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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4382

Mr CROOK (O'Connor) (19:09): I was elected to federal parliament as the Nationals member for O'Connor, with a clear mandate to deliver a better deal for my electorate and a better deal for all of regional Western Australia. Throughout the 2010 federal election campaign, I was critical of both major parties for their unwillingness to deliver back to regional Western Australia. With a tightly contested federal election campaign likely to deliver a hung parliament, it became apparent that there was more to gain for my electorate and regional WA by remaining outside of the federal National Party room and sitting on the crossbench. I campaigned strongly on this platform.

While at the time this was a difficult decision, it was a decision I made with the full support of the Western Australian National Party and a decision based on the best interests of my electorate of O'Connor—that being a member of the crossbench in a hung parliament provided more opportunities to deliver. I stand by that decision, and my influential position on the crossbench allowed me to deliver some strong outcomes for my electorate in the first 18 months of parliament.

In the first few months of being elected I was able to secure $1.2 million in funding from the federal government for the Albany Community Care Respite Centre. Other successes have included more than $6 million in federal government funding for the Albany Centenary of Anzac Alliance and $2 million towards planning for the PortLink intermodal transport hub in Kalgoorlie. These have been positive outcomes for my electorate.

I have always used my position on the crossbench to vote in the best interests of regional Western Australia. One of my most controversial votes in parliament was my decision to support the federal government's flood levy. It attracted some criticism, however; the negotiations included for the flood levy to be extended to the flood damaged Carnarvon, and I ensured that no Carnarvon resident who was affected by flooding would be made to pay the flood levy. The flood levy was also used to lend assistance to the communities of Laverton, Leonora, Menzies, Nungarin, and the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku, following heavy storms and flooding in February last year, through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements. Without the flood levy, this assistance would not have been made available for these communities and the state government and local residents would have been left to carry this burden without federal government support.

It was my crucial vote that saw the plain packaging legislation for cigarettes passed unamended. It was also my position that ultimately prevented the Labor government from introducing into the parliament its Malaysia solution for the processing of asylum seekers. In the face of these results, I absolutely stand by my decision to sit on the crossbench over the past 18 months.

The nature of politics is dynamic and recently we have seen the make-up of the federal parliament change. With these changes I believe the crossbench is no longer the best place to advocate for regional Western Australia. Last night's federal budget was disappointing for the people of regional WA and further vindicated my decision to leave the crossbench. I want to lend my voice to the campaign against the Labor government and allow regional Western Australia to be better represented in any alternative government that arises as a result of the next federal election.

The federal Nationals and the Nationals WA, while maintaining some differences, also share some key similarities. It was to the team of Warren Truss and Tony Abbott that I gave my confidence and support following the 2010 federal election. Around 90 per cent of my votes in this parliament have aligned with the federal Nationals. We have stood side by side on key issues affecting regional Western Australia, such as opposing the carbon tax and the mining tax. I thank them and the Liberals for their support of my amendments to the mining tax. In terms of policy, we both believe more investment is needed in regional Australia.

I have made the decision, with the unanimous support of the Nationals WA State Council, to campaign for a better deal for regional WA inside the federal Nationals party room. I certainly will not be taking a step back on my election commitment to reform GST funding and create a fairer and more transparent GST system for all states and territories. I also will not be taking a step backwards on gaining support for a federal regional development policy on par with the Western Australian state government's Royalties for Regions program.

I thank the Nationals team, including Nationals WA Leader Brendon Grylls, federal leader Warren Truss, Federal Director Scott Mitchell and Federal President John Tanner for their commitment towards delivering a better outcome for regional Western Australia. I also thank the members of the National Party for their very warm welcome into their party room, and members of the Liberal Party who have supported my move.

I also take this opportunity to thank Prime Minister Julia Gillard for her willingness to engage with me on issues important to my electorate. Along with the Prime Minister, Ministers Warren Snowden, Anthony Albanese, Kate Ellis and Jenny Macklin have also visited O'Connor over the past 18 months, and I thank each of them for their interest and commitment to my electorate. I also thank my crossbench colleagues for taking part in this journey with me; I appreciate your friendship and support to me as a first-time member of parliament. I thank you all. I look forward to continuing to represent O'Connor and regional Western Australia with the federal National Party. (Time expired)