Community facilities Volunteers Speeches | March 20, 2019

Address-in-reply - Governer's Speech

Victorian Parliament - 20 March 2019 - Ms KEALY (Lowan) (16:25:33): It is a great privilege to provide your address-in-reply because of course it means that you have been re-elected or elected to this place. I would like to open my contribution to this debate by thanking the enormous number of people who have helped me in my journey, whether that was over the election campaign or whether it was over the past four years in my first term of Parliament, because I have absolutely no doubt that the hard work that was put in over those four years of the 58th Parliament assisted me to achieve the result that we did at the last election. With that I would like to roll through a lot of thankyous. I realise most people would probably leave that until the end, but I think it is the most important thing to do when it comes to speaking about your re-election to this place. Firstly, if I can just thank my wonderful staff who have worked so hard over the past four years. We have a reputation in the electorate office of Lowan that we get back to everybody. We make a conscientious effort to follow up on issues that we cannot necessarily fix. We know that constituents want to be heard and we make all possible efforts to try to resolve the problems. That certainly means that I get a lot of thankyous, but they really should be passed on to my fantastic staff. Particularly to Suzanne, to Kym and to Helen, I would like to pass on my thanks to those three wonderful women for fighting hard for our electorate to get a fair deal and of course for their ongoing support. I really greatly appreciate it. I would also like to thank my campaign manager, the Honourable Hugh Delahunty. He is still very active in the community and provides an enormous amount of support and direction for me, which is fantastic and greatly appreciated. I thank my campaign committee, the hundreds of people who handed out how-to-vote cards for me, particularly over the extended pre-poll period, and all of my supporters for their kind words of support, the funds that they provided for the campaign, maybe a like or a comment on social media or just telling their friends that I was the one that they should vote for and that Emma Everywhere was somebody worth supporting. Thank you so much. It does mean a lot to me, people putting in that effort. To my amazing family, my loving family, to my mum and dad, Liz and Rob; to my awesome brother, Sam; the fantastic Jones family, particularly Chris, Mya and Tess; Jess who handed out heaps of how-to-vote cards for me, which was great; and the extended family—the support is never ending. Thank you so very, very much for that. And of course my little boy, Harvey, who would always keep things in reality and would refuse to be involved in any handing out of how-to-vote cards but did find it quite entertaining that Mummy’s face was on lots of posters all around town. At one point we were in Warracknabeal at a netball and football match and he saw the big trailer. He looked at me and asked, 'Mummy, are you famous?’. I said, 'Not really, Harvey, but a lot of people tend to know who I am’. 'I knew you were famous, Mum’, he replied. It was very, very cute, and I do love my little boy. Thank you very much, Harvs. You probably do not quite understand at six what that support means, but it does mean a lot. I hope you look back in the future and I make you proud, because you certainly make me a very proud mum. I would also like to thank the National Party membership and The Nationals parliamentary team. The support we get from our National Party colleagues is absolutely amazing. We all travel long distances to be here each and every week and we provide support not just for political issues and helping to sort through different matters to get ideas on how we can do something a bit differently but we also provide personal and emotional support. I think that is what really makes the Nats stand out. We have that collegiality. We are like a big family, and I do think as a result of that we came up with some really good policies that would help people in country Victoria right across the state. I think that is why we had a really good result in many, many seats. I would also like to express my gratitude to two members of the Nats, former MPs who were not fortunate enough to retain their seats, and that is Peter Crisp and Luke O’Sullivan. I think that both Peter and Luke were outstanding parliamentary representatives. This place is the lesser for the loss of those two members, but I know they are still in close contact not just with us as MPs but with their electorates. They will continue to stand up for their communities. They are still very strong supporters of and contributors to the National Party and I cherish not just the time that we were able to work together but also their friendship, which I know will continue long into the future. I would also like to make special mention of Joanne Armstrong, who was a National Party candidate for Western Victoria Region. Jo put in an amazing effort over the time of the campaign. She also supported the member for Ripon in her re-election very, very strongly, whether it was helping to hand out how-to-vote cards, assistance with scrutineering or getting around the electorate and going to lots of events. Jo, your contribution was really something I have not seen before in a prospective upper house member. I thank you so much for your dedication and support. It is great to have strong, intelligent, wonderful women flocking to the party at the moment, because they know that women can be involved in the Nats and be strong advocates for country Victoria and that is something the Nats can help facilitate. Thank you so much, Jo. I look forward to continuing to work with you into the future. As we know, it was a bittersweet result in Lowan. It was very humbling to have increased my first-preference vote from 54 per cent four years ago to 68 per cent against a statewide swing. But, as I said, it was not my own result. It was a combination of a lot of things, particularly a lot of hard work by a lot of people over that first term in the 58th Parliament of Victoria. he people of Lowan have put their confidence in me and I will never take this trust and faith for granted. That is something that is often slung around during an election campaign. You see these campaigns to 'Make Lowan marginal’ or saying that the Nationals are taking the seat for granted. I have never done that and I refuse to ever do that. The people of Lowan deserve a lot better and I know they are a lot smarter than that too. If I did start to take the electorate for granted and not put in the kilometres and the hours and the commitment that I do and have proven to do very strongly over five years now, then I think there would be a much different result. So I do make that commitment. It does not matter what the margin is but I will never, ever stop fighting for a better deal for all country Victorians, particularly those that are furthest from Melbourne. I do think there would have been a slightly different result in the election if Labor had had policies which support country Victoria