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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1369


Mr BRIGGS (MayoAssistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (17:32): It is a pleasure to speak in this debate and it is the privilege of all of us who are elected to this place that we get the opportunity to do so. I should say, as the member for Adelaide leaves the chamber, that she should be very happy with the new government's decision in respect of South Road, because we will, as the Prime Minister said in October last year, deliver a north-south corridor in South Australia and help build the productive capacity of our state within a decade. We have said time and time again that we will do both the Darlington and the Torrens-to-Torrens projects because they are both important projects.

As I said at the start, it is an absolute honour and privilege to be in this place. This is the third occasion I have had the opportunity to make this address. Actually, technically, it is the second, because the first time, as I was the child of a by-election, my maiden speech was on a bill. But it is a real privilege to be here again, and I thank the people of Mayo for delivering a very solid result for me and the Liberal Party on 7 September. I can report to the House that we had a swing to the Liberal Party of 5.22 per cent in my electorate, which puts me into the semi-marginal area of 62½ per cent, so I am very pleased with that. I did not quite get to Alexander Downer's best result in Mayo, but we will keep working away at that.

We only lost at one booth, which was at Bridgewater, by seven votes, and we know that Tim Burvill, who was in charge of that booth, was responsible for that! And I wish him a happy birthday for tomorrow. We had some great results in the new areas of McLaren Vale, McLaren Flat and Willunga, which we had inherited from—and she will not thank me for saying this—the member for Kingston, who had lost those areas in a redistribution. The member for Kingston is actually a very hardworking member and much underrated in this place, in my view, and I think that was one of the reasons that we had an 11.4 per cent swing in McLaren Vale, a 15.3 per cent swing in McLaren Flat and an 11.7 per cent swing in Willunga.

So it was a great result and it was a result based on, I think, a lot of hard work on issues that were important to my electorate. The first and overwhelming issue was that people wanted to change the government, and they did. That was terrific because that gave us the opportunity to implement our plan for Australia, to ensure that we are stronger and more prosperous than we would have been down the path the Labor Party was taking us.

But locally there were some important issues as well which I would like to deal with. Firstly, the most contentious issue in my electorate in the last three years was certainly the former government's decision to break an election promise following the 2010 election and put a detention facility at Inverbrackie without consulting the community first, breaking a commitment not to have more onshore detention facilities. That decision caused a lot of community resentment, a lot of community anger, around Woodside and Oakbank, and those parts of the Adelaide Hills, particularly the fact that they had never been consulted. They had never been asked by the former government whether this was something they would support. It was a commitment of ours at the election, a commitment that will be fulfilled in the very near future, that we will close that facility's operations because it is not an appropriate way to deal with the border security issue that the minister for immigration is so magnificently handling. So we look forward to that announcement. There have been some people, particularly some Adelaide Hills councillors who are certainly not of the Liberal persuasion, or even of the Labor persuasion, who constantly make claims that the centre retains community support and therefore should remain open.

The now minister for immigration and I put a very clear proposition to the electorate prior to the last election that we would close it if we won the election. The swing towards the Liberal Party in the booths most related to this centre, at Woodside and Oakbank—great Australians—was nine per cent in Woodside and nine per cent in Oakbank. Those members of the Adelaide Hills Council—who really should focus on delivering services to those of us who pay rates rather than focusing on federal politics and continuing to make these false claims—should look to what their voters actually said. There will be an opportunity in November when the council elections come up for those voters to send exactly the same message to some of those councillors.

An issue which I have fought for consistently since being pre-selected and since being elected to this place and which I will continually advocate for—and be proudly standing there when we have turned the first sod, as, ironically, the minister responsible—is the second interchange at Bald Hills Road off the South Eastern Freeway to cater for the growth in Mount Barker. Alexander Downer, when he was the member for Mayo, made a commitment in the 2007 election campaign that the federal government would contribute funding towards it. Mark Goldsworthy, the state member for Kavel, said the same in 2006 and 2010 and is saying the same in 2014. I made that commitment in the by-election in 2008 and 2010 and in 2013 we committed $16 million towards the project. I am happy to report to the House that, after being ignored for four years, the state Labor government, who opened up all the land around Mount Barker for development but failed to invest in the infrastructure, and Minister Koutsantonis, to his credit—and I do not think I have ever used those words in the same sentence before—have announced at the last minute that the Labor Party, if they are re-elected in a week and a half's time, which I truly hope does not happen, will fund the project.

