First Speech: Craig Laundy MP

Member for Reid, New South Wales

19 November 2013

Mr LAUNDY (Reid) (17:50): Madam Speaker, it is with a mixture of pride and humility that I rise to my feet as the newly elected member for Reid. I am the ninth person entrusted with this responsibility. Previous members include Labor stalwarts like Jack Lang and Tom Uren. Unfortunately for the Labor Party, I am a proud member of the Liberal Party—indeed, the first Liberal to hold this seat since it was formed in 1922.

I would like to begin by thanking my predecessor, the Hon. John Murphy. John is a good man with a good heart, and for 15 years he was my family's member of federal parliament and he represented our electorate faithfully. I would also like to pay tribute to John's wife, Adrianna, who made many sacrifices on our behalf.

From Drummoyne in the east to Auburn in the west, Reid is an amazing place, but for me the people who call Reid home are its greatest asset. It is home to a vast array of people from a huge variety of backgrounds. In fact Reid is one of the most ethnically diverse seats in Australia. Whilst many talk about multiculturalism, in Reid we live it. I am proud to say that is reflected in the gallery here today. Joining me are people who were born in Korea, China, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Afghanistan, India, South Sudan, Pakistan—I see the Consulate General in here—and Hungary. This is not to mention your run-of-the-mill countries—well, in Reid they are—Italy, Greece, the United Kingdom and of course Australia.

Whilst the seat of Reid is not a Federation seat, its namesake was larger than life in the lead-up to, during and post Federation. George Reid served as the Premier of New South Wales from 1894 to 1899 and the Prime Minister of Australia from 1904 to 1905 and was later an MP in the House of Commons. Reid is the only person in the history of this place to win back his seat at a by-election caused by his own resignation. That is an honour I have no plans to compete for! When George Reid was elected Prime Minister in 1904, he lived in Barker Road, Strathfield. His home was later turned into a teachers college named Mount St Mary's. From 1980 to 1982 I was taught here once a week by student teachers. My school was next door.

Around the corner from Reid's old home is South Street. In South Street you will find my family's home. Strathfield has been home to four generations of my family. The fact we can call this area home is due largely to the work of my grandparents Arthur and Veronica Laundy. Arthur Snr left an orphanage at 15 with just the clothes on his back. He married Veronica and, after 12 years of odd jobs, they backed themselves and bought their first lease of a hotel. They never looked back. They laid the foundations which my family has built upon. Whilst Veronica started this journey with me, she left me to finish it alone. We lost her in May last year at age 97. I know she, along with my grandfather Arthur Snr, would be looking down today as proud as punch. My mother's parents, Harold and Eileen Paul, we lost in my teenage years. They too will be looking down as proud as punch, but I reckon they would be scratching their heads. They were Labor to their bootstraps.

Whilst my grandparents laid the foundations, it was my parents who raised me and shaped me into the man I am today. My mother and father play different roles in my family. Mum is the nurturing love and dad is the tough love. Dad would discipline the children and mum would discipline dad! Growing up with my brother, Stu, and my sisters, Danielle and Justine, was a lot of fun. Like all families, we had good times and bad, but our home was always full of laughter. Mum ran the home and dad ran the business, and they both worked hard.

It was in my young years that my father began training me in how to be business minded. Some of my earliest memories in life include sitting on the bench seat of a Dodge truck whilst driving kegs between hotels on weekends because it saved money. Weekends for us would include rewinding the week's till rolls inside out so that Dad could use them again in the week ahead. By doing this we were halving our use of till rolls—simple, isn't it? This is how my grandfather raised my father and how my father raised me. In fact, if the Treasurer were to make my father an adviser, I reckon we would be back in surplus next week! Over the past 23 years, my father has taught me how to spend his money wisely. I made mistakes—just ask him. He will run you through them one by one. He never forgets! But I learnt from my mistakes. Small and family business people do.

The role that family business plays in our economy is so important that I believe the Minister for Small Business should be the Minister for Small and Family Business. For so many people, not only in Reid but around Australia, their first job is with their family's business. It is where the entrepreneurial spirit is born and fostered. How many maiden speeches in this place since Federation have included stories about the struggles of a member's family and the work that that member did in their parent's business? Mine is no different. I understand it is not governments that create jobs, it is business, because I come from business. Governments create the environment in which business operates and ultimately the environment in which business employs people. We must reduce red tape and regulation and create an environment where risk takers have the confidence to take on bank debt, back themselves and employ people—and, in doing so, they will provide jobs for our children, which will allow them to prosper.

