It is with great honour that I stand before this House today as the member for Forde. Forde is an electorate that has changed significantly since the 2007 election result, as a result of the redistribution in Queensland in 2009. Forde is an electorate that is located halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and covers an area of approximately 419 square kilometres—from Shailer Park to the north, to the south in Upper Coomera and Wongawallen, Carbrook in the east to Boronia Heights in the west. The seat also covers two local council areas: Logan City Council—the heart of the great south-east—and the Gold Coast City Council.
It is a seat that was named after Michael Francis Forde, who served as Prime Minister for a total of eight days in July 1945. The seat was created in 1984 and has traditionally been held by a member of the government of the day. It is testament to the hard work of a great campaign team and many volunteers that I am the first member to hold this seat who is not sitting on the government benches.
I am the proud son of immigrants from the Netherlands. My parents, Bob and Cornelia, came to Australia in the mid-sixties and I was born in Brisbane in 1965. At an early age my family moved to Waterford and, together with my brothers Peter, Robert and Douglas and my sister Cathryn, we enjoyed a fun-filled childhood swimming and fishing in the Logan River and the Tygum Lagoon. We even created our own sports field at the back of our property, which was used by local kids to play soccer, cricket or any other sport we decided was relevant at the time.
I went to school at Waterford and Waterford West primary schools and at Kingston State High where I graduated in 1982. My wife, Judi, too grew up in the electorate, in Beenleigh and Carbrook. We bought our first home in Loganlea. Judi and I were married in Beenleigh in October 1987. We recently celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. We are blessed with two wonderful sons, Zac and Josh, who are here with us in the gallery today.
I have strong Christian ethics and values, and these guide my life. I am an active member of my local church, and I am on the board of our bible college, Dunamis International College of Ministries. I am regularly involved in our men’s mentoring and leadership programs. My wife Judi is also on the board of Daughters of Promise, a mentoring and leadership program for young women.
I am an avid sportsman, and I enjoy soccer, cricket and golf—none of which I have enough time to play at the moment. In both soccer and cricket, I have been involved with teams that have won premierships and I have received a number of individual awards along the way. I also represented Queensland at state schoolboy level in soccer. I now enjoy helping with the coaching of my sons’ soccer teams and watching them play. It is through playing team sports that I have learnt the value of playing in a team. It is possible within a team environment to display your talents and abilities, but important to direct those energies towards the success of the team; however, you can still achieve individual success through the success of the team.
My first job was pumping petrol, checking the oil and cleaning the windscreens of cars at the local Caltex service station, which is still there today. I also worked with my father during school holidays. He was a ceramic tiler and I discovered that it was not the job for me. Professionally, I have spent 27 years in the financial services sector. I worked for 15 years for one of our major banks and for the past 12 years Judi and I have been building our own financial services business. Having experience as a small business owner, husband and father during one of the greatest financial crises of recent times, I have a particular interest in encouraging small business to grow and profit, thereby creating local employment and family security.
In that vein, I wish for Forde to be a place where people can live locally, work locally, retire locally and have fun in their local community. Forde will be a safe, family focused community where children learn, play and grow in a secure environment. Forde is a rapidly growing area that is suffering from many of the issues that other members in this House have touched on. Issues such as infrastructure failing to keep pace with growth, loss of housing affordability, increasing costs of living and lack of services are just some of the major problems for my electorate.
There are infrastructure projects such as the M1 from Loganholme to Eight Mile Plains. The Howard government committed approximately $500 million per annum for 10 years to have this important infrastructure project completed. The current government has withdrawn this commitment and the previous Labor member stated shortly before polling day that the government had no intention of funding the project. He said they considered the Ml to be a freight route between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and of no economic benefit to Logan City or the electorate. This attitude underscores the government’s lack of understanding of the economic loss incurred by many in the electorate who have to sit in the daily traffic crawl to get to work or conduct business.
The next stage of the Mt Lindesay Highway, in the western part of the electorate, and duplication and upgrade of the interstate rail line to a passenger line to cater for the planned new cities of Flagstone and Yarrabilba to the south and the growth of the Park Ridge area are vital. Further upgrade to the Gold Coast to Brisbane rail line to cater for more trains for the ever-growing corridor between Beenleigh and the Gold Coast is also a key infrastructure upgrade.
