Continuing to Work for Brisbane

Three years ago I made my first speech in this place. I'm humbled to have once again been elected to serve as the member for Brisbane, and I reiterate my thanks to the people of Brisbane for giving me the opportunity to continue representing our wonderful community. I pledge to keep working hard towards a style of representation that is as visible, accessible and responsive as possible and that is deeply thoughtful about the challenges and the opportunities ahead of us.

When it comes to the future, there are compelling reasons for Australians to be so optimistic. The liberal democracy we maintain and the institutions, traditions and values we uphold have delivered Australia through many challenges over the past 118 years since Federation. Our nation scores well on most measures compared to most other countries—prosperity, health, the environment, justice, freedom and security. We're home to the oldest continuing cultures on the planet, of which we can be very proud, and simultaneously we are one of the most successful multicultural and immigration based societies around the globe.

 Australia's economy has now been growing for 28 consecutive years—longer than any other advanced nation. Yet that economic growth is not merely an end in and of itself. Economic growth is the means by which we help achieve people's needs, hopes and dreams. We want future generations to have higher living standards than ours and to realise their dreams, and the aspirations of Australians will always be easier to achieve with a stronger economy and, conversely, much harder to achieve if the economy is weaker or if the nation's budget is mismanaged.

The 1.4 million extra jobs created under this government represent 1.4 million Australians who have gained security, dignity and the power of self-determination which only gainful employment can provide. And, when it comes to reasons for optimism, there are now around 35,000 small businesses in my electorate of Brisbane, which is up by about 2,000 over the three years since I was first elected. I see those 2,000 new small businesses in Brisbane as a vote of confidence in the future of our city, our economy and our community. Small businesses like these 2,000 new small businesses in Brisbane will continue to provide opportunities for the majority of locals to gain employment, build prosperity and secure a better future. Small business is indeed the backbone of our economy. It has sustained families like mine for generations. Australia's small-business middle class—described in Menzies' 'Forgotten People' address as shopkeepers, skilled artisans, professionals and farmers—finds new expression today in the notion that quiet Australians determined the recent election outcome. While Australia's small-business middle class is now just as likely to mean tradies, consultants, independent contractors and creative industries, they nonetheless will continue to rely on there being strong voices for them in this place.

The corporate tax reforms passed last year, which will be to the long-term benefit of Australia's small and family businesses, were one of the hallmark achievements of the previous parliament. I also want to mention the significance of the income tax relief passed in one of the first acts of this new parliament. These reforms are significant because they'll ensure that a majority of Australians will forever avoid the negative impacts of bracket creep going forward. Eliminating bracket creep is arguably the biggest income tax reform in a generation. And over 88,000 people across Brisbane are receiving tax relief, including tax rebates of up to $1,080, as they submit their tax returns this year. There's a reason why Australians have been completing their tax returns in record time this year. This is a government that is quickly returning to work and delivering precisely what it said it would deliver in the budget and in the lead-up to the recent election.

There are other significant achievements of our government that will be of benefit to Brisbane into the future. And I tend to characterise the biggest challenge we have in Brisbane broadly as how to deal with the consequences of growth. Put simply, lots of people want to live, work and play in Brisbane. The challenge manifests itself in different ways on different days. It could be transport and congestion, concerns about a local development, pressure on services or pressure on green spaces. Managing the transition as Brisbane grows and striking the right balance as things change are the mainstays of a local representative's work at all three levels of government. Don't get me wrong: this challenge is fundamentally a good challenge to have. It's much better than the alternative, if that means no emerging projects or opportunities and people moving away. I know which challenge I'd prefer. And I know that the vast majority of residents in Brisbane agree that Brisbane is heading in the right direction, and they share my optimism for the future.

 Good planning is a big part of the solution. In so many areas of public policy, we must do everything we can to extend our planning horizons. That's why I am very pleased about this government's record pipeline of infrastructure investment totalling over $100 billion nationwide and including over $16 billion worth of projects around Queensland. It's worth representing what those numbers mean in practice for a community like the one that I represent. In the heart of Brisbane, the Inner City Bypass has just been widened. Kingsford Smith Drive is currently being upgraded—heading out towards the airport, which is getting its second runway. Heading up or down the coast, the Gateway Motorway has just been widened, and there are now massive upgrades being completed on the M1 and Bruce Highway, with further rounds of upgrades recently committed to. Heading west, the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing has just been opened. And the federal government is contributing to the majority of these projects.

