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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Page: 343


Mr WOOD (11:34 AM) —I start my speech on the address-in-reply by congratulating the member for Charlton and all the new members of parliament. It is truly a great honour to be elected to this place. I also congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your elevation. It is a great honour for you. I know you personally and I know your integrity. I also rise today in this new parliament delighted to have been re-elected as the representative for the seat of La Trobe. My first task is to thank the voters in La Trobe for re-electing me and giving me the honour and privilege of being the federal member for La Trobe. It is a great honour for me. I again thank my supporters and all those who voted for me for their support.

I am determined to work harder than ever before, to ensure that the newly elected Rudd Labor government keeps to its promises in La Trobe. I recognise that in La Trobe a number of people voted for the Liberal Party for the first time and gave me personal recognition from my position on issues such as supporting the Kyoto protocol, opposing the pulp mill in Tasmania and opposing nuclear reactors. The Liberal Party have learnt a lot from this election and I know we will go into the future learning from our mistakes.

There are many people that I would like to express my thanks to for their dedication to my campaign and for their tireless commitment to ensuring my re-election. It takes a team effort and I would not be here today without support from a number of people. First of all, I must thank my parents, Bob and Jan. They are not traditional Liberal supporters, but they have actually come on board. It is really good to see my parents do that. I thank them, because, as a member of parliament, it is actually your family who cop a fair bit of the burden for your decisions and your policies. I also have to get the name of my dog, Moejoe, into Hansard. Moejoe was a great support for me after hours.


Mr Baldwin —You didn’t lose your mojo!


Mr WOOD —No, I haven’t lost my mojo. Moejoe, hopefully, is with my parents as I speak. Like everyone, I love getting back home, and I get inspiration in after-hours time spent with, believe it or not, my dog, Moejoe. At two o’clock in the morning he would love a good walk.

When it comes to dedication and persistence, I must thank my Liberal Party supporters. In no particular order but first of all I must thank Peter and Chris Smith—they are here to see me as well as all the new members being sworn in, and I thank them for making that trip. Peter is also my FEC chairman. I thank Andrew McNabb, who campaigned tirelessly; Sue McMillan; and Stan and Steve Davey, who I cannot thank enough—they are not actually Liberal branch members but they campaigned for me for a month. I thank John Shipp, David Jancik and Michael Basset, who brought their youth and enthusiasm into the campaign; David Menaham; David Holmes, who was the first person in 2004 who said I should stand for parliament; Brad Battin; Julie Hughes, Carol Porter, Sheila Purcell, Margery Nowack and all the ladies from Berwick Women’s section. I thank my branches in La Trobe, including Berwick, Fern Tree Gully, Emerald, Boronia, Dandenong Ranges, Gembrook, Upwey and the Berwick Young Liberals.

I also must thank the members of the Malvern Young Liberals club, who came out and campaigned with me; the Berwick-Ranges 500 club for their strong financial support; Tony Snell from the admin committee for his leadership and dedication during the scrutineering process, which dragged on; the Wildes family for their assistance; Sharon Verschaeren; Brian and Pauline Hetherton; Betty and Peter McLaren; and also Mick Morland and Kay for their assistance.

To those I have not mentioned: I apologise but I can never thank you enough. One thing I try to do is thank all my supporters. I thank the Victorian state division for all their support and especially the state director, Julian Sheezel: you were great when I needed you to make phone calls to make things happen. Again, I also thank the Liberal Party for their trust in me as their candidate in 2004 and again last year.

In 2004, I made some election commitments and I must again thank the former Prime Minister, John Howard, for all his support in the electorate of La Trobe. Projects such as Fernlea House palliative care received  funding; Fernlea House received $800,000. This is a state government responsibility but the former Prime Minister, John Howard, recognised the need and committed the funding—I thank him for that. With this commitment anyone in the seat of La Trobe can go into Emerald today and see Fernlea House and the way it is being managed. This election commitment has been delivered. Bryn Mawr Bridge in Berwick—I am sure there are a few people who may be listening to this speech as they are driving across this bridge in Beaconsfield—is again a state Labor government responsibility, which we committed $10 million to and which, again, was delivered in my first term.

In last year’s election campaign, La Trobe voters saw Labor’s ‘me too’ strategy in full flight not at the national level but at the local level. I am delighted that, in the election campaign, the Labor Party were forced into matching three of these commitments. Labor matched my election commitment of the substantial upgrade to Clyde Road in Berwick to ease traffic congestion. We initially promised $25 million for this project and we are seeking the second half from the state Labor government. My Labor opponent Rodney Cocks—and I congratulate him first of all for his tireless efforts—tried to trump me by announcing $30 million for the grade separation. We committed this in the May budget, which I believe was also matched by Labor. I hope they stick to their promises.