But probably the biggest issue in the electorate is the cost of living. The current government’s spending, both in its first term and on an ongoing basis, continues to contribute to this issue. The constant borrowing by the current government is increasing inflationary pressures and putting upward pressure on interest rates, which is in turn hurting family budgets. Now we have a government that is willing to further increase people’s cost of living by introducing a carbon tax and may well destroy our food production capacity through its poor management of the Murray-Darling Basin.
This problem further exacerbates the unspoken issue of underemployment. This is a far greater issue than many acknowledge, as it does not show up in official statistics and yet is a direct result of the issues facing small to medium sized businesses, issues which were created by the government’s poor fiscal management. It is estimated by the ABS that 300,000 jobs have been lost from the small business sector in the first 2½ years of the Gillard-Rudd government. I know from talking to small businesses in my electorate that that is a huge issue. It is always interesting to note that the very people that Labor purports to assist—the poor, the disadvantaged and the workers—are actually the people it hurts most through its economic policies.
Small business is the core employer in my electorate and is finding it costly and difficult to access new capital to grow and expand, or just get through the present difficult trading conditions. This is in part reflected in the underemployment issue I noted earlier, as employers seek to retain staff but reduce working hours. This also results in a fall in national productivity—an issue which the government apparently wishes to improve. This is where the initial and subsequent stimulus packages were misdirected and show a lack of understanding by the government about the causes of recession in Australia.
Phil Ruthven from Access Economics noted in a presentation earlier this year that the primary driver of recessions in Australia is not a fall in consumer spending but a loss by business of access to capital for continued growth and development. The issue arises due to the fact that the government continues to borrow at a rate of $100 million per day, which means there is $100 million per day less in the capital markets available for business. This capital would be far better allocated and utilised by businesses, as they will seek to utilise that capital productively to employ staff, manufacture goods and generate profits.
The community of Forde is also rightly concerned about environmental issues and recognises that we need to better look after our environment, with many people now actively talking about practical measures. But they recognise the folly of an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax. They recognise that these are really just big new taxes that will not make one bit of difference to dealing with on-the-ground environmental issues such as the restoration of water quality in the Logan and Albert rivers, which both ultimately flow into RAMSAR listed Moreton Bay.
In 2009, the Department of Environment and Resource Management in Queensland issued a report which rated the lower reaches of both rivers with a grade of poor or fail for a number of areas including water quality. The current government during the election campaign made a commitment to provide funding for the commencement of restoring water quality, and I call on the government to honour that commitment. I will continue to hold the government to account for this promise to the people of Forde.
There are also issues with the protection of high quality remnant rainforest flora and fauna from proposed residential developments in Bahrs Scrub to a proposed quarry in Ormeau. Community organisations such as the Bahrs Scrub Alliance, Stop the Quarry Action Group and VETO are putting in significant resources to fight these and other projects that will adversely affect our community. The electorate also contains a number of significant, federally and internationally recognised wetland areas in Carbrook, Eagleby and Cornubia that connect to the Logan and Albert rivers. As part of our election campaign we announced a couple of Green Army projects for a few of those wetland areas.
In Forde we are blessed with a wide range of strong and active community and sporting groups such as Rotary, Lions, Soroptimist International and Quota, Loganholme Soccer Club, Park Ridge Pirates AFL Club, Beenleigh Logan Cutters Cricket Club and Coomera Hockey Club. We have strong and active chambers of commerce in Logan at Beenleigh Yatala, Coomera, Ormeau, Park Ridge and Browns Plains. These organisations and their members work tirelessly to promote local business and represent the interests of local business to all levels of government.