As a proud Liberal, I believe in giving people a hand up, not a handout. This is what excites me most about our Work for the Dole scheme. As a former employer of people, I understand the value of investing in training, but we should aim to design a scheme that is not a way for the unemployed to earn their benefits but is a way they can earn the skills they need to secure their future through employment.

Our country stands at a fiscal crossroads. When Prime Minister John Howard left office, we had 234,000 public servants. Today we have 257,000. Government is bigger than it has ever been, bigger than we can afford. We must act and we must act now. An efficiency dividend can no longer mean using fewer paperclips. It must mean having departments that are lean and efficient. As Robert Menzies once said:

One thing about bureaucrats is that they never swallow their young. Leave them alone and you'll find them increasing every year.

The people of Australia do not owe bureaucrats a living. There is no business I know that has two head offices. With six states, two territories and a federal government, we have nine. Our fiscal circumstances demand we end duplicated bureaucracies, giving the public better services and taxpayers better value. Ministers in this government will need to run departments as you would run a business, work closely with their state counterparts and ensure the trend of the last six years is not only stopped but reversed, for the sake of our children. And we as backbenchers must challenge them to do so.

Throughout the campaign, the Prime Minister spoke of the need to build infrastructure. This is nowhere more evident than in Reid. For too long we have put up with more than our fair share of aircraft noise—in fact, in most years nearly double what we are supposed to have under the airport's operating plan. I applaud Prime Minister Abbott and Treasurer Hockey for having the courage to commit to a decision on the second Sydney airport in this term of government.

Reid has also been home to the end of the M4 motorway for far too long. I remember, as a kid playing cricket on my street with the neighbours, pulling the garbage can off the road on the odd occasion that a car passed. But over the last 25 years I have watched Parramatta Road grind to a halt. Drivers rat-run through the back streets of Reid and, I am sad to say, our old cricket pitch is amongst them. I am proud to be part of a government that will finally fix this problem, build the WestConnex and give local roads back to locals.

Australia is a country that has been built on the back of migration. Whilst many use the word 'multiculturalism' not many understand that it is a living, breathing thing. The needs of migrant Australians will vary over time and as a government we must react accordingly. This is definitely the case in Reid. There are two main areas I am particularly concerned about: the way we teach English as a second language and aged-care services.

In listening to the story of young migrant men and women about their experiences whilst at school there is a common theme. Being schooled in the mainstream and removed from class to learn English is producing poor results. Children tell me they find it hard to assimilate, get bullied and their attendance and results suffer. When I challenge them on how we could do it better, they have some wonderful ideas. As politicians we must realise that we do not have all the answers. We must always be prepared to listen and learn from our community. We must teach migrants of all ages English and, where we can, we should do it better.

Families throughout Australia will always agonise over placing their loved ones into aged care. For migrant families this presents unique challenges. As migrant Australians age they often lose what English they have. Many families have told me that it is like placing their loved ones into solitary confinement. Facilities do not cater for their language or their culture and elderly migrants feel isolated and alone. My patron senator and friend, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, faced this issue with her parents. Her idea of engaging directly with local communities and providing them the resources to care for their elderly is a good one and we should work hard to make it a reality.

Like all who come to this House, there are issues that I have a personal passion for. I believe we are having an impact on the planet and for the sake of our children we must do something about it. However, I believe we should attack the problem and not the economy—reduce emissions, not jobs. I am a believer in innovation, in technology and in the enterprise. This is how the world's problems have always been solved. If we are fair dinkum about reducing emissions, let's take homes and businesses off the power grid, not pay them to feed back into it. The problem with early adopters of renewable technology is that they will face a purchase prices that are high and act as a barrier to entry. The role of government should be to work out ways to encourage adoptions and reduce emissions as a result.

My family has been touched by disability and we are a far stronger unit because of it. The NDIS is a program that enjoys bipartisan support. As we move from the launch phase to full implementation the heavy lifting will fall to us in government in these most trying of fiscal times. Our challenge will be to ensure the money flows to the front lines to the people that need it most, not wasted on a bloated bureaucracy that burdens service providers with red tape and ultimately compliance costs. Families throughout Reid and Australia are relying on us and we cannot let them down.

My family has also been touched by mental illness. To this day the best explanation I have had from a doctor about mental illness is that the mind is a complex thing and it does not come with an instruction manual. Unlike a broken arm or leg, where the treatment is the same no matter who you are, treatment of the mind varies by patient. Over the past 35 years I have seen first-hand the workings of our mental health system and I will be a passionate advocate about the need for us as a government and a society to do more.

