Karen McNamara was first elected as the Liberal member for Dobell at the 2013 federal election.
McNamara replaced the scandal-plagued Craig Thomson who had represented the seat for the ALP since 2007.
Dobell is an electorate north of Sydney which includes areas of Wyong Shire, Hawkesbury Shire and Gosford City Council. Major towns in the electorate includes Bateau Bay, Berkeley Vale, Blue Haven, Matcham, Mount Elliot, Ourimbah, The Entrance, Warnervale, Wyoming, Wyong, the Yarramalong Valley and parts of Erina Heights, Gorokan, Holgate, Lisarow, Kulnura, Narara, Niagara Park and Wamberal.
This is McNamara’s first speech to the House of Representatives.
- Listen to McNamara’s speech (26m)
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Hansard transcript of Karen McNamara’s maiden speech to the House of Representatives.
Mrs McNAMARA (Dobell) (11:04): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. As I rise to speak on this occasion as the member for Dobell, I sincerely thank the electors of Dobell for this opportunity and I acknowledge the honour and privilege bestowed upon me. To represent the people of Dobell is an honour, as I am only the fourth person, second Liberal and first female in the seat’s history to have been given this esteemed privilege. To my constituents, my pledge to you is: I honour my commitment to represent you with integrity and conviction and I will be your strong voice at the table of government.
Dobell is situated on the New South Wales Central Coast and is named after the Australian artist William Dobell. Bound by the Pacific Ocean in the east, Dobell covers an area of approximately 775 square kilometres, which includes the main commercial townships of The Entrance, Tuggerah and Wyong. The electorate is a network of towns that have been linked in recent years by expanding suburban development. Stretching from Blue Haven in the north to Wyoming and Wamberal in the south, from The Entrance in the east through to the Yarramalong and Dooralong Valleys in the west, the electorate of Dobell is a popular tourist and retiree destination. I note that Madam Speaker has come into the chamber. Madam Speaker, I congratulate you on your election to the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives and I thank you in your capacity as the member for MacKellar for the support and assistance you afforded me during the election campaign. Over the last decade, Dobell has also become a popular residential area for young families, due to relative home and land affordability.
Dobell has a rich and colourful history. Prior to European settlement, the area was home to the Guringai and Darkinjung people, and I acknowledge and respect their kinship with the land and environment. It is believed the area was first discovered by Europeans in 1796, when the governor of Tasmania, Colonel David Collins, came across Tuggerah Lakes during the search for an escaped convict, the infamous Molly Morgan. Early European settlement occurred at Wyoming, when in 1824 Frederick Hely purchased land, adjacent to Narara Reserve. Hely named the land after reading a poem about the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania. The US state of Wyoming was named many, many years later than Dobell’s Wyoming.
A notable resident of Dobell was Edward Hargraves from Noraville, a gold prospector who is credited with starting the first Australian gold rush in 1851. Hargraves’ lasting legacy to the electorate is not his reputation as a gold prospector, his legacy is the Norah Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse was the last significant lighthouse built in New South Wales, completed in 1903 with monetary assistance and much lobbying from Hargraves. Over the years the lighthouse guided mariners as they made the dangerous voyage between Sydney and Newcastle. Unfortunately, not all have been saved. The coast of Dobell witnessed the tragedy of war, with the sinking of two merchant vessels, the Nimbin and the Iron Chieftain, one struck by a German mine and the other torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Today the Norah Head lighthouse remains an iconic image of our community, its beacon symbolising the shining light of hope for the people of Dobell.
Dobell is an electorate of contrast—contrast between the natural beauty of coastal and mountain terrain, contrast between aspirational Australians and those less fortunate. The people of Dobell represent the foundation upon which the Liberal Party was established. When Sir Robert Menzies spoke of the forgotten people in his famous 1942 speech, the middle class of 1942 he referred to remains today the foundation of our great nation. They are the backbone of Dobell.
After six years of lack of formal representation in Dobell, the people of Dobell became the forgotten people. Now that Dobell has been brought back into the Liberal fold, I am determined as the member to see my electorate placed back on the map for all the right reasons.
I acknowledge the previous Liberal member for Dobell, Ken Ticehurst, and thank Ken for his service to the Dobell community. The coalition government and Liberal representation will return pride to our community, a community we have much to be proud of, a community deserving of credibility and respect, a community deserving of opportunity and investment.