So the people of Mount Barker and the people of Mayo know that, no matter who wins the state election, this project will be delivered. I will proudly be standing there later this year when we turn that first sod and we make sure that this project is delivered cheaply, efficiently and quickly, in line with our agenda to deliver more infrastructure to make Australia more prosperous and more productive. This is a very important piece of infrastructure. It will help alleviate the concerns of residents about the increased growth in our region after the state Labor Party decided to open up our region for that growth without investing in the necessary infrastructure. This is a small step to ensuring that the increased number of people who are living in Mount Barker and its surrounds have access to the freeway in a safe and efficient way. At the moment there is one exit to the freeway from Adelaide Road and it has become a constant bottleneck as the community has grown. It is not safe. We are in a bushfire zone in the Adelaide Hills, and one exit from a major town is far from safe. Having a second exit and entrance will make the town more efficient and much move liveable for the residents of Mount Barker. It is a huge win.

While there has been some misreporting in the local papers about what was offered by the state government, it is a proud achievement that I am extraordinarily proud to be part of. We have committed to this project and we will see this project through. I very much look forward to this road being built. Hopefully, after the 2016 election, if I am returned—I do intend to nominate again—I will be able to stand here and say that it is now delivered, open and operating, unless something gets dramatically in the way of that. That is, I think, the No. 1 commitment that I have pursued.

The second commitment that I have pursued is the swimming pool on the south coast—the Fleurieu aquatic centre. It is an issue which has raised some controversy in recent times. I committed to this project when I first ran in the by-election and I committed again in 2010. In this election we took the correct position to ensure that we were not making commitments that we could not fund, and there was some question about the commitment. But, given the decision the Deputy Prime Minister and I made to allow the uncontracted rounds 2, 3 and 4 of the RDA funds to be spent, the Fleurieu aquatic centre will also go ahead, and we look forward in the very, very near future to signing that contract and getting that project underway for the people of the south coast.

Kangaroo Island, a beautiful part of my electorate, is an area that has great opportunity. It also has some challenges—as do many island communities across our country—because of the cost of freight and the cost of getting to the island. It is the jewel in the crown of South Australia and also of our country. About 60 per cent of overseas tourists who visit South Australia do so for the specific purpose of visiting KI. Our plan to abolish the carbon tax and to take regulatory pressure off business will help KI prosper, but we will also work very closely with the Mayor of Kangaroo Island, Jayne Bates—who does an outstanding job—to see what we can do in addition to ensure that the infrastructure needs are met on Kangaroo Island so that they can take advantage of all their strengths.

One issue that is bedevilling them—an issue that I have long had concerns about—is the blue gum forests. The MIS program from some time ago shows that when governments intervene to try to create industries and markets, it inevitably has consequences which are long and painful. There is no better example than the locked up productive land on Kangaroo Island, which could be farmed and used for much better purposes. It is destroying the community of Parndana, and we do need to try to find a solution to this. It is not easy but it needs to happen because Kangaroo Island is a jewel in our crown. Because of the fertile soils and the climate, food production on the island is a real strength, and the blue gums are inhibiting that. It came from bad policy. It is still bad and getting worse and we need to fix it.

Another very proud achievement—and something which was the issue of my by-election—is in respect of the Murray-Darling Basin. It is something that I—as someone who grew up on the river, in Mildura, and who has been involved in this issue for a very long time—passionately believe we needed to address. When I was in John Howard's office, there was the groundbreaking plan to address the crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin. It has taken too long to get to this point where we can come to an agreement that we need to ensure that we can be as productive as possible in the basin but that we have a healthy basin. It is a terrific achievement of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Simon Birmingham, to finally bring all the parties together—all the states—last week to sign up to the intergovernmental agreement and put those reforms in place, which will ensure that the deal that was done during the last term of parliament is locked away and achieved. I must mention Henry Jones, who is suffering from some health issues at the moment. He is a fisherman at Clayton and has fought day in and day out for years for this result. He will see the result and, I think, sit back with an element of pride. He deserves to have an element of pride, because he worked so hard, as did so many South Australians. It is a great achievement, particularly for Senator Birmingham, and I congratulate him on what he has done in that respect.

