First Speech: Brett Whiteley MP

Member for Braddon, Tasmania

3 December 2013

Mr WHITELEY (Braddon) (16:08): I rise an honoured man—to an honour given me by the people of Braddon. I rise as a member of the Liberal Party and as their chosen and thankful candidate. I rise as a man humbled by the love and support of his wife and children, his wider family and his lifelong friends. I rise as the 1,130th elected member of parliament since Federation and as the 13th member for the seat of Darwin-Braddon.

Madam Speaker, I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election to the role. This is my second maiden speech in a parliament, as I had the privilege of delivering my first parliamentary speech in the Tasmanian House of Assembly in 2002—which, by the way, can be found www.parliament.tas.gov.au. That just gave me 6,000 more words!

I am 11 years older, hopefully wiser and delighted to be able to make my first speech in this place of national significance. I offer my congratulations to all elected members, especially the new members and friends of the parliament. I congratulate Prime Minister Tony Abbott and thank him for his disciplined leadership of our party. I take this opportunity to say thank you on behalf of my electorate to the former member for Braddon, Mr Sidebottom, who, notwithstanding our political differences, sacrificed much—as many of us do—over a 12-year period to be the elected representative.

From the mines of the west of Tasmania to the wind farms spinning in the far north-west and from the crystal clear waters of Boat Harbour Beach to the banks of the Mersey River through the pristine paddocks of King Island, which lie in some of the cleanest air on the planet, Braddon is right up there with the most unique and beautiful parts of our country. We are makers. We are makers of whiskey, underground mining equipment, magnificent cheese, truffles, leatherwood honey, the freshest and best of vegetables, the biggest and highest-jumping salmon, octopus, quality milk products sought by a growing Asian population—and the list goes on and on. Braddon charmingly punches well above its weight.

I do need to speak about the state of my state. There are many great things happening in Braddon: great people are still dreaming; innovators are still designing; farmers are still believing; and leaders are still inspiring. But we have some work to do. After 16 years of Labor in my state—for four of which they have been in the political bed with the Greens—the lack of confidence in government is palpable. It is time to change the state government. It is time for people to understand that strategic decisions will need to be made. It is time for us to herald to the rest of Australia that we need your help, that we appreciate your help but that our intention is to earn back your respect. I know that other states look on us with a degree of suspicion. As a small island state we are treated well through fiscal equalisation, and I know that this is accepted by the rest of the nation to a point.

But it does not help our cause or reputation when our state government makes unwise decisions that impede development, scare off investment and purposely set out to destroy sustainable industries such as forestry and mining—and then continually has its hand out for even more assistance. We have allowed political minority groups such as the Greens to dictate our future; to use my state as a political, social and environmental experiment. To make matters worse, they commit economic treason: they travel the world peddling misleading information and threatening and intimidating global investors. To put it bluntly, 90 per cent of Tasmanians have had enough.

Sadly, as in life, the political mistakes of the past leave deep wounds—and in Tasmania they have. Unemployment is at record levels. Health and education outcomes are the worst in the nation despite record levels of expenditure, clearly indicating that solving problems is not necessarily about funding but is about better policy. Tasmania this year will have the biggest budget deficit in the state's history. Investment has dried up, our credit rating has been downgraded and hundreds of Tasmania's best are leaving my state. Ten thousand fewer Tasmanians are in full-time employment since Labor and the Greens sought ultimate power at the expense of ordinary mums and dads in Braddon.

I plead today with the people of Tasmania to give our island the last-gasp chance that it needs to rebuild its economy, hold onto our innovators and deliver the great potential we are capable of and to vote for a change for a brighter future with the Liberals under the leadership of Will Hodgman in March. It is great to see the leader of the Tasmanian opposition here in the gallery to support Braddon today.

We need governments at both the state and federal level to do what it takes to re-open Tasmania for business. We are and we must be much more than a national park. But I believe that I was elected because my electorate wants me—wants this government—to talk about tomorrow. It wants us to plan for tomorrow and to build an economy and the infrastructure we need for tomorrow.

So, for tomorrow, I have a vision of a better Braddon—a vision that includes the growth of the Cradle Coast Campus of the University of Tasmania. We cannot continue to see our university solely as a place of education; it is an economic driver. The University of Tasmania is a significant contributor to our economy. If Braddon can gain its fair share of the targeted increase in international students over the next five years at least $30 million will be injected into our local economy. I am committed to working with the university to deliver its tertiary health program to the north of the state, including Braddon.

I have a vision for a better Braddon, driven by small and family businesses, released from the handcuffs of regulation and workplace restraints. Imagine if even half of the 6,000 small businesses in my electorate were inspired and empowered to increase their workforce by just one person. Small and family businesses are under siege in Braddon. We talk a lot about endangered species in my electorate; small business is the real endangered species. Sadly, government has for too long taken small business for granted. I guarantee that I will not take them for granted. I have a vision for a better Braddon and a better Australia, embraced by a new generation that rediscovers the Australia of old. That is a nation that can afford to make things—an Australian industry and manufacturing sector free from stifling costs and unrealistic union demands and reinvigorating our competitiveness in the global village.

