Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (11:40): I am pleased to support the motion and, in so doing, I congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your election to such a prestigious position. I am sure you will do admirable service to this house and the people of South Australia in the years ahead. I also join with others in offering my congratulations to all new members in both houses upon their recent election.
Being elected to serve our local communities is a great honour for us all. Serving those communities well must be our first duty. It is only thanks to the faith our constituents place in our endeavours that we are here and, particularly as I rise to speak for the first time, it is a truly humbling thought.
I am grateful for this opportunity to serve, and I will endeavour to meet the highest of standards set by my distinguished predecessors of both political persuasions. Morialta—or Coles as it was until two elections ago—includes the suburbs of Paradise, Athelstone, Newton and Rostrevor. It continues south through Magill, Skye, Auldana and Rosslyn Park down to Wattle Park.
It extends east into the Hills through Teringie and Woodforde, up to Horsnell Gully and Norton Summit, Ashton, Basket Range and Marble Hill to Cherryville, before it makes its way through Montacute and Castambul to the Campbelltown council area. Our community benefits from the contribution of our volunteer groups—from the CFS brigades to service clubs, the active communities in our 14 local schools and so many others.
My family moved into the Morialta electorate before my first birthday. First, from our flat near the corner of St Bernards and Montacute roads and, a couple of years later, from our house behind the Campbelltown council chambers, I remember walking or riding my bike up the Fourth Creek trail to Morialta Falls and delighting in the stroke of luck that I had been so lucky to have the opportunity to live in such a place. Some 31 years later I have moved about 500 metres upstream. My fiancée, Chelsey, and I now look forward to having the opportunity to share that slice of paradise with our children in the years to come.
In a world where simple pleasures have too often been left behind, I love the fact that the icecream truck still plays Greensleeves as it rolls around the streets of Rostrevor—except, living in Rostrevor, of course, it is Pedro's Fine Gelati not Mr Whippy. We are a migrant community that is proud of its multicultural heritage. A considerable majority of our families have arrived in Australia since the Second World War, with Italy and the United Kingdom being the major departure points, although we also have significant German, Chinese, Irish and Greek communities and many smaller groups that contribute so much to our vibrant community life.
As a child in the early 1980s I stood at the Marco Crescent corner and watched the Holy Mary of Montevergine Festa procession, and other festa processions, pass by with a touch of wonder and curiosity. As an adult, and particularly as a candidate for parliament, I have appreciated the way in which these communities delight in including the wider population in their cultural and religious celebrations. I am pleased to recognise Domenico Zollo of the Holy Mary of Montevergine Association in the gallery today.
The Holy Mary of Montevergine Festa brings together more than 10,000 people from around Australia and the world who come to Newton over one weekend—and they do a great job. It is, no doubt, why they won Campbelltown council's Community Event of the Year this year. I think it is the largest religious festival in South Australia. I am grateful for the way in which these communities welcomed me and in many cases supported me throughout 22 months of campaigning. I look forward to continued close engagement with all my local community groups in the years ahead.
For all that our individual spirit and strength of purpose defines us, determines our direction and how we focus our talents, I believe we are foolish if we do not admit being shaped to a degree by where we have come from: by our parents, by our families and by our upbringing. My story is similar to many of my generation in Adelaide's eastern and north-eastern suburbs. I am the child of migrants. My father's family came to Australia after the war to seek a better life than the ravaged English landscape could offer.
Dad's upbringing was hard, and so was much of his younger life. He served our country in the Navy, he worked on North Queensland railways as a fettler, and he mined for tin and later opal—without much success I'm afraid. As a boiler attendant, he came to the new Port Stanvac oil refinery, which led him to start his own small business in chemical distribution and water treatment. His constant focus was to provide more than he had for his kids and to contribute something new and worthwhile to his community.
Mum came later to Australia. A qualified nurse and midwife, her plan was to stay for a year working in the Northern Territory in Aboriginal communities and then return to Blighty. That was 42 years ago. Instead of a return to England, she fell in love with this country and, after several years working in the most challenging but rewarding of conditions in Central Australia, she settled in Adelaide, working initially as a nurse and midwife at the Queen Victoria Hospital before meeting dad.
