Eric Hutchinson was first elected as the Liberal member for Lyons at the federal election of 2013.
Hutchinson defeated Dick Adams who had held the seat for 20 years from 1993. Previously, the seat had been held for the Liberals by Max Burr, first as Wilmot from 1975 and then Lyons from 1984. Prior to Burr, the seat was held for the ALP by Gil Duthie from 1946 until 1975.
Lyons is the largest electorate in Tasmania, covering most of the State from the central highlands in the west to the east coasts and from Beaconsfield township in the north to New Norfolk and the Tasman Peninsula region in the south. Other main towns include Bridgewater, Brighton, Campbell Town, Deloraine, Dodges Ferry, Evandale, Exeter, Gagebrook, Longford, Midway Point, Perth, St Helens, Sheffield, Sorell and Westbury.
This is Hutchinson’s maiden speech to the House of Representatives.
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Hansard transcript of Eric Hutchinson’s maiden speech to the House of Representatives.
Mr HUTCHINSON (Lyons) (16:30): I rise to support the motion moved last month by my colleague the member for Bass. I also join the chorus, Madam Speaker, in formally recognising your appointment to such high office, and I thank you personally for the support you gave me during the 2010 election campaign in Lyons.
Madam Speaker, I would like to tell you a story about how I came to be in this place. I was born and bred in Tasmania. My late father, David, a Launceston GP for many years, came to Tasmania as a ‘ten pound prisoner of mother England’. For years thereafter his mother back in the UK proudly told her friends that her David was living and working in Africa! My great-great-great-great-grandfather Richard Humphreys is an ancestor of some note. In 1788 he defeated the ‘Bath Butcher’ at Newmarket, in front of a crowd that included the Prince of Wales, to become the all-England boxing champion. He used the purse to purchase the Red Lion in York. He later trained and also defeated the great Mendoza. The artist of some note, John Hoppner, was commissioned to paint his portrait, which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
My mother, Mary, along with my brother Philip, and my sisters, Rachel and Jane, are here today. My brother Richard passed away many years ago. Mum’s family on both sides go back six generations in Tasmania. Joseph Cordell on my maternal grandfather’s side was a pilot on the Tamar River after arriving in Tasmania prior to 1820. He was once held at gunpoint by Matthew Brady, the bushranger. Cordell Point is still marked on navigation charts of the river today.
Another ancestor was Alexander Gill, who purchased land near Scottsdale in north-eastern Tasmania. Gill married Susannah, a granddaughter of William Abel, who had arrived in Sydney Town in 1792 as a convict. He had been convicted of stealing children’s clothing. He arrived in Elizabeth Town, now New Norfolk—via Norfolk Island—as a free man, and was granted 34 acres of land on the banks of the Derwent River. He built the King’s Head Inn, which was licensed in 1822 and remains as the oldest continually inhabited building in Australia on what is now Valleyfield.
I was educated at the Launceston Church Grammar School but, through no fault of my excellent teachers, was reasonably described as ‘having potential but lacking application to the academic task’. Having spent a year working on a farming property near Ouse in southern Tasmania, I was encouraged to further my studies at the Gordon in Geelong—at the time the pre-eminent place to study wool and textile design in Australia. It is great to see Peter and Wendy McDonald—friends made during my time in Geelong—here today. From college, I accepted a position with a Japanese commodity trading business in Melbourne within its wool division.
The wool exporting and trading business was a wonderful place to gain a perspective of markets and to appreciate how hard it is to make a dollar buying and selling a volatile agricultural commodity. This role took me around Australia to wool sales, and overseas. Working with customers in Europe, Japan, China and Korea gave me a better appreciation of what a great country Australia really is. I first visited China in 1988, and the Shanghai I saw is unrecognisable today. More than 20 visits to Japan over 30 years has given me a good understanding of that country’s culture, and I am proud to call many business colleagues good friends today.
The corporates have pretty well left the wool textile industry. With a few exceptions, it is medium and small Australian owned and operated businesses that fund the purchase and export of $3 billion worth of raw material annually. To quote the very quotable Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson, I have ‘maximum respect’ for all they do every day to put money in the pockets of Australian wool growers. Companies like AME, Techwool, Fox and Lillie, Williams Wool and Lempriere are the unsung heroes of the Australian wool trade.
