Mrs WICKS (Robertson) (11:30): Madam Speaker, entering St Christopher's Cathedral in Canberra for the ecumenical service on the morning of the historic opening of the 44th Parliament of Australia, I was struck by a sense of the magnificent responsibility and privilege carried by each of us elected to serve our communities and our nation. In that moment, and for just a moment, partisan politics was subsumed by tradition and the greater call on each of our lives, articulating our purpose, our history and our hopes for Australia. As we walked back outside after that service, a sense of my own history meshed with the present, as I recalled an old photograph of my parents on their wedding day, standing in the same place outside the same cathedral in Canberra, and their own sense of purpose, hope and future captured in time by the camera's lens.
My father was a teacher and our family lived in various places around New South Wales: Canberra, Cowra, Walcha, Gosford. But it did not seem to matter where we lived, because our nation's capital was also our family's capital, centring as it did around my grandparents, Raymond and Mary-Ellen Gilligan, their six children and 20 grandchildren. Many Gilligans are here in the gallery today, and I thank them for it.
I remember listening to my relatives debating current affairs and politics in grandma's lounge room, while arguing as to whose turn it was to make the next cup of tea. My grandmother, who everyone called Molly, was a wonderful role model to her daughters and granddaughters. She encouraged us to pursue our dreams—but not always our political views. Her greatest political hero was Paul Keating and her arch enemy was my own hero, the then Prime Minister John Howard. I owe a great debt to Molly, because the back and forth of our debates over a cup of tea and a biscuit gave me opportunities to test and sharpen my ideas and political beliefs against a passionate and committed advocate of political thought.
My family's background is a bit of a mix: on the one side, my great-grandmother, Ellen-Mary, was a Cullen, whose forebears were sent by Cardinal Cullen to Australia from Ireland to help establish Catholic schooling in New South Wales; on the other, my great-great-grandfather, Francis Gilligan, was sent out as a convict from Ireland to Australia in 1848. Francis’ crime was a political one, known as a 'whiteboy' offence. He sought justice for Irish labouring families, including his own, by fighting poverty brought about by the Great Potato Famine and an economic system that favoured wealthy Irish landowners at the expense of the poor. But with no democratic or parliamentary means of righting a wrong, it would seem, Francis took matters into his own hands and threw fire onto the thatched roof of a local magistrate's home. Something of Francis' stubborn streak and railing against perceived injustice has been passed down through the generations. I do hope, that as the great-great-granddaughter of a political rebel and a missionary, I can bring the best of both perspectives: concern for fairness and a desire for a principled approach to public policy debate, with perhaps just the odd, occasional verbal fireball thrown in for good measure.
My father is a farmer's son from Dubbo. His parents, Rae and Joyce Warren, were strong, stoic and hardworking and fostered strength and resilience in each of their three children. It is a trait that I hope will continue through the generations. My parents, Max and Mary Warren, who are in the gallery today, encouraged each of us to do our best and to become our best. From my father, I learnt the value of hard work, of integrity, of standing up for what you believe in—even at great personal cost—of not cutting corners, of the importance of family and people and of a genuine and deep love for our God.
My mother nurtured in me and modelled for me compassion and empathy towards others, an appreciation of beauty and music and a passion for truth and tenacity, despite any circumstance. Both are well known locally for their many decades of service to the Central Coast in education and in ministry. Today, I pay them tribute. I am Max and Mary's daughter, and proud to be so.
There is no suburb in the electorate of Robertson that is not without its unique character and environment. Its beauty is breathtaking: Killcare Beach, the sunsets at Niagara Park going over the hill, sunrise on Brisbane Water when the first rays hit the Lady Kendall moored at Gosford, Lisarow's rural acreages, the waves and surf at Avoca Beach, the Peninsula's stunning waterways and its wildlife, and Terrigal’s welcoming atmosphere.
