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Monday, 23 May 2005
Page: 82


Mr HAYES (5:30 PM) —Mr Speaker, it is an extraordinary honour to be elected to the Australian parliament. It is a privilege to represent the people of Werriwa, a community and an electorate that my family and I have called home for the last 25 years. With this privilege comes a responsibility that I do not take lightly. As I rise for the first time in this place, I would like to acknowledge the Tharawal and Gangara people, the traditional owners of the land on which the Federation seat of Werriwa is situated.

Mr Speaker, elections are difficult at the best of times but to contest a ballot in a by-election adds yet another dimension—a dimension of which the other 15 members of this place elected at by-elections would be only too well aware. Victory in an election requires the commitment of a great number of people. Without attempting to name every individual, there are some people I must thank and acknowledge for their significant contribution. Firstly, I wish to thank the tireless campaigners who so selflessly gave up their time, effort and energy. Of course I refer particularly to the local branch members as well as members of Young Labor. My election win was theirs as well.

I would also like to thank Mark Arbib and the officers of the New South Wales branch of the ALP for their confidence in me, in particular Damian Kassabgi, my campaign director. I also deeply appreciate the support, kind words and sage advice of the Leader of the Opposition and I am thrilled to be joining his parliamentary team. Kim Beazley visited the electorate on many occasions during the course of campaign and was equally at home walking through shopping centres, dealing with the inevitable media scrum or standing with me on the hill at Campbelltown Stadium watching the Wests Tigers play against the Canberra Raiders. Sadly, the Tigers lost that particular match, but I can report that, not only is this well-trained, well-disciplined young side doing better as the season progresses, but yesterday we settled the score by beating the Canberra Raiders by 12 points. I would also like to thank the many shadow ministers and other Labor colleagues who visited the electorate during the course of the campaign to lend their support and help me.

I also want to thank my family. My parents have always been there for me. Sadly, illness prevents them being here today but I know their thoughts will be with me. My father is a former New South Wales police officer and in no small way he has instilled in me my sense of values and ethics—values and ethics that have stood me in good stead throughout my working life and values and ethics that I bring to this House. I am also fortunate enough to have the love and support of a close family, of Bernadette, my wife, best friend and chief supporter for more than 30 years—in fact yesterday we celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary—and my sons, Nicholas and Jonathon, both local tradesmen, and my daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband Ashley. And, as I am sure that it would not have escaped the attention of anyone during the course of the election campaign, I am the extremely proud grandfather of two fabulous grandchildren, Nathaniel and Charlie. Without the support of my family I could not, and would not, have stood in this election.

It would also be remiss of me if I did not mention John Ducker, a long-time mentor who has had a significant influence on me. John Ducker is a man who, in addition to his success in the corporate world, has remained dedicated to his family, his church and the labour movement.

Mr Speaker, much was made in the lead-up to the by-election of my involvement in trade unions. It is true. I have spent many years representing working men and women before their employers as well as the various state and Commonwealth industrial tribunals. I do not, and will not, shy away from my involvement with the union movement. I would like to think that, as a union official, I also played a significant role in assisting Australian industry improve its efficiency and competitiveness while helping to deliver job security along with better pay and conditions for employees.

I fully supported the initiatives of His Honour Justice Barry Madden to introduce in a structured way decentralisation in the industrial relations system while maintaining authoritative oversight by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Justice Madden will be remembered not only as a progressive force in industrial reform but as someone committed to the independence of the Industrial Relations Commission. It is my grave concern that this government’s industrial relations agenda will not just achieve its intended goal of weakening the trade union movement. As someone who has been involved with industrial relations from all perspectives, I believe that it will profoundly weaken the position of individual workers in relation to their employers.

Following my time with the union movement I have worked as an independent mediator in specific disputes and assisted in continuous improvement programs. During the campaign the media focused on my role with Sydney Airports Corporation, probably not because of my achievements but more for the comments of my former employer, Max Moore-Wilton. While I was grateful for his kind words they stand in stark contrast to the comments made of me by the member for Lindsay that I was just another union hack. Comments like that say more about the government’s view of workers and their representatives than any real knowledge of me. For my part I will always be proud of my involvement in the union movement.