One of the commitments I made in the preselection for Mayo back in 2008 was that I would introduce a mobile electorate office to get around my electorate. It is a large electorate with diverse communities—the communities of Yankalilla, Victor Harbor and the Lower Lakes, out north to the Eden Valley and Springton, right through to the Adelaide Hills, where I live and continually show that I cannot ride a bike properly, and Kangaroo Island. So it is not easy for constituents to get to my office in Mount Barker, so I committed that we would get out and get around. During the last term I visited over 160 communities with my mobile electorate office, providing the opportunity for local residents to come and see me to raise issues. As I am sure all members of parliament in this place know, even if people do not always agree with you—or, indeed, often agree with you—they appreciate the opportunity to raise issues about Australia, politics, the economy, their jobs, their health care, their education and what have you. The fact that they get the chance to talk to their local member and that we live in a country where we can advertise that we will be somewhere and we have no fear of advertising that and we are not held up in our office constantly is another example, I think, of what a wonderful country we have. People are nearly always polite and respectful even if they are not always in full agreement, and we will do our best to convince those who do not necessarily agree with our perspective. I think getting around is an important thing that we do in my electorate, and I will continue to do it as much as I can—obviously with the additional responsibilities.

Following the election, it was a privilege, an honour and a shock to get a phone call from the Prime Minister inviting me to join the executive of the government. It is a humbling thing to be part of a ministry and to be one of the leaders of the government in driving our agenda through. I am constantly aware that this is a job which is not a right; it is an absolute privilege. We need to work at it every day to ensure that we are doing as well as we can to achieve the aims of the government. In infrastructure, as I said very early, we have bold plans. We have hard and difficult decisions to make to ensure we get our plans done, but we will get them done. We will invest in building our productive capacity. We will invest in ensuring that Australia can do better than we are doing today and that small business, medium business and large business can compete as well as they possibly can. We do not believe in government by chequebook; we believe in government giving all Australians the opportunity to achieve their best. I think the Prime Minister has been outstanding in delivering this message since we came to government. I think that, as time goes on, he will be seen as one of our best prime ministers. He has all the capacity to deliver for Australia. Australians respect Tony Abbott because he is a good man with strong values and strong beliefs and he will pursue those for the good of our country. I fundamentally believe that.

In conclusion, I should acknowledge a few people. We would not be here without volunteers. They are the geniuses of us all, and without them we would not be elected. David Hall is first among equals in that respect. He goes out of his way. He lives in Victor Harbor and runs a manufacturing business which is doing better every day, and he travels and gives up his own time, often with very little thanks. He is a great man, and I thank him so much for what he has done. We would not have been able to do it without Marg Westmore, and my state counterpart Mark Goldsworthy could not do it without Marg Westmore either. She is a treasure extraordinaire. I acknowledge Richard Munro, who ran the campaign and was the genius behind the Briggs Bus, an innovation which will continue—that will be back in a campaign; don't you worry about that—and Bryan Reid for all he has done as well. There are many others whom I do not have the opportunity to thank in the time remaining. I do want to acknowledge Brian Dohse, though. He sadly passed away the day after I had my thank-you drinks in December. He was a great man and we will remember Brian for a long time to come.

I must thank my staff—because that is what they have written on my piece of paper! They were terrific. I had no changes in my staff in the whole of the last three years. I think it is a really important part of a political office to ensure that you have a consistent group, and I thank them very much for what they have done. They have a bigger task now with more people on board. Laura, Amy, David, Amelia and Rhiannon—and I am going to forget someone now—are terrific people and they have done a great amount of work for me. So with those remarks I again thank the people of Mayo for re-electing me to this place. Avril is the other one, and she will kill me for that! I seek leave to continue my remarks at another time.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.