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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 10163

Mrs GASH (Gilmore) (09:51): Last night history was made in the Shellharbour council area. The first Liberal mayor was elected to council. Not only that; the first female mayor and the first female deputy mayor were elected. I congratulate Kellie Marsh on her election as mayor. It certainly signals the transition from traditional working class to a more cosmopolitan mix and it certainly allows people to have a change from the disastrous Labor council that was removed, and an administrator appointed, some years ago. I welcome Kellie's appointment, which signals the beginning of a new era for the community of Shellharbour. Kellie has worked hard in a challenging environment, and I know she will continue to work hard and collaboratively with her colleagues from both sides of the political fence.

I want to thank the people who stood for council. We had some from the Labor Party, we had some from the Liberal Party and we had two Independents. I want to thank both the Independents for being true to their word, particularly Helen Stewart, who was re-elected as the only councillor from the previous council, which was dismissed. Congratulations to her as well.

As I said, Kellie Marsh has worked hard in a challenging environment. There is no doubt that she is taking on a tough role and there will be expectations that she will find, I am sure, difficult to meet. However, she is a very personable lady who has done a lot of good things in the community and gets on well with everyone. She is certainly a natural leader. She is a mother of three children, she works in the youth area with St Vinnies and she has been a volunteer right throughout her community. More important than her political affiliation, or that of any community leader, is the fact that she has promised to get on with both sides of politics. I think the people of Shellharbour will not be disappointed with this first-time Liberal mayor.

I also want to thank the administrator, David Jesson, who guided the council to the strong position it is in now. It has allowed democracy to be returned to the community of Shoalhaven. I also want to thank, as I said, those who stood as candidates. It takes guts to stand for any election and I congratulate them all.

In the little bit of time I have left I want to emphasise the fact that the Shoalhaven now has 10 per cent unemployment—that is, twice the national average. I am very concerned to see that Regional Development Australia, RDA, came to the electorate yet absolutely nothing has been given to the Shoalhaven or the Gilmore electorate. I think it is an absolute shame and that this government should be ashamed to talk about regional Australia yet give nothing to an area that is as much in need as the electorate of Gilmore.