Address in Reply


The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (21:13): I am very pleased to be able to speak in reply to His Excellency's outstanding speech. I commend the Governor for his speech and his delivery and for his service to South Australia in so many ways. Other members have reflected on that outstanding contribution, and I echo their words without repeating them. Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate you on your service in this role, as I congratulate the Speaker, as others have done. I know that this chamber will benefit from yours and the Speaker's fine wisdom, gravitas and deliberations. The dignity that we hope this parliament will maintain is in good hands under you and the Speaker.

I offer my congratulations to the Premier. Earlier this evening, the member for Schubert spent some time talking about the contribution the Premier made to ensuring that the Liberal Party was in the best possible position to form government at the last election and, having been elected, to govern well. The Premier's contribution to the Liberal Party will not soon be forgotten, and that will not just be as a function of the strong government he leads and will continue to lead for some time but because of the work he did over five years as then leader of the opposition.

The Premier is one of the longest serving leaders in the history of the South Australian Liberal Party. As others have identified, he has brought the Liberal Party together over his time as leader and encouraged all of us to identify each other's strengths and support each other as colleagues, and to work as a team, first in the long dreary days of opposition—which those opposite are now starting to familiarise themselves with—and then through two elections.

As others have pointed out, this was at a time when many people found it easy to criticise the leader of the opposition, as he was then—this despite the fact that he won 53 per cent of the popular vote at the only election he had ever gone to—mainly, it struck me, for the sin that we had not yet knocked off the government. For many years, that was something he had to deal with, but he never complained about it.

All he did was to identify the challenges that people felt in their lives that were imposed by the government, which we could somehow fix. Of course, these were the reasons people were anxious that we had not won the previous election. He channelled all those anxieties of the people who complained into talking about how we could better deliver for the people of South Australia. That is the challenge he has called on all of us to address.

He brought the entire Liberal parliamentary team with him in that effort. He gave all of us the opportunity to have input into every policy decision that was made and he gave the Liberal parliamentary team the opportunity to deal with the tactical approach that we made. When I was manager of opposition business we ensured that we had a set of tactics that the Liberal parliamentary team had the opportunity to buy into, and we benefited extremely strongly from that unanimity of purpose. We all got to know each other extremely well in those days of opposition and we knew that we could rely on each other to that end.

There are a number of members who were with us through that journey, who contributed to that unanimity of purpose, who contributed to the body of work that was done on developing, first, a foundation or platform document in '2036', then the policies that were built on top of that foundation, and the election policies and election campaigns that sat on top of that. They are, of course, Isobel Redmond, Mitch Williams, Michael Pengilly, Steven Griffiths and Mark Goldsworthy. I thank them for the work they did; it was quite extraordinary.

As others have done, I commend the new members who have been elected to this house in their place, and I note that some of them have acknowledged them in their maiden speeches. However, as I think the member for Schubert said in his speech, many of us who now have the absolute privilege of being able to serve as ministers in this government doorknocked, phone canvassed or participated in community meetings right across this state over the course of our time in opposition, not just in the lead-up to the election campaign.

Many of us had the opportunity to help some of those new members in their campaigns and in their races, but those retiring members—despite the fact they knew that, were we to win government, they would not have the opportunity to serve as ministers or to have other roles in the government—worked just as hard as so many of the people in this place did to help there be a change of government. For that I commend and thank them.

I do not propose to single out the other people who worked so hard on our election campaign, save for two exceptions, they being the Premier's Chief of Staff, James Stevens, and the State Director of the Liberal Party, Sascha Meldrum. They did an extraordinary job. They spent a lot of their own time and money and their own holidays to develop their skills and their understanding of campaigns elsewhere in the country and around the world, and I commend them for that. The effort, the single-minded determination that they would lead that campaign in a strong way to make sure the administration and the running of the campaign was done well was tremendous—James Stevens in the sense of leading the parliamentary team's administration and Sascha Meldrum in the campaign itself.

