This is the maiden speech to the House of Representatives by the Liberal member for Ryan, Julian Simmonds.
Simmonds was most recently a Brisbane City councillor. He was elected in 2010, 2012 and 2016.
In 2018, Simmonds defeated the previous member for Ryan, Jane Prentice, in a preselection contest. He reportedly won 256 votes to 103 for Prentice.
The electorate of Ryan has existed since 1949. It is named after a former Labor premier of Queensland. The electorate includes part of the Brisbane City Council area and part of the Moreton Bay Regional Council.
Simmonds won 56.03% of the two-party-preferred vote in Ryan, a swing against the Liberal National Party of 2.95%. He polled 48.61% of the primary vote, a loss of 3.51%. The ALP polled 24.43% of the primary vote, an increase of 1.46%. The Greens polled 20.35%, an increase of 1.59%.
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Hansard transcript of maiden speech to the House of Representatives by Julian Simmonds, Liberal member for Ryan.
Consideration resumed of the motion:
That the following Address in Reply to the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament—
The SPEAKER: Before I call the honourable member for Ryan, I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s first speech, and I ask the House extend to him the usual courtesies.
Mr SIMMONDS (Ryan) (15:39): Thank you, very much, Mr Speaker. On the banks of the Brisbane River, in the heart of the Ryan electorate, stands Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Australia’s first and largest koala sanctuary. It’s a place that is familiar to thousands of Brisbane families, and for tens of thousands of international tourists a year it’s their introduction to Australia and our iconic marsupial. During the 2011 Brisbane flood, it was also a place where the local community rallied at a time of great devastation. Last Australia Day, though, surrounded by tables loaded with lamingtons, and with a local choir belting out I Still Call Australia Home, it’s the place where I had the privilege as a Brisbane City councillor to induct almost 50 new Australian citizens.
I know that most of the members in this House will have participated in similar ceremonies at some time, so you will understand the excitement of the candidates and their unabashed love for their new homeland. During my nine years as a Brisbane City councillor I loved the deep connections I forged with my community, but no duty gave me more pleasure than those ceremonies. The candidates for citizenship had all come to Australia for different reasons—work; family; after great hardship—but all were expressive in their desire to give something back to a community that had embraced them and which had already given them so much.
I think this is a fitting analogy for the excitement that I feel today. I am excited to be inducted into this place so that I can have the opportunity to give something back to the local community and the nation that I love, which has given my family so very much. It is a fitting display of the values that I am in this place to protect: a strong community made up of resilient families, whatever form those families take; a preparedness to roll up your sleeves, to support and serve your fellow residents; a willingness to work hard and make a positive impact for your community and your nation; and effective infrastructure, and that means both physical and social infrastructure that binds our communities together. If there is to be a single measure of the success of my time in this chamber, I intend it to be my contribution to ensuring that these values and institutions are strengthened. If I can help ensure that more Australians have the opportunity, as I have had, to be supported and fulfilled by a strong community, a secure family and a faith in their nation, then I will have made a worthwhile contribution.
I’ve lived my whole life in the Ryan electorate. It’s where I grew up, where I went to school and university, where I got my first job, where I work. It’s where I met my wife, where my son was born and baptised, and where I am now raising my own young family. It has grounded me and has shaped me, as I hope now to have a role in shaping it. It is home to some remarkable institutions, seats of great learning and innovation like the University of Queensland at St Lucia, considered to be in the world’s top 50; places of great service to our nation, including the Gallipoli Barracks at Enoggera, home of the mighty 7th Brigade; training grounds for individual effort, like the John Carew Swim School at Chapel Hill, the nursery of some of our best Olympic swimmers; and places of extraordinary natural beauty, including Queensland’s premier botanic gardens at Mount Coot-tha. And, of course, it’s been home to the traditional custodians, the Jagera and Turrbal people, for millennia, and I pay my respects to their elders, past and present.