Just as importantly, I was at the Beaconsfield Progress Association in a debate with my opponent Rodney Cocks. He made it very clear to all those present that Tim Pallas, the roads minister for Victoria, had agreed and he was able to successfully negotiate an agreement that the state Labor government would match the funding of $30 million, so I will keep the Brumby government accountable to this promise.

Labor matched my election commitment of $2.5 million for a performing arts centre for the Emerald Secondary College. First, I must congratulate all the students who participated in last year’s rock eisteddfod, where they came third—they were my inspiration for pushing this project to see whether it was warranted. The students worked so hard for this project and they must be congratulated for their persistence and especially for coming third in the whole state. It was an amazing effort. But there is one person in particular who must get all the accolades for this, and that is Wayne Burgess, the principal at Emerald Secondary College. He was the one who invited me to the rock eisteddfod that night and put the plans and the concept together. He put an amazing application together. He was strongly supported by the school president, Doug. Wayne, you did an amazing job.

Wayne wrote me a letter dated 30 January. It states:

On Thursday 11th October 2007, Emerald Secondary College received a commitment that a re elected Howard government would provide $2.5 million for this community facility.

And, as I said, we heard the echo from the Labor Party in Wayne Burgess’s letter:

On Tuesday 16th October 2007 Stephen Smith, Shadow Minister for Education and Training made a similar commitment.

In actual fact it was an identical commitment, and we are now calling for the new Rudd government to honour this commitment to the students at Emerald Secondary College. I believe the decision on the day was that it would be in this year’s federal budget in May. Let us not start breaking promises; let us commit to this project. It is so vitally important.

Labor also matched my election commitment of $2 million for a new sports stadium in Timbarra. The history of Timbarra is this: initially the state Labor government was planning to sell the land but after a large, strong local campaign, it was decided that the land would be held onto. I must congratulate the former Liberal candidate for Narre Warren North, Councillor Mick Morland, for pushing this issue with Brian Hetherton and also the Casey council for their commitment. In the last state election a promise was made by Luke Donnellan, the state Labor member for Narre Warren North. I congratulate him for getting the funding for this—I will be honest about that—but where is the school? It has not been built. There are no plans. There is nothing happening, so it is one of those empty and vague election promises. Unless we actually see something done, it was not worth making the announcement in the first place.

That brings me to my point: not only do we need the school to be built; we need the funding for the new $2 million sports stadium to be allocated, just as the Howard government’s commitment was to be allocated in this year’s May budget. The Labor Party has assured the voters of La Trobe that will be the case, so I look forward to seeing the May budget and to seeing these announcements being made. It is only fair and just.

Labor also made some of their own commitments. They made a commitment to a childcare centre for Sherbrooke, which will be placed in Upwey. I look forward to seeing that. I have always been a strong supporter of the Sherbrooke Children’s Centre. We were looking at getting funding for that under Regional Partnerships, working with Christiaan O’Dea. I congratulate him for his tireless work on this proposal.

Again, I look forward to the opening of a $2.5 million GP superclinic in Berwick, although I am still of the view that it should be closer to Lakeside and Pakenham. That is where the services are actually needed, because that is the fastest growing growth corridor. Plus we also have a GP superclinic right next-door to the Casey Hospital, so you are going to have two superclinics right beside each other.

There was also a promise to build a technical school in Berwick. I congratulate the Labor government for making that announcement but, alas, I have been told recently that their commitment to build a technical school at Dandenong has been scrapped and the next one they are looking at cutting is the one in Berwick. I would hate to see this scrapped. It is one of the fastest growing growth corridors in the area. Education is so vitally important. We have heard the Prime Minister talk about the education revolution, so let us actually make this happen. We had an election commitment on this too. The difference is that, as with Bryn Mawr Bridge and Fernlea House, we delivered these in a cycle. I really hope this is actually committed to. I put the Labor government on notice that I and all La Trobe residents expect to see each and every one of their promises fulfilled.

Further, I have been disturbed by reports that Labor is considering scrapping projects to which the former coalition government allocated funding well before last year’s election. For instance, last year the Shire of Yarra Ranges was awarded $2 million in Australian government funding to expand and enhance the Burrinja arts and cultural centre in Upwey. This is a project that the council has put a huge amount of work into getting. There was an SOS for us to come through and commit to this project. The state Labor government had committed to this project.