Together they worked hard to build the small business, manufacturing cutting edge ultra violet light water treatment equipment that may be found treating drinking water in Australia's embassies around the world, in our navy's submarines, and treating waste water and effluent in communities throughout South-East Asia and as far away as the Middle East. Dad won the Premier's medal for his contribution to South Australia's water industry two years ago, but it has always been to his chagrin that a small business such as his was able to export water treatment equipment around the world and around Australia, yet in South Australia, where our need for water infrastructure has been so brutally apparent, our own government and its instrumentalities have shown minimal or occasional interest only.
Other members present who grew up in a family business environment will understand the all-consuming nature of that situation. Child care was in the office staffroom, and Saturday mornings were spent helping out in the yard. Work experience and first jobs were in the factory, and paid work while studying at university was two days a week helping out with the business side of things.
I was about 13 years of age the first time I had payroll tax explained to me by the company's accountant. We were in the middle of Paul Keating's recession and, although the business had just won a couple of big orders, taking on any extra staff would have bumped us up over the payroll tax threshold. I could not understand why on earth the government would provide such a disincentive to small businesses employing more people; but, ever since it was brought in as a wartime measure to free up potential workers for national service, payroll tax has remained the addictive drug of choice for our state governments to pay for their spending programs. One of the tragedies of the last wasted decade in this state is the missed opportunity to free ourselves of the shackles of payroll tax and the bonds of land tax (another tax on jobs, paid directly or indirectly by every business in this state, including in excess of 400 businesses of all sizes that have had the good sense to set up shop in Morialta).
I am proud to represent those businesses. They are iconic firms such as Bianco, which gives so much back to our community; and its near neighbour, Codan, a proudly South Australian company that makes the special radio equipment you see on the front of the UN's peacekeeping vehicles and also mine detectors that are distributed throughout the world for humanitarian and commercial use. Both these companies employ hundreds of local residents.
Other businesses in Morialta are smaller but still contribute to the community and employ local residents. As we have stretched further into the hills with successive redistributions, we have taken in many more primary producers. The market gardens that have always been a feature have now been joined by orchards and wineries. Morialta is proudly home to the famous Penfolds Grange.
Retailers, restaurants, exporters, builders, tradies, service companies and high tech industries find their home in Morialta, and it is through their success that our constituents find meaningful employment. Each and every one of those businesses would be in a better position to employ more people were it not for South Australia's oppressive tax regime.
I note that one of the many recommendations of the federal government's recent Henry review of taxation was that governments should be 'ensuring that land tax applies per land holding, not on an entity's total holding, in order to promote investment in land development'. Yet, we have just gone the other way, adding millions to state revenue as land tax bills have gone up exponentially for many landlords and businesses. Land affordability goes down, the cost of doing business goes up, and the first casualty is employment.
While I do not support all of the recommendations of the Henry review, I am also pleased to note that another of its recommendations is for the abolition of payroll tax. Thanks largely to increased revenues from the GST, our state budget has grown from $8 billion to $15 billion a year over the life of this government. However, when the music of the boom years stopped at the end of 2008, we were left standing poor, despite the enormous revenues of recent years. Imagine for one moment the competitive advantage South Australia would have had if we had used those good years to reform our taxation system in order to encourage the private sector.
Instead, we see interstate firms flying in to construct our major infrastructure projects because they operate from states with better tax regimes that put South Australia to shame. We should be aspiring to give South Australia that competitive advantage. I want us to be a state that is the preferred choice to which companies come to do business and to employ young South Australians who can build a career here.
Too many South Australians of my generation (and many of my friends from school and university are among them) are now making their futures instead in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and further afield. Only business and not government can provide the jobs and the career paths that will see educated young South Australians choose to build their futures here where they grew up. We need to be brave in reforming and reducing the intrusions of government. The best thing we can do in this place is to enact a framework of policies that will create the environment for jobs growth—removing red tape and getting rid of anti-job taxes. But, instead, we stifle innovation and we tax the hell out of anyone who wants to set up shop in South Australia.
Government cannot prosper in and of itself: However, it can govern wisely so that men and women of creativity and purpose may build prosperity for our state. That prosperity and business activity generates the impetus and the means to improve our infrastructure and our vital human services (police, mental health services and hospitals, schools, support for people living with disability and our emergency services), but this government does not seem to see things like that.
During the election campaign, one of the key promises from the Labor Party was that it would deliver 100,000 new jobs. Fortunately for me, the electors of Morialta understood that the government's plan—consisting of state and federal training places—does not equate to a sustainable employment policy. They understand that jobs are not created by government fiat: they are generated by the private sector operating under business-friendly policy settings. You could put every man and woman in South Australia on the government payroll, and you would have zero unemployment in the short term but it would not be sustainable. There would be no-one left to pay the taxes that fund their salaries.
