MS LAWDER (Brindabella): I seek leave of the Assembly to make my inaugural speech.
MADAM SPEAKER: I wish to remind members that as this is Ms Lawder's inaugural speech and as is the convention in all parliaments, she will be heard in respectful silence.
MS LAWDER: It is a great honour and a privilege to be elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly and I must, first and foremost, thank the people of Brindabella for the faith they have placed in me.
I come to the Assembly via a path less trodden, that of filling a casual vacancy. However, I am in good company here. I am joined by Minister Barr, Dr Bourke and Minister Corbell, who also began their time in the same way.
Winning on a count back means that the hard work of those who worked on my campaign still paid off—better late than never. So, as is traditional, I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to all those who worked on my campaign so tirelessly last year: my family, friends, and my campaign manager, the fantastic Mitchell Clout. Thank you. To the divisional office of the Canberra Liberals, the Women's Council and members of the southern electorate branch, thank you for your countless hours of support.
I must make special mention of my husband, Peter, my second campaign manager, who was and is so supportive of my endeavours in all areas of life. Peter managed to incorporate a myriad of campaign tasks, including letterboxing, all the while training for the Kokoda Trail, and of course his emotional support was invaluable to me.
I would not have achieved those vital eight votes without the help of any of those people. I must mention at this point the hard working, community-spirited Val Jeffery, who missed out on this spot by such a narrow margin. I cannot speak highly enough of his dedication and long-term service to his community.
My evolution to the Legislative Assembly has been determined by my environment, experience and family, and I would like to give a snapshot of those today. I came to Canberra at the end of 1988. Back then, Lake Tuggeranong was empty, and the Tuggeranong Hyperdome had only just opened. Lanyon valley was unpopulated and you took a packed lunch to go to Tharwa. Now it is a very different story. Suburbia reaches right up to the edges of Lanyon Homestead, and Tharwa seems just down the road—well, almost.
1988 was a fascinating time to arrive in Canberra because it was also the year of self-government in the ACT. I watched on during this time with interest and some amusement at the campaigns of the "no self-government"parties, which then got into government, as well as other entertaining parties such as the Sun-Ripened Warm Tomato Party and the Party! Party! Party! Party. It made for an interesting introduction to the capital.
Prior to coming to Canberra, I had lived in most other states and territories of Australia, as well as some overseas locations. We moved a lot when I was a child because my father was serving our country as a member of the Australian Defence Force. But of all the places I have lived, I chose to stay here in Canberra and bring up my family.
My husband, Peter, and I have five grown children between us, all now with their own families living in Brindabella, and proud to call Canberra our home. My mail has been delivered to Oxley, Gowrie, Chisholm and now Fadden. So I have lived solely in the electorate of Brindabella my entire time since moving to the ACT.
This is also well and truly home to my husband, Peter, who was born and bred in Canberra. His parents came to Australia from Europe after World War II as refugees and were given the option of working on a pineapple farm in Queensland or in the nation's capital as kitchen staff, and this is where they ended up. Once they arrived here, they realised that Canberra in the late 1940s was quite a different place to the capital cities they had known in Europe.
My parents, Oxley and Joan Gordon-Brown, taught me about hard work, living within your means, caring for others, giving back to the community and that you should never be afraid of trying something new. My parents are here today to see their youngest child sworn in to the ACT Legislative Assembly. My parents were strong believers in education as a way to get ahead in life. In following this lead, I completed my undergraduate degree at the ANU, like many of my colleagues here. I later went on to complete a masters degree.
Being brought up by a working mother meant working outside the home was second nature to me. While this was reasonably commonplace amongst women of my era, there is no question that I have been subjected to sexism in the workplace in my time. This has done nothing but spur me on to try to achieve more and ensure that I am the best person for the job.
I am very, very proud of my beautiful children, Catherine and Alex, and their partners; of my stepchildren, Damien, Shane and Amanda, and their partners; and of my collection of nine grandchildren, for whom I want to ensure that Canberra remains the best place in Australia to live. In fact I am delighted to announce that it will soon become 10 grandchildren.
I want also to acknowledge my brother and sister, who are here today. Growing up, my siblings taught me about sharing, about not sharing, about tolerance and about unity. They were also pivotal in a life lesson nearly 11 years ago that first prompted my move to work in the community sector.
But let me state that the community sector is not my only experience or interest. I have been privileged to work in a range of different areas, including science and technology, tourism, tax, transport, health, defence and financial services, in addition to disability and homelessness, through my work over many years in the private sector, the Australian public service and the not-for-profit sector.
Many people talk to me about what a beautiful place Canberra is to live, and I agree wholeheartedly with them. But Canberra is more than just a location or another city; it is our nation's capital and, as such, it is a set of values. It is about having hope for the future and ensuring that we, the members of the Legislative Assembly, set in place the mechanisms to best ensure that future.
I want Canberra in the future to be a dynamic, vibrant city where all of our children and grandchildren will be able to find jobs and create new business opportunities, to have the best possible health care and education system, to have a stable economy and affordable housing with a reasonable cost of living, to have excellent amenities in the built environment while still being responsible caretakers of the beautiful natural environment which surrounds our city.
In working towards this vision for Canberra, I want a Canberra that is accessible and inclusive of everyone. This includes people with disability, the aged, visitors, migrants, tourists, those on low incomes, those on high incomes—in fact, everyone from all walks of life. I want a city and a territory with a real sense of community and connectedness. I want us to build on our pride in our city and take on bigger and better things, not just as the hub of our region but as our nation's capital. This is what I want for Canberra, and we have a way to go.