I do not and will not underestimate the challenge ahead as the member for Dobell. My dreams and aspirations are no different to those of many people living in my electorate. We want stable jobs that provide meaningful work that allows us to take out long-term investments in our homes and in our future. We want the same for our children. A stronger economy is the key to almost everything we wish for as a community. It means more jobs, higher wages, better services and ultimately a stronger and more cohesive community.
I want to see Dobell prosper. I want to see a region that offers increased local employment and attracts quality investment opportunities, a region home to a vibrant and healthy community, well supported and connected through coordinated services and infrastructure. With an anticipated population growth in our region of an additional 100,000 people by 2031, the greatest challenge for my electorate is to create approximately 45,000 new local job opportunities. Unfortunately, we currently fall well short on providing the employment choices demanded by our broader population, with approximately 38,000 commuters leaving the region on a daily basis to seek work in other regions.
I am all too aware of the tremendous burden placed on the majority of our working population, which has to commute, spending on average five hours travelling to and from work daily. I understand and have firsthand experience of the social and economic pressure this places on the many commuting households of Dobell. My two sons, Kevin and Cameron, face the reality that they may have to either commute or move to Sydney to find employment. My children are no different to the other tens of thousands of young people on the Central Coast. I know what this means to families, for parents to want jobs for their children and for parents to want to work closer to their children during the day. Unfortunately, we face considerable challenges addressing these needs. With a daily exodus of commuters, I acknowledge the need for our region to develop sustainable jobs within strong industries, be it tourism, manufacturing or otherwise.
On current figures, our region’s unemployment rate is well above the national average. While this alone is cause for concern, it is when you place the search for employment into the broader picture that the true level of challenges are realised. As a government, our responsibility to the people of Dobell is to adopt policy that encourages prosperity, not withholds it, and to invest in the electorate wisely, consistent with the values and needs of our constituents. The only real and lasting way to strengthen the Dobell economy is to develop more opportunities for residents to work.
Small business is the engine room of the Central Coast economy. Collectively, small business is the largest employer on the Central Coast. Dobell has 3,980 employing businesses. Only 24 of these businesses employ more than 200 people. This not only highlights our dependence on small business as an employment generator; it exposes our risk within a fragile economy. We cannot have a strong and healthy society without a strong economy to sustain it, and we would not have a strong economy without profitable businesses.
Government does not create jobs; government does not produce wealth. Business creates jobs; business produces wealth. My experience in developing and implementing compliance programs for a government regulator provided me with firsthand knowledge of the impact of regulation and cost of compliance on business. To the small business operators of Dobell, I acknowledge your hard work and the sacrifice that each of you make. I have listened to you when you have told me that, in order to grow, to become more productive and ultimately to create more job opportunities, you need assistance by reducing regulatory burden.
Red and green tape is choking the life out of the engine room of our economy. I welcome Her Excellency the Governor-General’s encouragement of the government’s intention to cut red tape costs on businesses and community groups by $1 billion a year. I welcome the government’s commitment to repeal the carbon tax and mining tax.
I want to see Dobell become the place of choice for attracting new businesses by providing vibrant and growing centres. I recognise the need for new centres, such as the Warnervale Town Centre, and the revitalisation of The Entrance, which will provide new business opportunities, local jobs and housing for the region’s growing population.
When we talk about providing local jobs, the reality is that we cannot always provide the dream job for people in Dobell. Therefore, we must ensure that the commute is safe and easy and that we reduce travel times. A vital piece of economic infrastructure to reduce travel times is the M1 to M2 link. I am proud that the coalition government will build the missing M1 to M2 link.
We all want jobs for our families; we want to be able to provide hope, reward and opportunity to our children, siblings, nieces and nephews. We owe it to the young people of Dobell to plan for future skills. Our full-time unemployment rate for young people alarmingly exceeds the national average. Being a parent of two young men and having spoken to many families in the same situation, it is clear to me that our electorate lacks the necessary opportunities to retain our young workforce. Our region unfortunately experiences a high migration of our 19- to 29-year-olds seeking opportunity outside the region. The decision of our young people to relocate is never made lightly. The inevitable exodus means that we lose tomorrow’s workforce and future leaders to metropolitan areas, where there are substantially more opportunities. For many of our young people, access to higher education remains a substantial barrier to employment. In Dobell only 50 per cent of secondary students obtain year 12 qualifications and only 14 per cent of people aged 17 to 22 are currently participating in higher education. There is no instant fix.
