First Speech: Michelle Landry MP

Member for Capricornia, Queensland

5 December 2013

Ms LANDRY (Capricornia) (10:22): On a winter's day in 1969 people walked into my father's shop and held their breath. They were mesmerised, their eyes glued to a fuzzy image of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon. Dad had set up a black and white TV. He wanted to make sure that people who could not afford a television could experience the event of a generation. I learnt a lesson that day. For me it was not just witnessing history; it was witnessing yet another extraordinary gesture of unassuming generosity. My father was renowned for his generosity, like many small-business owners in country towns across this great nation. I can add to this lessons about community spirit, consideration for others and willingness to stop and listen with an open mind. I look up to the public gallery and say directly to you, Dad, that I have never forgotten the lessons I learnt from watching you in your shop—lessons which have made me who I am, lessons which have guided me on my journey here today, where I proudly stand with you in the Australian parliament to deliver my first speech. These lessons helped to form my moral beliefs and to shape my political ideals, ideals that remind me of Sir Robert Menzies and his famous speech 'The forgotten people'.

Menzies reflected on the contribution of middle-class Australians. He identified these people as the shopkeepers, farmers, skilled artisans, salary earners, professional men and women, the employers of our communities. He described them as the true backbone of the nation. I add to this list those who contribute to industrial, resource and economic production. These are all my constituents and to them I make this pledge. I pledge to facilitate the 'reawakening of Capricornia' after a decade and a half of political dormancy. I will further explore my pledge shortly.

I was not born into wealth and privilege. My journey from humble beginnings was guided by my parents, Bill and Gloria Martin, small-business owners—two of Menzies' so-called 'forgotten Australians'. For 21 years, they ran Lucky Daniels Casket Agency in William Street, Rockhampton. As a 12-year-old, I stood on a box behind the counter and wrote out casket tickets. Lucky Daniels was a place where characters stopped to yarn and to gossip about events affecting their lives. They discussed the harsh weather, the Beatles, the death of JFK and Bob Menzies, decimal currency, Vietnam, the rise of Abba, the end of Elvis and, of course, the impact that federal political decisions had on their lives.

Running a small business and raising a family is tough. My mother would cook, wash, clean and pack us off to school before heading down to Lucky Daniels to work with dad. In the afternoon, she headed home to prepare dinner and then changed into her nursing uniform to work the night shift at the base hospital. Mum, you instilled in me that characteristic of rolling up your sleeves, getting on with the job and putting others first—a trait I am using now in my journey as federal member for Capricornia. Mum and Dad, you taught me that hard work and good manners can take you to places of which you never dreamed. Today's walk through the great halls of Parliament House, past the golden framed portraits of Menzies and other great Prime Ministers, reminds me of just that.

Today, I am privileged to stand with you, in the nation's 44th parliament, as the 16th member for Capricornia since the electorate was created in 1901. I acknowledge prominent past members, like Frank Forde, the caretaker Prime Minister for eight days following the death of John Curtin, and Liberal-Country MP Charles Davidson, a cane and dairy farmer who fought with distinction in World War I and who served as a lieutenant colonel in World War II. I relate to Charles Davidson because, like me, he won the seat from a long-term ALP member. I acknowledge other National Party MPs who held this seat—Col Carige and Paul Marek.

I did not win my first campaign but, with a small team, I moved mountains to achieve an 8.4 per cent swing against the sitting member. This year, I won Capricornia with a further 4.5 per cent swing, thanks to the support of constituents seeking change.

I spoke earlier about 'reawakening' the great geographical region of Capricornia. This reawakening starts with encouraging bold vision back into our local communities; giving a voice to constituents who have been crying out for representation; urging resource companies to give preference to local workers where local jobs are being farmed out to fly-in fly-out workers from other cities; cutting red tape to help small business prosper in town and on the land; preparing now to build a strong service sector in our rural and remote towns; and doing our darnedest to ensure those services survive when the resource sector goes through periodic downturn.

The reawakening of Capricornia will not be easy. It will take courage. It will take commitment. It will take cooperation and it will take every one of us in every corner of the electorate to be more positive, more focused, more united and more progressive in our thinking. I want to help facilitate this through positive, progressive politics. With the right political leadership, Capricornia can prosper further. With the right political representation, industry and individuals in our great region should be able to build wealth and grow their communities in harmony. With the right attitude, competing groups—employees, employers and big organisations—can work together in a spirit of cooperation, rather than being combative. If we want to reawaken our future potential, we have to consign to the dustbin of history the bitter and divisive attitudes that have failed us for so long, causing so much bitterness, conflict and divide in our big and small towns. The ugly divisiveness and political hatred separating workforce from industry and neighbour from neighbour which has, for far too long, held back Central Queensland must end on all sides. If we fail to do this, we will fail to be a progressive, forward-looking Capricornia. Our region has been wounded by divisive attitudes for far too long, dividing our local communities. Small-business owners in our small towns in Capricornia are losing money too—some as much as 30 per cent in four months. As your representative, I will do what I can to achieve a more progressive, united, vibrant Capricornia. I will put aside political differences and willingly work with industry and workers and with local, state and federal counterparts to the best of my ability to re-awaken Capricornia and to help facilitate the brighter future which people from all walks of life deserve.

