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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Page: 367

Mr SIMPKINS (1:17 PM) —At the commencement of my first speech in this place, I would like to record my thanks to the people of Cowan for their confidence in electing me. I am humbled by their endorsement, and I will not let them down. I am the fourth member for Cowan and also the first MP in some time who does actually live in the electorate. Before proceeding, I would like to acknowledge the service of the previous member for Cowan, the Hon. Graham Edwards, and before him Mr Richard Evans, who was our last member for Cowan.

For many years I have focused strongly on serving the people of Cowan. For enabling me to work for the people and to win the election, I owe a great debt of thanks to my wife, Kelly, and my children, Emily and Rebecca, who are here today. They knew that I had embarked on a mission and that a lot of things needed to be done for the people of Cowan. With my family’s support, I sacrificed much of our family time to pursue that mission. They also know that the future for our family will have its challenges, so I thank them for their ongoing support. I thank my mother, Connaught, who is also here today, for her unconditional support. I know that, should my father have lived to see this day, he would have been very proud.

Although my family gave me time, a lot of very hard work was done by the Liberal Party, by volunteers and friends, some of whom are here today. I would especially like to thank the Liberal Party, which has given me the opportunity to stand in this place, and in particular the state president, Danielle Blain, the state director, Mark Neeham, and his assistant, Zak Kirkup, for all their support. I would also like to place on record my thanks to Colin Edwardes, my campaign chairman. He was always there for me during the tough times. I would also like to thank my dedicated team for Cowan, which included Jonathan Daventry; the Hon. Cheryl Edwardes; Tim Brooks; Kate Taylor; Sherryl Paternoster; Peter and Norma Tyler; Geoff Paddick; and many Young Liberals, including Matt Dawson, whom I thank for being here today; Alex Butterworth; Ryan Blake, who is also here; Heidi Brooks; Douglas Brooks; Matt Blampey; Ange Wills; and my friend Sue McDonald for her efforts in the 2004 campaign. I would like to especially thank Scott Edwardes, who was courageous on election day when he faced up to the aggression and intimidation of employees of the Your Rights at Work movement at Noranda Primary School. That was an interesting morning. In addition, I greatly appreciated the support and guidance provided by the Hon. Julie Bishop MP; Mal Washer MP; Senators Chris Ellison, Mathias Cormann and David Johnston; former Senator Sue Knowles; the Hon. Peter Collier MLC; and the Hon. Ray Halligan MLC. In particular I owe a debt of gratitude to Chris Ellison for his advice and encouragement over the last three years. Chris is a man of great honour and integrity and I respect him for his strength of character. I also thank those members of the former government who were there for me but were not themselves returned, particularly the Hon. John Howard and the Hon. Mal Brough, who did such great work for this country.

During my election campaign, one of the most frequently asked questions of me was: ‘Why do you want to be the member for Cowan?’ The answer is quite simple, really. I have put myself forward because I believe that I can make a positive and dedicated contribution to providing the people of Cowan with better lives. I strongly believe in better community safety, better road safety and greater opportunities for the families in Cowan.

As a resident of Cowan and a father of two young children under the age of 10, I worry about their safety and their futures. I believe that the vast majority of parents in Cowan have those same feelings about their own children. Yet, sadly, there are some places in Cowan where graffiti, hooning and antisocial behaviour are at near epidemic proportions. There are also places where crimes such as drug dealing, burglaries and assaults are far too common. Those crimes particularly impact on children where their families are both victims and, in some cases, perpetrators.

For my own part, I believe that parents or carers who provide their children with examples of crime, drug addiction or illicit drug use clearly demonstrate that they are poor role models. I believe in intervention where necessary and the removal of children where necessary from the threat of these dangers. It is my view that children in these circumstances are better off with a couple where a man and a woman truly appreciate their responsibilities and can provide appropriate examples of behaviour and respect for society.

At the centre of this situation is, arguably, the great scourge of drugs. Unfortunately, the number of police in Western Australia has been in decline for years now. Subsequently, they have a reduced capacity to deal with these critical problems. The situation is made worse by the soft drug laws introduced by the current state government in Western Australia. The incapacity to act, coupled with these weaker laws, leads to toleration. The use of misnomers such as ‘party drugs’, ‘soft drugs’ or ‘recreational drugs’ tends to normalise drug use. In a similar vein, terms such as ‘harm reduction’ and ‘harm minimisation’, I believe, are very dangerous indeed. It is my strong view that the only path is to work towards a life without illicit drugs, an abstinence approach.