In the 2014 election, the Liberal Party succeeded in securing 53 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. In the election prior to that, when Isobel Redmond was the leader, the Liberal Party succeeded in achieving more than 50 per cent of the vote. Other members have pointed out that—and I have almost lost count: six out of seven, seven out of eight or maybe even eight out of nine—in every election since 1985 in fact, save for the 2006 election, the people of South Australia have preferred, through the expression in the ballot box, the Liberal Party to the Labor Party to form government.

The fact that this is only the third time the Liberal Party has formed government has been put down to a number of things over the years. The shadow treasurer says incompetent campaigning and that is a point that the former treasurer has suggested before. I see the Opposition Whip is gesticulating and I recall some of his efforts to bring around Labor Party victories in seats like Mawson and Morialta with the 'put your family first' campaign in 2010, which he authorised. These are the ways that the Labor Party has claimed credit for securing victories.

The thing that really interests me in the opportunity to provide an Address in Reply—I think it was after the last election, after the last Governor's speech—is that the former treasurer said that if the Labor Party had had different boundaries then they would have campaigned in other places. I commend the member for Mawson on his victory, where he campaigned, obviously, fairly effectively in places the Labor Party had not necessarily spent much time on before. The former treasurer suggested that the Labor Party was such a good operator that they could, with less than 50 per cent of the vote, win an election and that was something to be applauded.

On that basis, I say the fact that the Liberal Party has significantly increased its vote on boundaries which the Labor Party had as much time to campaign in as anyone else, and that the Liberal Party has significantly won seats off the Labor Party and off at least one Independent, off two Independents, goes to the credit of the campaign run by the Liberal Party at this election.

My view is that the people's will in South Australia is best served when a government is put into power that reflects the will of the people. The majority of people having voted for the Liberal Party, South Australia would have been better served by a Liberal government on all those occasions. But this is an election where the Labor Party, by its own criteria, campaigned more poorly than the Liberal Party. They had less to offer than the Liberal Party. They received fewer votes than the Liberal Party. They received fewer of the two-party preferred votes than the Liberal Party.

Despite the bragging that we heard from so many Labor members in recent months leading up to the election—the Nick Xenophon force was going to attack the Liberal Party in its heartland and the Labor Party would cruise through with the deal that they were no doubt going to do with Nick Xenophon—what we actually saw on election night was 25 on the night and the Liberal Party returned to government after a very long time in opposition with a clear majority that was well known, as others have pointed out, not that long into election night.

That was the result of an outstanding campaign, an outstanding policy platform and an outstanding set of candidates. I include, as others have done, some of those candidates who fell short: Steven Rypp and Therese Kenny, the candidates for Lee and Torrens; the candidate for Wright, Luigi Mesisca; and the Liberal candidate for Mawson, Andy Gilfillan, are four who have often been mentioned. I am sure there were others I should be mentioning. Kendall Jackson in Frome did an outstanding job time and time again knocking on the doors, as did so many candidates. Lachlan Clyne in Badcoe was relentless and tireless in his efforts.

I am certain that the Labor Party spent enormous amounts of energy in the end, not just defending seats like Taylor from the Nick Xenophon threat but, indeed, defending seats that they expected to win in a canter from Liberal Party candidates who were unsuccessful in obtaining election to the parliament, but who were successful in ensuring that the Labor Party put significant resources into their seats and potentially less into others.

That is not to diminish the extraordinary achievements of the member for King, the member for Adelaide, the member for Newland, the member for Elder, and the member for Colton. People forget that Colton used to be a Labor seat and it is now nearly 10 per cent Liberal. I commend the new members for all of those seats for their extraordinary efforts in either holding or winning those seats for the Liberal Party.

The member for Waite overcame a significant challenge, and a former member who was very confident at one stage that he was going to retain the seat ultimately decided not to run for one reason or another. So those campaigns were strong and exceptional. The Labor Party worked very hard in King. The Labor Party worked very hard in Newland. The Labor Party worked very hard in Colton and certainly in Adelaide and Elder.