I recognize that not all of my constituents voted for me. But I pledge this: if you have an issue that you want to put to government, come and talk to me. I will be working tirelessly throughout the electorate. When I am in your town, come and see me. Stop and tell me what your concerns are and what solutions you have thought about.

Australia is a big country and it is my job to remind you of the significant role that Capricornia plays in shaping our nation. Its 91,000-odd square kilometres play host to key international land and sea defence training. Regular military operations involving the United States, Australia, Singapore and other nations inject millions of dollars into local communities.

Our greater economic region is among the biggest contributors to Queensland's multibillion dollar agricultural business. There are $77 billion dollars' worth of mining projects either under construction or in the pipeline. We are the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and we export education via a 21st century intellectual industry spearheaded by CQUniversity.

We are unique, we are diverse, we are the resourceful heart of Queensland, we have skilled workers and we are open for business.

If Capricornia were served up in a restaurant, you would enjoy a multibillion dollar meal showcasing our diversity. Your menu might read: 'Crocodile medallions, from one of Queensland's premier croc farms and dusted in local bush tucker spices.' It might then offer: 'Reef and beef, featuring premium Central Queensland tiger prawns fresh from the trawler, and the world's best beef, sourced from Australia's real beef capital.' Beef is a proud and thriving industry that generates nearly $300 million dollars locally in beef meat processing alone. Our cattle industry deserves our full support, rather than the sort of random decision making we have seen from previous governments that has set the industry back. Next on our dinner menu is a course of tropical fruit desserts enhanced with natural cane sugar. We use premium cane harvested from around Sarina and West Mackay—a big player in Queensland's multibillion dollar sugar sector.

As you begin your meal, enjoy our coastal views overlooking the extraordinary islands of the Great Barrier Reef. As the sun sets, check out the mood lighting, powered by the hard yakka from Central Queensland's coalfields. In case the topic surfaces during dinner, you should know that Capricornia's resources sector is the powerhouse of Queensland. It drives the backbone of investment, employment and new regional infrastructure in Central Queensland, building our national wealth and enhancing our global significance.

Inspired dinner conversation should turn to Capricornian innovations in technology, engineering, health research and education that flow from CQUniversity Australia. The university has merged with CQ TAFE to deliver Queensland its first dual sector university, with a $300 million operating budget and 40,000 potential students.

Further dinner conversation of course turns to sport. Capricornia boasts tennis great 'Rocket' Rod Laver and Olympic champions like Kerrie and Anna Meares, Kenrick Tucker, Jamie Dwyer and many more. Key players in our business sector are backing a bid to locate an NRL team in Central Queensland, a heartland for rugby league. After dinner, stay the night at any of the region's islands and tourism resorts, which, by the way, inject $615 million and nearly 6,000 jobs into the Greater Central Queensland economy.

I have spoken briefly about reawakening Capricornia, our significance to the nation and some of the experiences that have shaped my character. Many people have walked beside me on the journey that brings me to this chamber and I want to recognise all of them. Regrettably, time does not permit me to mention each of them by name, but I want to say thank you to everyone who has been part of my journey. You helped me do a better job, you reinforced the values of mateship, you boosted my spirits and you helped me understand what needs to be done to re-awaken Capricornia.

I have already spoken of my parents. Sitting with them today are my beautiful daughters, Jessica Price and Kirstin Daniels. The lessons I have learnt from them will be just as valuable in making me a better member as they have been in helping me be a better mother. To Kirsten and Jess and Jessica's wonderful husband, Tim, I say thank you—thank you for the love and support you have given me. To my brothers, Daniel and Robert, their wives, Karen and Katie, and their extended families—I say thank you.

I particularly thank campaign director and friend, Dr Kim Bulwinkel, who drove a successful campaign across the line. Kim: mission accomplished! I acknowledge the assistance of Ken Crooke, Trish Symons, Scott Kilpatrick and Gary Kerr. To Lance Rundle, Ellen Cogill, Adrienne Jackson, John Christie and David Horton, who helped us build the LNP in Capricornia and who contributed their support—I say thank you. I also thank our committed fundraising committee—Dominic, Lance, Ellen and Ken—and all of our financial sponsors and supporters.

I sincerely thank Senator Ian Macdonald for being my mentor, friend and advisor. He encouraged me to stand for election and has stood by me on my journey. To Barnaby Joyce, who was my patron senator before the election—for all of your counsel, I say thank you. I thank Matthew Canavan, Dennis Quick, Brad Henderson and Robyn Mills for their support.