In addition to Sydney airport I have worked as an adviser to the Police Federation of Australia representing both the professional and industrial interests of police. In this capacity I have enjoyed a close working relationship with honourable members on both sides of the House. For a period of time I was also a member of the Northern Territory Police Arbitral Tribunal. I served under an oath of office and was required to deliberate without fear or favour on all matters coming before that tribunal. I am particularly honoured to have served on the tribunal with Her Honour Pat Leary, President of the Tasmanian Industrial Relations Commission and former Deputy President of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Pat is a truly remarkable woman and a great Australian. In addition to these activities, I have dealt with disputes in regional health facilities in NSW, assisted a major printing company to establish a series of enterprise arrangements and performed similar activities on behalf of aircraft engineering, food processing, power generation and sustainable energy companies as well as being an adviser to the CEO and board of the NRMA.

Throughout my career, I have found negotiation is a key factor when representing the interests of others, whether they are employees, businesses or communities. My time with the Australian Workers Union showed me the benefits of negotiating outcomes rather than litigating them. I can honestly say that I played my part in moving the union from having a courtroom based, adversarial culture to something more in tune with the modern enterprise bargaining system. I advocated and negotiated on behalf of everyone from blue-collar workers in the AWU to veterinary officers, surveyors, architects, lawyers and most other professional and administrative callings. And now I will be advocating and negotiating for the people of Werriwa.

Werriwa covers 168 square kilometres of south-western Sydney, with a population in excess of 145,000 in suburbs stretching from Cecil Hills and Kemps Creek in the north to Minto and Leumeah in the south where Bernadette and I live. Within these geographic boundaries, residents fit into almost every cultural, ethnic and religious demographic there is. The last census found that one-third of residents were born overseas and more than 50,000 people spoke a first language other than English. We have people from all parts of Europe and Asia as well as from smaller Pacific island nations like Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. We also have a significant Koori community. This rich mixture combines to produce a cultural diversity that lends depth and colour to the south-west while reinforcing a strong sense of local community.

Werriwa is full of young families. This is understandable because it is a great place to raise a family. It is where Bernadette and I raised our family and built our community—quite literally at times. I remember getting involved in various building activities with other dads at my kids’ school—digging drainage ditches and trenches for footings, constructing formwork, carting bricks and cement or whatever else the then principal and part-time building supervisor, Brother Mark, required. As well as being an interesting way to spend a Saturday, it was surprising the number of lasting friendships that were made following these working bees, which, after all, is community building.

Just as we did back then, young families continue the same process now of building and contributing to their community. Whether it is the Islamic community of Green Valley, the Bangladeshi community of Minto, the Filipino community of Campbelltown or the Fijian-Indian community of Liverpool, they are all young Australians working together for the benefit of their families and their local community.

My community building these days might not result in splinters and blisters, but today I remain as committed as ever to community building in south-western Sydney. There are no pretensions in the south-west. People do not indulge themselves and everyone gets in and does their bit. Today, just as it was 25 years ago, starting a family goes hand in hand with the added responsibilities of either home ownership and mortgage repayments or paying rent. I know the pressures this can place on families and I know that Australian families are doing it tough. Bernadette and I know what it is like to struggle to meet the repayments, let alone afford the little extras like shoes, clothes and school fees. After all, $6 does not stretch all that far.

The important thing to realise is that Werriwa is about families working hard to provide a future for their children. But they cannot do it alone. They need jobs, education, infrastructure and community safety. One in four workers in Werriwa are engaged in part-time work, and 75 per cent of the residents of Liverpool and Campbelltown have a weekly income lower than the national average. Youth unemployment is unacceptably high, with almost one-quarter of all full-time job seekers under the age of 20.

You do not need to go much beyond the police, welfare groups or drug referral agencies to hear the true cost to the community of high youth unemployment. The combination of suburbs with a substantial number of people receiving some form of income support, high youth unemployment and a slowing economy means that my constituents will be among the first to suffer from this government’s cuts to benefits and services.

The fact is that families in the south-west are caught in the crossfire of increased casualisation of their jobs on the one hand and increased costs of living on the other. There is reduced job security and increased financial instability. What these families need are real jobs—permanent employment to sustain their families and service their mortgages. What they want are real opportunities for their kids. They want their kids to have access to tertiary education, whether it is a university degree or a trade qualification through TAFE. They know how important education is to getting ahead and they know how important it is for their children’s future. But tying education funding to the government’s industrial relations agenda and continuing to erode standards will not help local kids or their families.

And in a rapidly growing region they need infrastructure investment that will keep pace with community growth. Since July 2002, more than $1.5 billion has been approved for investment in new dwellings and non-residential construction in Liverpool and Campbelltown. Recently, approvals were given for an additional 12,000 dwellings in Edmondson Park, Glenfield and south Hoxton. This strong growth will continue over the coming decades with up to 100,000 new dwellings to be constructed in the south-west corridor over the next 20 years.