The Labor Party did not give up on those seats, but they were defeated because those communities saw a couple of things. They saw Liberal candidates with exceptional futures ahead of them and an exceptional capacity to serve their electorates, and they saw the opportunity under a Liberal government to deliver a better future for their children and a better future for their community. All of this, of course, leads to the work of the leader of the opposition, as he was then and the Premier as he is now, and his achievement in winning government having formed that policy platform. His achievements already early in government are to be absolutely commended, and I do so now.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about the electorate of Morialta. During the Address in Reply a number of members have identified their electorates as the best electorates in South Australia. That reflects on something that I have said in previous elections: the seat of Morialta has, of course, been significantly redrawn. When I was chosen as the Liberal candidate for Morialta, 10 years ago almost to the day, give or take a week, to take on my predecessor Lindsay Simmons in what was a well-spirited campaign, the seat of Morialta included parts of the Burnside council that have long since departed and it included Newton and Paradise (which were removed at the last election) and it included some of Magill which has since been hived off into Hartley. It went up into the hills as far as Norton Summit and Cherryville. It was about 95 per cent metropolitan and most of that was the Campbelltown council.

The last redistribution was quite profound in Morialta and changed the character of the electorate significantly, certainly in terms of the communities of interest that were involved. Some 50 per cent of Morialta remains in the Campbelltown council, the suburbs of Rostrevor and Athelstone. They are the suburbs where I live and where I grew up. I grew up in Rostrevor and I live in Athelstone, and I imagine that I will live there for a very long time. It is an extraordinary part of the world.

Across the river, we lost Dernancourt, the half of Dernancourt that we had at this election, to the seat of Torrens, and gained the half of Highbury that we did not previously have. So, we have in the City of Tea Tree Gully about 20 per cent of our electors. It is a wonderful part of the world. It is an extraordinarily diverse group of people, but diverse in a different way from Campbelltown. In Campbelltown, there is an extraordinarily rich Italian-Australian heritage and a growing migrant population in many ways. Highbury has a slightly different demographic makeup but is nonetheless a wonderful part of the world.

We have now gone from about 5 per cent Adelaide Hills to about 30 per cent Adelaide Hills. We have picked up townships with different communities of interest and different expectations of their local MP, and they have different issues that drive their particular concerns on a day-to-day basis than many people in the metropolitan area.

I should say electricity, the price of water, the cost of living and the hope for jobs for their kids are, of course, common issues everywhere, as are concerns about health and education. However, different schools and different hospitals are providing the services in these areas and, of course, different industries drive that job growth and face different pressures in relation to costs.

Morialta is now a wonderfully situated electorate, including townships such as Gumeracha, Birdwood, Lobethal, Mount Torrens, Summertown, Uraidla, Kenton Valley and a range of other areas that are new to the electorate—Lenswood and Forest Range in particular. Of course, we lost Paracombe to the member for Newland in the redistribution. Paracombe is known for many things: the Highercombe golf club, the Paracombe Primary School, which led the year 5 NAPLAN results two years in a row during my tenure as the member for Morialta, and we expect high things of the new local member in that field.

Paracombe winery now has the honourable member behind me as its new local member, and I am very sad to have lost it. However, the new parts of Morialta have brought with them their own wonderful wineries, cherry farms, apples and pears. I have had cherry farms ever since the beginning, of course, Norton Summit and Montacute being significant cherry producing areas. We now have about 80 per cent of Adelaide Hills as cherries in the seat of Morialta.

I was very privileged late last year to be appointed cherries ambassador by Cherries SA. Those who have been in the house for a little while, who listened to grieves in December, will be familiar with the very important work there. The Morialta electorate now therefore fulfils the promise claimed of it for the last two elections—spuriously claimed by so many other members—of being the best and most beautiful electorate in the whole of South Australia.

The Morialta election campaign was spirited and fought almost entirely in a very positive context. I congratulate the other candidates. Peter Field was the Labor Party's candidate. When James Sadler was announced as the Xenophon party's candidate, many commentators suggested that Peter Field would run a distant third. I commend him for the work he does as a Tea Tree Gully councillor and the hard work he did on the election trail.

He did not seem to get a lot of support from Labor Party head office, but I know from people in the community who were doorknocked by him that he was relentless in his doorknocking, and I commend him for that work. His campaign was largely built around his own personal work in the community. I have good regard for him. I think he served his party well, and I believe James Sadler did as well.

