Jason Falinski, the Liberal member for Mackellar, has delivered his maiden speech to the House of Representatives.
Falinski, 46, replaces Bronwyn Bishop, who represented the electorate for 22 years from 1994. He defeated Bishop in a preselection contest earlier this year.
In the 1990s, Falinski was President of the Young Liberals. He served for four years from 2008 on the Warringah Council. He worked as an adviser to John Hewson and Barry O’Farrell, and was a spokesman for the Australian Republican Movement. He is a former chief executive of CareWell Health.
Mackellar is a safe Liberal seat on Sydney’s north shore. It covers an area from Palm Beach to Dee Why and Duffy Forest. It includes suburbs such as Avalon, Beacon Hill, Clareville, Collaroy, Dee Why, Frenchs Forest, Ku-Ring Gai Chase, Mona Vale and Narrabeen. Created in 1949, it has only ever had Liberal members. Falinski is the fourth member to hold the seat in just 66 years.
Falinski polled 51.17% of the primary vote, a loss of 11.26% over the 2013 result. On a two-party-preferred basis, he polled 65.74% a pro-Labor swing of 3.10%.
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Hansard transcript of Jason Falinski’s maiden speech.
The SPEAKER (12:46): Before I call the honourable member for Mackellar, I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s first speech and I ask the House to extend to him the usual courtesies.
Mr FALINSKI (Mackellar) (12:47): It is an honour to stand here before you today representing the people of Mackellar. The Northern Beaches of Sydney are my home and the only community I have ever wanted to represent. The story of how I came to be here is not uncommon, yet it represents everything I love, everything I admire and everything I hope for Australia’s future.
The son of a Polish migrant who fled communist oppression in 1957, my father came to Australia as a young man. His father, my grandfather, had fled Poland when the Nazis invaded. Returning to his home after the war, he changed his name to avoid discrimination. He met his wife, my grandmother, in the USSR. She was recovering from the Siege of Leningrad. When my grandparents looked to flee the old world of ancient grudge to a new world of hope and opportunity, they chose Australia. There is little that I can say or do to repay my gratitude for their choice. They were Polish Jews half a world away from anything they had ever known. They arrived here with nothing—no assets, no income, no connections. With the promise of a better life sustaining her, my grandmother spent her nights screwing caps on toothpaste tubes, often coming home with bleeding fingers. My father sold encyclopaedias door-to-door so he could learn English faster. Unfortunately, most of what he learned he could not use, and none can be repeated here.
Meanwhile, on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, my mother’s parents—an Irish Catholic and an English Protestant—were getting married, overcoming a divide of history and tradition, religion and upbringing at a time when in other parts of this world Catholics and Protestants were still at war. It is remarkable that two people from such improbably different backgrounds would meet. But the most remarkable part is that in Australia it is not that remarkable at all. In Mackellar, as in too few parts of this world, I, a child of all those nations, all those cultures and all those religions, grew up to stand here before you today to represent every single member of my community who in their own way contributed to making this a great nation.
As anyone who has started their own business from the ground up will tell you, it is the most frustrating, engrossing, stress-inducing, yet strangely satisfying thing you can do. It was when I started my own business at the age of 34 that I understood what governments should truly be about. I dreamed of creating beautiful furniture and equipment and a business that would employ people. Importantly, I dreamed of a business that would enrich and improve the lives of those in aged care. It is my most fundamental belief that a government’s role is to enable—not create, not dictate, but enable—all of us to reach our full potential. A good government should enable individuals to thrive. It should enable businesses to flourish. It should enable communities to prosper. Instead, over the years, successive governments have heaped program upon initiative upon program upon us, creating a thicket of regulations whose purposes no-one can any longer remember.
Governments should do less, but what they do do, they should do better. Liberals have never believed in a world of no government, just the dangers of unlimited government. No government of a free people has ever had to build a wall to keep its citizens in. I believe in a world of limited government—a world in which the government gets out of the way and in which it encourages and allows companies and industries to adapt to the future, to innovate and to push the boundaries in order to remain competitive. In that world, governments too should remain nimble and flexible in their governance. Start-ups change the world, but we do not know which ones will succeed. What we do know is that if they are to fail it is best that they fail fast. So should we admit defeat and change tack if the laws we pass and the regulatory burdens we impose on others do not achieve their intended purpose.
Seeped into the history of my family’s journey to Australia is a yearning for freedom: freedom of individuality, freedom to associate, freedom of self-expression and freedom for self-realisation—none of the freedoms offered in a totalitarian Communist regime but all of the freedoms found in Australia. I believe the cornerstone of these freedoms to be free markets.
Take the fight against global poverty. After four decades of government-sponsored programs we had hardly moved the needle. Within two decades of opening up markets, trade lifted billions of people out of poverty—more than in the rest of human history combined. It has reduced inequality and conflict, brought us closer, improved education and human rights and reduced discrimination, especially against women. As Thomas Friedman pointed out, in the history of the world no two nations with a McDonald’s have ever gone to war with each other!
