The House of Representatives begins each day with an acknowledgement of the traditional custodians of the land and the opportunity to say a prayer. And so I start my first speech here today by acknowledging and paying my respects to the elders of the Ngunawal and Nambri peoples, who are the traditional custodians of the Canberra area; the Whadjuk Noongar people, who are the traditional custodians of the land I call home; and the Ballardong Noongar people, the traditional custodians of the land on which I was born. As a person of faith, I also start by giving thanks to God.
An Australian music icon of my generation once sang, 'I should be so lucky—lucky, lucky, lucky.' As a woman who was born in the late 1960s in the regional town of Northam in Western Australia to two hardworking and loving parents, the third of four girls, these words strongly resonate. I have been very lucky—lucky, lucky, lucky—fortunate and blessed. I was born into a family where love was unconditional. My parents encouraged each of their four girls to find their own passions in life, find their own strengths, find and develop their potential and live their own best lives while always being open to others and contributing to society. My parents, through their own initiative, discipline, hard work and love, created a home and a world for us which was beyond compare. And by their example, we learnt about hard work, reward for effort, and service to others. We were allowed to fail and to fall. We were given freedom, and we were given praise and rewarded when appropriate. But we were also held responsible, accountable and disciplined where appropriate. My three sisters and I owe our parents a huge debt of gratitude. And while neither my beautiful mum and dad nor my three incredibly talented sisters can be here today, I trust they know how much I love them. I know that my sisters will give me brutal feedback on what I say and do in this place both now and in the future. They will also continue to comment on my hair. Such are sisters!
I was born in a time and a place where we had material comfort. I had educational opportunities, which I encouraged to pursue. My race, my gender and my beliefs were no barrier to what I wanted to do or achieve. The only limitations were my own desires, my own skills and attributes, my own initiative and motivation. In later years, I found a career, a vocation, which combined my passions for law, teaching, service and management. I was privileged to work at a university, the University of Notre Dame Australia, for two decades and have many, many people who mentored and taught me all manner of things—from the governing boards, to staff and students. I was indeed very lucky to be surrounded by such people, and I owe a debt of gratitude to all. There are five who I want to acknowledge by name: Peter Tannock, Neville Owen, Peter Prendiville, the Hon. Chris Ellison and Peter Tranter.
I have also been lucky to find many friends, some going back to my early teen years and some of more recent origin. For those whom I've known the longest: we share many great memories, and we all know how lucky we are that social media didn't exist when we were growing up and that our memories are shared solely between us. And how lucky were we to grow up in the eighties? How good were the eighties—the best music, the best movies, the best fashion, and big hair or a mullet?
Of course, the greatest luck of my life was meeting the love of my life, Simon, more than two decades ago. Thank you. I would not be here today without you. I love you. Together we hit a jackpot of joy in having three wonderful sons: Sam, Josh and Tom. To quote a book: Katie didn't want to embarrass her family. I do. As a mother of three teenage sons, I frequently tell them one of the responsibilities of a mother and the greatest joy is to embarrass her teenage sons. It builds resilience, Katie. To quote a book that we frequently read when you were younger: I love you all to the moon and back. I also thank Simon's family, many of whom have quite different political views from my own, but we all share the wonderful, loving bond that is family.
I am lucky, again, to be living in one of the most beautiful places on earth, the electorate of Curtin, a place which I have called home for almost 80 per cent of my life, first moving into it at the age of 10. Curtin was created in 1949 and named after a magnificent Australian, our outstanding wartime Prime Minister John Curtin. There have been four previous members, all outstanding in their service to the people of Curtin, the state of Western Australia and the nation more generally: Sir Paul Hasluck, Sir Vic Garland, Mr Allan Rocher and the Hon. Julie Bishop. The Hon. Julie Bishop served with distinction in this place, including as the first female deputy leader of the federal parliamentary Liberal Party for over 11 years and as the first female foreign minister for Australia.