I said before that the boom years of prosperity had been wasted. Given that public revenue has grown from $8 billion a year to $15 billion per year over the life of this government, one could be forgiven for wondering where all that money has gone. Has there perhaps been a sudden and dramatic growth in front-line services? I can inform the house that the answer is no. In 2002 there were 32,161 full-time equivalent sworn police officers, teachers, doctors and nurses in our Public Service.
The most recent available figures show that it has gone down from 32,161 to 31,203. Let me say that again: there are today 950 fewer full-time equivalent public teachers, doctors, nurses and sworn police officers than there were when Labor came to office, yet over the same period we have seen an increase in more than 15,000 public servants overall. According to the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment, full-time equivalent public servants in South Australia grew from 68,884 in June 2001 to 83,885 last year—a 21 per cent growth in the Public Service over two terms of this government, but not in those front-line service delivery roles.
It is not my intention today to disparage gratuitously the work of the Public Service, but, while a number of those bureaucrats are doing important jobs that will contribute to a better future for South Australia, it defies logic why the numbers of teachers, doctors, nurses and police should have dropped by 950 over the same period that the bureaucracy overall has grown by 15,000. As the old saying goes: the bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.
There is a tendency for bureaucracy to become self-perpetuating–to shift from being a solution to a specific problem, to being a solution desperately searching for problems. How often do you hear a government agency say, 'We don't need any more staff in order to achieve our goals.' How often do you hear a government department say, 'We understand there is a problem, but the best solution is to be found in the initiative of the local community'? It is always easy to identify problems, but each time government steps in to try to address them the possibility for individual or community action is diminished, and it is not possible for a government to identify a solution better tailored to an individual's needs than that individual could develop for themselves.
It is thus important for legislators to be mindful of the cost of what government does; not just the financial cost, but the stifling of individual and community possibilities. The leader is right to point out that, in the Sturt Street precinct, half a million dollars has now been wasted as a local government initiative has proven to stifle the local community and local business and has now been withdrawn. I congratulate the member for Adelaide for her role in that.
The government should step in only when individuals, families, companies or communities are unable to deal effectively with a problem first, if such a problem exists. The principle is simple: the best decisions get made when decision makers are as close as possible to the people who are affected by their decisions. Any nation with multiple layers of government faces the question of how authority should be allocated between the levels. I believe that a level of government only has the right to legislate where lower levels cannot act effectively. This is not some sort of obscure philosophical debate; it is intrinsic to the DNA of the Australian system of government. Our federation came into being following these lines. The colonies gave to the commonwealth certain powers—the right to legislate in certain limited areas where it was thought a common approach was more appropriate—but they retained for themselves power over all other areas of government.
Unfortunately, successive commonwealth governments, particularly since World War II—and I acknowledge the role that the coalition governments have played in this, unfortunately—have perverted the spirit of the Australian Constitution, pulling more and more power into Canberra. But states' rights are important. South Australians are not Queenslanders, and what works for them will not necessarily work here with our problems. There are exceptions. Control over the Murray-Darling Basin is an area where state governments to the east have clearly failed the reasonable use test, and we have seen the environmental and social degradation that has followed. The only solution has to be a national approach driven by independent experts and working in the national interest.
On the other hand, I am still agog at the capitulation to Canberra that we saw on health and hospital funding during the state election campaign. There was a time when state premiers used to contest an election by sticking up for their states and taking the fight up to Canberra. This must surely be the first election fought on the basis that the government does not think it has the capacity to undertake one of its most basic functions and wants to outsource it to Canberra. With power comes responsibility, yet this government works almost as ruthlessly to divest the responsibility as it does to retain the power.
But let us imagine for a moment that this health reform was inevitable. It was still a botched process from South Australia's point of view. Other state premiers went in to bat for their states and secured billions of dollars worth of improvements for their health systems, as well as fundamentally keeping control over their GST revenues, but it was difficult for our Premier to play hardball when he had already signed on the dotted line weeks earlier during the election campaign.
Think for a moment what could have been. We have critical mental health policy challenges in South Australia, yet the government is carving up Glenside Hospital to fund reforms to service delivery. Some of the land is due to be sold this year for new shops to be built and other land will be put to an open market sale in 2012 for residential housing development. All up, 40 per cent of Glenside Hospital's land will be sold off, and according to the Department of Health's Q&A sheet on the internet, this is necessary 'because funds from land sales at Glenside will be directly reinvested to help deliver the new health facilities and reforms to delivering our services'.
