First Speech: Fiona Scott MP

Member for Lindsay, New South Wales

13 November 2013

Ms SCOTT (Lindsay) (16:25): It is with much pride and humility that I speak for the first time in this place as the member for Lindsay. To the people who have elected me as their representative in this most esteemed of institutions I say thank you. Thank you for your trust, thank you for the belief you have shown in me and, most importantly, thank you for the opportunity to be your voice in the next chapter of our great nation.

Madam Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment as Speaker of this House. I take this opportunity to thank you for the pathways you have created. Yesterday you spoke to only represent yourself as the best individual for a new job. I agree with your sentiment. I believe people should always be selected on merit. But, Madam Speaker, your journey has broken many a glass ceiling and I believe it is important to also recognise your achievement as being the first elected female senator for New South Wales. You set an extraordinary benchmark for others to follow, and I am proud to say I stand here today a product of your legacy. You are a pioneer of Australian politics and have always been a good friend to the people of Western Sydney.

My family history can be traced back to Hannah Stanley, another pioneer. Born in 1788, Hannah, a mere servant, came to Australia a convict at only 22. Her crime was to steal a goose feather bed, sheets, blankets, seven pairs of cotton stockings, a couple of dresses, four petticoats and six handkerchiefs. Fortunately for me, her death sentence was commuted and in 1810 she arrived in Botany Bay—the very same year Lachlan Macquarie was appointed Governor of New South Wales. I say 'fortunately' as Hannah and her husband, Daniel Clarke, were granted 30 acres of land on the western bank of South Creek, a place we now know as Llandilo and that is for me, proudly, within the Lindsay electorate. Hannah and Daniel were like so many other farmers of that time. They grew the crops that fed and ultimately saved the early settlement. This resourceful, courageous and resilient spirit I identify in my early ancestors continues to be the beating heart of the people of Lindsay to this day.

It is the spirit of the totem turtle that the local Darug people identify as the spirit guide of these lands. Lindsay is freshwater country within the Darug nation, resting on a sweeping woodland plain where a blazing western sun retires behind a sapphire misted mountain. Historically they have been both friend and foe, testing our resolve in times of flood and fire. These challenges strengthen us as a community, forging the unique character which is the people of the Nepean Valley. Our river is a gateway, where the mountains meet the plains and where the country meets the city, where Aboriginal people traded and where Governor Macquarie established the first food bowl for the early colony. To this day, it is our freshwater river that sustains the 3.7 million people of Sydney and the Blue Mountains. We are a proud and industrious people, with a rich history to which I am privileged to be intrinsically entwined. I too believe, as in the words of our Prime Minister, 'there is no limit to what Australians can achieve'.

In 1936, my grandparents, Jim and Doreen, opened their service station on High Street, Penrith. It was a one-stop shop and serviced all the automotive needs of the community and, in turn, became a part of it. From selling the car new, servicing it through its life, to towing it when it broke down. Eventually, the business was passed onto my father and my uncle Dennis, but my grandparents always kept a firm hand on the reins and lived above the shop. My brothers and I would spend out school holidays there—at my grandparents' place, above the shop.

Like so many family businesses, it was all hands on deck and we would all pitch in to do our part. We were taught at an early age about the dignity of work and the importance of participation. Threats of banana republics, hyperinterest rates and 'the recession we had to have' all took their toll on family businesses and for small businesses everywhere. My dad would often opt to pay the staff before he paid himself and would work well into the night to ensure he was able to support and provide for our family. It is these personal experiences where I have gained an appreciation for the true value of small business.

My dad tells a funny story about my grandfather. He sold 15 brands of fuel from 15 difference fuel bowsers, yet they all came out of the same underground tank. But for me, Winston Churchill sums it up as only Churchill can:

Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.

The previous government burdened small business with 21,000 new regulations. Their fiscal mismanagement and reckless spending destroyed business confidence, pushing up the cost to do business, guaranteeing to lame even the most noble of sturdy steeds.

Small business is the engine room of the economy. In the private sector it employs one in two people. It is my belief a strong, innovative small-business sector is key to ensuring the wealth of this nation. The irresponsible fiscal reforms of the 43rd Parliament did so with an utter disregard to Australian businesses and families alike. We will re-energise the economy and restore business and consumer confidence.

This morning, the 44th Parliament introduced legislation to repeal the carbon tax—essential for working families throughout Lindsay who feel and need relief to their household budgets. I hope the people's mandate is honoured in this parliament. Together, we can remove the handbrake that has been placed on our great nation and, in doing so, reduce the cost of doing business, encourage investment, create employment, build productivity and restore our international competitiveness, and therefore secure a prosperous economy for a stronger Australia.

In 1959, my mum's baby brother John was tragically killed on an Army base in Darwin. Being so far from home the young family were supported by the local Aboriginal people, who led them through the mourning process. The tribesmen embraced my grandfather, Les, holding a corroboree to release little John's spirit. I am told my pop was the first whitefella this clan had ever included in such a symbolic way.

This had a huge impact on the life of my grandparents, Les and Nola, my uncle Gary and, in particular, my mother, Robyn. It is a debt my mum still feels towards the Aboriginal people. My mum's legacy to my brothers and me was to ensure that we felt and respected this connection. She ensured that we were raised with an acute appreciation of our nation's Aboriginal heritage. We were sent to school in the old Castlereagh hall with 77 other children. Our principal, Bill Oates—an Aboriginal man—further built on this link by sharing the Aboriginal dreaming side by side with the Christian theology.