I first sought pre-selection for the Liberal Party to contest the federal seat of Lyons at the 2010 election. This was done after a conversation with Peter Homann, my general manager at the time in Hobart, who when asked what he would think if I were considering standing for parliament responded, ‘I can’t think of any reason why you would want to, but if you feel you must we will back you.’ To Roberts and Ruralco Holdings, for whom I worked for 16 years, I say thank you for the opportunity and flexibility you provided me during the past five years.
Soon after that pre-selection, I had a discussion with former member for Lyons Mr Max Burr. Max won the seat of Wilmot in 1975. Wilmot was renamed Lyons in 1984 in honour of both former Prime Minister Sir Joseph Lyons and his wife Dame Enid Lyons, a senator for Tasmania and notably the first female to take on a cabinet role in the Menzies government. Joe Lyons was the first person—and is still the only person—to have been both a state premier and Prime Minister. Lyons is truly the seat of equality in this sense. Max Burr held the seat for 18 years until his retirement in 1993. He defeated the Reverend Gil Duthie who had held the seat since 1946, when he had defeated the sitting member, a former Labor man, turned United Party, turned Liberal, Mr Allan Guy, at the federal election of September 1946.
I recall Max saying, ‘It will take you 18 months to touch Lyons.’ With the benefit of hindsight—and just for the record—can I suggest that Max was about half right. It took three years of repeat visits to the many small communities around the electorate, and to start seeing people for a second or third occasion, until they realised I was serious about being their representative.
The 7 September election saw the defeat of Mr Dick Adams, who had held the seat for 20 years since 1993. I formally recognise the contributions Dick Adams made on behalf of the people of Lyons during his time as the member for this large and diverse electorate.
Lyons is a conglomeration of small and very small communities in an electorate that encompasses almost 50 per cent of the island state. The electorate includes the communities of Exeter, Beaconsfield and Greens Beach north of Launceston along the West Tamar. It touches the north coast at Port Sorell and includes the highly productive red soil agricultural regions around Moriarty and Sassafras in the north west. West is the township of Sheffield, well known for not only the annual mural festival but also the stunning views of Mount Roland. Further west, via Wilmot, is the iconic Cradle Mountain. The Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair area was formally reserved in 1922 after considerable efforts over many years by residents Gustav and Kate Weindorfer. The reserve became a national park in 1971 and then became part of Tasmania’s large World Heritage estate in 1982.
Further south, the township of New Norfolk in the Derwent Valley is a service town for the agricultural and remaining forestry activity in the surrounding area. New Norfolk has a deep soul, and many locals still have close and personal connections to the historically significant Willow Court, which was for many years Tasmania’s institutional psychiatric asylum. The buildings, which pre-date Port Arthur, are some of the oldest in the nation. It is a national disgrace that such significant architectural and social history is being neglected.
Heading south-east, the electorate takes in Hobart’s northern suburb of Bridgewater, the towns of Brighton and Campania in the southern Midlands, and Midway Point and Sorell east of Hobart. It is worth noting that a trip at midnight from Sorell to central Hobart takes 15 minutes, but heading into the city in the morning or returning home can take 90 minutes due to traffic congestion on the Pittwater causeway. You can well understand the frustration and concern of local residents. Poor access as a result of inadequate road infrastructure is limiting the ability for council to release more affordable land for residential development.
South of Sorell is the dramatically beautiful Tasman Peninsula, home of the iconic Port Arthur historic site. Along with Woolmers Estate in the northern Midlands, Port Arthur is a man-made World Heritage listed site in the electorate.
The peninsula town of Dunalley and surrounding communities were devastated in the January bushfires earlier this year. It was at this time and in adversity that the generosity of so many Tasmanians was once again evident for all to see. To the firefighters, police and other emergency volunteers: I am honoured to have this opportunity today to acknowledge the selfless acts of bravery and commitment shown at this time. I also thank the now Prime Minister for taking the time to visit the region so soon after the fires and listen to the local community. The discussions with local business operators and a subsequent announcement to support not only those physically impacted by natural disasters but also small businesses economically stressed as a result of such events were indeed welcomed.
There is so much on offer throughout the electorate of Lyons. Natural beauty abounds, with the fine east coast examples of Maria Island, the Freycinet Peninsula and the Bay of Fires. Tourism is a vital industry in this part of the electorate, but its seasonal nature presents challenges for local communities to retain young people. Too many young people are leaving Tasmania.