The redevelopment of Glenside Hospital is costing $130 million and the new film centre there is costing $40 million. Imagine for one moment the situation had our Premier demanded $170 million for mental health when he went to Canberra instead of choosing to provide political cover for the Prime Minister's botched policy decision. I will be passionate in my defence of federalism and I will be fundamentally suspicious of any piece of legislation that seeks to move any decision-making power to a ministerial council body or an anonymous bureaucracy in Canberra.
Better still, I maintain that the best solution to a problem will be the one that reduces any government's role to the bare minimum. Liberalism's success is based on the realisation that the fundamental and most important unit of society is the individual. Government draws its authority only from the consent of the governed; it has a moral right to intervene only where individuals cannot appropriately address a problem, whether acting alone or by voluntarily working together with others in their community. Government is a necessary servant of society in such circumstances, but the social democratic and statist tendency to regard government as the best judge of what is good for individuals leads to public alienation from the political process. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, we are a state that has a government—not the other way around.
One of my esteemed predecessors, Jennifer Cashmore (then Adamson), made the point in her maiden speech some 33 years ago that one of the major problems besetting South Australia at that time 'was the pervasive feeling that individuals have little or no power to influence events and that they are at the mercy of remote governments'. Government works best when its interventions provide for greater individual empowerment, not less, so in those areas where government intervention is necessary I will always support policies that provide for that individual or community to be empowered.
Few areas of public policy would benefit more from a greater emphasis on individual empowerment than the disability services sector. Much has been said in this place and elsewhere about the tragic passing of Dr Paul Collier. I only met Dr Collier twice, but he was compelling in his argument for individualised funding arrangements for disability services in South Australia. Who better than the individual or their family to determine what priorities to place on their own service needs?
Let us not forget: not only will the individual, the family, the school council or the community-based NGO be better placed to design appropriate solutions than remote bureaucrats, there is ample evidence that they are also likely to achieve best value for the public purse. Over the last 15 months we have seen more than $16 billion spent on school halls around Australia.
Effectively, two programs have been running simultaneously. Private schools have been given the funds directly and have used them to build whatever their school needs. Public schools have been hamstrung by multiple layers of education bureaucracy spending money on their behalf. In the latter case, we have seen crazy examples of million-dollar gymnasium sheds and covered outdoor learning areas that cost more per square metre than Sydney office space.
How much better would it have been if that money had just been given directly to the schools' governing councils for them to determine the best way to spend it, in the same way that private schools could, and have. There are few better examples of the price of Labor's arrogant centralisation than the lost opportunity and disgraceful waste of funds that could have delivered so much more to our schools.
The same centralising drive confounds progress across the entire education system. There are three levels of governance over public schools. They have a local school council made up of teachers and parents, who work with the principal of the school. They in turn are responsible to the state government, and increasingly it seems that we are devolving our responsibilities to the federal government. However, as every decision—from curriculum choice to the local school's right to hire and fire—gets moved from the local communities to Flinders Street, and then via North Terrace to Canberra, each step has been and is in the wrong direction.
Around the world, the school systems that are producing the best results are those that are moving towards greater involvement and autonomy from the local community. Rather than devolving responsibility to Canberra, we should be providing for the establishment of charter schools along the lines of those that are producing such remarkable results in Sweden and elsewhere.
We know that the most important variable in a student's success is the level of interest taken by their parents—the more parental involvement in the child's education the better. How better to encourage that involvement than to allow parents and communities to work with educators and really run their own public schools, with the education department providing just a basic regulatory framework.
Members who have children under 20 would all be aware of John Marsden's work. Even when I was in high school his novels were on the shelves, although his great international success has been more recent. My favourite of his works, however, is possibly his most obscure. It was his submission to the Senate committee inquiry into the Schools Assistance Bill 2008. This was the bill which initially sought to prescribe the national curriculum onto all schools in Australia. It was a very brief submission in the form of a one-page letter to the committee, so I hope the house will indulge me if I read it in full. He writes:
As an author who—and I'm afraid this is going to sound pompous—has always promoted the interests of young people, and more importantly, as a teacher and school principal, I'm a bit stunned to think that the federal parliament might contemplate passing a Bill which could deprive schools of the right to develop their own curricula, and to innovate and develop special, school specific learning programs. Good grief! Schools should be massively encouraged in the development of new curricula and innovative programs. Anything else will lead to a moribund system, and will threaten progress in this most important area of our society.
