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Thursday, 26 November 1998
Page: 774

Ms MAY (1:37 PM) —There are no words to adequately describe the feeling of standing in the chamber as a representative of the community you have lived in for many years. To say it is an honour or a privilege, as others before me have, is simply an understatement.

As I reflect on the path that led me to this place, and as I have listened to others of this class of 1998 and read many maiden speeches of those previously elected, I am struck by what a wonderful system of democracy we have in this country. It is something of which all Australians can be justifiably proud, because—unlike most nations around the world—wealth, class and privilege really play no part in determining election to this place.

I am particularly proud of the fact that, on this side of the House at least, we are truly representative. While some members opposite like to play class warfare and perpetuate long outdated myths about the Liberal Party, the fact is we are a proudly diverse and largely working-class bunch. Made up not solely of doctors, lawyers, academics or trade unionists, we are nurses, teachers, milkmen, small business operators, defence personnel, farmers, secretaries—even crocodile hunters.

In the Liberal Party there is no set or predetermined path to coming here. And that is truly a unique and very Australian thing. It is an honest reflection of our egalitarian society. Despite what some social commentators have said in recent times about Australia, I believe we remain the most racially tolerant, accepting and, thankfully, classless society in the world.

Another significant feature of the make-up of this 39th Parliament, especially in comparison to the early parliaments, is the number of women. I do not intend to reflect too long on or to labour this point because I do not see myself as a women's representative but, rather, as a people's representative, representing the men, women and children of McPherson equally.

But I think it is fitting that as we enter the new millennium women are playing a key role in political life, just as they are in business and the broader community. And I am proud to be a member of a party which encourages participation at all levels by women and which endorses a system of individuals, whatever their gender, being preselected on merit, not as a result of some quota or prearranged factional deal.

That is just one example of how, in my view, the Liberal Party remains in touch with the ideals and aspirations of mainstream Australia. And it is through that practice of keeping faith with the Australian people that the Howard coalition government was re-elected just two short months ago. I know that that is a difficult concept for those opposite to accept, and it seems that, despite their research driven protestations about eating humble pie, they still have a `born to rule' mentality, born of the arrogance they displayed in office.

Labor now considers itself a government in waiting, not even aspiring to be a truly effective opposition. Its approach has been to frustrate the aims of the elected government, to block sensible legislation at every turn, to tell the Australian people, `You may have voted for the coalition but, don't worry, we will save you from yourselves and make sure they can't do what they promised you they would. After all, we know what is best for you.' There is not time today to go into the reason why Labor's 13-year track record proves it does not always know what is best, but I have to say that I am excited and extremely optimistic about being part of the second Howard government.

Many of us on this side of the House remember all too vividly the 1993 election. The coalition presented an up-front, detailed plan to fix the tax system. It was applauded as bringing a new honesty to politics but, as history attests, it was defeated by a new dishonesty in politics, a massive, untrue scare campaign. I remember late nights in the electorate office answering calls and explaining that Labor's claims were simply untrue. After Labor won that election, of course, it increased its own hidden taxes by over $10 billion—but again I will not go into that. Time limits do not permit me to repeat its litany of broken promises.

After 1993, many political commentators lamented that we would never again see a political party go to an election being honest enough to outline fully its plans, especially if they included necessary reforms that could be considered electorally unpopular. The commentators surmised that there would not be anyone with the determination or political guts to risk that honest, up-front approach again. But they did not count on the political tenacity of the Prime Minister, a man with a much deserved reputation for honesty and integrity throughout his many years in public office.

It is a testament to the Australian people that, despite another massive, untrue scare campaign, they chose to re-elect the Howard government and defy the political pundits who said that, although tax reform was necessary, no-one could win an election with such a platform. So it is with great personal pride, especially as a foot soldier of that 1993 campaign, that I stand here today as part of the class of `98 and a member of the Howard government.

Most of the recent maiden speeches have talked about tax reform, as have maiden speeches in parliaments past. It is a perennial subject, mainly because we all know that Australia's tax system is a mess. It is broken and must be fixed. But those opposite continue to either run away from the problem or offer bandaid solutions that never address the fundamental problems.

In preparing for this speech, I read a number of maiden speeches of members from both sides of the House. One that certainly caught my eye was that of the member for Hotham, the shadow Treasurer, the man who would be in charge of Australia's economy under a Labor government. The first time Simon Crean actually spoke in this House was, ironically, on the Sales Tax Laws Amendment Bill 1990. As minister he presented this bill, just one of Labor's many to increase sales tax rates, this time on motor vehicles—including, might I add, four-wheel drives. It was a tinkering at the edges, extracting more rev enue, making the system even more complex—a Labor speciality.