To my good friend and federal colleague, Ken O'Dowd, who taught me so much and who taught me to work with passion—I say thank you. To my state LNP counterparts—like Bruce Young and Ted Malone—I say thank you. I thank the Prime Minister and coalition leadership team for supporting Capricornia. To the wonderful LNP Central Queensland Women's Branch and the state executive—I say thank you.

To valued supporters Neil Fisher, Kylie Jackson, Dan de Soya, Mark Hiron, James McGrath, Bridie Luva, Robert Brodie and Sarah-Joy Pierce—I say thank you. And to everyone too numerous to list—I say thank you. To the ordinary people who voted for change, who put their trust in me—I say thank you. To the people who waved placards at the side of highways in the cold mornings and hot afternoons—I say thank you. To those who manned the polling booths, handed out how-to-vote cards, set up Facebook and web sites, did pre-polling and rallied behind the cause—I say thank you. And to those who were scrutineering in the days after the election—I say thank you.

To the people who took time to mingle and talk to me on the side of the road, at mining camps, in the pubs, at the races, walking the streets in our cities like West Mackay and Rockhampton, and in country towns from Collinsville to Clermont, through the Isaac and Whitsunday shires, from Dysart to Moranbah, Nebo to Sarina, Camilla, Clarke Creek and Marlborough, Emu Park to Yeppoon and everywhere in between—I say thank you. I could not have achieved this without you.

So many people in Capricornia contribute so much in so many different ways, and I want to recognise them. I recognise our unique Aboriginal culture and those who preserve and teach the history, heritage, traditions, Dreamtime culture and language of our Indigenous people. I recognise the people who work night shift—in services, emergency services, small business and mines and industry. While we sleep, they keep our economy rolling. I recognise people at the heart of our transport industries, from bus drivers to cabbies and the long-haul freight and livestock truckies that keep us moving and deliver our products.

I recognise those who work in the blazing sun—in the farm paddocks, on construction sites and in outdoor jobs. I recognise the vital contribution of small business owners—Menzies' so-called forgotten Australians—who work day and night keeping their businesses operating. Having worked in banking and in my own small bookkeeping business, I fully appreciate your commitment. I recognise the huge investment by corporations in meat processing to tourism; in mining and resources; and by developers of infrastructure. It is our small business owners and our major corporations who take the fiscal risk to invest in our region, creating jobs and commerce.

I want to also recognise the contribution of people like our police officers, teachers, nurses and others who do not earn the big wages of the resources sector but who go out with their families to live in these areas. They enrich and contribute to our country towns and help others in our communities. It might seem surprising, but I also recognise our regional media—the newspapers, local radio and TV that chronicle our daily history.

I salute our region's vast and diverse multicultural groups—people who come from far-off places; people who introduce us to new and vibrant cultures, festivals and foods and who contribute enormously to the fabric that makes up our local economy. And I recognise all those who contribute to one of the largest single employment groups in our region outside resources—workers and professionals in the health and medical sector.

Let me also acknowledge our unseen heroes in Capricornia, like our bush fire fighters, meals on wheels volunteers, our incredibly resilient State Emergency Service volunteers, sports coaches and umpires, tuckshop ladies, and marine rescue, coast guard and surf lifesaving volunteers, along with those involved with St John's, Red Cross, the Salvos, St Vincent de Paul, Anglicare and Lifeline as well as the Country Women's Association, men's sheds, the RSL, volunteer caretakers of local historical sites, Riding for the Disabled, and so many more people who generously provide their time and resources to make our community a better place to live.

I have spoken about the history of my journey and the values that I bring forward from my childhood. I have spoken about the reawakening of Capricornia and encouraging bold vision back into our communities. I have spoken about the need to put aside political hatred and bitterness, dividing our local towns. And I have recognised those who make up the social fabric, community spirit and economic drive of our region. I want to leave you with perhaps one of the most powerful lessons that will shape my life in politics. It occurred when I was fronting a media doorstop with visiting Senator Brett Mason. Photographers and TV crews were closing around us. A woman suddenly appeared in shot, swinging the carcass of a freshly plucked headless rooster. Moments earlier, she had thumped the floppy carcass on the counter of town hall, protesting bylaws that banned roosters from the city. She was promptly thrown out.

Her unexpected gatecrash into my media scrum called for some skilled diplomacy—diplomacy of which even the foreign minister would be proud. I did what I had promised throughout the campaign to do. I listened, completely. Weeks later, she stopped me in the street to report she had proudly voted for me, for one reason. 'You took the time to listen to me,' she said, 'when nobody else would hear me out.' That is my aim—to listen to the people of our community, to be familiar with every aspect of the electorate. I plan on being there for everyone who wants to see me. I thank the House.

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