Like any community Ryan has its challenges, and like most urban communities many of those challenges revolve around population growth and its associated social impacts. You don’t grow from pineapple farms to housing estates in just a few decades without feeling those impacts. To have a connected and functional community you need infrastructure that can deliver families homes sooner and safer. You need roads that don’t clog and reach capacity just because families are travelling to sport on a Saturday morning.
As a local councillor I helped ensure council delivered new infrastructure, including congestion-busting intersection upgrades, bikeway missing links, new buses and upgraded ferry terminals. As Brisbane’s youngest-ever Treasurer I was able to balance record infrastructure expenditure while reducing Brisbane’s debt by 47 per cent, in part by recycling capital out of large projects. The Brisbane City Council continues to do more than its fair share of investing in vital infrastructure.
In contrast, the Queensland government’s infrastructure funding over the forward estimates, as a share of total expenditure, sits at just 11.5 per cent, down on the decade average, and this means that motorists spend more time in traffic and less time with their families. As an example, Moggill Road, in the heart of the Ryan electorate, is No.1 in Queensland on the Australian Infrastructure Audit report for delay costs; $1.45 million is being lost due to time delays on every kilometre of that corridor every year.
I was delighted that the Morrison government committed a record $100 billion to ambitious infrastructure projects across Australia—in particular that the Treasurer quadrupled the funds to reduce urban road congestion from $1 billion to $4 billion. Projects that reduce urban congestion allow the taxpayer the most bang for their buck. Too often politicians are drawn to funding business case after business case in the hope of finding a big ticket, nation-defining silver bullet for infrastructure woes, yet tackling local projects with price tags of $10 million to $100 million in local communities would mean far more to the lives of Australian families.
I know that building a road is not an end in itself, but building a road builds a more connected community and it gets people home sooner to spend more time with their families. The SEQ city deal, which is currently being negotiated, is a unique opportunity to put this concept into practice. Particularly with such a large council as Brisbane, we can leverage federal funds and combine with local authorities to get much needed congestion-busting projects off the back burner and get them built.
Of course, it’s not just the issues and places that make up a community but the people within. The beating heart of the Ryan electorate is its 39,162 families, including my own. I have been blessed to have grown up in a strong and close-knit family unit—a family where my grandmother, Gabrielle, had a formative impact on us seven young grandchildren. Growing up under the rationing of World War II, she is the reason, much to my wife’s disgust, I can never bring myself to throw anything out! She taught me to have empathy for those who took positions that upset me. She taught me that, if something is worth doing, it’s worth the hard work to do it well, and that everyone must roll up their sleeves and join in supporting their community. Lessons like these, so central to our nation’s health and prosperity, can only be given by a family unit whose love is unconditional.
When John Howard described the family as ‘the stabilising and cohering unit of our society’, he understood that, while it is a truism, it is certainly not a forgone conclusion. That’s why he devoted so much of his government’s time and energy to supporting Australian families to be resilient. Since then, families have come under a range of new and increased pressures. The proportion of family households is declining. In 1986, just after I was born, families made up 77 per cent of Australia’s households, but by 2016 this was down to just over 70 per cent. Over this same period, the number of single-person households increased to 24 per cent, or essentially a quarter of the nation’s households. That ‘cohering unit of our society’ is under siege from every direction. We live in a world so interconnected that it is almost impossible to turn off and just be present. Kids can be bullied online in their own room while parents are less than 10 feet away, and families are finding disagreement harder to manage in a world where social media trains us to be outraged at everything. So we need to step up our efforts to support family units, whatever their makeup. They play such a central role in shaping the health and wellbeing of all immediate family members. We cannot allow more and more people to be alone and disconnected in this way.
I will be passionate and vocal in this place as we seek to tackle the many challenges that bedevil and chip away at families, including the cost-of-living pressures, domestic violence, bullying, isolation and relationship breakdowns.