State and local governments are doing their best, but Canberra needs to do more. Canberra’s refusal to fully fund new Hume Highway on-off ramps at Ingleburn is a prime example. The Commonwealth’s decision forced Campbelltown City Council to contribute $4 million to the cost of the project, funding the shortfall with an extra levy on local businesses. Small businesses can do without further subsidising Canberra. After all, they are already burdened by substantial compliance costs as they struggle through the maze of the ‘simplified tax system’. They need to be able to get on with the job of growing their businesses and generating local employment opportunities. It is my intention to pay particular attention to the concerns of local small business owners and operators because their sustained prosperity will create the jobs sought by the young and the unemployed.

For too long, policing has been seen simply as an issue for state governments. There is no doubt that local, state and federal government policies all have an impact on crime and, therefore, there is a need for greater integration of policy responsibility in respect of policing, law and order, and crime prevention. It is estimated that crime costs our country $32 billion a year. That is more than the budgets of most state governments. The people of Werriwa are concerned about drugs. They are certainly concerned about crime. But, as recent drug busts have shown, criminals are not concerned about state or national boundaries. Crime undermines the security of Australia and of Australians. It is time Canberra took more of an interest in, and provided more funding for, local initiatives aimed at helping local communities, in partnership with police, to combat local crime.

The Werriwa by-election was a unique opportunity for hardworking Australians to take a second look at this government. It came after a surprise post-election rise in interest rates. We have all heard the usual hairsplitting and carefully chosen words, which have become the hallmark of this government, but the fact remains that ordinary people in Western Sydney thought they had been given a guarantee that interest rates would not rise. It also came after the surprise announcement to expand our troop commitment to Iraq. By its standards, the government made a pretty clear commitment during the election that Australia had already made a significant contribution to Iraq. And then, of course, after the by-election we had the saga of the disappearing Medicare safety net, which was more than just another broken ironclad promise; this went to the very heart of this government’s commitment and integrity. It is not surprising how quickly the shine has come off this government.

In concluding, as honourable members would appreciate I am very conscious of the distinguished rollcall of my predecessors over the last half century. For nearly half of that period, since 1952, the seat of Werriwa was held by that giant of Labor history, Gough Whitlam. During that period Mr Whitlam was able to reform and modernise the Labor Party. In particular, he had the genius of being the first major political figure to comprehend the fundamental changes in Australian society in the 1950s and 1960s. He understood that a new political focus on the educational, cultural, social and infrastructure needs of the residents of the expanding outer suburbs was fundamental to improving the lot of average Australians. I am very conscious that communities like mine are the beneficiaries of the Whitlam legacy. Following Whitlam was John Kerin, a mainstay of the Hawke and Keating governments. He was a great contributor to policy development. He was a core member of the first Hawke cabinet, a group widely acknowledged as the most talented executive in Australian history. John served the people of Werriwa with distinction and they are the better for it.

Finally, I would like to reflect on the contribution of my immediate predecessor, Mark Latham. Mark served as the member for Werriwa for almost 11 years. But there is more to Mark Latham than just his national profile. I would like to remind my colleagues that it is important not to lose sight of the essence of Mark Latham. Mark built a political career from a fundamental involvement in his local community. My experience in the recent by-election campaign gave me some new insights into the nature of Mark’s involvement and his relationships with his people.

My family and I are long-term residents of Werriwa. Bernadette and I have been active in school parent organisations, sporting teams and various community groups. Our children have grown up and attended schools, TAFE and the University of Western Sydney. We have lived as ordinary members of our community and, like most in that category, ours has been a relatively low profile. This meant I had to make a very special effort to present myself to the people of Werriwa. During the campaign I met with community groups, spoke with rail commuters, conducted street meetings and knocked on thousands of doors. I spoke to as many people as I possibly could.

In the course of this intensive process of engagement with the community I constantly encountered a universally deep affection and concern for Mark Latham. People spoke of him as a friend. They did not see him just as a national leader, a writer of political analysis or a proponent of radical policies of change. They saw him as one of them—as a westie. They thought of him as a local lad who was raised in difficult circumstances, attended local schools, went to university and achieved distinction in his studies. They were proud of him. They knew he remained one of them. Obviously, I expected a reaction like this but I was surprised at how universal it was. People said these things time and time again. It is obviously a bit trite to say, ‘This is what it is all about.’ But I have to say that this experience has been a genuine inspiration to me. As a local member, I am honoured to replace Mark Latham and I intend to serve with the same commitment to my electorate as he did.