We get people being very cynical, saying this was all about votes. If you look at the polling booth results in Upwey and Tecoma, these are not hardcore Liberal support bases, but these people were desperate for this performing arts centre. They have worked long, hard and tirelessly for it. The state member for Monbulk, James Merlino, has also been pushing for this. It will be a slap in the face not only for the residents of Upwey, Tecoma and La Trobe in general but also for your state Labor counterparts if you scrap this project. The entire $10 million project will be in jeopardy if this commitment is not abided by. I understand that since the election the Shire of Yarra Ranges has had preliminary discussions with representatives of the relevant Commonwealth department, yet the Labor government has still not announced whether funding will be allocated. This is a disgrace.

Further, over the past three years I have worked with the CSIRO to develop a proposal to conduct a biological control into Wandering Trad in the Dandenong Ranges. For those who do not know, wandering trad is a creeper which goes into creeks. It sucks up the water, it prevents wildlife such as platypuses from moving around and it also causes great skin irritations to all pets, including my dog, Moejoe. I was very glad to see that the No. 1 issue of the Howard government and the former Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull—and I congratulate him—after coming and meeting all the local environmental groups was to get a biological control of $450,000 over three years to target this weed. I was so glad that, prior to the election, I was able to get this as a commitment—not during a campaign but before the election was called. So it was all being delivered under the previous government—under the Howard government—and allocated in existing funding. I have with me a front page from the Ferntree Gully, Belgrave Mail. The heading is ‘Forgotten hills’. It is from when the now environment minister, Peter Garrett, attended the area. It states: ‘While many had expected Friday’s event would have been the ideal opportunity to unveil a vote-winning commitment to the weed battle, neither speaker’—neither my opponent nor Mr Garrett—‘would make that a commitment’. The article quotes Mr Garrett as saying:

We will have a policy to address that question in an amplified form on the way to the election.

The amplified form appeared after the coalition, the Howard government, made a $30 million commitment to weed eradication in the Dandenong Ranges. This is the largest commitment ever made by any government. If you compare the state Labor government’s commitment of $15,000 with that, it is an absolute disgrace. We made this $450,000 commitment, and yet I have heard this is one of our previous election commitments to be cut by the current government. Minister Garrett, I plead with you not to cut this project, because it is of such significance. It would also be contradicting what the Labor Party was actually saying to residents in the seat of La Trobe. A media release from my opponent, Rodney Cocks, from Monday, 12 November 2007, states:

LABOR’S $15.3 MILLION PLAN TO TACKLE WEEDS

In actual fact, the coalition had $30 million. The media release goes on to say:

A Rudd Labor Government will invest $15 million over four years from unallocated departmental funds to:

  • Establish a comprehensive national applied research program to investigate and solve the most serious invasive plant problems—

including Wandering Trad, Bridal Creep, Ivy, et cetera. The Labor Party put in their press announcement that they will commit to tackling this problem of Wandering Trad, and yet the first thing they do when they get here is look at reneging on a commitment to the voters under the previous government. That is a disgrace.

On one hand, you are saying you will commit to tackling this problem. We made the election commitment under the previous Howard government, thanks to Malcolm Turnbull and the great fight and support of all the local environmentalists, all of whom want to see this weed eradicated, and the first thing you are doing is looking at not only breaking your own media release but also reneging on our commitment to tackling this Wandering Trad. It is an absolute disgrace and I really hope—I plead with the minister—this decision will be revisited because of its importance. We are so desperate in this area to solve this issue. It is interesting, too, that Rodney Cocks, the Labor candidate for La Trobe, said in a press release:

... it is clear that the Howard Government has no national plan to tackle this issue, as they recently announced that the highly successful National Weeds CRC will be abolished in June 2008.

Guess what! The National Weeds CRC was one of the groups who wrote a letter of support saying you need to get rid of Wandering Trad, and it supported the proposal. I think it is a disgrace that the first thing that the Labor Rudd government is doing is looking at breaking previous election promises made by the Howard government and not honouring them.

Again, I thank all the voters in La Trobe for their support. Whether you voted for me or not, I will be your representative and I will work tirelessly and hard for everyone from every political persuasion.

Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your elevation. I am a bit disappointed that having just come into the chamber, you missed the final sentences in my speech about my concerns over weeds, as I understand you are a passionate weed ambassador too.


The SPEAKER —I did note the member got on to weeds. Feral weeds, yes. Before I call the honourable member for Cook, I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s first speech and I ask the House to extend to him the usual courtesies.