The area of Curtin is 98 square kilometres, bounded to the west by the Indian Ocean and the best beaches in the world—Cottesloe, Northcott, Swanny, City Beach, Floreat and Scarborough—to the south and south-east by the magnificent Swan River, and to the east and north by roads which are critical parts of the Perth transport network. Our part of the world is rightly known for its natural beauty: leafy green suburbs, vast tracts of natural bushland, some spectacular lakes, and beautiful natural flora and fauna.
The 140,000 people who live in Curtin belong to over 36,000 families. Families in all their shapes and sizes are the lifeblood of Curtin. We have 54 schools, one university and a number of vocational training providers. Twenty-nine thousand children are in school, and more than a third of our population attend an educational institution. We have 11 hospitals—a mix of private and public, serving the people of Perth and beyond—some incredible health research institutions and 40 aged-care facilities. We are home to the SAS at the Campbell Barracks in Swanbourne and to the Irwin Barracks in Karrakatta. I pay tribute to the members of the SAS, the reserves and, indeed, all Defence Force men and women, past and present, for the service they have given and continue to give to our country. I also say a big thank you to all of their families.
Curtin is home to the Royal Agricultural Society of WA, surf lifesaving clubs and every possible sporting club you could want. We also have some great sporting facilities which service the whole state. We are the home of a number of wonderful volunteer and philanthropic organisations, including a dogs home and a cats home, of environmental organisations and of great arts and culture, including the wonderful annual Sculpture by the Sea. Lest you get completely the wrong impression about Curtin, we also have one of the largest wastewater facilities in Perth servicing far beyond the boundaries of the electorate. We have one of the highest levels of employment in the country. Over six per cent of people in Curtin work in hospitals and over five per cent in education, and, for better or worse, we have more than the average for lawyers. There are 26,000 small and medium businesses operating in Curtin, employing thousands of people from across the wider Perth region. Curtin is home to hardworking people: retirees, families and business owners. There are those who are financially well off and those who are struggling, but all are people who care about each other. They are people who care about our environment, our arts and culture, our health and our world. They are generous, open-hearted and philanthropic people. I am humbled and privileged to represent and serve all of the approximately 140,000 people who live in Curtin. I shall at all times seek to fulfil the trust and responsibility which they have placed in me.
I would like to acknowledge and thank all those who helped me to be in this position today: the Curtin campaign committee, chaired by the Hon. Peter Collier MLC, with Curtin division president Tim Walton, Daniel White, Jon Betjeman, Anne-Marie Patrick, Cody Hudson, Adele Coyne, Julie Lloyd, Stefan Deselys-Claite, Melanie Lynn, Peter Moore, Shannon Coyne, Damian Collins, Roz Baker, Patrica and Murray Turner, and Phil Patterson; our Liberal Party state office, president Fay Duda, state director Sam Calabrese and Louis Meyer; and all of the Young Liberals. I also thank the Hon. Chris Ellison, Senator Mathias Cormann and other state and federal members of parliament present and former, including former Premier of Western Australia the Hon. Colin Barnett and former Prime Minister the Hon. John Howard. I also thank all members of the Curtin division of the Liberal Party.
To the donors and hundreds of volunteers who did mailbox deliveries, worked at pre-polling, handed out how-to-vote cards, worked on election booths, made cakes and sent nice notes: I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I would like to note with special thanks my regular doorknocking buddies—Angela, Pauline, Dylan, Cody, Matt and Sam—and all of my old friends for keeping it real—Helen, Elena, Mel, Bree, Susan and Rommie. To the Prime Minister: thank you for your leadership. Your authenticity, realness and humility are clear and inspirational. You even convinced my mum, and she can spot a phoney a mile off!
Australia is a wonderful country. But, as wonderful as it is, I recognise that the luck which has been mine is not the same for everyone. I have a beautiful family and the bestest of friends. I have had opportunities, and I have had the encouragement, love and support to pursue those opportunities. That is what I want for all Australians. I want Australian families to be supported so that they in turn can provide the support and love which individuals need to flourish. I want all Australians to have equality of opportunity and strong encouragement and support, so that everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential as individuals, to make their own decisions about life and to take personal responsibility for their lives so that they can lead their best lives and contribute to the communities in which they live, and to society more generally. To do this, I believe that we need to ensure that our wonderful country has a strong and robust economy, has the essential services people rely on and need and continues to uphold, promote and embed our core liberal and democratic values of human dignity, individual freedom and equality. These are the core values of the political party to which I belong, and it is for this reason that I stand in this place as a proud member and representative of the Liberal Party.