My family is one of the lucky ones. My mum, Nanette, and Dad, Brett, who are in the gallery today, share a passion for their family and an ambition for their children. My success and that of my brother, Edward, and sister, Annabel, owes so much to their loving household and guiding hands. Like so many Australians, they used the well-worn but treacherous path of small business to ensure that their children were given every chance to succeed.
But to run a small business is to make sacrifices. Early on, Dad worked extra jobs to keep money coming in, before the shop turned over enough that he could start drawing a wage. Many a childhood picture has me playing on the floor of the shop as customers dodged my toys to reach the counter. With so many people using small business as a way to give their families a leg up, we must be ruthless in our dedication to ensuring that their individual efforts, their sacrifice, are supported. Whether it’s through tax cuts, IR reform or reducing power prices, I will be working to ensure that small business, and its inevitable connection with the family, remains at the heart of this government’s efforts.
This brings me to my wonderful wife, Madeline. She is the strongest person I know, fierce in protecting our family and my most trusted counsel. She is the reason I am in this place.
In the LNP values, which I hold so dear, we enshrined the principle that family is the indispensable forum where children are raised and nurtured, and the foundation of resilient communities and a cohesive society. But, for many, starting a family is not as straightforward as this would suggest. One in six couples struggle with infertility and miscarriage. Starting a family was a hell of a fight for Maddy and me, as it is for other families. It was an intensely private battle that spanned almost a decade—a battle that takes relationships right to the brink and back again. But to acknowledge it publicly is to discover suddenly that this is not a path you walk alone, that so many of your friends and contemporaries are also struggling with it. I look forward to using the opportunity this role affords me to support causes and initiatives that help couples through this heartbreaking battle, not just to improve the efficacy and availability of treatments related to IVF but also to support other ways families can come together, like foster care and adoption.
Despite those trials, though, we have our beautiful boy, Theodore, who is just two years old. Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, I thought I might speak directly to him for a moment. Theo, you won’t remember being here today, but I’d like to think you’ll read this speech in 10, 20 or even 50 years time to better understand your dad. The irony isn’t lost on me that my speech is about communities, families and being better connected, because I know that by the time you read this it is certain that this job will have meant we missed out on a lot of time together—on a lot of special moments and even on a lot of ordinary moments as well. I want you to know that the choice of a career in public life was not one your mum and I took lightly. We understand that every moment I miss with you will be a small cut to our family, and we know that all those little cuts will leave scars on our hearts. But, rather than lament, I trust that you’ll grasp the reason I went into politics in the first place, that I had to be in the fight to ensure that you grew up in a community and a nation that was the very best version of itself, and, given that our family—your family—was blessed with so very much, it was incumbent on us to roll up our sleeves and play our small part in helping facilitate similar opportunities for other families.
We need to talk about the challenges of declining service in our community. The historical trends in volunteering are that more people are volunteering but for less time, and it’s uneven. Volunteering in sport has grown, but community service has declined. As a local councillor, I saw the life-changing effects of the electorate of Ryan’s service groups up close. I started groups myself, like the Indooroopilly Men’s Shed. I saw firsthand how this group prevented individuals from slipping into loneliness and isolation that might otherwise have seen them lost from society. With so many traditional service organisations in our community, like Rotary and Lions, struggling with ageing and declining memberships, it is time for the federal government to look hard at how we can better support service in our community.
Funding for our local community organisations is a good start, but I believe we need to think about how we as a nation rebuild the ebbing belief that we have a broader duty to our communities and our fellow citizens, because it’s not gone. You don’t have to scratch the surface in the Ryan electorate very hard to find examples of good Samaritans, great neighbours who will go out of their way to help their fellow human beings. Brisbane’s ‘Mud Army’ after the 2011 flood springs immediately to mind.
But in this increasingly time-poor, disconnected world it’s harder to find the everyday version of that story. I don’t profess to have the answers. But, just as building a stronger and more resilient community has been the hallmark of my life as a councillor, so too will it be a priority for me in this place.