But in all fairness to the member for Hotham, while he made his speech on the Sales Tax Laws Amendment Bill as the first time he spoke, that was not his maiden speech in this House. In fact, he was at pains to point that out in his maiden speech. He said:

. . . I trust that neither history nor the people of Hotham will confuse . . . my first speech in the House with my maiden speech.

I would not like anyone to think that my views and visions—the matters that are traditionally canvassed in a maiden speech—were solely concerned with the Sales Tax Laws Amendment Bill . . .

We on this side of the House do not blame the member for Hotham for wanting to distance himself from the sales tax system. He must have known back in 1990 that the sales tax system was a complete mess. What disappoints me, and so many of us on this side of the House, is that the Labor Party cannot put aside its petty political position and, for the good of our nation, support the government's sensible new tax system, a system that is recognised as a major step forward and a crucial factor in Australia's future economic wellbeing.

We each come to this place on the trust of our constituents, and I would not pass up the opportunity to thank the people of McPherson for their support and encouragement, especially over the past few months. Queensland's Gold Coast has long been a holiday mecca for people from all over Australia, a subtropical paradise that offers something for everyone, from singles and families to the elderly. The Gold Coast is now the sixth largest city in the nation, and in my view very much still the tourism capital of Australia. We host such events as the Gold Coast Indy, the Asia Pacific Masters Games and many other sporting events that put us on the world tourism map.

Perhaps I am very biased but I think the Gold Coast, and particularly the southern Gold Coast, is a wonderful place to live, whether you are raising a family or enjoying a well-deserved retirement. Having lived in Currumbin for 14 years and raised my family there, I know it is a daily luxury to be just five minutes from the glorious sandy beaches and 15 minutes from the pristine natural wilderness of the hinterland, including Springbrook National Park.

The green behind the gold, as we know the hinterland, has become a crucial feature of the Gold Coast's tourism appeal, and I strongly support continued efforts to develop ecotourism based projects that will help attract more visitors, thereby providing more jobs for local residents. The hinterland boasts 29 national parks and nature reserves. It has Australia's largest area of subtropical rainforest and 300 kilometres of walking trails. May I point out that our Gold Coast hinterland has benefited enormously from a number of projects under the government's $1 billion Natural Heritage Trust, another sensible community based plan which Labor opposed for political reasons.

As we look to the new millennium, the Gold Coast is looking to expand its industry base. While tourism will undoubtedly remain our lifeblood, we have enormous potential to develop other export industries. We have already had great success with education services at Bond University. Building on that success is our growing information technology industry. Our vision for the next millennium is to be a crucial centre in our region for information technology.

I look forward to continuing to work with local business people to see our dream of a convention centre at the southern Gold Coast become a reality, a centre that will provide not only a convention facility but also a range of film technology developments and services. It is an exciting project that I will strive to see come to fruition.

The people of McPherson have benefited from the Howard government's first term. The upgrading of the Pacific Highway is providing safer roads and the Tugun bypass, after years of promises, is finally happening. Our veterans who served in the last World War now have greater access to a gold card to provide improved health services. Our young unemployed people have reaped enormous rewards from various local Work for the Dole programs. Again I thank the Prime Minister for his political strength and tenacity in introducing this scheme, which many Australians had been calling for—and which, again, was opposed by Labor and its union mates. I will work to expand Work for the Dole in McPherson so that our community can benefit from the drive and enthusiasm of our young people, who under Labor were simply left to languish on the unemployment queues.

Our local retirees now enjoy the same tax benefits as pensioners on comparable incomes and, significantly, this year most will now have access to the same health care benefits. Local families—and there are thousands of young families in McPherson, particularly in the new suburban developments at Andrews and Stephens—have had the benefit of the $1 billion family tax cut, delivered in full and on time as was promised in the 1996 election. And both families and the elderly particularly look forward to the 30 per cent tax rebate for private health insurance.

During the campaign I received enormous positive feedback from local residents about this initiative, which is why I am totally stunned and outraged that Labor and the Democrats now look like blocking this measure as well. Their opposition to this sensible plan to help improve the health system again speaks volumes about why they failed to gain the trust of the Australian people on 3 October.