The dead hand of bureaucracy already rests heavily upon Australian schools. The Parliament should be working to lift it, not to add to its weight.
At a time when more and more internationally recognised educational pedagogies and curricula are becoming popular, why would we lock our schools into Kevin Rudd's prescriptive national curriculum, which has been beset by controversy at every step of its implementation?
I note that even in today's paper we see it has been revealed that the framers of the curriculum had not noticed that South Australia and some other jurisdictions have year 7 as part of our primary schools, not our high schools, such is their New South Wales-centric view of the world. I for one do not want our teachers to do things the way they do in New South Wales. Talk about slowing the herd to the rate of the weakest gazelle!
I congratulate the new Minister for Education on his appointment. I have no doubt that he is more capable of meeting the needs of supporting South Australian students and parents, teachers and schools than his federal counterpart. I therefore encourage him to cease his government's abrogation of responsibility to Canberra.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
Mr GARDNER: While on the subject of Canberra, for the last two years of the former federal coalition government, I had the privilege of holding an adviser's position with the minister for substance abuse issues, at that time Christopher Pyne. I witnessed firsthand the impact of the decisions taken in the late nineties that led to hundreds of millions of dollars of federal government support being given directly to non-government organisations, such as the Salvation Army and Odyssey House, to support treatment and rehabilitation programs. I saw how effectively those non government organisations were able to use those grants in conjunction with their own funds and professional and volunteer workforces to get far more bang for their buck than the public system has ever achieved.
I maintain a deep interest in the public policy challenges presented by substance abuse. I dislike the value-laden terms such as 'harm minimisation' or 'zero tolerance'. A holistic approach to tackling substance abuse includes sophisticated education campaigns to reduce demand. It includes adequate resourcing for law enforcement to ensure that they can keep up with the ever more sophisticated techniques of the crime networks plying their deadly trade. Importantly, it includes readily available access to rehabilitation programs, often delivered by the non-government sector. The Howard government's tough on drugs policy was certainly moving in this direction and getting good results according to published data, and I am proud to have been involved in working on that policy.
Solutions to serious problems do not have to begin with government either. In 1988 a million Rotarians around the world agreed with the proposition that it would be great to wipe polio off the face of the earth. Twenty-one years later, thanks to the work done by Rotary and its partner organisations, we have gone from 350,000 children around the world infected with polio every year to just 2,000 reports last year, a 99 per cent decrease in 21 years.
Volunteering takes many forms. In addition to the Campbelltown Rotary Club, I also enjoy my current role on the board of management of the Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Magill. The role that faith plays in political life is regularly debated, and I have seen those debates from a few different angles over the years. I was not raised in a religious household. I was then schooled by the Anglicans, and finally the Lutheran Student Fellowship found me at university.
Within the small geographical boundaries of Morialta there are nearly 20 different faith communities with their own places of worship. Adelaide is known as the City of Churches, not because we were a colony of puritans, but because our early history of religious tolerance and civil liberties allowed individuals of so many different faiths to worship in whatever manner they chose. In the same way, I trust that my relationship with God will guide me in my life. I do not, however, believe that parliament has any jurisdiction over our souls. My faith is a personal matter, and I abhor any suggestion that government would ever seek to stop me or anyone else from practising their faith or from living life by any other principles they hold dear, so long as they are not impinging on anyone else's freedom to do the same.
I also joined the Liberal Party at university in late February 1996, about three days before John Howard became prime minister. I joined because I wanted to make a contribution to my society and my nation. Rather than accept alienation from the process, I wanted to make it better. Robert Menzies founded the Liberal Party to be a progressive party based on liberal values, celebrating the autonomy and the ability of the individual to achieve in life to the level of their innate capacity without undue restriction from the heavy hand of the state. At the same time we also recognise that the Liberal Party has benefited greatly from the conservative tradition that places such value on the institutions that serve us well: the courts and the common law that strive to treat all participants as equal, and the family unit, in whatever shape it takes, that sits beside the individual as the most important building block of society.
The importance of family should not be underestimated in areas of significance to government policy. No government program could ever have such effective impact as the love of a parent helping their child make a strong start in the world. No departmental agency could provide the quality of care to someone in regular need to match that of a loved one for their partner or their sibling.