The fishing, forestry and rural service town of St Helens is the largest community on the east coast, and I look forward to working with the local council to address air, sea and road access issues for this remote part of Tasmania during my time in this parliament.
Heading west over the Ben Lomond National Park and along the Fingal Valley, and we are back in the heart of the Tasmanian Midlands. The communities of Campbell Town, Ross and Oatlands have been supported in no small part by the wool industry for nearly 200 years. The Australian merino sheep flock can trace much of its heritage back to the Winton property, the No. 1 registered stud in Australia. Personally, it has been a real pleasure since returning to Tasmania in 1997 to have worked closely with many of the farming families in this part of the world over many years buying, selling and value-adding their amazing product.
The northern Midlands towns of Evandale, Perth and Longford are important service communities for the many and varied agricultural businesses in this productive part of Tasmania. Further north is the beautiful Meander valley with a proud history in forestry and agriculture supporting the communities of Westbury and Deloraine. The important Tasmanian alkaloids poppy-processing facility is located at Westbury. The electorate touches Launceston at Youngtown and Riverside before I arrive back where I started this tour, in the Tamar valley at Rosevears.
Tasmania is indeed diverse. The lakes of the central highlands provide the island state with abundant hydro-generated electricity and some of the world’s best trout fishing. Thirteen per cent of Australia’s rain falls on the one per cent of landmass that is our island state. In addition to hydropower generation, the highland lakes are also increasingly a source of secure irrigation water for agriculture. Delivering reliable water by underground pipes, with minimal pumping, generating energy along the journey, to the driest parts of the state is simply smart. It will transform the agricultural diversity and productive capacity of traditional grazing land. With bipartisan political support in this instance and significant private contributions, Tasmania has been quietly transforming one of the important economic drivers in the state, agriculture.
I stand in this place today because the people of regional Tasmania, in particular, wanted change. My new colleagues the amigos from Bass and Braddon join me in wanting never to take for granted the responsibility and trust placed in us. For the sake of posterity I want to reflect on why the seat of Lyons swung so heavily—by almost 14 per cent—at the election. The people of Lyons choose carefully; my election is only the third time since World War II that they have changed their federal representative. It is certainly not because the candidate twice preselected by the Liberal Party was an intellectual giant or an orator of compelling attraction—far from it in fact.
Tasmanians want to get back on the economic bus after too many years of being left waiting by a Labor Party that no longer stand for anything other than holding on to power, whatever the cost. Their partners, the Greens, are pulling the strings, hell bent on seeing Tasmania de-industrialised, further locked up in some misguided notion of utopia. In reality we are creating the potential for an inferno of colossal proportions. Lyons is the engine room of the greatest state in the greatest nation on earth. There are simply too many clever and innovative people that live in our amazing state to contemplate continuing on the current course. We are truly the Eden of the lucky country, and we are all committed to restarting the engine in this amazing part of Australia.
Today I am offering what some might call insider trading but I am calling sound advice: get on board! Take another look at Tasmania as a place to invest, a place to live, a place to achieve, because we are on the cusp of something big. Where else in the world do you have abundant water, productive soils and a climate that allows the commercial production of such a variety of agricultural products, including dairy, cherries, apples, apricots, pears, vegetables, hops, nuts, wasabi, buckwheat, canola, lettuce, lamb, pork, beef, poultry, poppies and the best merino wool in the world?
The very best sparkling wines produced in Australia all source their grapes from regional Tasmania, and we are fast becoming the global benchmark for pinot noir. While everyone in this place has heard of Boags and Cascade, let me suggest it will not be too long before breweries such as Moo Brew, Two Metre Tall, Seven Sheds, Ironhouse and Van Dieman become just as familiar. Our clean water is also being used to produce whisky that is catching the eye of the Scots. Names such as Lark, Nant and Hellyer will be recognised globally in years to come.
Off the coast and in the clean water of the rivers and streams, aquaculture is starting to boom. The highest quality salmon and perhaps the world’s very best ocean trout are reared in Lyons and grown out in my friend and colleague the member for Braddon’s electorate, as he pointed out. We grow oysters, mussels and abalone in Lyons.