Robertson is a Federation seat, named in honour of Sir John Robertson, who served as the Premier of New South Wales five times between 1860 and 1886. Unlike my firebrand ancestor, Francis Gilligan, Sir John Robertson worked within the established 19th century economic and democratic structures to campaign tirelessly for land reform, breaking the monopoly of the establishment squatters to open up more opportunities for smaller farmers in New South Wales. His achievements enabled more farmers to pursue individual enterprise and productivity.
My uncle, Paul Gilligan, is also in the gallery today. A firebrand himself, and a keen advocate for a fair go for small-business people, Paul and his family have been tremendous supporters throughout my whole life and especially during the campaign. I thank you.
People in Robertson live in the best place in the world. But the heartbeat of the Central Coast is its people and their concerns, their hopes and their dreams. When you visit Ettalong Beach, or pick up a newspaper at the local newsagents in Kincumber, or shop in Erina, or do business in Umina or catch an early morning train from Gosford Station, you will hear and perhaps even join the conversations that happen every day around Robertson that articulate people’s aspirations for our community.
You will hear a passion to see our city grow and thrive. You will be inspired by a determination to tackle the current challenges that we face with the rising cost of living, the lack of local employment opportunities—especially with small businesses doing it tough on the Central Coast at the moment—with one in four young people who want to work unable find employment opportunities locally, and with 30,000 to 40,000 commuters who leave early in the morning to Sydney or Newcastle and return home late at night because their job opportunities take them away from their families. You will hear in these conversations that these challenges do not have to be permanent markers of life on the Central Coast.
It is the dreams, the aspirations and the ambitions of people living in Robertson that have become my own. My commitment to them is to fight, with every fibre of my being, for a future where more choice and more opportunity abound. The experience of my husband, Chris, who in the 17 years we have been married has never been able to work locally, and whose round trip commute takes over four hours a day, does not have to be the future experience of my four-year-old son, Oscar, or three-year-old daughter, Mollie-Joy.
I look forward to the day when Coasties no longer have leave for Sydney or Newcastle or anywhere else in the world to find the sort of economic, career, educational or other advancement opportunities they may want, because they will find them here: in Gosford, in Woy Woy, in West Gosford, in Erina and in Somersby.
As a young girl growing up in Point Clare in the mid- to late-eighties, I well remember the impact a federal Labor government's fiscal policies had on my own family. The eldest of five kids in a largely single-income family, I have never forgotten some of the everyday struggles we had to make ends meet in the days of interest rate numbers that reached the high teens; of selling my mother's prized possession, her piano; of working with Dad several mornings every week to deliver pamphlets and papers before school and on weekends to help pay the bills. We got through, and I learnt a lot about the value of hard work and good budgeting—but I also learnt a lot about the positive impact of a strong economy, lower taxes and easing the burden of the cost of living.
That is why I am proud to join this parliament as a representative of the Liberal Party, a party that has always championed reward for hard work and effort, respect for individual enterprise, concern for families and a belief in a better future for all. After all, if a 15-year-old schoolgirl in Narara who aspired to represent her local community as the member for Robertson one day can achieve her dream, all of us can. So now, Madam Speaker, may my dream be to achieve my electorate's dreams.
I acknowledge and express appreciation for her service to our community, to my predecessor Deborah O'Neill, now serving as a Labor Senator in another place. I also express appreciation and heartfelt thanks to the people of Robertson for electing me to serve as their 14th representative in this place. To each one I pledge to stand up, every single day, to champion your concerns, your aspirations and your hopes for the benefit of every family, every business owner and every individual in my electorate who knows that things can be better tomorrow than they are today.
I first joined the Liberal Party in my mid-twenties because I wanted to make a difference in my community, especially for young people as a teacher. Young people are the future of our nation. I know the value of a decent education. It is an enabler of achievement and opportunity, and it breaks the shackles of narrow thinking and limited experience. Of course, freedom of choice in education is fundamental to achieving this goal. I know that, in choosing to send all five children to a Christian school, my parents made great personal and financial sacrifices in order to be able to exercise that choice.