Of course, almost all of us come to this place because of our involvement in a community organisation—a political party. I joined the Liberal party, and now the LNP, in 2003, and I have never wavered. It has given me opportunities to serve my community, for which I am forever grateful, and has allowed me to live my values of individual responsibility for your own circumstance and for your own community. Robert Menzies observed:
… the greatest element in a strong people is a fierce independence of spirit. This is the only real freedom …
And with it, he said, comes ‘a brave acceptance of unclouded individual responsibility’. Put more succinctly by another great leader of our party: ‘If you have a go, you get a go.’
I always assume that people I meet are keen to get a go, that they are as ambitious for their family and their community as I am ambitious for mine. Ambition for our nation, our electorate and for ourselves to exert positive change is what ensures that this parliament does not stagnate or lack new perspectives. And I feel a genuine energy as a member of this fresh Morrison government. With the injection of so many new members, I see a generational shift that, with hard work, will allow us to deliver on the ambition that the quiet Australians have for our nation.
I want to record my deep appreciation for the many people who put their own lives on hold to help me. For all these people to whom untold appreciation is owed, words can never be enough. So it is through tireless effort every day that I vow to repay your faith in me.
Thank you to my previous staff, who have assisted me in this journey, including Matt Adams, Kirsti Schwartz, Justine Froud, Sara Humphries, Caitlin Bales, Hannah Williams, Matt Tapsall, Chris Kelly, Lucy Smith, Gemma Long and Athena Brunt.
Thank you to my political mentors, Jane Prentice, Graham Quirk and Adrian Schrinner, for the opportunity to learn at your side.
Thank you to the wise heads who have encouraged me along the way, including Bernie Mack, Leigh Warren, Fraser Stephens, Scott Emerson, Malcolm Cole, Mark Brodie, Tim Forrester, Damien Cavalluci, John Cotter, Vu Nguyen, Will Griffin, Geoff McIntyre, Margaret deWit and Ann McKenzie.
Thank you to my campaign team, especially my awesome campaign director and wife, Maddy; for the tireless efforts of Mitch Andrews, and to my campaign manager Rob Shearman, along with Simon Ingram, Greg Adermann, Paul McMonagle, Christen Duffy, Craig Ray, Nick Elston, Adam Dwyer, Barbara and Graham Leis and Ruth and Bernie Finnigan.
Thank you to the dedicated team at LNP HQ—especially president David Hutchinson and campaign director Lincoln Folo. These two contributed far more to the 2019 election result in Queensland than most will ever realise. But also the efforts of Alyson, Brodie, Leighton, Collier, Geordie, MOD, Sallyann, Bec, Angela and Janelle cannot go unremarked.
Thank you to my colleagues who have invested so much of themselves in my success, especially James McGrath, Peter Dutton, Trevor Evans, Christian Rowan, Steve Toomey, Peter Matic, Matt Bourke, Andrew Wines, Vicki Howard, Kate Richards, James MacKay and Kim Marx.
Finally, thank you to my extended family—all of you—for your love and support, particularly Maddy but also my Grandpa, Mum and Dad, Julie, Sean, Teds and Aimee, Annabel and Andi, Lily, Phoebe, Charlotte and Uncles and Aunties Megan, Sean, Lauren, John, Terry and Teresa.
Let me conclude by going back to the very start of this speech, back to Lone Pine to that beautiful green sanctuary on the banks of the Brisbane River in the heart of Ryan, back to those unmistakable positive images of our nation that remain seared in my memory—koalas, lamingtons, 50 new citizens just bursting with pride in our nation, bursting with excitement at all the possibilities that flow simply from being an Australian. As long as I am in this place, I hope never to forget the sense of excitement that those people felt just to be Australians. And as long as I am in this place, I hope never to forget the sense of excitement that I feel today just to represent them and all the residents of Ryan. It is a truly great honour and I won’t let them down. Thank you.