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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1390

Mr ZIMMERMAN (North Sydney) (10:15): Last month one of my local state members of parliament, Jillian Skinner, announced her intention to resign from the New South Wales parliament, following 23 years of incredible service to the people of New South Wales and residents of the lower North Shore. Jillian entered the New South Wales parliament in 1994, following a career that started in journalism in Melbourne. She was the first female journalist in the Victorian parliamentary press gallery at a time when the profession was so male dominated. Immediately prior to her election to parliament, Jillian worked as director of the then Office of Youth Affairs under the ministerial guidance of a mentor we both shared, the late Virginia Chadwick.

Her work for young people in New South Wales reflected her long interest in helping children and supporting the education system. However, it is in health policy that Jillian Skinner has made a profound impact. It is incredible to think that 20 of her 23 years in parliament have been spent working as either the minister or shadow minister for health. I doubt that many parliamentarians could claim such a sustained and dedicated interest in a portfolio that is so demanding but just so vital to the welfare of Australians. The result was that when the coalition was elected to government in 2011 it had a health minister who was respected by health professionals across the state and was able to immediately drive reform to a system that had been the cause of controversy for so many years.

There will be many legacies from her six years as health minister. Most obvious will be the results of what has been the biggest expansion of health infrastructure in the state's history. I know that the member for Robertson's community has benefited from a new hospital in Gosford and a $20 million medical research institute that minister Skinner personally drove. From upgrades to these hospitals, there is barely a region of New South Wales that has not benefited from the state government's commitment to provide better health care. I also want to acknowledged Jillian's work in two particular areas: her support for medical research and innovation, which is epitomised by the Medical Devices Fund that she established; and also her work, for so many years, to support those living with HIV.

Jillian's decision to enter politics was driven by her involvement in our local community, particularly through child care in our local schools. She joined parliament as a parent who had served the local school attended by her children, Neutral Bay Public School. Incredibly, she has remained a member of the school council throughout her career in parliament. I have witnessed her commitment to her electorate, both during my eight years as a North Sydney councillor and, of course, more recently since my election to this place. She has been a tireless advocate there, fighting for a solution to that traffic nightmare known as Military Road or arguing the case against excessive development on Berrys Bay.

Her efforts have resulted in new schools and better public transport for our area, including the upgrade of ferry wharves, and she has worked to support the Sydney Metro rail project, which will transform rail public transport on the lower North Shore. Jillian will leave parliament with an incredible record of achievement. She has been a trailblazer in so many areas. I wish her and her husband, Chris, the very best for the next stage of their lives.