I have a vision for a better Braddon that will have the opportunity to compete in the marketplace without the burden of an uneven playing field when it comes to the cost of freighting our goods and produce. I look forward very much to the recommendations of the Productivity Commission's review of Tasmania's shipping, as it seeks to investigate the inconsistencies in the system and to ensure that Tasmania is not at any market disadvantage. I will continue to highlight what I see to be deficiencies in the system. I have a vision for a better Braddon and a better Tasmania that has a Bass Strait passenger service that understands the tourism challenges of regional Tasmania—a fast ferry model focused on affordable fares designed to fill the vessel with passengers all the year round, and not just through the summer months. I believe that the current business model is wrong and is costing the regions a significant and much-needed increase in visitors and, given that the federal government provides the current funding support, I feel it is more than appropriate to ensure that the best outcomes are being achieved.

I have a vision of a much closer relationship with Victorian commerce and industry. Imagine fast ferries from north-west Tasmania empowering our local innovators and contractors to do business in the greater Melbourne market. If we can get that transport infrastructure right I can see a day when Victorians could relocate portions of their business to north-west Tasmania, where it would be affordable to do so. Some may even choose to do business in Victoria, but have their family live the coast lifestyle of Braddon.

I have a vision for a better Braddon and a better Tasmania that embraces the opportunity of growing timber. We can grow timber in Tasmania; we do it well and we have some of the best forest brains in the country. In a carbon sensitive world, it is ludicrous for us to be moving away from a focus on forestry. This industry has been derailed all in the pursuit of political power. I note the words of Dr John Tanner who said this: 'Wood fibre is the new milk solids—there is a lot yet to be discovered within the timber industry—it's like the dairy industry of 30 years ago.' Madam Speaker, you would remember this: it was not so long ago that milk was just milk in a bottle. Now it forms the basis of a whole range of saleable and exportable products. This, too, can be the future, I believe, for a revitalised timber industry in Braddon. I do not support any more lockups and I unapologetically oppose the additional World Heritage listing recommended by the previous Labor federal government—no more, because nearly half of my state is locked up. Thousands of people have lost their jobs; regional communities have been devastated; and our economy is so much the poorer. Enough is enough.

I strongly support long-term regional forest agreements. These agreements need a 20-year rolling tenure with five-year reviews if we are to provide resource security and a stable investment environment. I hold onto hope that a world-class, environmentally-acceptable pulp mill will be built in Tasmania. Whilst the plan for construction is in the electorate of Bass, the flow-on impacts to Braddon of a $2.5 billion project would be enormous. The failure to build the approved pulp mill stands, in my view, as a symbol of Tasmania's economic failure. We must deliver the political security and the resource security that will help attract investors. The construction of a pulp mill would equally symbolise Tasmania's economic resurgence.

I have a vision for a better Braddon that can build on its Tasmanian brand by increasing dairy production by the targeted 40 per cent over the next five years. Reaching this target will require more cows—tens of thousands of them—more sustainable farms, new farms and, most importantly, hundreds of new jobs in the industry. I have a vision for a better Braddon, of an aquaculture industry that continues to lead the world in innovation and quality produce. Our half-a-billion-dollar Tasmanian salmon industry has developed harvest systems, feed technology and animal welfare strategies. They are unique in the world and only now are they being utilised by the Norwegians and the Scots—the biggest fish farmers in the world. As an island state and island nation, water is a resource that we have aplenty. We have before us an opportunity not only to satisfy our domestic requirements but also to be a renowned world-class exporter of exceptional seafood. I intend to support this industry during the next three years.

I have a vision of a mining industry confident—finally confident—in the processes of approval that they undertake; confident that the process optimises environmental outcomes, but is efficient, fair and reasonable, dependable and free of opportunistic political intervention. Australian mines of the 21st century know well their environmental responsibilities, and it is high time we got off their backs and let them once again stimulate our economy. I have a vision for a better Braddon, a region renowned for its agricultural produce—carrots, potatoes, peas and beef, but also for olive oil, cider, beer and tulips.

Being an island state, we are not afraid to move produce across the water—be it to the big island to our north or to dining tables in New York, Tokyo or London. My vision for Braddon sees primary production reclaim its place in our local and national economy, supported by its natural advantages of reliable rainfall, fertile soils and its innovators. I have a vision for an exciting manufacturing future in Braddon. Despite the challenges faced by the sector, there is a resolute drive by business leaders to transform the industry from the traditional manufacturing of the past toward an advanced manufacturing future with a focus on specialised product that meets the unique needs of high-end clients. This process is already underway in Braddon. With the development of new markets, however, we need workers with a different skill set. And in order for us to exploit every economic opportunity, we must lure skilled Tasmanians back from the mainland and actively encourage young people to complete years 11 and 12 and continue in their education, attaining the highly specialised skills needed to drive this sector.