I recognise the importance of working closely with local education and employment providers to identify at-risk youth, to provide them with pathways to increase both educational outcomes and employment opportunities. It is crucial that we adopt a coordinated approach to delivering government funding and programs that are geared towards addressing these issues.
In Dobell there are many organisations striving to assist young people to complete their education, identifying further training opportunities, including apprenticeship and trainee programs, and often simply instilling belief in a young person that they can have a prosperous future. I support the partnering with businesses and training organisations to develop quality training options linked to employment opportunities.
My commitment to provide opportunity to our young people is demonstrated in the government’s investment in the development of the local youth skills and employment centres at Tuggerah and Wyong. These facilities and effective programs will lead to greater training opportunities and future local job creation, resulting in a local highly skilled workforce.
With substantial growth forecast in the north of my electorate, it is vitally important we start planning for our children’s educational future today. I believe every child is entitled to access quality education. I support improving academic standards to provide young people with the education they need to succeed. However, higher standards will mean absolutely nothing unless we provide our tertiary institutions, schools and students with the resources and the support necessary to meet their needs. The quality of education our children receive is directly related to the quality of support for teachers and schools. I will fight to invest more resources in schools and live up to the promise of education reform, including provision of adequate resources to meet requirements for special-needs students to ensure children with disabilities receive the support and services they require.
We are blessed in Dobell with a beautiful natural environment which attracts thousands of tourists each year. For many years the Central Coast was a popular weekend holiday destination for Sydneysiders seeking a short break away from home. Today our tourism embodies the struggles we face as a region. Tourism underpins our small-business economy, with many businesses solely reliant on the warmer summer months to provide an income to last them all year. The township of The Entrance remains our prime tourist destination, hosting events such as the country music festival and Chromefest. However, these events are not enough to sustain our local economy throughout the year. It is therefore important that we promote our best asset—our natural environment.
Promotion of Tuggerah Lakes is crucial to our fledgling tourism industry; unfortunately, rapid urban development has impacted on the quality of this valuable natural resource. This is why I am committed to ensuring the restoration of the lakes to their former natural glory through securing funding for vital restoration works.
Dobell is home to the most beautiful beaches in New South Wales, which are the No. 1 drawcard for tourists to our region over the summer months. Ensuring the safety of the many beachgoers are the men and women of Surf Life Saving Central Coast, who risk their lives season after season ensuring safety on our beaches. I am proud to support Surf Life Saving Central Coast and to congratulate them on 75 years of service to our community.
Whilst renowned for its natural beauty, Dobell is home to a strong sporting community that many other regions would be envious of. The people of Dobell have a passion for sport which is evidenced in the many outstanding achievements of our sports men and women. I acknowledge the importance of voluntary effort and voluntary organisations and commend the many Dobell sporting clubs and volunteers for their commitment and dedication in providing opportunity to the thousands of registered players who participate across the electorate in their chosen sport.
Through my association with my local community, I am proud to have actively supported sporting community groups, such as the Warnervale Rugby Club, in establishing opportunities for young people in the Warnervale area. I also acknowledge and recognise the importance of the provision of quality sporting venues and benefits of sports tourism. I am committed to ensuring that Dobell will emerge as the sports tourism capital of New South Wales. Our election commitment to commence crucial land acquisition and planning studies for the Central Coast Regional Sporting and Recreational Complex at Tuggerah will lead to the development of a premier sports facility on the Central Coast.
As a Liberal, I believe in Australia, its people and its future. I believe in what the Liberal Party represents, in its values, in its beliefs and that good government is based on the individual and that each person’s ability, dignity, freedom and responsibility must be honoured and recognised. My strong belief in these values is the reason I joined the Liberal Party. I am proud to be recognised as a Liberal in my community.
My family and I are proud to be part of the Dobell community, a community we have called home for nearly 15 years, a community that welcomed us when we, like so many other families, relocated to the Central Coast to provide our children a healthy and affordable lifestyle.
I was 10 years old when I arrived in Australia with my parents and brother Hugh. Never in my wildest dreams as a child growing up in north-east England would I have envisaged that, one day, I would hold the honour of being an elected member of the Australian parliament. Australian citizenship afforded me with opportunity, opportunity I will always honour and respect.
I grew up in Emu Plains, which back in the mid-1970s was as far west as you could go. It was an idyllic childhood, spending summers swinging off Tarzan ropes across the Nepean River. It was a childhood without responsibility or care. When it came time to leave school after completing year 12 I, like so many of my generation, had a choice: you left school on the Friday and commenced work with either a bank or the Public Service on the Monday. How times have changed. I joined the Public Service.