But education goes beyond schools, universities and vocational education colleges. One of the challenges I see in today's society is a trend of allowing the responsibility for raising children and imparting strong social and ethical values and mores to shift, however subtly, from our family and community structures to institutional ones. It is not a school or pre-school's job to raise our children; it is ours, as parents, and our responsibility as legislators is to promote the best possible policies that protect and strengthen the role of families and provides the best possible outcomes for the future of our young Australians. So I welcome the coalition government's commitment to more flexible, affordable and accessible child care. We want our system of child care to provide a safe, nurturing environment for children in a way that also reflects the working needs of today's families and today's economy.
Travel down to Sydney from Woy Woy or Narara any morning of the week and you will hear on the train story after story about the challenges Central Coast families face juggling work and raising a young family. You will hear about people like Amy, from East Gosford, who shared with me recently her difficult decision to not return to her old job in Sydney after having her second child, because the opening hours at her long-day care centre could not cater for evening pick-ups; or the young mother I spoke with when I was shopping at my local supermarket in Erina, who raised the difficulties she encounters juggling evening shift work with child care, especially during those weeks when her husband is away from home. As a working parent myself, I know the benefits that a more flexible and accessible approach will bring.
As a Liberal, I know that any additional flexibility in applying the Child Care Rebate will not only provide more options for in-home care or out-of-hours care, it will also enable more families in Robertson to make decisions about how their child is cared for and by whom. It is for this reason that I pause for a moment to reflect on the bedrock of Australian society: the family. I believe that smaller government favours families and that the best way to strengthen marriages and families is to empower individuals to take personal responsibility for their own choices and to equip them with as many tools and services that may help them to make the best decisions possible for their future, for their children's future and for our nation's future. But, in recent times, the public-policy debate about families has been superseded by a philosophical tussle about the definition of marriage, when what we really ought to be concerned about is how we can strengthen families. After all, it is the family, not the government, that should be the prime institution for fostering the values on which our great society is built. There are more than 36,000 families in my electorate of Robertson, and almost 20 per cent of them are single-parent households. I know that many families on the Coast struggle with the cost of living, with job security, with the challenge of commuting and with child care, so I am proud to be part of a strong coalition government that will reduce cost-of-living pressures for families, ease pressure on interest rates, deliver affordable and flexible child care, and create more employment and education opportunities in my electorate of Robertson. By supporting our families, in whatever form they may take, as the most fundamental institution for the development of the individual, we are taking care of our nation's future.
As the former president of an outstanding organisation in the Liberal Party, the Liberal Women's Council, New South Wales, I am a passionate advocate of seeing more women take their place in positions of leadership and influence around our world. The very fact that our culture and our history can allow for this means we should seize every opportunity to promote women on the basis of merit, which is more than many societies and cultures allow for today.
May I join the chorus of congratulations that has echoed around this chamber and pay tribute to you, Madam Speaker, for your elevation to your high office. It is truly befitting your many years of service to Australia, and I add my good wishes and gratitude to those you have already received from my colleagues. You may be 'Madam Speaker' now, but for many years you were Bronwyn Bishop, the articulate political advocate and warrior whom I admired from afar. In recent years, I have come to know you as 'Bronwyn', and I thank you, Bronwyn, for your support, your advice, your mentoring and your trailblazing so many firsts in your political career—all of them on merit.
We fought a long and tough election battle to win the hearts and minds of the people of Robertson. It was only made possible by the support of so many people that I grew up with, people I worked with and passionate Liberal Party supporters keen to deliver the change that people told us every day they so desperately wanted—change that we were determined to deliver. Every person helped us made a difference, and without you I would not be standing here today. I pay tribute to my campaign manager, Bob Mudge, and to my deputy campaign manager and friend, Chantelle Fornari-Orsmond, who both worked tirelessly and passionately every single day to build a strong and committed team of volunteers around us. To my local Liberal Party conference, led by Bob Ward: thank you for your dedication to the Liberal cause and to winning Robertson. To the Hon. Jim Lloyd, the former Liberal member for Robertson for many years : thank you for your service and leadership in our community.
