Inaugural Speech

The text of my inaugural speech, delivered to the Legislative Assembly on the 15th of December, 2016.

"Madam Speaker, I am deeply honoured and humbled to be elected as a representative of the electorate of Yerrabi, as well as a representative of the Canberra Liberals.

I am truly thankful for the trust that the community of Yerrabi has placed in me to represent their views, passions, and concerns.

Coming into the parliament gives me an opportunity to reflect on my history and anticedents. As a sixth generation Australian, the descendent of Irish immigrants – including a convict female forebear. I have strong ties to this country and am passionate about its opportunities to have a go and the nature of the Australian landscape. My values reflect my history, my background, and our joint experiences as a nation.

I want to take this opportunity to share a little bit about my history, to thank my family, to elaborate on the values that make this country great, and what I will bring to my role as a member of this legislative assembly.

I was brought up in Yarrawonga, a small country town, on the Murray River bordering Victoria and NSW. My upbringing was typical of many that were raised in the country. Mates, sports, family and getting up to no good. It was up to us to make our own entertainment, as we didn’t have the cool, high tech doovey whackers that kids these days rely on. I have to say though, the greatest thing to come out of living in the country are the solid friendships I made. We were brothers. This instilled in me the importance of mateship and the significant impact it has on our personal values and characteristics, that aid us in finding our pathway through life, at least this is what helped me.

I have very fond memories of mum telling me to get out of the house and go do something, I would head out with mates to fish, go bike riding, go swimming down at the river, play cricket or golf or just chill on the foreshore.

But just like any typical friendship, there were many times that we wouldn’t see eye to eye, commonly due to our competitiveness on and off the footy field. But due to our protective and respectful nature for one another, mixed with the small-town spirit that was built around respect and support, we would quickly overcome any differences.

This is where my willingness to listen and respect for diverse opinions originated.

My relationship with my father ‘Noel Milligan’ who is here today, is a relationship built on mateship born from a mutual love for sport. A strong bond that we share to this day. Through my sporting activities with my father I learnt the importance in working as part of a team to achieve a common goal. Though I must put on the record that he, is a Collingwood fanatic! Dad, it’s not too late to join the mighty tiges before their premiership victory next season dad.

My mother was a key influence for my values, and introduced in me a strong business ethic. I was able to watch and learn from the level of commitment and dedication she poured into managing her family business, this was driven by her passion and love for her family, and her community.

Running your own business takes long days and nights. The privilege of working set hours for an employer and then being able to switch off when the day ends, is not a privilege most business owners experience. I witnessed the long hours it took mum to run her restaurant starting most days from 10am and working well past 10pm in the evening.

Anyone who has come from a family business, knows it’s expected they would help in the business. I can tell you now, that I have done my fair share of dishes for a lifetime. At the age of 12 I recall washing dishes in a sink that was the size of a bathtub, so big that I needed a wooden crate to stand on. I did this right up until I got my driver’s license.

I was taught the values of initiative, perseverance, personal responsibility, and reward for hard work. Family is most important to me; it is where the values I hold today were born.

Strong values are important to anyone seeking elected office. And I agree with our greatest modern Prime Minister, former PM John Howard, who has always emphasized, that navigating the path to political success means sticking to your values.

I firmly subscribe to the Liberal Party’s central philosophies, specifically the belief in the individual and support for families.

The family is the primary place for fostering values, and it’s those values that can influence the path we take in life whether they are social, political, religious, or moral values. As parents, we want to provide a loving, supportive, safe and secure family environment, which all starts with the family home.

I was encouraged to make decisions for myself. Sure, there were times when I made the wrong decision, but I made sure I learnt from them.

From a young age, I stood my ground on matters I felt passionate about, including the core belief that an individual should be able to freely make decisions about their own lives, and to pursue their own goals.

It is unfortunate that the importance of values and respect for diverse opinions is today overshadowed by the quest for popularity, the sugar hit of social media, and the ‘squeaky wheel’ views of unrepresentative minorities.

Looking back at my childhood there is nothing I would change. I was one of the lucky ones. I had a great group of mates, loving family environment and was brought up with the ability to make choices for myself, and was encouraged to explore my interests.

Madam Speaker. Unfortunately, there is one person missing here today, and that is the one person who was and still is the biggest influence on my life.

Just a couple of years ago mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and sadly lost her battle two days after her 65th birthday in February of last year. Mum’s passing at such a young age is very sad, she was loved, admired and respected by her family, friends, work colleagues and community. Mum, thank you for all your strength and advice that have helped me become the person I am today.

My brother Bryan is here today. Going through the loss of our mum in effect has brought my brother and I even closer, and I am grateful for that, not to mention the support I received from my loving wife Katrina and our son Blake, who are also here today.

Often it’s not until you experience something that you truly get an understanding of it. Seeing what mum went through, brought home the importance of a fully functioning health care system.