and if we had seen some significant financial pre-election commitments to our part of the state. I think the most disappointing failure of commitment was around the Warracknabeal education precinct. This is a half-built school that has basically half of the secondary college and a third of the special development school, which has meant that now the SDS has relocated to these new buildings but they cannot use the facilities properly and they are not appropriate for this cohort of children. These are amazing students. They deserve far, far better. We cannot really use a brand-new science lab that was designed for secondary school students for the special development school students. They have not got proper learning spaces that can nurture and support the growth and development of children with special needs. We have got a budget coming up and I do urge the Andrews Labor government to try and fix this. It cannot just fund half a school and walk away from it. We need a full commitment. We need to see this project finished and it needs to happen starting with the next budget, whether it was an election commitment or not. The Nationals did commit to keeping that project going. Labor needs to fix the mess that is at Warracknabeal and I just cannot urge that project forward strongly enough, because it is a disaster now. It is appalling how that school has been handled and it just would not happen in Melbourne. It is pleasing to see that we did get one commitment, which was a matched commitment to redevelop Baimbridge College in Hamilton. This was an amazing campaign and I am proud to stand side by side with the community of Baimbridge to achieve that. I look forward to seeing that in the first year’s budget for this 59th Parliament of Victoria, and I look forward to seeing that project progress and making sure that Baimbridge is given the school that their students and future students deserve. We also had some other really important commitments that will help to support and develop growth in our region—whether it was around an increased investment for Coleraine police station and Hamilton police station or whether it was around refurbishment and rebuilding of a section of Willaura hospital in the east of the electorate. We also put forward some great funding for a water play and splash park for Horsham. This is a great commitment of just over $2 million and it may not have won me any votes from any adults—maybe a few grandparents and parents—but I think if I am still standing for Parliament at about the time that today’s 6 to 10-year-olds are ready to vote then hopefully we will have that done by then and I will be able to collect on that future investment of putting in a water play and splash park. A really important commitment that I would like to see continue to be developed was an interesting concept around developing the Wimmera River in Horsham to build a conference centre and a coffee shop or a restaurant. We have got this amazing feature of our local landscape, the Wimmera River, and there is not one place where you can have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine along it. We are halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne. We have got the beautiful Grampians National Park on our doorstep and we do not have anywhere we can have a cuppa on the river. This is a great opportunity for our region. It really captured the hearts and minds of my community when I put this idea forward and already two private investors have come forward, so this is something we need to just get going on. It is not a lot of money that the council needs to look at master planning in that area and doing some consultation in the community to work out what exactly we need for that region, but it is something I hope this government will assist to support the growth and development in our local region. There were other great announcements that support our community, around unlocking commercial land and building the Stony Creek Bridge in Halls Gap, and new clubrooms and a community pavilion at Nhill’s Davis Park—and can I at this point just recognise and thank the marvellous late Glenn Meek for his amazing commitment to Nhill and to that park and making it amazing. If there is no other reason we need to get Nhill’s Davis Park upgraded, let us do it in memory of Glenn, because gee, he was a good fella and it is awful that we have lost him. Whether it is about the refurbishment of Longerenong College’s agribusiness centre or whether it is stage 2 of the Hamilton CFA-EMV airbase, we need all of these things in my electorate. We also made a great commitment to fix country roads and save country lives. Let us look at building better roads and look at being smarter about how we build roads which are actually made to stand the test of time and be built to last through the type of transport that we have in our region. Let us bring back passenger rail to Horsham and Hamilton. We are the only electorate in Victoria that does not have any passenger rail services whatsoever. We do have the Overland train. There is a constant question mark about it and it is more of a tourist train but there are people, particularly in the west of my electorate, who rely on the Overland to commute to medical appointments in Melbourne. I really would like to see a huge investment in how we can have better connectivity between our part of the state and those bigger centres, whether Ballarat or through to Melbourne. We need to be connected and we deserve better around that. We also had good announcements around how we can provide better connections, particularly around enhancing reimbursement rates for the Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme. I think that was very important. It is something that I get a lot of complaints around, just the sheer expense of having to go to medical appointments out of town. We need to look at how we can get decent policy to support people in country areas. It is different to being in the city. We need to see an extension to the kangaroo pet food trial——and in fact it should be made permanent. We need to see a change of heart from the Andrews Labor government around the centralised government banking concept, where any government body has to centralise their funds in a Westpac bank account in Sydney. It is hitting our community banks particularly hard, and our communities are losing an enormous amount of funding as a result of this banking decision. There is the management of native vegetation and the locking up of our national parks, and the ridiculous decision to shut down rock climbing in the Grampians, which is just absolutely crazy and needs to be reversed. There is a pathway we can take where we can respect the environment, we can respect local Indigenous history and sites of cultural significance and we can support our amazing tourism industry and small businesses which rely on rock climbing. We have so many opportunities here, but I do want to see one thing from the Andrews Labor government. We live a successful life beyond Melbourne. We may be a long way away, but we should not be forgotten. I urge the Andrews Labor government to put us first at some point in time.

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