Throughout the election campaign I had amazing support from Liberal Party ministers, shadow ministers and MPs, both state and federal. A big thanks to the following honourable members and senators—and I was proud to play some part in new learning that title: Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison, Christopher Pyne, Ian Macfarlane ('Macca'), Bob Baldwin, Bruce Bilson, Michael Keenan, Greg Hunt, Jamie Briggs, Susan Ley, and Senators Concetta Fieravanti-Wells, Marise Payne and Arthur Sinodinos. And, of course to my mentor in all things multicultural, the Father of the House, not to mention my good friend, the Hon. Philip Ruddock. Thank you all for your support, friendship and guidance.

To you, Madam Speaker, I say not only thank you but of course congratulations on your most worthy elevation to the office you now hold. Thank you also to New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell, New South Wales Minister Victor Dominello, the state member for Strathfield, Charles Casuscelli along with the state member for Drummoyne, John Sidoti. To the best Premier NSW never had, as well as fellow St Pat's old boy, John Brogden, I say, 'Thanks, mate.' And, of course, to Prime Minister Abbott for his unwavering support, advice and guidance—but, more importantly, his friendship.

Without the support of my local campaign team, the New South Wales Liberal Party campaign team, Liberal Party members, The Young Liberals and friends I would never have been elected. To them all I say, 'Thank you.' In particular I would like to thank Neil Harley, who has and continues to believe in me. I would like to thank Eugenia, his wife, who was prepared to become a campaign widow, and has now become a political widow. Of course, it is not possible to name everybody who has helped me on the journey, but volunteers like Victor Tan, Alexander Lucas, Giovanni Graziano, and Stephanie Moss deserve a special mention. To my conference president, Sandra Blackmore, who is only ever a phone call away, and to my friends, be it from school, university, sport, children's schools, or having met in my travels through life—thank you.

To Suzie's family, the Crowes, who have always been there for us both. To Paul and Mike, who are here today, her mother, Pam, and her brothers and sisters, thanks for the love and support. Put all these together and you get an army some 700 strong that worked with me on, before and during election day. And I am thrilled to have 200 to 300 of them in the gallery to support me yet again today.

And then there is my immediate family—up in the gallery watching their husband and their dad. My son Charlie, or, as I know him, 'Chicka', who, at 15, is now a young man. My daughter Sophie, or, as I know her, 'Munnie Mun', who is 14 going on 35! And my daughter Analise, or, as I know her, the 'Rabbit'. No matter what I have achieved in life up to now or will achieve in life from here, all will pale into insignificance compared to my three beautiful children. They have and will always be my three greatest achievements. I am just blessed that they not only take after their mother, they look like her too.

The last but in no way least of my thankyous is to my beautiful wife Suzie. Suz grew up not far from here at a place called Coolac. Her family settled there in 1834. She is a country girl at heart; she is my best friend, the mother of my children and the glue that keeps my family together. Thank you Suzie for allowing me to follow my dream.

At the beginning of this, my maiden speech, I mentioned the honour and privilege it is to be given a chance to represent the people of Reid in this great place. But with that comes great responsibility. The difficulty of being a candidate contesting a federal election is that you are competing against an incumbent with a track record whilst you are untried and untested. You are asking your community to take you on trust. The difficulty of making a maiden speech is much the same. You explain where you come from, what you believe, and what you hope to achieve in the time you are here, but you cannot yet point to any achievements.

That said, I can assure the people of Reid that the blood of my grandfather, who left an orphanage at 15 with nothing and rose to the heights of business success, runs strongly through my veins. That same spirit will be shown as I fight for the people of Reid.

We are all ultimately a product of our upbringing and education, and I have been blessed to attend three magnificent schools. The mottos of these three schools have always been a guide to the way I have lived my life. They best capture the way I will work to repay the faith that the people of Reid have shown in me. At Santa Maria Del Monte in Strathfield it was 'Veritas', which means 'truth'. At St Patrick's College in Strathfield it was 'Luceat Lux Vestra', which means 'let your light shine'. And at St Joseph's College at Hunters Hill it was 'In Meliora Contende', which means 'strive for better things'.

In representing the people of Reid I will search out and speak the truth. I will let my light shine strongly for my constituents. And I will strive for better things for all within my community. Madam Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence.

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