I am proud to be part of a government which promotes policy positions supporting free enterprise and which understands and emphasises the importance of a strong and robust economy. I am proud to be part of a government which is committed to doing this through keeping taxes low, creating the right environment for job creation and ensuring our employment settings and frameworks are balanced so that the interests of both employees and employers are protected. I'm proud that our government is backing small and medium businesses, and that we are keeping expensive, frequently repetitive and ineffective red tape to a minimum, pursuing trade agreements with other countries and boosting our exports, and ensuring that we, as a government, spend within our means—that we spend wisely, efficiently and productively. I will advocate for and support all of these and other initiatives which strengthen our economy.
But I would emphasise that our pursuit of a strong and robust economy is not done as a standalone goal for its own sake. The economy is not our master and we mere blind servants to it. The economy must always serve us. We pursue and emphasise a strong economy because it is a necessary foundation for us to live our lives to their optimum: for us to flourish individually, to thrive collectively as a nation and to contribute to the wellbeing of the global community.
A strong economy is both dependent upon and ensures that our country has all of the essential services and ingredients which are vital to our individual and national wellbeing. We need educated, skilled, healthy people; we need quality infrastructure; we need social services to help those in need; and we need a secure, protected and safe country so that we can deliver a strong economy. But we also need a strong economy to deliver these. They are intertwined. Some of these are deliverable by the government, some are best served through an efficient private sector and some by a combination of both.
Of these essential services ingredients I will mention only a few about which I am deeply passionate. The first of these is education. We must ensure that we have excellent educational and training opportunities for all and that there is a diversity of offerings and opportunities and real choice, from early education through to postgraduate education. Our schools and all those who work in them are one of our country's most valuable assets, and we recognise that we need to continue to support them so that they, in turn, can do the best by our children. Our educational offerings must be properly balanced. We need to teach skills—basic skills, life skills and work skills. We need to prepare people for the changing world. But we also need to impart knowledge. It is true that nearly any piece of information you want can be found on the internet, but this is information; it is not knowledge. And mere access to information does not guarantee wisdom.
Part and parcel of our responsibility to provide excellence in education is a need for us to continue to invest in, encourage and value research and entrepreneurship. We must continue to emphasise and build the links between research and industry and ensure that our research is directed towards the betterment of our society at large, because good, strong and ethically responsible research should underpin the decisions we make, individually and collectively.
We must ensure that our health services, public and private, are supported so that all Australians can access timely and excellent health care. We have rising demands and needs—and our government has rightly recognised the criticality of them—particularly in areas of mental health, palliative care, chronic pain and dementia. Like many here in this House and many across Australia, I have had personal experience with all of the above areas of need; I know how they impact on those suffering and also on their families and loved ones. The measure of a good country is how well it provides for those who are ill or are in need, and I am proud that we in government are giving the necessary attention to these areas.
We must ensure that we have appropriate and resourced social services so that we can support and help those who need it. Our social services and support systems must uphold the dignity of each person and their individual needs and to do so they must, to the greatest possible extent, facilitate and enable self-sufficiency and individual autonomy. In this regard, I note this government's commitment to ensuring that the NDIS actually works for the recipients and is tailored to their individual needs rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
I also note our rising needs in aged care. It is the very circle of life that the very people who raised us, loved us and supported us in turn need to be loved, respected and supported by us as they age. Again, I am proud to be part of a government that understands this and is actively taking steps to ensure that we take proper care of those who cared for us to enable them to live the twilight of their years with dignity.
We must ensure that we continue on our path to closing the gap between our Indigenous peoples and the broader Australian community. Symbolic steps without effective action are ultimately pointless and potentially do more harm than good, but symbolic steps can give momentum and effect to concrete actions and initiatives. To that end, I will be fully supporting the efforts towards constitutional recognition of our Indigenous peoples and exploring new ways of working together to ensure that the concrete actions and initiatives which are delivered actually work.
