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Thursday, 25 September 2008
Page: 5722

Senator FORSHAW (6:20 PM) —Tonight I rise to talk about ‘the shire’. As everyone knows, that is the Sutherland Shire. You Google it—God’s own country—and it comes up ‘Sutherland Shire’. Tonight I want to make two acknowledgements. Firstly, I want to acknowledge the decision recently of the New South Wales Department of Lands to declare the Cronulla beaches a national surfing reserve. This is the first national surfing reserve to be given such dedication in Sydney. There are other surfing reserves in New South Wales at Lennox Head and at Crescent Head, but this is the first in the Sydney region. This is a great honour and, as anyone who has followed surfing history in this country—maybe saw the movie Puberty Blues back in 1981—would know, the beaches from the Cronulla Peninsula through to Kurnell have some of the greatest surfing spots in this country.

Of course, they have their particular names: Sandshoes, Shark Island, The Point, The Alley, Greenhills, Merries Reef and Voodoo. These are places with international recognition for surfing, and some of the greatest surfers of the world have surfed there over many years, including the great Duke Kahanamoku, when he visited Australia in 1914. The Cronulla surfing beaches—I use that as their short title, but it is a long strip of beaches—have produced some great champions. Probably the first one was the late Bobby Brown. He made the finals of the world titles in 1964 and, from memory, came third to the great Midget Farrelly. He turned the tables on Midge in the New South Wales titles shortly thereafter. Bobby Brown’s career was cut short when he lost his life in a rather tragic episode.

The greatest of all surfing champions produced by the Cronulla region is Mark Occhilupo. Mark Occhilupo hit the world surfing scene like a tornado. He was one of the most aggressive riders of the big waves in Hawaii, a goofy-footer—not the normal stance for most surfers. After some years out of the sport due to personal issues, which have been well documented, he came back to win a world title in 1999 at the ripe old age of 33. He beat some of the greatest surfers this world has seen, including the greatest ever, Kelly Slater.

I think it is terrific that the Cronulla beaches have been given this specific acknowledgement. If you look on the website Surf Zone, which is a recognised website for commentary on Australia’s surfing spots, no other area of beaches is recorded as many times as the Cronulla area. The Cronulla surf-lifesaving clubs—and I have spoken about them previously—have been the most successful clubs in Australia, winning world championships.

Why do I raise this? Firstly, to give this acknowledgement, which is well deserved. Secondly, I was very, very disappointed—I could be more irate but parliamentary standards prohibit me—to read recently that the state member for Manly, Mike Baird, had criticised this decision. In comments on his website and in the newspaper he said:

To see Cronulla declared a National Surfing Reserve before Manly is quite frankly a joke! I like Cronulla but saying that Cronulla is more significant in surfing terms than Manly is ridiculous.

Well, I am sorry for Mike Baird—whom I have met on a couple of occasions and who is a very decent fellow, like his father, Bruce—but he is wrong. To take this cheap shot at what is a very significant honour for these beaches and for the surfing fraternity in the Cronulla region is a pretty low act. Mike Baird should probably focus more on his impending challenge to Barry O’Farrell for the leadership of the New South Wales Liberal Party, when he gets around to it.

As I mentioned earlier, Mike Baird is the son of Bruce Baird, which is an interesting fact. Bruce Baird used to be a state member on the north side of Sydney, the member for Northcott. He retired from the state parliament but some years later was persuaded to come down and live in Cronulla and to challenge the then Liberal federal MP for Cook, Stephen Mutch. Bruce Baird won the preselection and came into the parliament, and he served here with distinction for many years.

Senator Abetz —Is that ‘surfed’ or ‘served’?

Senator FORSHAW —‘Served’. He is also, I acknowledge, a very keen ocean swimmer and participates both in Australia and internationally in ocean-swimming events. I regard Bruce Baird as a good friend—and a great Sharks supporter, which I am going to come to in a minute. It was okay for Bruce to come to Cronulla to get a seat in the federal parliament but Mike Baird, his son, back in Manly is getting stuck into us. Frankly, I think it is a disgrace.

That leads me to my second acknowledgement tonight, and that is the fact that tomorrow night the Sharks rugby league club play the Storm in the semifinal of the National Rugby League. I have my fingers crossed that we are going to win and get to the grand final. Who we will play I do not know, but it could well be that we are up against our old nemeses, the Manly Sea Eagles, the team that beat us—we believe we were robbed—on the two previous occasions we made the rugby league grand finals. We have never won a championship in 42 years. Since joining in 1967, Cronulla have not won a rugby league title, and that is a tragedy. But we have one of our best chances this year.

It is a team that is, as they say, not a team of champions but a champion team. Ricky Stuart, the coach, has welded them together as a very forceful and cohesive unit and they have had great success this year in sharing the minor premiership with Manly and with Melbourne, who ultimately won it on points for and against. I do want to single out one player for special recognition tonight, and that is Brett Kimmorley. Brett Kimmorley came to play for Cronulla in 2002, after having played for the Hunter Mariners; the Melbourne Storm, where he was involved in their historic grand final win in 1999; and the Northern Eagles, at a rather difficult time, as we know, for rugby league and for the Northern Eagles club.

It is fair to say, because it is well documented in the media, that Brett Kimmorley has never been the most popular player. He has often—in my view, very unfairly—borne the brunt of the criticism when the Cronulla Sharks team has not been playing very well. In fact, a couple of seasons ago we had a pretty poor season and Brett, because he was the star player and captain, copped all the unfair criticism. Nobody should ever have doubted Brett Kimmorley’s passion for the game and for the Sharks. He always gave 100 per cent or more and, I believe, carried the team through those difficult years. It is no coincidence that today he is playing some of the best football of his career, at a time when the Sharks are going well.

He has been a fantastic role model off the field, doing a lot of charity work and providing support—as was recently reported, to a family that is very close to him who tragically suffered the loss of a child’s life in a fire in Nelson Bay. Brett Kimmorley is a fantastic advertisement for what is good about rugby league. We are going to miss him. He is leaving the Sharks at the end of this year to go and play for the Bulldogs—a team that is not doing terribly well, as we know. They have had a lot of off-field dramas and have not performed very well this year, but I think Brett Kimmorley is going to be a part of the resurgence of the Bulldogs club. I just want to thank Noddy for his great service. Go the Sharks!