to be a strong and passionate advocate for continuing investment by government and to deliver the infrastructure we need. From the 1890s, when the Queensland Governor Sir Anthony Musgrave took a shine to the Gold Coast, tourism has been our principal industry. We have enjoyed unparalleled success and led the charge as a tourism innovator. Today, almost 5 million visitors, each spending an average of four nights on the Gold Coast every year, inject $3.1 billion into the economy. Tourism constitutes 25 per cent of our local economy and employs more than 36,000 people. We are not, however, resting on the success that we have achieved so far. Like the towers that sprinkle the Gold Coast beachfront, we intend to reach for the sky.

We are Australia's innovation city and are wholly committed to developing those industries that are the future and not the past of Australia's competitive advantage in the world. From superyachts to supercomputers, our region recognises that knowledge professionals choose where to work and play on the basis of lifestyle, and lifestyle is the Gold Coast's biggest asset. It is an asset, however, that is under threat. As each new wave of people rolls into the Gold Coast, our city's infrastructure labours to keep up with the increasing pressure. At a time when so many parts of Australia are struggling to maintain their population, we are struggling to contain it. Crucial therefore to our city continuing to grow, continuing to generate wealth for ourselves and our nation, is an understanding by government of the true picture of the Gold Coast in 2002.

A victim of our own success, we are a city with an identity crisis. Too many of the problems associated with rapid growth have been masked to governments by a successful tourism campaign to highlight the gold—a campaign of warm beaches, smiling faces and relaxed people. However, this campaign should not blind us to the challenges. Many view the Gold Coast, quite unfairly, as a haven for the wealthy and the retired. Certainly, there are many who have benefited from—as I would hope all Australians have the opportunity to benefit from—a relatively open market economy and many years of economic success brought about by the good policy of this government. These people, however, do not paint the picture for the whole electorate. The real Gold Coast is middle Australia. The real Gold Coast is families, small business men and women, tradespeople and hospitality workers. Far from being an oasis for the super rich, in terms of average household income Moncrieff is in the bottom one-fifth of electorates in Australia. The gold is a veneer, and my purpose is to present to this House the case for middle Australia and to highlight the challenges we face ahead.

Throughout our peak tourism months our population swells from our resident base of 430,000 to around 900,000 people. The significance of this number of people and the demands it places upon our city must be recognised by this House. Historically, the Gold Coast's population growth has simply not been incorporated into the development of policy. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves playing catch-up with the infrastructure vitally needed for a city of our size. As a member of the government benches, I have been delighted with recent increases in social provisions. These increases, however, have only served to reduce the disadvantage of the Gold Coast relative to Australian averages. Griffith University Gold Coast remains, for example, several thousand funded places below the Australian average. On a practical level, this means thousands of the Gold Coast's best and brightest must leave to pursue opportunities elsewhere. With infrastructure, especially transport infrastructure, largely unable to support our current resident population, the stress of an additional 450,000 people is profound.

We run the risk of our visitors becoming disgruntled at a city struggling to cope with its own popularity. To meet this challenge, the stark decision I put to this House is a choice between the philosophies of Adam Smith and Karl Marx. As a government, are we going to invest taxpayer money to build and improve infrastructure? Are we going to foster the Gold Coast economy to generate thousands of jobs, to realise a revenue source such that the investment is essentially self-funding, or are we going to divert our resources to propping up failing industries, artificially sustaining stagnant work forces and protecting industries in which we have no competitive advantage? Too often in history it seems governments choose the latter. It is my purpose, however, to be an advocate for the former. It is my purpose to highlight that the Gold Coast, built on free enterprise and a can-do culture, is and will remain one of our country's greatest exports. With such a significant proportion of the Gold Coast economy and so many livelihoods dependent on one industry, it is clear great care must be taken with the environment that nurtures this economic activity.

The Howard government's measured initiatives, long-term planning and unparalleled economic discipline have anchored a period of economic sunshine for the Gold Coast, a period of sunshine that is only surpassed by a weather pattern from which the slogan `Beautiful one day, perfect the next' was born. However, there are also days of rain. Success lends itself to complacency and at times our policy approach toward tourism— Australia's fourth largest export industry— has been cavalier. Recent international events have demonstrated the fragile nature of this industry. The temptation to take the vitality and vibrancy of this sector for granted without due regard to the careful nurturing required to protect it from the elements has often been too strong. To this end, it is my purpose to promote, protect and nurture it.