I want to particularly single out the Brisbane Metro. The public campaign run in the Brisbane community for the Brisbane Metro received the strong and enthusiastic backing of numerous local residents. I was very proud to be part of the campaign and very pleased to see this federal government commit $300 million in support of this important project in the 2018 budget. The Brisbane Metro is now fully funded. All it needs now is for the state government to give its approvals—not a single cent in funding, just approvals—and then this project can commence construction. The Brisbane Metro will revolutionise public transport and change the face of our city in Brisbane. It'll change traffic flows and public transport into and around the CBD, and it is an important legacy for the future of our city.

 Yet we need to keep looking further ahead and extending our planning horizons. That's why it's significant that the federal government has announced its support for a city deal for South-East Queensland, which can help us plan ahead for the infrastructure Brisbane is likely to need in the coming decades. This will, incidentally, be the biggest city deal ever for the federal government. This city deal is indeed a big deal, and it's occurring at the same time as South-East Queensland is preparing its bid to host the 2032 Olympics. The Prime Minister has thrown his very clear support behind this opportunity, and the federal government has provided $10 million towards the preparation of our bid. The Olympic bid provides us with one extra opportunity to extend our planning horizons.

I also believe that the South-East Queensland city deal provides an opportunity for us to advance another of my passions: longer-term planning in relation to our local environment. The Brisbane River and its catchments flowing out into Moreton Bay are the most significant environmental assets in our region. I want to see governments at all levels investing more in our local environmental assets in the same way that we invest in other physical and social infrastructure.

There's a program I've mentioned before in this place many times called the Resilient Rivers Initiative, designed by the South-East Queensland Council of Mayors and Healthy Land and Water, which is our region's natural resource manager. It's the best strategy I've found so far not only for improving water quality through the catchment and turning the Brisbane River blue, so speak, but also for conserving our native wildlife and bushland and ensuring the ongoing liveability of our beautiful leafy suburbs and our spaces for sport and recreation. I want to see a program of works just like that described in the Resilient Rivers Initiative to be considered for inclusion in the South-East Queensland city deal and ultimately get the coordinated support that it needs from all three levels of government.

Working to improve the health of the Brisbane River catchment has been one of my priorities since I was elected, informed by my previous work with Seqwater and my involvement in tree planting and catchment work over many years. Over the last term, I fought for and delivered funding—almost $1 million in total—for projects that protect and improve the Brisbane River and our creeks and catchment.

 I'm very pleased to add to that, now that I'm re-elected, with further commitments including over $1 million from the Environmental Restoration Fund for the next round of important projects that will continue to restore the health of the Brisbane River catchment.

 As His Excellency the Governor-General noted in his address opening this parliament:

   Caring for our environment and conserving it for the future is an integral part of meeting our intergenerational obligation to future Australians.

It's an obligation that derives from the fact that, as Australians, we're custodians of a continent, as well as a country, home to some of the world's most precious natural wonders and unique species and ecosystems. It confers on us many natural advantages, but it also bestows on us significant responsibilities to protect what we have for future generations. I characterise it as Australia being a sanctuary—an environmental sanctuary, clearly, but also a sanctuary when it comes to health, justice and economic factors, affording us Australians safety and security from many of the illnesses, injustices and other tragedies all too common in the outside world. So we should take very seriously the responsibility that comes with having the custodianship of our continent, our sanctuary. In this spirit, can I say that it's an absolute privilege to have been appointed the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management. I'm enjoying working with and supporting the Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, and I look forward to all of the hard work ahead of us on important priorities.

In his speech opening this parliament, His Excellency also talked about other government priorities, including our determination to reduce waste and increase recycling, as well as the health of our oceans. I know our government and our Prime Minister are determined to take up the global advocacy we need with other nations in our region on the health of our oceans.

When it comes to my new responsibilities, this is the first time ever that a ministerial portfolio has been created to focus specifically on waste, increasing recycling and implementing the move towards a more circular economy. The Prime Minister recognises that there is growing need for national leadership, and a role for the Commonwealth, in an area that has traditionally been a responsibility of state, territory and local governments. There are big challenges when it comes to our recycling and waste industries in Australia, and there are also some big opportunities. I'm excited to be able to contribute in an area of work where a growing number of Australians are so obviously passionate about seeing results.