But we cannot expect people who have not benefited from this change to welcome it. Globalisation has hurt those with easily-transferable skills in developed countries. And while some will say that Australia was not competitive in manufacturing and that these jobs were always destined to move elsewhere, I wonder what our reaction will be when globalisation starts to impact professions such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and nurses? Government’s response to date has been firstly to erect tariff walls to avoid the inevitable and then to bail out failing companies—many of which were owned by overseas parent companies to begin with—and then finally to provide welfare payments to the unemployed. No wonder many of our fellow Australians feel like victims of forces beyond their control.
If I were to stand here and suggest to you that we need to implement a program that takes our most vulnerable and puts them into a system that will reduce their lifespan, education and health; increases their likelihood of teenage pregnancy and family breakdown; and subjects them to it increased incidence of violence and crime, and that entrenches this outcome from one generation to the next you would query my state of mind. Yet in too many parts of the world this is what the welfare system achieves.
I, like my fellow Liberals, believe that welfare reform is about saving lives, not saving money. So why is reform so hard? More money does not save more lives and less money does not save fewer lives. In education we have increased spending, yet outcomes have not improved. We need to stop fighting globalisation and dedicate ourselves to giving our fellow citizens the tools they need to thrive.
The greatest tool we can give them is education. As my father’s family had to learn the ways of Australia and adapt to a foreign environment, so too should we adapt to the challenges of an increasingly rapidly-changing world. Educational institutions in other countries, like Germany, Switzerland and Singapore, and places like Silicon Valley, are an important part of their economies’ ability to adapt and innovate. They have proven critical to ensuring that German manufacturing remains cutting edge and does not become a producer of commodity goods. It is through policy innovation that other countries have been able to improve their educational outcomes. In the United States and the United Kingdom, charter schools are experimenting with different ways to educate the most socioeconomically disadvantaged because they know that if effective it will be education that lifts the disadvantaged out of the cycle of poverty—not handouts.
But bespoke solutions require us to trust people on the ground to figure out how best to tailor solutions to their community’s needs. Some experiments will fail but, more importantly, some will succeed. And those successes will achieve far greater outcomes than we can ever imagine.
It was my father who taught me that life without failure is a life half lived. He spent over 10 years building Osborne Computer Corporation into the largest manufacturer of PCs in Australia. After one of their biggest clients failed to pay their bills on time cashflow became stressed and the bank refused to extend a loan. The business went into voluntary administration and the bank took our family home. It was a devastating loss. It had the potential to destroy our lives; it could have robbed us of our identities and our sense of self. But that is not how we chose to see it—that is not how we decided to live it. Without risk there is no entrepreneurship—there is no progress. I do not have the answers to the problems of the future, but we will experiment, we will make mistakes and we will learn. And, ultimately, we shall succeed.
As we sit here today, the overwhelming majority of Australians suffer from crippling traffic congestion. Across the nation 40 per cent of our road capacity is underused. Every year we carry the burden of $6 billion in avoidable road congestion, and these figures are rising. Yet groundbreaking advancements like driverless cars are no longer science fiction. They are a reality of our lifetime. They will mean more time with family and friends, improved access to employment and might even make the most expensive real estate in the world more affordable.
When it comes to energy production in this country, our systems and infrastructure are outdated. We generate energy too far away from those who use it and use our grid too inefficiently, and consumers and the environment are bearing the cost. Leaps in household battery technology, the deployment of smart-grid initiatives and energy-saving devices are already changing how and where we source our energy from.
These changes are not dreams or figments of my imagination, they are happening now. And they are challenging perceived wisdom in industry after industry. The question before us is: what technology will wither and which will prosper? The good news is that we do not have to decide—the market will decide for us. Friedman’s analogy has never been more apt: in a democracy you get the breakfast cereal that 51 per cent of people want. In a free market you get the one you want!
Free markets are not about money; they create fundamental social benefits. They empower the individual and turn our most selfish traits into public good. They civilise us all. Markets ensure that the only way to fulfil our needs is to fulfil the needs of others. A free market fosters accountability. A business owner is accountable to his employees and his customers, just as a parent is accountable for the education of their child. And so a politician is accountable to their community—I am accountable to you. To the many family members, friends and supporters who have brought me here, to the overwhelming majority of Australians who contribute to our collective representative system of government, to the constituents of the modern and dynamic Northern Beaches: I am accountable to you. I will account for how I spend your money. I will account for how I make the decisions that affect you. I will be held accountable for continuously striving to do better. I will explore possibilities and create opportunities for you, for your children, for our today and for your tomorrow.
To this day, my home of Mackellar has only been represented by three members. The first was Billy Wentworth, who, before many others, spoke of and demanded opportunity for the first Australians. The second was Jim Carlton, who brought an intellectual rigour to this parliament and what it means to be a Liberal. Jim recently passed away, but not before he had made a further contribution to public life as the head of Red Cross; The third was Bronwyn Bishop, whose dedication to this parliament and the Liberal cause will not soon be forgotten.