As the small business capital of Australia, Moncrieff comprises hardworking, enterprising households. Fewer than 14 per cent of residents work for the government. It is a city, as testified by the result of the last election, with a consensus of thought for the future that is shared by all on this side of the chamber. I am humbled by the belief the people of Moncrieff have shown in the Liberal Party's ideals and by the knowledge that I have been chosen to promote their interests. Likewise, I am humbled by the many friends, believers and advocates who toiled so that I could stand here as the member for Moncrieff. Although I can recognise only a few by name today, hundreds of Liberal Party branch members, election day volunteers and wise counsellors have cleared a path for me to climb here to the summit of Capital Hill. No matter the mountains I face in the future, I will remember my base camp was the Gold Coast Young Liberals, for this is where my expedition began; this is where I discovered politics.

The friendships I have forged have harnessed me through many rough and windy days. Each of you has an ally in me; likewise, my friend, Santo Santoro, who has never feared wild weather and who taught me how to build a shelter that would anchor me in any storm. Senator Brandis, thank you for being a most eloquent voice of reason. Senator Mason, you have challenged me in so many ways and are a living testament to the finest traits of any senator. Margaret May, the member for McPherson, generous of self and of spirit, your standards remind me of why I want to serve our community and our country. To one of my dearest friends and a man in whom the Liberal Party's future will always be assured, Lee Benjamin, your political ability is infinitely more senior than that of almost anyone I have met. Thank you most of all for your loyalty.

To my parents, thank you for instilling in me the values that have led to my vision. Mum and Dad, your gentle guidance taught me that all is possible if you find the courage to take the first step. To Astra, my best friend and most cherished wife: Aristotle, when speaking of friendship, said it was one soul inhabiting two bodies. I feel that way about you and could never hope to replicate the absolute strength, support and love you have shown me throughout the years. Our quote: I love thee with the breath, smiles and tears of all my life and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death. The strength all of you have provided me I know flows from your belief in the philosophy of the Liberal Party, the belief in the sovereignty of the individual and their empowerment over the collective, in the responsibility every one of us has in a civil society, in the promotion of the family as the bedrock of any sustainable society and in the limited role for the state in wealth redistribution and market intervention.

Since the nefarious attack on all liberal democracies on September 11, I am steeled in my resolve to defend our freedoms. I am strengthened in my view that the Liberal Party remains in this country the greatest mechanism for resisting the incursion of the collective over the individual. My purpose in this chamber and outside is to uphold this most precious philosophy, as well as to fight fiercely for my electorate. Historically, those opposite were of the view that a social democracy provided best for the individual. With well-intentioned inspiration drawn from Karl Marx's `from each according to their ability, to each according to their need', they set about consulting the elites and fashioning policy that would, as I recall from watching television as a youngster, mean no child would live in poverty by 1990. It failed. I do not gloat though; that is not my purpose. The real issue at hand is why the social democratic project failed. Why did it fail here, as it did throughout the world? What lies at the core of that belief structure such that it is uninspiring to the individual and to the market? In my humble view, the fundamental and fatal tenet is arrogance; it is the arrogance to presume to know, the arrogance to compel on the often false promise of something better, the arrogance of promising to deliver but then delivering what was not promised. Little wonder then that the public is increasingly cynical toward this institution.

As Friedrich von Hayek wrote in The Road to Serfdom, `the increasing discredit into which democratic government has fallen is due to the democracy having been burdened with tasks for which it is not suited'. Each of us, as the representatives of the aspirations of approximately 85,000 Australians, must bear the full responsibility we owe to them all. This weight is best enunciated by Edmund Burke, who, more than two centuries ago, observed:

Your representative owes you not his industry only but his judgment, and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

I cite this to highlight our responsibility to exercise judgment and to provide strength of leadership. In all of our deliberations we must raise our eyes from the decision at hand and truly appreciate the judgment that will be brought to bear on our actions. Arrogance and policy expediency must be recognised as two of the greatest enemies of this place. I believe we will all walk this line between the arrogance of the expert and ideology on the one hand and the jaded expediency of the cynic on the other. This walk is fraught with difficulty for we as Australia's parliament now walk an uncharted course and must be guided purely by our knowledge, experience and faith in our destination.

I am not so youthful that I stand in this place with starry-eyed idealism. I do not immediately claim to recognise where arrogance ends and where expediency begins. I understand there is no one-line answer to the problems we face and no textbook in which each generation gives its own account. That said, whether we act in the roaring flames or in the early morning flicker of our philosophical fire, we can always draw comfort from the fact that it is present. The alternative would be to traverse our political landscape through the consensus of the loudest.

I define good governance by the standard of egalitarianism—equality of opportunity, not necessarily of outcome. This premise is the true separation between those on this side of the chamber and those on the other. Any injustice of which we are accused is visited upon few but affords freedom to all. The injustice of those opposite, however, is visited upon all in the name of a few. This good governance will remain my purpose for as long as I stay in this House.