The announcement during the election of a $38 million commitment to upgrade the Hobart airport will put the ‘international’ back into its title. The $16 million worth of support for the Cadbury factory to start supplying a new chocolate product to be exported into China, with milk produced in Tasmania, will be a boost for both local manufacturing and tourism.
We have, in Australia, the very best managed wild fisheries in the world, and I pay tribute to the dedicated and committed scientists that research and help manage quotas in Australian waters. To see these talented men and women having to defend their lifetime’s work against attacks from sectional, so-called experts fuelled by an often ill-informed media was tragic, matched only by the way in which the former government dealt with our friends and neighbours in Indonesia in banning live cattle exports.
And forestry—oh yes, forestry. Guess what, Madam Speaker? We are really good at growing trees in Tasmania. There is not enough time allocated in this debate to fully address the subject. Suffice to say that, like all agricultural crops, it must be managed! Tasmanian Aborigines managed the land with fire. Yet, with Labor under a Green thumb, we are going down a path of putting more and more of Tasmania into reserves. True conservationists in Europe and North America are watching with amazement at what is going on in Tasmania.
In the past six months, we have added more forests to the World Heritage estate—apparently a ‘minor boundary adjustment’—but with no local consultation and against the advice of their own advisory bodies. These forests have been working forests for over 160 years, forests that have been harvested and regrown in some cases three times—not pristine wilderness as the Greens would have you believe. But, in the cruellest of twists, these forests are now considered suitable for locking up and the key being thrown away, never again to generate wealth in the many small communities that were built around this renewable and respected resource.
Tasmanians are tired of being used as the environmental conscience for inner city Sydney and Melbourne Greens. For the benefit of my city based colleagues: Tasmania is blessed with a magnificent reserve system—something, as Australians, we should all be rightly proud of. In fact, nearly 50 per cent of Tasmania is in national park, World Heritage or formal reserves. We are doing our bit! I should know, as I have been a keen bushwalker all my life. My first introduction to the places that make my state so special was thanks to my father, David, and this interest continued through school. I still enjoy the annual trip to new places off the beaten track, with mates from school—good mates, who have been friends since school. Some of them are here today. Richard Gardner, Michael Hirst, Tim Gunn, Richard Gibson and I have stood on top of the Western Arthurs, Eldon Bluff, Mt Geryon, High Dome, Perrins Bluff and the much maligned and rarely climbed Mt Nereus. I am not a man of strong faith, but it is in these places that I feel I can better understand in a spiritual sense the joy of what it means to be human—but I digress. The point is that Tasmania has sold off or, more correctly, given away so much of the farm that we can no longer pay the bills. Enough, quite frankly, is enough.
About 30 per cent of Tasmanians depend on some form of government payment. It is right to support those least able to support themselves in a wealthy country like ours, but, with an ageing population, this is only going to increase. Another 45 per cent are employed directly by state or federal agencies or are in businesses entirely dependent on government contracts. With the retail and service sector accounting for another 15 per cent, less than 10 per cent of Tasmanians work in industries that make products or grow food or fibre to generate wealth. Government lives off taxes from what others earn, but too many Tasmanians have incomes and lifestyles that are decoupled from whether or not the Tasmanian economy is doing well or contracting. As things stand, we are unable to pay our way—and it simply must change. I intend to do my very best to help make this happen.
The opportunity for Tasmania and, no doubt, other regions dependent on agriculture is to retain a greater share of the value of their product locally. We have capacity in the innovative and productive human capital we always have had, as we have needed to be innovative on an island. We have the climate and water to grow far more agricultural produce than we can ever consume locally with such a small population. But, importantly, we are truly blessed with an energy resource that is renewable, is world class and can be grown and diversified.
Heavy industry such as Bell Bay Aluminium, Nyrstar and Norske Skog set up in Tasmania because we had, as was advertised in the 1930s, ‘abundant and cheap electricity’. But it was mutually beneficial, because to invest in such a major hydroelectric generation scheme we needed a baseload user of power. These are really important industries to Tasmania in a diverse economy.
