Each of us comes to this place with ideals, values, goals and an earnest desire to contribute to the future of our nation. Read the maiden speech of any member of this House or any Senator, and you will see those hopes and expectations in their purest form.
You will notice that these speeches are devoid of the vitriol, game-playing and insincerity that the Australian public have come to characterise as the mainstays of our political system. It is a great shame that this perception of Australian politics has become the norm and that public confidence in parliamentarians has been on a downward trajectory for many years.
It is a great pity that the 24-hour news cycle tends to amplify dysfunction, characterise debate as division and promote quick fixes over long-term solutions. It is our great challenge, as members of this place, to contest the prevailing culture through hard work, clear thinking and, frankly, better behaviour. It has never been my style to engage in the intrigue, game-playing or name-calling that occurs in this place, and I am not about to begin, but I think we all realise there is a discord between what goes on here and the expectations of the Australian people.
We all need to do better.
This debate is an essential opportunity for each of us to revisit the ideals, hopes and optimism expressed in our maiden speeches and to ensure that they are what underpins our work rather than what is trending on Twitter or what appears popular according to a poll. In my maiden speech, which I delivered on 25 October 2010, I spoke specifically about practical priorities for my electorate, including infrastructure, business and veterans.
I am pleased to have delivered on all of these three issues and to have worked closely with the McPherson community to strengthen the southern Gold Coast. In the middle of last year I secured federal infrastructure funding to upgrade the M1 from four lanes to six between Robina Town Centre and Reedy Creek Road.
Just last week it was announced that agreement has been reached with the state government and that early construction will commence in the middle of this year. This is great news for motorists who spend considerable time every morning and every afternoon stuck in what is known locally as the Robina carpark and stuck further south of the M1. I will continue my fight for the widening of the M1 through to Tugun. Whilst planning for this further upgrade is about to start, it is essential that there are no delays to construction and that there is a continuous build through to Tugun, not the stop-start that has dogged the upgrade so far on the southern Gold Coast.
But this is not all that is needed on the M1 I have already raised with the state government and with my federal colleagues the need to address urgently two bottlenecks: southbound at the Bermuda Street merge and northbound at the KP McGrath merge. There is capacity already there to extend the slip lanes and by doing so to relieve the delays at those two key points. I can assure locals that I will continue to fight to fix the bottlenecks and widen the M1 all the way through to Tugun as a priority. Of course, the M1 is not the only infrastructure priority, and over the last three years I have helped secure $95 million for stage 2 of the Gold Coast light rail, $38 million for the Gold Coast City Council in Roads to Recovery funding to improve Gold Coast roads and $1.7 million to fix local dangerous accident blackspots.
I have helped secure funding to fix telecommunication blackspots with the construction of a new mobile base station on Currumbin Creek Road and sped up the rollout of the NBN locally. I have also delivered the new smart tracking system at the Gold Coast Airport in Coolangatta.
When it comes to local businesses the coalition has certainly delivered over the past three years by cutting half a billion dollars in red tape and regulation, reducing the tax burden by cutting company tax rates and providing immediate tax deductions for assets up to $20,000. We have opened up overseas markets like never before with our crucial trade agreements.
In McPherson, I have helped secure important support for local businesses, with over $466,000 in commercialisation funding, $84,000 in industry skills funding, $14,000 in business growth grants and $32,000 for vocational excellence grants. As I have said many times before, the education sector is thriving in my electorate, with Australia's largest private university, Bond University—a leader in innovation—and many other local schools and training organisations offering cutting-edge skills and qualifications.
In fact, I have secured more than $5.1 million in Australian Research Council grants for local research projects; $224,000 in Endeavour fellowships and scholarships, $134,000 in New Colombo Plan scholarships to help local students study overseas, and $140,000 to Southern Cross University for specialty mathematics programs.