We must be responsible stewards of our natural world. We must protect and preserve the environment in which we live, and we should do this individually and collectively through evidence based and effective steps. We live in a beautiful country; let's make sure it remains so, so that our children and their children's children can say the same things—boys, you're too young yet!
We must ensure that there is rightful support and encouragement for the arts and culture in our country. I have not a creative streak in my body, and there are many works of art which I don't get or, truth be told, don't like. However, I strongly believe that while a work of art might not save your life in the way that good healthcare can and while it might not make your trip to work any quicker or easier than a good road system can, we need the arts to challenge us, to entertain us and to help us to look at the world in different ways.
For Australia to have a strong economy and essential services, it is imperative that we continue to uphold, promote and embed our core Liberal and democratic values including the innate dignity of every individual, of individual freedom, rights and responsibilities and of equality.
There is evidence of a rising lack of understanding of and confidence in democracy and free enterprise both here in Australia and in other parts of the world. Our form of government is not perfect. No government can do everything. It cannot fund everything. Choices need to be made. I also readily acknowledge that free enterprise and market forces cannot do everything. But I nonetheless firmly believe that democracy is the best form of political system and that free enterprise, a strong federalism and small government are key for our country to continue to flourish, just as they have proven to be in the past.
There is evidence of an increasing lack of trust in our institutions, not only government but also public service, banks, religious institutions, the media and universities. Much of this is understandable. These institutions have never been and will never be perfect, and some actions carried out by these institutions, or those associated with them, have been unconscionable and despicable. Such institutions need to be held accountable and we need to have appropriate legislation and regulation to ensure that they are held to account and that the same things are not repeated. But let us resist being lured into the false belief that regulation or legislation will, or even can, fix everything. We need to be circumspect and considered in our responses and we need to resist overzealous legislative reactions. There is always the danger of unintended and uncontemplated consequences, some of which can have long-term and wideranging negative repercussions.
Finally, there are also signs that we are becoming increasingly intolerant of the views and opinions of others, of extreme polarisation, of excessive individualism, of blame, of victimhood and of division. We all want our own individual freedoms and we want to exercise our own rights but we're not so happy when others do it in ways which differ from us. Instead of arguing the point there is an increasing tendency to attack the person—to label them and to seek to shut down the discussion. It has always been a vital part of our country that we have a diversity of opinions and views, and part of the success of our country has been that these different views and opinions have been able to be expressed and debated freely and robustly. What's more, in many cases the differing views and opinions and robust debates have led to what I would call sensible and pragmatic compromises, compromises which have been accepted by the majority and compromises which have worked.
To make sure that we continue to do this we must hold fast to our key values: the inherent dignity of every individual and our individual freedom. But we must also recognise that none of our individual freedoms or rights are completely unfettered. We owe responsibilities to ourselves, to each other and to society more generally. We must balance our freedoms and rights with our responsibilities, and while there is a very important role for the government to play in ensuring that the right balance is struck there is also a big role to play for the individual. We, as individuals living in society, must take personal responsibility for how we live, how we act, how we react and how we respond. The golden rule, present in many religions and cultures—treat others as you would like to be treated—is one worth remembering at all times.
We live in a wonderful country, and I'm a proud Australian—and an even prouder Western Australian—who is privileged and humbled to represent the people of Curtin in this 46th Parliament. I shall at all times strive to live up to the trust and responsibility which has been placed in me. We face some challenges, but it's not the first time we've faced challenges, and nor will it be the last. In the maiden speech of the first member for this seat, Sir Paul Hasluck, he referred to the:
… troublous times in the half century that lies ahead …
Likewise, the Hon. Julie Bishop stated in 1998:
We are experiencing a revolutionary societal change in time, space and power.
The exact type of challenges we face may be different, but it would be the height of conceit to think that we have never faced challenges before.
We can, and we do, rise. We learn, we adapt and we make change when change is required in the best interests and for the common good. Let us remember our resilience, our can-do, our fair go, our compassion and our humour. Let us embrace and encourage our individualism and celebrate our diversity, but at all times remember our shared humanity. Thank you, Mr Speaker.