There are many people in Forde who choose to be involved in voluntary work and activities to give back to their community. This electorate is blessed with groups such as MAD, Mothers Against Drugs, established in 1981 and run by June Hintze, who recently received a Pride of Australia Medal for community spirit. MAD aims to help children and young people who are at risk because they are in an environment of drug and/or alcohol abuse. Nightlight Outreach was founded by John and Michaela Porter after their eyes were opened to the number of homeless and disadvantaged people in Brisbane and the surrounding areas. Ron and Debbie Hill from Lighthouse Calvary Care provide food parcels and low-cost but quality food for the community. Their work was recently the subject of a feature story ‘The $20 trolley’ on Today Tonight and they are now receiving requests to extend the range of their work. These are but a small sample of the wonderful community focused people we have in Forde.
There are many people who deserve thanks and recognition for assisting me to become the member for Forde. I would like to thank the constituents of Forde, who have placed their faith and confidence in me to represent them. I acknowledge that I have been elected to represent all of the constituents of Forde and my team and I will do so to the best of our ability. I am absolutely committed to the people, communities and businesses in my electorate.
Winning this seat was achieved by having a tremendous team behind me during the campaign. I would first like to acknowledge and thank my wife, Judi, for her tireless efforts during the campaign. Her assistance and encouragement are the main reasons for me being able to pursue my goal and for me being here today. Judi, you and I make an awesome team and I love you for that and for all the other blessings you bring to me in my life. I also acknowledge and thank our two sons, Zac and Josh, who have both shown tremendous maturity and forbearance with both Judi’s and my absences during the campaign. Thank you, boys, you are a blessing and you are my champion sons.
To my campaign team: I wish to thank John Broadhurst, my campaign manager, for the outstanding work he did. He was a great source of advice, and as a friend he encouraged me and kept me going for the nine months of the campaign. Also thank you to Helen, his wife, for allowing John to be part of the team. I want to express my thanks to Jeff and Cathy Charlesworth for their tireless hard work organising signs, volunteers, polling booth rosters and many other things. Jeff, just remember that this all started with a discussion that we had about four years ago in Perth at 11 o’clock on a Friday night—and, no, there wasn’t any alcohol involved. Jeff and Cathy, your wise words, counsel and friendship mean so much to Judi and me. Thank you to all the wonderful members of the Dunamis Christian Centre for their outstanding support with booth work, letterbox drops and many other things. I would like to especially thank my good friend Senior Pastor Shaun Hansen and his ministry team and leadership team for their encouragement, support and prayers throughout.
To my mother, Cornelia, I am so indebted to you. You believed in me and knew I could achieve my goal of being a member of parliament. Thank you to my brothers, Peter and Robert, who encouraged and supported me throughout the nine-month long campaign. May we continue to have many more of our family political discussions in the future. To my mother-in-law, Ailsa, who took five weeks out of her life to come and live with us during the campaign. Not only did she care for our sons and cook meals but she also came and worked in the campaign office. Thank you to everyone.
To my friends and mentors Shane Weaver, John Murray, Colin Street, John Jolly, Phil Colburn and Andrew Hamman, thank you for support and friendship. Thank you to Fraser Stephen, Sue Lipp and Deb Kirk for their invaluable advice, support and tireless efforts during the last months of the campaign.
Lastly, I also wish to thank my patron senator, Senator George Brandis, and Senator Russell Trood and Tony Abbott and the members of the team that visited the electorate during the campaign and gave us valuable advice and assistance. I thank also the members of the Forde FDC, LNP headquarters and the campaign team, in particular James McGrath, for their support throughout.
I feel passionately about Australia and our position in the world. I believe that we live in the best country in the world. As a nation we are blessed with many things: abundant natural wealth; sporting talent and opportunity; an attitude which looks for a solution to a problem rather than to simply whinge about the problem; and a spiritual heritage that we should not dismiss and in these uncertain times should look to for wisdom and guidance. It is the foundation upon which our nation was built, and no amount of progressive thinking can or should change that.
I believe that it is this foundation of Judeo-Christian principles upon which our nation was built that will also allow it to continue to grow and prosper, and I also believe we ignore those at our peril. I feel not only humble but also seriously committed to my obligations as a member of the House of Representatives. My energies will be directed into making Forde a better place to live, work, raise a family and retire. I will also work for the betterment of the country, for our children and for future generations of Australians to come.