We are in good times at the moment, where hard work is being rewarded, and particularly so in the wonderful state of WA. It is a great situation where just about anyone in WA who wants a job and is prepared to work hard can get one. Since the last election, in this place the majority view has become that the economic success of this country is due to luck and international demand for resources. This view of course denies the influence of economic and waterfront reforms that have made this country and particularly Western Australia reliable trading partners of China and other developing countries. My reason for raising this point in this speech is that it has never been my view that a belief in luck or other superstitions adds any value.

I have a background of highly competitive sport and 15 years as an Army officer. From these backgrounds I have come to realise that it is only through hard work that success can be assured. When I was at school we prepared for such events in our rowing calendar as the Head of the River. At school we would train only three times a week for four or five months. I recall being defeated badly through many a rowing season, and yet on the day of the main event we would still have hope for victory. We would of course have a blind disregard for the facts and reality, but we thought that if we wore our lucky socks we could still pull it off on the day. Yet the same result would always occur: if not last—and I know my mother remembers these days—then very nearly last. So I describe my school rowing days as days when we rarely won anything.

Once I left school and began rowing at club, state and—in a brief period—international level, we used to train anywhere from eight to 13 times a week. Within the club competition we were rarely defeated because we used to train harder than anyone else. Based upon these experiences, I have come to realise that in politics, just as in sport, nothing will be all right on the day. We cannot wear our lucky socks or pray for victory when the work has not been done. Often it takes years to achieve goals. I think we know that after the last four years of this campaign. When people talk about a particular set of circumstances and describe comprehensive success as being a result of luck, I say, ‘Look to the past to see how this future has come to pass.’

Along with rowing, the other great defining period of my life has been my 15 years of service in the Army as an officer. From this period I have come to realise that in order to truly achieve one must live every moment to its fullest. It is simply not enough to plan to make it to the end of a challenging activity. One must try to maximise the level of performance, knowledge and experience that you gain from the whole activity. Simply put: one must try to be the best person one can be.

I therefore bring my experiences of failure, struggle and, ultimately, success to assist me to achieve both in this chamber and in my electorate of Cowan. It does, however, remain important for me to say that I stand here with these friends around me not because I was born into my political party; nor did friends introduce me to that political party. I joined the Liberal Party of Australia only after reflection and thought, when I came to see that the philosophies, beliefs and approaches represented by members on this side of the House provided the best ingredients for progress in Australia.

When I talk of progress it is progress for the benefit of the people of Australia and particularly of Cowan—which brings me to the centre of the world: the electorate of Cowan. My mistake: I mean the centre of the civilised world. The electorate of Cowan bears the name of Dame Edith Cowan, who lived between 1861 and 1932. She was the first female member of an Australian parliament and was elected to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly as the member for West Perth between 1921 and 1924. This great lady also holds the distinction of having a university named after her for her service to the community.

The electorate itself comprises 195 square kilometres of the outer northern suburbs of Perth. Economic confidence and the resulting growth in the last decade have seen a substantial increase in the number of houses and businesses in Cowan. Unemployment dropped in the late 1990s and has dropped even more in the last seven years, so there are now many more working families in Cowan as opposed to the high percentage of non-working families before that time. The growth of the Cowan suburbs in terms of both homes and businesses is a testament to the great Western Australian spirit of working hard for a better future.

That spirit is particularly clear when you consider the number of organisations in Cowan that work well for their members, organisations which I have personally had some association with. Firstly, I would like to mention the RSLs and, in particular, Ron Privilege and the members of the Wanneroo-Joondalup RSL sub-branch, who each Anzac Day hold a dawn service, a march and then a very popular district commemoration in Wanneroo. I am particularly pleased to mention them because I too am a member.

I would also make mention of the Ballajura RSL. They maintain a very fine war memorial and peace park adjacent to the Ballajura Community College. Scotty Alcorn and the dedicated members of the sub-branch have found a great place in their local community with the peace park, and I am proud to have helped them get a federal grant of $125,000 a couple of years ago under the Regional Partnerships Program, which at that time did not have bipartisan support in Cowan.

In relation to the veterans community, I would also like to mention the Extremely Disabled Veterans Association of Western Australia, of which I am the patron. They are a dedicated, effective and hardworking association serving the interests of World War II and Korean War veterans. I would particularly like to pay tribute to the long years of work in the association by Sue Plane and Ruth Down. These two ladies know only too well the adversity that life can grant.

Within Cowan there are also two large and vibrant business associations. I am a member of the Malaga and Districts Business Association, which works closely with the City of Swan to serve and advocate for almost 2,000 member businesses—that is a big organisation. The president is my good friend Rod Henderson. Up in Wanneroo, the Wanneroo Business Association works closely with the staff of the City of Wanneroo. Peter Newbound is the president there and I look forward to working closely with the WBA as a member.