The Prime Minister's personal passion for these issues explains why this is the first government elected with a comprehensive platform of commitments to fund and deliver programs to reduce waste and increase recycling. At the heart of our government's strategy is the Australian recycling investment plan. It's a package of initiatives totalling $167 million, designed to grow and strengthen Australia's domestic recycling industry and to support industry and community initiatives to lift recycling rates in Australia. I look forward to future opportunities to outline further all of the initiatives and programs in that package.

When it comes to the very important topic of packaging, our government is working with industry and has endorsed Australian industry targets for 100 per cent of Australian packaging to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025. Our government is supporting the phase-out of plastic microbeads from personal-care and cosmetic products, which have now been massively reduced—by over 90 per cent. The Prime Minister is working very closely with other leaders in our region on waste reduction, plastics and oceans. I know, Deputy Speaker Zimmerman, you join with me in welcoming the PM's very strong announcement recently to phase out the export of problematic waste, including tyres, glass, plastics, paper and cardboard, which we may be able to achieve as early as next year.

On the subject of environmental management, I declared my passion for conservation in my very first speech here three years ago, when I talked about my love of Australia's wilderness and our native flora and fauna. I've always loved travelling, camping and hiking widely around our beautiful, dreaming, sunburnt land. Just last month, I was fortunate enough to see platypuses playing in Eungella, echidnas in Carnarvon Gorge and turtles swimming near Lady Musgrave Island. I think we can do more to reconnect Australians with their local environment, which can help reinforce the value, the importance, of environmental work and recycling, and empower people to make a difference. Too much of the recent debate and commentary about the environment has been fundamentally disempowering of individuals and communities. So it's time we place a greater focus on achieving tangible and meaningful results in our local communities right across Australia.

 On a national level, there is a strong and longstanding coalition legacy when it comes to supporting our environment in Australia. Coalition governments have given Australia our oceans policy and our Threatened Species Strategy. On land, coalition governments have given Australia many of our iconic national parks. In our oceans, Australia can be very proud to now have the largest representative network of marine parks in the world.

Our marine parks and their management plans are almost all the result of the coalition's vision, hard work and ability to deliver solutions in complex areas.

It was a coalition government that banned whaling in Australian waters, and it was a coalition government that made the biggest ever investments in Australia's environment through the Natural Heritage Trust and set up the Regional NRMs that continue to care for our catchments today, like Healthy Land and Water in South-East Queensland. Half a century ago, a coalition government took on a new responsibility by creating the first office for the environment in the office of the then Prime Minister. Today, we are the federal government making the biggest ever investments: more funding and more projects than any government in Australia before in our Great Barrier Reef. Now, in a similar spirit, our Prime Minister is the first in Australia to raise recycling and waste reduction as a priority deserving national attention.

 I've witnessed so many great Australians, community groups and organisations around Brisbane and around our nation making such remarkable contributions. In the face of so much hard work, hope, enterprise, resourcefulness, charity and invention, you can't help but be inspired and optimistic. At the end of my first speech three years ago, I quoted some words of optimism from former Prime Minister Sir George Reid. He spoke about having no fear of human progress and drawing confidence from the triumphal march of human discovery and innovation. He spoke of the need for policymaking that serves the national interest, not vested interests, as we usher in the new and usher out the old. It was a forward-looking Liberal prescription from a time before there even was a Liberal Party of Australia, yet former Prime Minister George Reid's words, from 116 years ago, still inspire me. They sit in a frame on my desk and they helped guide me through some of the debates of my first term in this place, from tax reform to same-sex marriage reform.

Reflecting on the recent election, it seems that another generation of Australians may have been introduced to some century-old fundamentals in the choice presented in Australian politics. After considering those fundamentals, it seems the majority of Australians continue to prefer a platform that embraces their aspirations, avoids sectional interests, is forward-looking and projects optimism for the future.

It wasn't just Prime Minister Reid who was fond of quoting Tennyson. Menzies used a verse from Tennyson's 'Ulysses' in his 'Forgotten People' address. I believe it captures a spirit of determination and optimism that continues in Australia today. It states: Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho' 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. It's an honour to have this opportunity to serve Brisbane and Australia as we strive, seek and find an even better future.