Thank you to the hundreds of loyal volunteers, including Margaret Watson, Colin Marchant, Colin Wood, Lois Marshall, Bev Ferrier, Andrew Clark, Hannah Eves, Tom Raine, Suzanne Hunter, Liz Reynolds, Godfrey Franz, Todd Kirby, Teresa Giddings, Yvonne Crestani, Sam Moulder, Julian Harniman, Bruce Richards, Steve Foley, Jack Morrison, Jackson Black, Mary Doherty, Pam Collins, Barbara Whittaker, Richard Keogh, Ben Potts, Sara More, Louise de Martin, Alan Draper, Deb Warwick, Mark Porter, Lachie Carr, Justin French, Malcolm and Patricia Brooks, and Amy and Tobias Lehman. And to our friends and supporters in the Liberal Women's Council and also in the Bradfield, Mackellar and Mitchell conferences: I will always be in your debt and at your service.
To each of the 150 people in the gallery today: thank you for what you have done and for making the trip to Canberra this morning. Thank you to Julius Chen and Taylor Gramoski for spending countless hours supporting me in the last weeks of the campaign. To the Young Liberal Flying Squad, led by Joshua Crawford and Taylor Gramoski: thank you both for your passion, diligence and outstanding resolve to flood our streets every weekend with dozens and sometimes hundreds of Young Liberal volunteers, balloons and t-shirts.
To Peta Credlin; to Michelle Moffatt; and to Mark Neeham, Aaron Henry, Aileen Weissner, Alicia McCumstie and the team at Liberal Party CHQ: I thank you for your professionalism, your support and the outstanding work you did throughout the campaign. To 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones: thank you for your commitment and drive in seeking a better future for the Central Coast.
To former Prime Minister the Hon. John Howard: thank you for your lifetime of championing the Liberal cause and for your personal support throughout the campaign. To Prime Minister Tony Abbott: thank you for your outstanding leadership and for your personal acknowledgement of the importance of ensuring that the Central Coast is a place of opportunity and hope. To Gosford City Council Mayor Lawrie McKinna, to Monique Marks and to John Singleton: thank you for your passion for the Central Coast, to make it a better place to live and to work.
To my mentors and friends Scott Morrison, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, Paul Fletcher, Bob Baldwin, the Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones and Damien Jones, Chris Holstein, David Quilty, Hollie Hughes, Scott Farlow, Simon Fontana and Simon Berger: thank you. To Alex Hawke, once an adversary but now a true friend: I much prefer fighting alongside you than against you, Alex! Thank you for your tireless belief that we would win.
To Nick Campbell: you truly went the extra mile, and then some, to support our campaign to win Robertson, and I honour you and your family for your tremendous sacrifice, support, wisdom, encouragement and friendship. To Scott and Gina Banner, and Gavin and Ruth Middleton, great friends over a lifetime: thank you for always being there and for loving us regardless.
To my family, my parents and my siblings, you are glad to be with me no matter what I do, and I love you for it. To Chris, my rock and partner for nearly half my life: you bring out the best in me, you believe in me and you cherish me. I am here with your full support and perhaps also because of it. To Oscar and to Mollie-Joy: I love you more than words can say. I serve my community, my party and my nation to serve you. May I do all I can to repay the sacrifices you each make every single day; and, Oscar and Mollie-Joy, may I never be too old to jump on the trampoline with you or too important to switch my phone off when we spend time together.
To my God: may I know what it means, like Esther, to be born for such a time as this.
To my community and to the electors of Robertson: may I never, ever let you down. Thank you.
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