I could spend all day talking about the people of McPherson and what a tremendous electorate it is to represent. It is quite simply a beautiful part of Australia, and I will work long and hard to ensure that I listen to the people of McPherson and then take action to fully represent their views and to make our local area an even better place to live. Of course, to do that I will continue to draw strength from the support I receive from local residents, party members and my much loved family and friends. This support network is any parliamentarian's lifeline—they keep us sane, focused and advised, and are just invaluable.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to publicly thank my local branch members and my branch chairman who contributed so much to the campaign and worked long and hard on election day. To Bill Kelvin, my campaign manager, and Sandy Davey, my FEC chairman, my very special thanks to you both for your hard work and support. To our crew of willing and energetic volunteers and helpers behind the scenes: Jim MacAnally, Christine Vincent, Liz Scott, Ruth Neville, Mike and Donna Milosevic, Haydyn Bold, Helen Morrow, Richard and Jann Stuckey, Walli Davey, Alison Bren and Rob Martin—I thank you all for your extra effort and welcome your continuing assistance and advice.

Of course, our local campaign was supported and directed with great professionalism by the Liberal team at both state and federal levels. I want to thank our Federal Director, Lynton Crosby, and those who worked hard at campaign headquarters, as well as our State Director, Greg Goebel, and his team in Brisbane, especially Graham Quirk, Steven Ciobo and Ann Reid. Our Queensland State President, Bob Carroll, also deserves special thanks for the hands-on role he played in ensuring we retained and won so many seats in Queensland.

There is another special team I want to thank—the member for Forde, Kay Elson, and her husband, David—for their encouragement, advice and support from preselection through to today. I could not find a better role model for how to be an effective, hardworking and respected local member, and I look forward to being able to continue to work with Kay in this place. My thanks also to my cheer squad in Forde: Megan, Jo, Aidan and Maureen—thank you. To my own office team: Karen, Carol, Kim and Ros—you have been fantastic and I know we all share the same commitment to serve the people of McPherson.

And to two very special people who are in the gallery today, two people who have shared with me the many ups and downs of politics over the last 10 years—to Selma and Andrew Schuller, this is for you both: you have shared my dreams, the ups and downs; you have encouraged and supported me and always been there; your friendship, love and assistance will be remembered always.

Last, but certainly not least, I come to my family. I was fortunate to be raised by a very strong, hardworking, unique and loving individual—my mum. She raised us on her own after my wonderful dad passed away when I was just 14. Mum encouraged my two sisters and me to believe in ourselves and made countless sacrifices for our education and upbringing. Mum was also the absolute stalwart of the campaign—first on the job and last to leave. I do not know where we would have been without her. For these and countless other reasons, I thank my mum, Rae Kerr, and also my sisters, Heather and Anne.

My mum was also ably assisted by my mother-in-law, Pauline Rashleigh. Next time you visit the Gold Coast for a holiday we will make sure you have just that—a holiday and not a federal campaign to work on. Thank you, Pauline.

My three children—Dimity, who lives in Melbourne, Dayne, who lives on the coast, and Kristin, who lives here in Canberra and who I think is in the gallery today—have all been incredibly supportive of my involvement in politics through the years. I am immensely proud of what these three young people have achieved, and for their constant love and support I thank them, as well as my daughter-in-law, Nadine, and my son-in-law to be, Raymond.

Finally, my literal `other half', David. Marriage is always about partnership and sacrifice, but even more so when one partner is involved in politics. I have been thrilled to share the joys of the past six months with David, for they are his victories as well. I could not have wished for a more supportive, involved, enthusiastic or understanding person to join me on our journey to this place and to help me with the challenges that lie ahead. David, I cannot begin to thank you enough. There just are not appropriate words to express my gratitude and love.

I will finish by once again thanking the people of McPherson. We each come to this place on the goodwill and trust of the people. I am a firm believer that our primary goal is to repay that trust with hard work, honesty and openness. I believe the true measure of a good member is their ability and willingness to deal with people one on one, to realise that an individual's difficulties are often as significant as a community's. Our challenge is to have one eye on the big picture always, while we extend our hand to assist our individual constituents in need. That is the sort of local member I believe the people of McPherson deserve. And I look forward to working with my colleagues, under the strong leadership of the Prime Minister, to deliver on our commitments, which were supported and endorsed by the Australian people at the election.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —Before I call the honourable member for Wentworth, I do encourage his colleagues to pay him the courtesy of not walking between him and the chair. I call the honourable member for Wentworth.