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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 749

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (13:15): I rise to speak in this address-in-reply, the first item of business for the 44th Parliament, and in doing so thank the people of Casey for their support and endorsement at the election on 7 September last year. The electorate of Casey underwent a redistribution between the 43rd and 44th parliaments. In political terms that reduced the Liberal margin in Casey from a little over four per cent to about 1.9 per cent. The electorate increased in size basically threefold, taking in all of the Yarra Valley—the towns of Steels Creek, Yarra Glen, Healesville—and all of the towns along the Warburton Highway, just to name a few. It meant that the campaign was a very different campaign to previous campaigns in the smaller electorate of Casey.

The result that we received on election day saw a swing of more than five per cent to the Liberal Party in the electorate of Casey. I was humbled by that result. It represented a strong level of support for the policies that we enunciated prior to the election at a national level and some of the local commitments to build a stronger and safer community in the electorate of Casey. I thank all those people who voted for the coalition in the 2013 election, some of them for the very first time after witnessing what had been obviously the most dysfunctional and chaotic government in their lifetime.

As you well know, Deputy Speaker Kelly, all of us come to this place having had unbelievable levels of support from people within our electorates. I want to particularly thank those members of the Liberal Party of Australia in Casey who have always done so much to support me and to support our cause. They were led by Fran Henderson, the chair of the Casey FEC; vice-presidents Bryan McCarthy and Annette Stone; the secretary, Fiona Ogilvy-O'Donnell; the treasurer, Jill Hutchison; Rex McConachy; and the extended campaign team of Jim and Gwen Dixon, Peter Manders, Matt Mills, Steve McArthur, Mark Verschuur, and Ian Wood. All of these people did so much in the lead-up and throughout the election campaign to get the Liberal message out.

There is so much that has to be done in an election campaign. All of us in this House rely on the support of people who believe in the democratic process and who believe in our respective causes. I want to particularly mention Rex McConachy who looked after the campaign rooms and who, together with Jim Dixon and Peter Manders, had the unenviable task of erecting signs over the 2½ thousand square kilometres of the Yarra Valley throughout the campaign. We were joined on regular weekend campaign runs by another large group of volunteers: Byron Hodkinson; Brent Crockford; Liam Barry; Sam Campbell; Daniel Harrison; Josh Reimer; Andrew Hallam; Jodie Twidale; Max Lamb; Andrew Ermel; Scott and Stephanie Marshall; and last but certainly not least a former member for Casey—and, I know, an old friend of the Chief Government Whip—Peter Falconer, the member for Casey between 1975 and 1983, who still to this day, despite a very active business life, takes time off to help in the election. He has the difficult job, as the Chief Government Whip would appreciate, of driving me around the polling booths on election day. It is something that he likes to do and something that he has done at every one of my elections since 2001. So a particular thanks to the former member for Casey, Peter Falconer.

Mr Ruddock: I introduced him to Laurie Bennett. He has been doing it for 40 years.

Mr TONY SMITH: There we go. The election, of course, was about a number of key national issues. In Casey the message I got consistently—and this was reflected in the result—was that the carbon tax had to go. This is a message that the people of Casey endorsed. It is a message that those opposite refuse to hear. But, like all members on this side of the House, we were elected with a mandate to axe Labor's tax. It is a tax that is doing so much damage to so many businesses and households in the Casey electorate.

The Casey electorate is a mixture of outer suburban and rural areas. It has some of the best and most innovative food producers, but food producers are paying higher and higher electricity bills that put them at a cost and competition disadvantage with their competitors overseas. Time and time again this message was delivered by us and endorsed by the electorate. The electorate also want to see the budget repaired. They know this is difficult but intuitively they know that Labor's way of debt and deficit cannot go on forever. They want to see red tape reduced —red tape that is strangling the small and medium businesses our community depends so much on for jobs and for the local economy.

During the period before the election I took the then Leader of the Opposition and now Prime Minister to Garden City Plastics, which is a great example of a business hurt by Labor's carbon tax and still feeling that pain today. They are Australia's premium plastic pot manufacturer. The carbon tax adds massively to their electricity bill. They do not sell individual plastic pots. By the nature of their business they sell by the thousand, by the 10,000, so they tender for contracts and their main competition is foreign. The carbon tax is making them less competitive. It is upping their cost structure and acting as a reverse tariff, but that is something that Labor refuses to see. They are waiting to see the tax axed. Two days before the election I took the now Prime Minister to Aussie Growers Fruits in Silvan, an innovative food production firm that has a number of labels in our supermarkets. Again, it is a firm that is bearing the burden of that jacked up electricity price that makes their business harder and harder. This could not have been a clearer message during the election campaign.

Before polling day, Labor acknowledged that the carbon tax was a big campaign issue. Having seen the result, they are determined to ignore it. The businesses and the households of Casey want to see the carbon tax axed. They want to see their electricity bills come down. They want to see their businesses become more competitive so they can provide greater opportunity to people wanting jobs, wanting to expand, wanting to do more in the local community.

During the election campaign I also advocated policies for a stronger local economy and a stronger and safer community. I announced: four practical Green Army projects to restore the local environment; a number of sporting projects to strengthen our sporting clubs, who play such a great role in the community and for the community; and, for a safer community, more closed circuit television cameras. Many years ago during the Howard government I was pleased to see some of the first federally funded CCTV cameras in the electorate of Casey—in Croydon, in Lilydale and in Mount Evelyn—and with the community I have seen firsthand the great effect they have in cutting down on crime. So I was pleased to announce that if our government were elected we would extend the camera network at Lilydale and we would introduce one in Healesville and in Yarra Junction. I was also pleased to be able to pledge funding to the Metec Driver Training Centre—a not-for-profit driver training centre right in the heart of the Yarra Valley—to upgrade their facilities so that they can more effectively teach young drivers safe driving before they get their licence.

I was very pleased to be able to announce that an Abbott government would fund a key tourism project in the Yarra Valley: the restoration of a historic railway between Yarra Glen and Healesville. This had been identified by the community and all of the small business community as a vital project to build the local economy and to build tourism in that region. Indeed, in June the former government, under the former minister for regional Australia, the member for Ballarat, announced that it was going to fund this project. It announced that on 7 June. On that day it announced two other projects to be funded, one in the electorate of McEwen and the other in the electorate of Deakin. But by the time the election was called, amazingly for those in the Yarra Valley, both of the contracts in McEwen and Deakin had been signed off but the project in the Yarra Valley had been left on the minister's desk—clearly, a decision by Labor to forget its promise and to betray the people of the Yarra Valley.

I was very pleased to be able to make the pledge that if we were elected we would honour the full amount of money for that railway, and indeed we will. I am very much looking forward to that project proceeding. It will build jobs and build tourism in the heart of the Yarra Valley, an area that was so affected by the Black Saturday fires five years ago. Lives were affected, as we know, and the local economy was also affected. This is a project that, once up and running, people will look back on as a key driver of the local economy.

Let me conclude by again thanking all of the electors of the electorate of Casey. To those who supported me nearly six months ago at the election on 7 September I say thank you and I will not let you down. For those who did not support me I say I will do my very best for all the electors of Casey to represent them here in the parliament and to represent policies that will build the strongest community there in the Yarra Valley.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.