It has only been over the past few years that I have appreciated the significance of this and that it has not been the standard of education afforded to all young Australians. As such, I fully support the proposed constitutional change to recognise Aboriginal people. I also believe every parent should have the right to choose their child's education, and schools should have more autonomy in decision making that will best suit their school and their community.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and if that is true, my pop's video—movie camera—of the Warragamba Dam would fill a library. McCanns Island, near Emu Heights, was the starting point for a major extractive operation which saw in excess of 2½ million tonnes of gravel extracted from the Nepean River and delivered to the Warragamba Dam construction site. A flying fox aerial line was established, consisting of 600 open-air buckets at 30-second intervals, operating 24/7, from June 1953 until the dam was opened in 1960.

My pop, Jim Scott, a larger-than-life character, on a whim jumped into one of these buckets, hitching a ride on the ropeway. He filmed the journey from Emu Heights to the dam wall and back again. The legacy of his exuberance remains to this day and is held in trust by the Nepean District Historical Society.

For over half a century the dam has been the protector of the Nepean Valley and its people. It is widely recognised as one of the world's largest domestic and most efficient water supplies. Alongside the Snowy Mountains Scheme and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it stands as a testament to the ingenuity and vision of Australians. Time and again it has proven to be the cornerstone of our national growth.

I firmly believe we in this place must lead our communities and provide real solutions in planning future infrastructure for Lindsay, the Greater Western Sydney region and the people of Australia. We are a proud people. We choose to make sacrifices if it means providing for a better future for our families. We aspire to a lifestyle of choice and freedom, and resent those who would attempt to take these things from us.

We demand a federal government who believes in us, as we believe in ourselves. Unfortunately, successive governments have failed the people of Western Sydney. Every day, two-thirds of the Lindsay workforce are forced to leave the region for employment. Sadly, their return trip sees them arriving home with the sun setting or, worse still, their children already in bed. Furthermore, over the next 20 years, it is projected that an additional half a million people will make Western Sydney their home.

Our challenges are to meet this existing demand and also the needs of future generations. We must encourage investment that creates local jobs and provide the vital services and infrastructure to this region. Lindsay has a leading role to play in securing the future success of the Sydney Basin. Our region is one of the fastest growing in Australia and is key to unlocking the two-speed economy that hinders our national prosperity. I will ensure the people of Lindsay have their seat at the table and a voice in this place.

The time has come for us, in our unique and diverse part of the Cumberland Plain, to stand up and embrace the destiny so many great men and women have long foreseen. In realising the economic and social potential of this region, we must believe in ourselves and plan for a sustainable future. Lindsay is the sturdy horse waiting to be harnessed, ready to pull the wagon.

I come to this place a proud member of the Liberal Party of Australia. In its traditions, as a conservative, I believe we should look to our past to better shape our future. Yet, as Liberals, we should also fight to preserve freedom: freedom of opportunity, freedom of speech, freedom of choice and freedom of religion—freedom without fear or favour. This, and the empowerment of the individual, is a consistent feature throughout the Liberal Party platform. I believe this also captures the spirit of the Lindsay community, which I am proud to represent—that is:

In the innate worth of the individual, in the right to be independent, to own property and to achieve, and in the need to encourage initiative and personal responsibility.

Lindsay does represent the true face of liberalism, where individuals are given freedom. We embrace and respect the rights of others, knowing they will be afforded to us in return. I too am, in the words of the Prime Minister, 'determined to contribute in a party that delivers hope for the future, reward for hard work and an opportunity for all.'

We must embrace the spirit of what it means to be a proud Australian. Our story, the Australian story, is one of determination and resilience, often against the odds. It should inspire us and uplift us, and it should challenge us to reach for new heights. We endure, challenged by our volatile environment, tested by war and enriched by the fusion of many diverse cultures. The character of Lindsay is unique to Australia as it provides a direct link to our heritage and a gateway to our nation's future.

I stand here today a product of my family, of the heritage of my ancestors, and of my tutors, teachers and mentors, but also of the community which has raised me. My journey could not have been possible without the love and support of my father, John, my mother, Robyn, and her partner, Scott; my brothers, Stephen and Glenn, and their wives, Alyssa and Jo; and my nieces and nephew, Brianna, Zachary, Ella and Phoebe.

I would also like to thank the Prime Minister and the three generations of his family for their unrelenting support, inspiration and leadership. To my good friend Senator Payne, thankyou seems hardly enough for your passion, wisdom and advice. To my state parliamentary colleagues, Stuart Ayres, Bart Bassett and Tanya Davies, thank you for your assistance. To Councillor Ross Fowler OAM, the Mayor of Penrith, I thank you for encouragement and support—something you have always shown me.

I would also like to thank my amazing team of volunteers, led by Brian and Glenda Cartwright, supported by Joshua Ballard. Together we doorknocked over 30,000 houses. I thank you for your patience, understanding and commitment. Thank you to the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party for your support, in particular the Lindsay conference. To Dean Carlson and the Young Liberal Flying Squad, thank you for your energy and enthusiasm. To my friends who gave up their warm beds to volunteer at train stations—often on very cold mornings—your support will be forever valued.

To the people of Lindsay, my pledge to you is that I will represent you to the best of my ability. I will be a strong voice on issues that affect our lives, our families, our region and, most importantly, our future. My door is always open to you. Together we will work through our challenges and opportunities. I will endeavour to reignite your belief and confidence in our parliamentary system and your representatives. We in this place should always remember that this is the people's parliament. We do not sit on top of the hill but within it. We must all remember that we stand here, in this place, as common people—common ourselves—holding our nation's common hopes, our common future and our common struggles, commissioned to build a commonwealth for all Australians. In the immortal words of Sir Henry Parkes of Werrington we are 'one people, one destiny.'

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