The coalition has also helped fund the Gold Coast Science and Tech Festival and a range of programs in local schools as well as provided over $2 million in infrastructure funding for local schools. It would take more time than we have today to outline the full extent of the funding that has flowed to the southern Gold Coast since the coalition came to office in 2013. It has been my great honour and privilege to work with the community, but there is one section of our community, in particular, that I have to confess is my great joy to work with, and that is our veterans and service men and women.
During the past term of office we had the incredible opportunity to acknowledge the Centenary of the Gallipoli Landing and many other significant anniversaries. For our local community, I am delighted to have delivered over $130,000 to local RSLs and community groups to commemorate the Centenary of Anzac and practical support for local veterans, with close to $100,000 in BEST grants to help veterans, and provided a range of support through various Saluting Their Service and Veteran and Community grants.
These are important in helping ensure that the legacy of our veterans is remembered for generations to come. Local veterans organisations have also had several opportunities to meet with the Minister for Veterans' Affairs as I posted roundtable discussions that have been very productive.
Our local RSLs and veterans organisations are a shining example of our many community organisations that work for the betterment of not only their members but also all southern Gold Coast residents. Our many Surf Life Saving clubs are another example, with so many local volunteers giving generously of their time.
It is tremendously positive or our government to be providing over $300,000 to local Surf Life Saving clubs to help them purchase vital equipment. One of the things that I am very proud of is recognising our many volunteers through my annual McPherson awards. These awards are a way for our community to say thank you to those who have given their time and really are the heart and soul of our community.
We have three categories: community achiever, Surf Life Saving achiever and young achiever. Nominations are now open for the 2017 awards, and I encourage the southern Gold Coast community to nominate a local hero.
Fostering the spirit of volunteerism and supporting the community is, I believe, an important part of my job as the local member. The intrinsic spirit of our local communities is something I believe in very strongly. It is where the solution to so many issues can be found. We need to support the community sector, as we have through the Volunteer Grants Program, where 29 of my local community organisations shared in $120,000 for equipment to make their work easier. This is a great program, first introduced by the Howard government, which I am very pleased we have restored.
I am also heartened that one of the first pieces of legislation the Turnbull government introduced this term was a bill to stop the hostile takeover of the CFA in Victoria by the union movement.
Community volunteer organisations like the CFA do not need more intervention and obstruction. In fact, we need to be removing red tape wherever possible. Smaller government and stronger communities—that should be our aim. So it is a positive sign of our core belief in community that we have moved so decisively in this matter.
By contrast, it is a sign of Labor's enduring pact with the unions that they could allow such a threat to the CFA to even eventuate. It is my hope, and it will certainly be my aim, to ensure that the coalition's policy positions during the 45th Parliament are similarly based on our core beliefs. As I said at the beginning of this speech, our policies need to have the solid foundation of our expressed values and ideals.
The values that so many of us articulate in our maiden speeches are a yardstick of why we choose to serve our communities in the parliament. I am not advocating for ideology-driven government. Of course we need to be practical. Our values must always be couched in the mainstream and expressed through the prism of the national interest. By articulating policies founded on our shared values and common beliefs, we will be able to give the Australian public a much clearer picture of what we stand for.
Policy that is based on whims, trends or fashion is never as enduring. I also want to point out that, in arguing for a more constructive parliament, I am not advocating for less robust debate. Indeed, part of the problem with the current political climate is that debate is too often shut down and that tactics like vilifying and name-calling are employed as a substitute for serious discussion.
Debates are too often divided along partisan lines and personalities rather than the merits of an argument. Robust debate is the cornerstone of any thriving democracy, and we should never hide from it.
So, in arguing for better standards, I am also arguing for more robust debate, but debate where arguments of merit are not drowned out. Common sense must prevail. The national interest has to be put above partisan interests, and we must remember that the Australian people want their elected government to govern. The public want the opposition and crossbenchers to respect that fact and seek constructive common ground.