Although James succumbed to the late drop in Xenophon votes that we saw across South Australia, I think that he did not have as much time as Peter Field to establish himself in the community and to become known for his own achievements in the community, and I think that helped Peter overtake him to come second in the end. I do not say that to grandstand in any way.

As I said to them at the declaration of the polls—and I am grateful they both came along—I think they did their parties proud. They did their parties proud in the way they expressed themselves. As I said to them both, I am sure they would do a better job than some members of parliament who serve in their parties had they been elected instead—just not in the seat of Morialta, where the people were kind enough to choose me instead.

I also acknowledge the significant work undertaken on the campaign trail by Peter Smythe, an Independent candidate endorsed by the Australian Democrats. Peter worked very hard. He did a lot of doorknocking. His campaign was not as strongly resourced in terms of financial support, but he had an active campaign. He spoke to a lot of people. Since the election, I have spoken to Peter about a number of issues that he encountered on the campaign trail, and he is aware that I have taken up those issues. I appreciate the work that he did for his community.

I encountered Simon Roberts-Thompson, the Greens candidate, a couple of times. He also put himself forward very well. I did not have the opportunity to meet Matt Smith from the Conservatives and Tim Farrow from the Dignity Party, but from the reports of their volunteers, and certainly in their public presence, they conducted themselves with dignity. I appreciate the work of all the candidates who gave the people of Morialta a significant range of choice in the election. To the people of Morialta, including all those from new areas, I am very grateful for their support.

In those two areas, those Hills townships in particular, with which I had not necessarily had as much to do in the past, I had so much fun. My wife, Trudy, and I had so much fun over the last 18 months, becoming so intimately involved with all those communities. I noticed one thing upon my election to parliament. I was baptised a Lutheran when I was at university, having had a range of experiences that led me to the Lutheran Church. Having been elected as the member for Morialta, where 45 per cent of my constituency in the 2010 to 2014 period were Italian Catholic, my Lutheran heritage did not necessarily give me the opportunity to go to church much in my electorate. In fact, there was not a Lutheran church in the Morialta electorate for the first eight years that I was here.

My local church in Magill is in Hartley, and I still appreciate being a member there. The redistribution of the boundaries gave me three Lutheran churches, which I particularly enjoyed getting to know very well. It was wonderful that on the quincentenary (500 years) of the Reformation, when Luther nailed the theses on the gate of the church at Wittenberg, we were able to celebrate at the Lobethal Lutheran church with an extraordinary congregation from around the Hills coming to join in.

I stand in front of a portrait of Tom Playford. His son, who was a pastor, of course, in the new parts of the Morialta electorate, supported a different candidate from me. I acknowledge that he was probably worth a few votes for my opponent, but he was a wonderful town crier. That beautiful sense of community that was shown in Lobethal could have been replayed in any number of communities around the world. I appreciate all the churches throughout the Hills that took me in as a congregant and as someone who was able to participate.

I also thank all the community groups. I have become a sponsor of a lot of football clubs and bowls clubs in the Hills. I think that there are still some more that have escaped our grasp, and I am looking forward to becoming a sponsor and sometime patron. That is going to be a tremendous opportunity. With the challenges and issues faced by people in those new parts of the electorate, I have been privileged to be taken into people's lives and trust to share in their hopes for a better community and a better economy going forward. I am hoping very much, and I am confident indeed, that this government will be able to deliver on the promise they have hoped for.

I thank, in particular, Mark Goldsworthy, the former member for Kavel, who was the local member for much of that area, and the member for Bragg, who serviced Summertown and Uraidla and some parts of Basket Range and Ashton that have also come into Morialta for much of the last eight years. They worked very hard to ensure that I was able to be included in that community, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate the current member for Kavel, who made a few friends in the Lobethal-Lenswood area in the last few years. He was then very kind and helped them to become my friends, too, in the last 18 months.

I want to pay particular tribute to one of those people. Her name was Val Hall and she is, sadly, no longer with us. Val was a councillor for the Adelaide Hills Council and the Gumeracha council before it. Val served her community with distinction, with honour, with grace and with dignity for decades. During the campaign, it was no small thing that the Gumeracha Town Hall, where her funeral service was held, was packed and standing room only.