I am proud of my career with the Public Service. It is a service that taught me the values of discipline, transparency and accountability. The role of public servants should never be understated: we are solicitors, accountants, managers and policy experts. During my career I held senior management roles in various New South Wales government departments, roles and experiences that have equipped me well for the position I now hold, the highest form of public service one can aspire to: member of the Australian parliament.
Early in my career I realised the importance of tertiary education. I thank my good friend Denis Shultz for his support in encouraging me to study law. Law is a discipline that has served me well. My first legal position was as a litigation officer with the State Rail Authority of New South Wales. It was a role that, whilst fulfilling, taught me humility and empathy, as I spent many hours preparing coronial briefs and assisting before the Coroner’s Court of New South Wales. A highlight of my career with the State Rail Authority was my appointment as a senior officer. It was in this role, as an area manager with Trackfast, that I met my husband, John, to whom I owe so much. He has stood beside me throughout this journey, supporting me and encouraging me to believe in myself. To my wonderful husband: I thank you for your eternal optimism, support and encouragement.
In the mid-1990s John and I returned to the UK with our young family. During this time, raising two young sons in London and Edinburgh, not a day went by when I did not think about Australia and look forward to returning to Australian shores. The experience of residing overseas made me more appreciative of this beautiful nation and great democracy of ours. It is a nation that affords opportunity to all, without prejudice of class, education or gender. Australia is truly the lucky country and we should never take this great nation of ours for granted.
I am sincerely grateful to my parents for the wise decision they made to emigrate to Australia. It was a decision made in search of a better future and opportunity, a decision that made me who I am today.
In life we are presented with different roads to follow and we encounter many detours along the way. One road I chose, the road of politics, definitely presented many detours and, if drawing an analogy to the roads in Dobell, there were plenty of potholes.
Before I acknowledge those who provided their support to the Dobell campaign, I would like to pay tribute to a good friend and Liberal colleague Lisa Maree, who, sadly, passed away prior to the election campaign. Lisa Maree was not only a friend and colleague, she was a valued member of the Dobell community. Lisa Maree: our achievements in Dobell are for you.
Without the support and friendship of many I would not be here today, and to you all I am eternally grateful. To my wonderful family—my husband John and son Kevin, who are in the gallery today, and son Cameron, who is in London representing New South Wales Country Rugby Union—thank you for your unconditional love and support. Thank you to my parents, Hugh and Jane, who taught me self-reliance and self-responsibility. To my best friend Karen and her husband Tony: thank you for your friendship and support. Thank you to Teena McQueen for her entertaining campaign style and critique and to Aileen Wiessner for her friendship and wise counsel.
Our result in Dobell and achievement of the second-highest swing in New South Wales would not have been possible without the assistance of many. While the list is long and time does not permit me to list everyone, to each and every one of you: I sincerely thank you from my heart. You know who you are and the contribution you made to a better Dobell.
While I am indebted to the hundreds of people who assisted in the campaign, I wish to acknowledge those who were with me every day of our 18-month campaign. My sincere thanks to my campaign manager, Luke Nayna, whose birthday it is today, and to Susan and Brian Elliott, Andrew Gregory, and Tracey and Brian Perrem, who gave so much of their time to assist in doorknocking over 22,000 homes, assist at street stalls and stand with me greeting commuters at 5.30 am. My sincere thanks to Brian Loughnane, Mark Neeham and the team at New South Wales state secretariat. Thank you to the members of the Dobell FEC branches, Terrigal branch, Mackellar FEC, the Young Liberals and former member for Robertson the Hon. Jim Lloyd. I acknowledge the support from my state parliamentary and Wyong Shire colleagues and thank them for their assistance. Thank you to Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who provided support, friendship and encouragement, and to Senator Arthur Sinodinos, a true champion of the Central Coast, who provided hours of support, guidance and commitment throughout the campaign. My sincere thanks to the Prime Minister for his support and for placing his trust in me. And thank you to the many now government ministers and to former Prime Minister John Howard for sharing my vision for Dobell and belief in the people of Dobell.
A wise man once said, ‘There is no limit to what Australia can achieve.’ I conclude by congratulating and thanking the individuals who were not fazed by the challenge of Dobell and believed there was and is no limit to what we can achieve in Dobell.