One of the other qualities that I mentioned earlier that will help change the negative public perception of our political culture is hard work. I have been honoured, over the first term of the coalition government, to have been tasked with a number of leadership roles, including: chairman of the joint Public Works Committee, member of the Speakers Panel, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Science, Assistant Minister for Science and now Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills.
These are all roles that I have taken up with vigour and in which I am pleased to have made a contribution. These additional roles have allowed me to apply my specific skills and knowledge, especially when it comes to science and technology, and to meet with and gain insights from some of our leading scientists, educators and business people.
I take this opportunity to thank the many people around the country who have given me the benefit of their views and experience over the past three years. I am extremely excited and optimistic to now be working to improve and strengthen the VET sector, which is so crucial to addressing skills shortages and providing alternative pathways to further education.
The coalition has always fundamentally believed in apprenticeships and vocational education. We have announced a new, affordable, sustainable and student-focused VET Student Loans program that will restore integrity to the system and ensure it is preparing students for employment. I look forward to continuing to work with the sector, with industry and with students to ensure we achieve the very best VET outcome in the future.
Whatever my additional or ministerial roles, I have always made certain that the people of McPherson remain my first priority. Regular listening posts have always been part of my schedule, and they will remain so. Attending local community functions and supporting local community events is something I will always make time for. And assisting local constituents and small businesses is the mainstay of my job. I take this opportunity to thank the people of McPherson for re-electing me. It is a great honour that I intend to repay through continued hard work and commitment. I thank the many local residents I have worked with over the years and those who have stopped to share their views with me. Your feedback helps me to better represent you and our community.
There is of course a special group of locals that I have relied on: those who formed my campaign team and gave their time through the long eight weeks of campaigning in manning roadsides and working at pre-poll and, of course, on election day. Anyone who has ever run for office knows it truly is a group effort. It is a testament to our campaign team that in 2013 we achieved a swing to us that was significantly better than the state average and, at the last election, our performance in McPherson was again a standout. Thanks team—we have some impressive runs on the board. It would be difficult to name everyone, but there are some special people that I would like to thank.
Let me thank Peter Barrett, Maggie Bevins, Roger Campbell, Peter Cannon, Wendy Coe, Chris Crawford, Dorothy Davis, Lyn Dyne, Roger Emmerson, Wendy Flett, Mary Flynn, Peter Flynn, John Forrester, Roger Green, Hilary Green, Boyd Hain, Peter Hyde, Elaine Hyde, Greg Ingram, John Kearney, Jeszaen Lee, Anthony Lind, Dick Lucas, Eva Lucas, Nola Mattei, Peter McKean, Ben Naday, Cheryl Pearson, Linda Perkins, Ron Pia, Cherry Pia, Kevin Powell, Andy Rajapaske, Paul Rimmington, Jeffrey Robinson, Barry Skinner, Fran Ward-Emerson, Keith Wright and Ada Wright.
Can I also give some special mentions to Bruce and Muriel Duncan, Margo Gates, Jack McLintock, Callum Whitehead and Selma Schuller. There are some really special people, and let me acknowledge and thank Hamish Douglas and Natalie Douglas and the woman who self-describes as my 'wingman', Janelle Manders. To my mother, Moya, and my sister, Ann—thank you so much once again for everything you have done over the years, and particularly during the election campaigns where you have stood on countless polling booths handing out for me. I really do appreciate it.
To my husband, Chris, who, when I was first elected was described as my 'long-suffering husband', and I rejected that at the time: I think that now, seven years past the election, I would say that yes, you are my long-suffering husband. We have recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary—so, Chris, thank you for that. I have three amazing children—Emma, Jane and Kate.
When I first spoke in this place I spoke directly to them as they were seated up in the gallery. The words that I said to them are as true today as they were then, and what they will be in the future. My words to them were: always believe in yourself, girls, because I believe in you.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Buchholz ): I thank the honourable member for that contribution, and can I add that your husband is a long-suffering husband; I know that. And your kids are so perfect, you must be very happy with them.