Many of you know that immediately prior to my election to the Legislative Assembly I worked at a national peak body for homelessness. And it is fitting to talk about homelessness today because this week is national Homeless Persons Week. It pains me greatly to say that the ACT has the second worst rate of homelessness in Australia, second only to the Northern Territory. Amongst this appalling statistic there is some good news in that a great number of people experiencing homelessness in Canberra receive support from specialist homelessness services, but we must do more and do better on ending and preventing homelessness. We need to address the structural causes.
Homelessness can be triggered by poverty, mental illness, family and relationship breakdown, substance misuse, and one of the great scourges of our modern society, domestic and family violence. But also here in Canberra a major factor which can contribute to homelessness is the lack of affordable housing.
Housing is the single greatest cost of living expense for households. It is more than rates, more than utilities, food or transport. The median price of established house transfers in Canberra in 2002 was $275,000. Within 10 years this had virtually doubled to $530,000. According to the Australians for affordable housing campaign, childcare workers, electricians, accountants, hospitality workers, school teachers and many other occupations in Canberra are in housing stress, meaning that they have to spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing costs. And cleaners, delivery drivers, checkout operators and many other occupations are considered to be in housing crisis, spending more than 50 per cent of their income on housing.
While we need to improve the supply of affordable housing, we should also be mindful of enabling people to age in place. New homes should be built using universal design principles so that they can be easily adapted to ensure and enable accessibility. This will make it possible for people to stay in their homes longer. This is especially important as the ACT's population is expected to continue to age, with the percentage aged 65 years and older predicted to increase from approximately 10 per cent in 2007 to 14.3 per cent by 2019.
Australia has one of the worst unemployment rates in the OECD for people with disability—21st out of 29 countries. A recent PwC report found that people with disability in Australia are half as likely to be employed as people without a disability. The rate of employment of people with disability in the federal public service in 2012 was 1.7 per cent, and in the ACT public service 2.5 per cent. Both these figures are a substantial drop for the rates of employment of people with disability in the public service compared to 10 years ago. We are going backwards in this regard, and we need to improve.
I am proud of my work over the past five years as a member of the National People with Disabilities and Carer Council. Having played a very small part in the introduction of DisabilityCare Australia, I am pleased with the steps that have been taken, but there is still so much more to do. While offering choice, control and dignity to people with disability, there are still many challenges remaining in the rollout of DisabilityCare Australia, not least here in the ACT as it approaches its pilot.
Accessibility in housing, transport, information, telecommunications and other areas benefits everyone—older people, mothers and fathers with prams, people with literacy challenges, people with a temporary infirmity due to injury or illness and, of course, people with disability, their carers, family and friends. For example, if people with disability cannot get to school or work, they will continue to fall further behind even with an NDIS.
During the election campaign last year many people I met told me they wanted a focus back on the basics, the three Rs—roads, rates and rubbish. We need to be constantly vigilant about delivering excellence in these basic services. It should include fixing the issues we have which surround the lack of parking and the inability of the public transport system to meet the needs of large numbers of Canberrans to get to work. Parking, roads and public transport are key areas we must continue to focus on. So based on what I hear from Canberrans I would like to add a "P"to the three Rs—for parking. Remember that—three Rs and a P.
Although Canberra benefits enormously from the public service hub we have here, we can recover from the swings and roundabouts of public service cuts, as we have shown in the past. Indeed, over the past few years there have been constant cuts to the public service, yet our housing market remains strong. We do need to acknowledge that the public service is not the only game in town, and consciously be supportive of other ventures.
Canberra has a high business insolvency rate and the lowest business survival rate of any Australian state or territory. Small business in Canberra, just like other towns and cities across Australia, remains a vital part of our economy and we must reduce red tape and support businesses of all shapes and sizes to keep our economy moving.
Canberrans have the right to expect the best possible health care. This is another area we need to improve on. While we spend vast amounts of money on our hospital system, it is clear there is still a lot of work to be done, including on the emergency department waiting times. I have family members and friends who work at the hospital and I know that each and every one of them gives their best possible efforts to provide quality care. It is not those staff on the ground, but more systemic bureaucratic and process areas that we need to focus on to improve waiting times in the emergency department and the health system as a whole.
I also believe in advancing the rights of Canberrans in the gay and lesbian community, a number of whom I am proud to count as my friends. However, I believe that marriage equality is a federal issue, and not something that should be progressed through the Legislative Assembly.
I am a liberal in the traditional small "l"liberal sense of believing in the individual, their rights and their enterprise. I strongly believe in freedom of choice, personal effort and responsibility and reward for hard work.
Labor would like to have us think that they are the party to best represent the community sector, especially in the disability and homelessness areas. I am here to disprove that. I care deeply about my community—local sporting groups, businesses, tourist attractions, community groups and especially those who are most disadvantaged and excluded. Over time I have come to see the economic growth and stability of our Liberal approach as the best way to achieve this. Without growth and stability, you cannot deliver the greatest benefit to the wider community.
I close by once again acknowledging my family, especially my husband, Peter. Many of the things I have done and achieved would not have been possible without the unwavering support of my friends, the love of my family and their honest feedback. I look forward to the rest of my term, to working with my colleagues in the Assembly and representing the people of Brindabella in this place. I look forward to working towards a better Canberra for all of us.