The Northern Beaches of Sydney is in urgent need of transport infrastructure. Three of the seven most congested roads in Australia serve Mackellar—and, for that matter, Warringah. The value-sharing model that has been proposed by Ministers Fletcher, Constance and Stokes promises to free up billions of dollars to build the infrastructure we need. It takes the average person in Mackellar nearly two hours a day just to travel to and from work. This must change. We need greater road bandwidth and more options, like a metro. We need the NBN, and we need it now. This vital piece of infrastructure that the Turnbull government is rolling out will bring jobs to the area and allow more people to telecommute.
Mum and dad remain grateful to the people who supported them along their journey. I too will never forget those who have stood by me. Few of us come to be here by accident; for most of us, there was a lot of work, support and understanding from others. To Pat and Allana Daley and Jose and Isobel Menano-Peres, who sustained me throughout those long four years that I sat on council: thank you. To Michael and Bronwen Regan, Helen Wilkins, Christina Kirsch, Rik Hart and Julie Sutton—or, as she prefers to be called, Granny Sutton: thank you for your friendship. To Stephen and Elizabeth Choularton, David and Karin Hand, John and Angie Beale—who ensured the campaign was not homeless—Stu Cameron and Ant Gleeson: you more than any others know what it is like. To the three wisest men I know in Pittwater—Jim Longley, Ross Barlow and Rob Stokes: I thank you.
But I do owe more to Rob Stokes’ wife, Sophie, for she introduced me to my wife Nichola. I will repeat what many have said here before me: the sacrifice we make is nothing compared with that made by our families and our loved ones. Sweetheart, you have been my bedrock, my north star and the better angel of my nature. Your fierce conscience means that ‘you will never go gentle into the night’. You have also given me the greatest gift of all. When Zara-Jean was asked by the Governor-General how old she was, she told him that she was seven and promptly asked him how old he was! ZJ, always stay curious. It is because of you that I persevere and keep fighting for a better world. They say that it takes a village to raise a child. I can confirm that it is a pretty big village! I would like to thank the most excellent Alison Brent, who runs Zara’s school; her teachers, Rebecca Williment, Katherine Slattery and Natasha Zivanavic; and her netball coach, Susan Cook. To Jenny Stokes and Michelle Quinn, who look after Zara when Nichola and I can’t be there: thank you.
Hubert Humphrey lamented that ‘every time he went to West Virginia he kept running into Kennedys’. I imagine some of the other candidates in Mackellar were feeling the same by the end of the election. From my mother and father to my uncles and aunts; to all my brothers and sisters, including their children, Ted and Penny; and even to my self-adopted ones, Vanessa and Zac: thank you. I have bad news for those who are thinking of running in three years time: my brother, Nick, and his wife, Leigh, have just welcomed Hugh into the world. Not to be outdone, Nichola’s side of the family may be smaller in numbers, but they cast very long shadows. Simone and Mark, Chloe and Ellie, Darrel and Therese, Helen and Barry, Marguerite and John: thank you.
They say in politics that if you need a friend you should get a dog. I have never needed a dog—I have Andrew Constance! As a minister, Andrew set up the sale of poles and wires, in various ways, and most famously pointed out that the very same unions who opposed it happened to own a privatised water company in England and even a privatised electricity asset in China. With Dominic Perrottet, he has recycled endless amounts of capital to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in New South Wales. Andrew was the lead minister who ensured that New South Wales was the first state to reform the taxi industry in over two centuries. His example is one I hope to replicate. To his team of Chris Muir, Ryan Bloxsom, Russell King, Barb Williams, Adam Achterstraat, Dom Cuscheri and Josh Murphy: thank you.
I was barely pre-selected when the Prime Minister called an election. Tony Abbott, you threw me a lifebuoy. You gave me support, guidance and, frankly, reassurance I did not even know I needed. To Nick Greiner, who inspired me to get involved: thank you. To John Emmett, Chaddy and Nick Johnson, Vicki McGahey, Alan Clarke, Wendy Starkie, Kate Raggatt, Tina and Geoff Hodgkinson, Michael and Dorothy Highland—who I know would have preferred to be sailing—Sarah Cruickshank, Leon Beswick, Natalie Ward, Alex Calvo, Audrey Harpur and Deb Wiltshire: thank you for the long days you put in. To Rory Amon and Kristina Cimino: thank you for the faith you showed from the very beginning. To Alex Briggs and Warren Wardell, who braved bus stops at 6 am: thank you. To Matthew Koder, my old friend; Adam Schofield, my even older friend; Roger Masey-Green; Rick Lee; and the many others I do not have time to mention here, who supported us when it mattered most: my deepest gratitude.
In standing here today, in this place, I have cause to reflect on Tennyson’s words at the end of Ulysses:
Though much is taken, much abides, and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Mr Speaker, Australia’s best days are ahead of us, for no other reason than that we have so much to hope for and so little to fear. Thank you.