From time to time, all political parties feel tensions and stresses as they seek to distil the wisdom of large groups of politically-minded people coming from all walks of life. My Labor Party friends tell me that they are proud of what they describe as their machine on that side of the chamber. In the Liberal Party, on the other hand, we celebrate our members' right and, indeed, our responsibility, to think for ourselves.
As the Young Liberals state president for three years, I appreciated that opportunity to challenge our parliamentary teams to new ways of thinking about certain issues. Young Liberals over the years (and I should say at this point I recognise Brian Mitton in the chamber, who was president of the Young Liberals in the 1960s) have contributed to changing government policies on issues as diverse as women's opportunity for service in the Australian defence forces—a debate we were very actively involved in while Robert Hill was defence minister in the Howard government—to mandatory seatbelt laws in the time of the Tonkin government.
As the youngest member of the House of Assembly, and as a life member of the Young Liberal Movement of South Australia, I will always encourage young people to be active within the Liberal Party. We need young people to be involved in the political process, both to challenge us and to keep us grounded, to open our eyes to new approaches and, of course, at election time, we need them to support us.
Very few of us in this house, and particularly those of us who have won seats described as marginal, would be able to come close to election without having great teams around and behind us. In my case, I am so grateful to my dear friends from those Young Liberal days who drove my campaign, led by my outstanding campaign manager, Courtney Morcombe, and her husband, Simon Birmingham, who were constantly pushing me to keep working, keep doorknocking and keep focused on connecting with the community.
In a similar vein, I received great support from my paired members, the member for Goyder and the Hon. Robert Lawson, whom I welcome back to parliament today. Legislative Council candidates Jing Lee and Rita Bouras were also of great help to me. I congratulate Jing on her success and, while Rita missed out this time, I know she still has a great deal to offer her community in the future.
I could not have asked for a more supportive branch and SEC, led by its President, George Hallwood; to all of them, I give my thanks, as I also thank all those supporters who gave of their time, their finances or their counsel. I hope they will not be offended if I do not make an attempt to name them all.
I am grateful that so many have come along today, and I acknowledge that I would not have been able to arrive here as a Liberal member of parliament had they not first chosen me as their candidate. In particular, I benefited from the tireless efforts of so many of the next generation of 20-something young leaders in the Liberal Party—people like Scott Kennedy, Jack Batty, Kelly Ansell, Andrew Smolilo, Zack McLennan, Haley Welch, Ben Bartlett, Bec Lynas, Talis Evans and so many more—who were at the supermarkets with me, pounding the pavements with me and putting the posters up week in and week out for months and months and months. I look forward to see them all achieve great things in the years ahead.
To my various employers over the years, I learnt something from each of you and I am grateful for the opportunities, challenges and lessons I have been given. I will just briefly touch on the political ones. The former member for Adelaide, Trish Worth, gave me my first chance to learn how I could make a contribution through political office. It is now a great pleasure to sit so near the member for Bragg; not only was she a generous employer in terms of sharing her experience, insight and knowledge but she also taught me how to round up stock and deliver a calf on her family's Kangaroo Island farm.
Most recently, I am grateful to Christopher Pyne, one of the most experienced parliamentarians in Australia at the age of 41, whose understanding of the parliamentary process is exceeded only by his devotion to his local community, so much of which is shared with the state seat of Morialta.
To the Leader of the Opposition, it was a delight to be on the campaign trail, talking to people about your vision for South Australia, and to be with you personally on so many occasions. Your no nonsense, honest and intelligent approach to public policy shone through in the campaign and I look forward to the opportunity to sit with you on the other side of this chamber one day in the not too distant future.
Throughout the campaign, my family were a rock. My parents, of whom I have spoken and who I am so glad are here today, were unwavering in their support in what was a difficult time for them. We lost my maternal grandma two days after my preselection and we lost my paternal grandfather, my last living grandparent, in the last month of the campaign.
Our lives have also been brought joy with the birth of two cherished goddaughters—Astrid Ilse Whetton and Ava Celeste Flett. I am thrilled to see that Ava has been able to make such a good contribution today. I take this opportunity to express my love and gratitude to my fiancée Chelsey who has put up with so much over the last two years. She is my partner in my endeavours and my life.
I am grateful most of all to the people of Morialta. Thirty years ago my family was welcomed into this extraordinary community, as were so many before. In March, the people of Morialta bestowed upon me the singular honour of representing my community in this chamber. It is a responsibility I do not accept lightly, and I undertake to be tireless in my endeavours to serve their interests.