We had a number of members of parliament and former members of parliament at the service: Stan Evans, Isobel Redmond, the member for Kavel and a range of others. I do a disservice. There were about three or four who currently slip my mind who were in attendance. Ivan Venning, the member for Schubert, was also there to pay tribute to her, along with hundreds of people from entirely different political backgrounds.

We heard stories about Val's life and the trailblazing path that she set for women in so many ways in her fields and in the service she provided through service clubs and supporting schools and hospitals, and her work in local government. The hundreds, or probably thousands, of people whose lives she touched was extraordinary. Nothing was more extraordinary, though, than the pathos of John, her grieving husband, singing an extraordinary Frank Sinatra song to her at the end of his eulogy. I do not think anybody who was in that room is going to forget that at any time in their life.

Val's life's work cannot easily be summarised in three or four minutes, but I note that in the years ahead there will be many opportunities for the community to express their appreciation of Val Hall. In August, I believe, the local community will erect a seat in her honour in Gumeracha's Federation Park, and I look forward to hopefully having the opportunity to participate in unveiling it. It is a wonderful tribute to her and absolutely well deserved. She did so much to help me become a local in the new areas of my electorate and I am going to be forever grateful for that and for her friendship and support. I miss her very much, as I know the whole community does.

I want to take the opportunity to thank a number of the people who helped on my campaign, including my staff, in particular those who were with me before the election: Sarah, Kahlia, Louise, Bailey, our volunteer Di (whom I am very pleased has joined my staff two days a week in the electorate office) and, until recently, Luke. They had an enormous amount of emotion going into the campaign as well. Their jobs were on the line as much as mine was. They toiled in their work hours and they volunteered in their private time to help deliver what we believed was an excellent set of opportunities for the people of Morialta through a new government and through the local commitments that we had.

I thank my SEC president, George Hallwood, who was also my SEC president in my first election campaign in 2010. He took over from me 10 years ago as the SEC president when I became a candidate. George did a body of work, as did my local branch presidents and their teams: Jan Barry in the Torrens Valley branch, Reeva Brice in the Morialta central branch and Irene Filsell in the Lobethal branch, all of whom are stalwart Liberals.

In particular, I want to pay tribute to my wife, Trudi, who is, along with me, expecting a beautiful baby daughter soon, God willing. A couple of other members have mentioned their spouses. Trudi has not come from a political background. Her interest in politics, I regret, has not grown as much as I might have hoped in the last three years. However, she has enjoyed the community aspects of the role, particularly as we have visited the new parts of the electorate and as I have introduced her to the parts of the electorate that I have lived in for my entire life. This is particularly so with my former portfolio roles in multicultural affairs and, to a lesser extent, the arts. Trudi has thrown herself into the community aspects of the role, of being part of a team working in politics, and she has been taken to heart by so many people in the community. It is a strange life sometimes, but one that she has put up with and indeed embraced, and I appreciate her support and love so much.

I will share one story with the house, which I did receive permission to tell. The Lights of Lobethal committee was kind enough to have me as their guest speaker at this year's AGM and to present some of the awards for the Lights of Lobethal. When we were going to the Lights of Lobethal AGM, Trudi did not realise that by the end of the night she would have committed to having our child serve as baby Jesus in the living Nativity of the Lights of Lobethal at the end of the year, yet that is what happened, and now she is looking forward to that.

What she had not realised was that, in addition to that, apparently Jesus' mother gets to play Mary in the living Nativity. That was something that Trudi also had not expected to be doing at the beginning of the night, and now she is looking forward to it, although she has asked if the father can serve as a wise man rather than mum having to play Mary. My feeling is that maybe we will both get a go. Either way, I am looking forward to it, as I am looking forward—

Mr Koutsantonis: You could be the Holy Spirit.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: —thank you—to every single aspect of the opportunity to serve as a minister. It is an honour. I thank the Premier for that honour, and I commit to my electorate and the people of South Australia that I will work every day I am given towards their betterment and their benefit as we take on the tasks ahead.