We should always be prepared to consider rationally any investment proposal, be it big or small. Tasmania cannot afford to keep saying no. The future for Tasmania lies with its innovative and resilient people. It is about diversifying and growing the economy, not transitioning, as our Premier and her Green cabinet ministers like to suggest. It is about growing the Tasmanian economy in the areas where we have natural competitive advantages. With abundant water, it is food and fibre production. It is energy from both our hydro resource and bio-energy—the solid sunlight that is stored in the renewable and productive forests all around Tasmania. It means smarter investments in education. It means getting the settings right in a national curriculum, investing in teacher quality. It means more principal autonomy. And it means greater involvement from parents and community in our most important of institutions for our most important assets, our children. Finally, it is about using our smartest and brightest people at the University of Tasmania to build on the smarter investments in schools and to encourage more Tasmanians to consider taking a course at UTAS. Peer acknowledged UTAS is the best teaching university in Australia; it is also in the top nine research universities in the country. How many young Tasmanians know this, I wonder?
To do research requires fee-paying students from other countries. This is a good thing and is a boost to the local economy of $400 million annually. Offering the right courses and the right accommodation options is the key to attracting these students, which then allows more disadvantaged local students to have supported places.
UTAS offers a massive online open course—a MOOC—in dementia that has had 9,500 enrolments, with a 47 per cent completion result. That is the second highest completion rate of any such MOOC in the world. As a result, 370 students have then gone on to complete the online fee-paying Bachelor of Dementia Care course.
A personal challenge for me is the unacceptable prevalence of children being raised in families where, for two or more generations, no one has experienced or understood the importance of paid employment. Governments of all persuasions have failed these children for too long and we need to find a way to break this insidious cycle of dependency. In no way am I judging these people, least of all the children of these families. Rather, it is an indictment on all of us in this wealthy country that we allow this to continue.
Next year is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. For many, the words on this ancient document may seem strange in our modem world. This ‘secular miracle’—as described so eloquently by Daniel Hannon, a conservative member of the European parliament—in essence describes the freedom of all people in our system of government under ‘the law of the land’, so that we as free men can be judged only by our peers, and that the people stand above the government.
As I mentioned to the students of the Mole Creek Primary School when they visited this place, Parliament House sits in the hill not on the hill. We are the servants of the people who put us here. Freedom, however, comes with responsibility. I welcome the commitment, given during the election campaign, to review the competition laws in Australia, particularly in respect of secondary boycott provisions and how they apply differently to ENGOs compared to unions and businesses under section 45 of the act.
Madam Speaker, I know I have had a lot to talk about—enough already, I hear them cry!—but, sincerely, there is a lot to talk about as the new government works to reset the course of our great nation, and this new member stands up for the aspirations of Tasmania. The people of Lyons have put their trust in me. I say thank you to the good people of this great electorate, that is in the greatest state of the best country on earth, for giving me a chance. It is a chance that I will grab with both hands. With all my ability, I will serve your best interests always.
I would not be here without support given to me from so many people throughout the past five years. At the risk of leaving people out, my sincere thanks go to: members of the Tasmanian division of the Liberal Party of Australia, our state director Sam McQuestin, state president Geoff Page and state parliamentary leader Will Hodgman. I thank you for your continued support.
To my campaign committees for both the 2010 and 2013 campaigns: Jane Wardlaw, Roslyn Burr, Richard Chugg, Guy Barnett, Sarah Courtney, David Houghton, Steve Henty and Denise Fletcher, I say thank you. I say thank you to my Tasmanian Senate colleagues: Eric Abetz, Stephen Parry, Richard Colbeck and David Bushby. They are all passionate Tasmanians.
To the now ministers and colleagues that made their way into the far-flung corners of Tasmania to support me in what must have seemed like a forlorn endeavour, I say thank you. In particular, I acknowledge Greg Hunt for his regular support and encouragement. To my staff—Denise, Sharna, Alison, Bonnie and Matt—thank you for what you have already done and for joining me on this journey.
I say thank you to my wife Amanda and my two fantastic boys David and John, who are here today. I love you all dearly. Amanda runs a small business. She employees four staff in a regional community. She is a wonderful mum. She is the glue that binds—the rock. She is the centre of our family. Many times I have endured the glances of disbelief when introducing my wife to strangers for the first time. I have endured the ‘Gosh, he is punching above his weight,’ or ‘How on heaven’s earth did he …’ You get the picture. I am indeed a very lucky man. Madam Speaker, I thank you for your indulgence and I support the motion before the House.