For tomorrow, I have a vision for a better Braddon and a better Australia, inspired by a new generation of leaders within our businesses and on our shop floors. We need leaders who understand that their employer is not their enemy but the lifeblood for their families. We need leaders at the coalface who understand that having a job is a great deal better than having no job. Winston Churchill got it right when he said, 'Some see private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.' We need leaders and workers who will lead by example and help the horse to pull the wagon. If we are to build a stronger Australia it is better that we help the horse rather than kill the horse.

I will be promoting Braddon, if not Tasmania, as a focus for the reigniting of mutual obligation—not just work for the dole but train and learn for the dole. The days of receiving taxpayer support for no practical return or personal development should be over. We need to get everyone involved in the task of building community capacity. It should not be for schools to provide breakfast for children so that their learning capacity is enhanced. I know we must, until things drastically change, but we simply must aspire to create a better future for our children. We must change the attitude of entitlement if we are to lead the next generation into a stronger Australia.

After contesting four Tasmanian state elections under the Hare-Clark voting system, I have to say I love the single member electorate alternative. Party members locked arms and committed to nothing less than winning the seat of Braddon and being represented in the next government of our nation. I humbly thank them and the hundreds of volunteers for their belief in me and their practical gifting of their time and talents.

To my campaign team, we built not only a campaign strategy but friendships; we forged not only plans but teamwork; and we created not only good political messages but memories. To my campaign manager, Kent Townsend: God surprised us both with your call to the role of leading the campaign team—thank you. A sincere thankyou to Laura Richardson, Leanne Holland, Leon Perry, Annette Overton, Ian Chalk, Rod Bramich, Paul Saward, Mary Duniam, Anthony Haneveer, Joshua Whiteley, Jackson Whiteley, Jeannie Murell and Eric Mobbs.

To state Liberal president, Geoff Page, and Sam McQuestin, our state director: your focus on winning was contagious. To Senator Richard Colbeck: your support of my campaign was first-class. To Senator Stephen Parry: your encouragement of me to make the shift to the federal level of politics was apparently well founded. To Senators Eric Abetz and David Bushby: thank you for your commitment.

It is timely to acknowledge the tremendous campaign efforts of Sally Chandler, Sara Courtney, Bernadette Black and Tanya Dennison—valiant women who fought the battle but were not successful.

The love and support of family and friends is a blessing on our lives. We are made to be loved and to give love. Let me commence by thanking my mother and my siblings, Lee and Amanda, and their families. The road travelled has indeed been an interesting one. My mother, Margaret, is here today, and I pay tribute to her capacity over the last 15 years to provide me with the love and support equal to both her and my late father, Daryl.

To my beautiful adult children, Joshua, Jackson and Jessica: you could not even begin to imagine the delight I find in your company. Today we come together to acknowledge the great honour given me by the people of Braddon—the place in which you grew up.

Where does one find the words, the sentences, to acknowledge the joy of a life shared for 29 years with the woman you love? To my wife, Sue, we have journeyed together in an attitude of 'what's best for each other is best for us'. Sue, your unwavering love and support, together with your wisdom and discernment—yes, wisdom and discernment—has helped to bring me here today.

I thank Sue's parents, Alan and Elsie Dyer, for their embrace of me as their son-in-law and now their local member. Life tests us from time to time, and during my campaign Alan and Elsie lost their son, and my wife lost her younger brother, John, when he died suddenly of a heart attack in his garden at the age of 49. Today I pay tribute to John Dyer for his friendship and for his fascination with my political career. I thank God for his positive influence in his local community, and we miss him.

In conclusion, members are entitled to ask what values and issues I feel passionately about. I value human potential. I have been on the receiving end of the contribution of caring and gifted people in my life, and it is my desire to draw the best out of others. Politics should be about maximising the great resource of human potential. I value human life, whether just conceived or just about to leave this life. Human life is a gift from God and deserving of mutual human dignity. I will always seek to preserve the sanctity of human life.

I value family and believe that it is the essence of the family unit that binds our nation. I believe in traditional marriage between one man and one woman and hold the view that, where possible, children are best served by the positive nurturing of both a mother and a father; but I have huge respect for those in our community who love and care for their children alone.

I do value faith in God. I believe that almost everyone looks for God—the high achievers who run out of rungs, the low achievers who run out of hope, the elderly who run out of time and the young who are running out of alternatives. Most seek the filling of a spiritual vacuum.

I ask ministers of this newly elected government to work with me and my lower house amigos to build a stronger Tasmania that is more confident in its own identity and potential. I would like to think that the people of Braddon voted for me, voted for this government, because they wanted their single, most precious vote to be rewarded with the improvement of circumstance, a stretch of potential, a wider spectacle of opportunity and a greater sense of hope. I thank the House.

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