I want to make mention of a number of ethnic groups within the electorate of Cowan that have made a positive contribution to the Australian way of life. These groups understand, respect and embrace the institutions and values of our society. They understand that the people of Australia have no issue with race, colour or religion but, rather, regard a person by their actions. They have integrated into this country and have placed their loyalty first and foremost with Australia and its laws, above and beyond all others. Yet they still have an understandable concern for their former homelands, and it is on this point that I wish to concentrate.

Firstly, I would like to mention the people of Vietnamese heritage; they number many thousands in Cowan. They are hardworking people who are strong with a sense of family. I would like to thank Dr Van Phat Nguyen, Mr Tung and Mr Troung for their assistance and support. I know that many Vietnamese who came to Australia as refugees remain concerned about human rights issues in Vietnam.

I would also like to mention the assistance and support of Mr Zoran Coseski of Marangaroo, who is the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Macedonia in Perth. Although born in Australia, Mr Coseski is a great advocate for Macedonia.

I would also like to make mention of the situation in Cyprus, where the island remains divided following the invasion in 1974 by Turkish forces. Land was seized, families separated and many Greeks are still missing. As part of future negotiations, I look forward to Turkey providing compensation or restitution for the land of Greek Cypriots seized during that invasion.

Next, I would like to mention that great and enduring concern of the Jewish people in Cowan—namely, the Middle Eastern peace process and the rightful pursuit of a two-state solution in Palestine. The great problem with the pursuit of lasting peace and harmony is that it is difficult to identify a Palestinian authority willing and able to speak for their side. It appears even more difficult to see a Palestinian authority that would be capable of delivering on negotiations, thereby ensuring a peaceful future.

Before I conclude, I also want to make mention of two very important local issues in Cowan—namely, the school closures in Girrawheen and Greenwood by the state government. In Girrawheen, the state Labor government is closing Blackmore Primary School, against all reason and sense. Despite the vocal and well-justified protests of the parents and local community, ably led by Tory Clerke, it is still going on. Sadly, it appears that the resale value of the Blackmore Primary School site of some $17 million is just too high to be passed up.

Just over in the next suburb, the Kingsley and Greenwood Residents Association, together with local parents such as David and Robyn Bertolini, are fighting to stop the sale of one hectare of the Allenswood Primary School site. While the sale of the nearby East Greenwood Primary School site is already a sure thing, the site of the rebuilt school at Allenswood will be reduced in size so that more money can be made from land sales. While the priority should be an effective educational precinct with appropriate infrastructure, the emphasis seems to be on cash flow into the coffers of a state government that is consistently unable to manage projects on time or to budget. It is no wonder that the people of Perth are cynical about that government.

Earlier in this speech I made mention of why I became a candidate. However, every reason needs to be accompanied by action and I have relentlessly pursued the interests of my fellow residents. I have, in the last few years, won or helped to win a number of grants and extensions of services for the suburbs of Cowan. Yet, as I spoke to increasing numbers of people in the electorate, they told me their concerns about community safety, road safety and opportunities for themselves and their families. Those concerns have driven my successful advocacy for the grant of road funding for the Ocean Reef Road extension, as well as the road funding initiatives concerning the upgrade of Wanneroo Road and the upgrade and extension projects of Hepburn Avenue and the Reid Highway interchange at Alexander Drive. I note that the latter of those two initiatives was picked up in the election campaign by the Labor Party and therefore I look forward to their delivery via the election promises legislation that I would imagine we will be seeing soon.

In addition, I recall our being promised a superclinic of GPs in Wanneroo, $1 million of CCTV for the City of Wanneroo, $1 million for a footbridge overpass in Banksia Grove and $500,000 for a youth drop-in centre in Ballajura, so I will look forward to also seeing the detail on those projects in the same legislation. Should the government be interested in improving the quality of life of people in Cowan, I have other initiatives that could be added to the list.

Over the last four years I have walked along hundreds of roads in Cowan, spoken to thousands of people and looked into the lives of my fellow residents in order to understand them and their issues—all that in order to make a difference. I have seen great hardship, yet I have also seen great courage. At times I have found weakness in spirit but also strength of character. But, in amongst it all, there is a clear need for a representative dedicated to building a stronger and more secure community in Cowan. I asked for that role and I am now humbled to have been granted that responsibility by my fellow residents of Cowan.

The SPEAKER —Order! Before I call the Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education and Childcare, the member for Bennelong, I remind honourable members that this is her first speech. I therefore ask the House to extend the usual courtesies to her.