It would be fair to say, when we need care, that we have access to the best health care services and facilities available. The community expects to see government investment in our health care system, and that there is adequate support available not only for the patients, but also for the family members affected.

Madam Speaker, most people decisions on what career path they take are mostly influenced by personal experiences, and what they value. Your job reflects your passions and talents, your commitment to the community, and your own drive to achieve success.

Some of us choose to enter into business, and it’s no secret that business is the driving force behind our economy. We want a safe and stable economy to encourage and stimulate investment, to creates jobs and growth in our region.

My upbringing was instrumental in inspiring me to go into business. I wrote a series of educational books targeted at early childhood learning, and then decided to establish my own publishing house, to publish these books and market them to all schools across Australia. Its these values of hard work, initiative, dedication, and wanting to lead my life the way I want to, which lead me to start my own business.

For me, this means being prepared to have a go, taking measured risks, and always doing my best. Anyone going into business puts it all on the line, devoting countless hours and enduring sleepless nights, re-mortgaging their family home, going without a regular income, and once started, having difficulty maintaining cash flow, - all with the hope to be successful.

Healthy businesses are essential to our community. Making a profit is crucial to the lifeblood and long term sustainability of the economy, which in turn creates new jobs to support the growth of families. 

Today, there seems to be many barriers that hold businesses back, such as the recent commercial rate hikes just here in the ACT, and the never ending additions to red tape. The government should not be in a position to force business owners away from their core business, which damages profit and hinders potential economic benefit to the Territory.

In 2014 the ABS identified 25,400 businesses, operating in the ACT. Of these, 96.9% are small businesses. 3% were medium and only 0.2% were large businesses.

I believe Canberra can be Australia’s leading Small to Medium business hub.

We need to create opportunities to attract more businesses to move or establish in the ACT, and to provide an environment that promotes inspiration, opportunity and brings benefits to those brave enough to have a go.

Funding for start-ups can be sourced from both public and private investment. The creation of clear pathways for investors to identify opportunities is key to its success. For example, the Turnbull Government’s creation of greater incentives to invest in start-ups so small businesses can survive and thrive, is very welcome, although long overdue.

Innovation is more than just developing new digital technology, it’s also in manufacturing and areas such as – science, engineering and maths.

I firmly believe that the marketplace should determine the success of ideas, and that the Government should not compete against the private sector, in an industry that can be self-sustaining.

There is significant scope to broaden what is currently available and to recognise those opportunities. I am proud to be a member of a Party that is farsighted and innovative.

There is a very high chance that the employment sector will shortly go through significant changes, that will bring along new employment opportunities that don't currently exist today. These new jobs will be available within the decade as technology and innovations grow.

We want to show that Australia, and Canberra in particular, is a safe environment for investment. We want jobs that can cater for all skill levels.

A recent Anglicare report indicates that a significant portion of people who genuinely want to work are unable to find suitable employment. The competition is fierce, and many find it impossible to get a foot in the door without assistance. The report goes on to suggest competition for low-skill entry-level jobs is increasing, at the same time that jobs at this level are decreasing.

138,000 Australians are competing for nearly 22,000 entry-level jobs nationally. That is only 1 job advertised for every 6 low-skilled job seekers. Finding a job without any experience or training is tough. More than 37% of Australian jobs now require a bachelor degree or higher qualification.

In Canberra, the figures are even more confronting. 50% of jobs in the ACT require a degree of sorts, and only 11% suitable for those with little, or no qualifications.

I do not want our City to be known for turning away those who value hard work, or the place where it is almost impossible to find a job without first obtaining a degree.

I would like to see greater investment in the jobs market to promote growth, which in turn will help disadvantaged job seekers develop skills and experience.

long-term investment and local solutions are needed.

Particular emphasis should be placed on servicing international and national tourism, welcoming more international events, and the utilisation of an international freight and transport hub for regional produce.

Canberra should be a place of excitement, opportunity and innovation. It can be a leader in adapting to changing business and employment circumstances.

Canberra needs a broader appeal to attract business and visitation. It is approaching a size whereby it can attract high-end retail outlets, and increased patronage of better sporting facilities to host international events.

The ACT Government can’t simply legislate Canberra into a more successful city, there is no silver bullet that can be signed into law, that will make our city more vibrant and prosperous.

Because it’s not the Government of the ACT, it’s the peopleof the ACT that make our city great, and drives Canberra to be a world-class city to visit and live in. It’s their initiative that sees new cafes and restaurants opening up that rival any in Melbourne or Sydney. It’s their entrepreneurship that sees new businesses start up and grow, bringing success and new jobs to our local community.

It’s vital that we also foster the strong and vibrant communities of our city. Thriving communities bring people together to build great cities, and despite our differences, all of us here in this place can agree on the importance of our local community to Canberra’s future.

I want to help shape a city that we can be proud to show off to our visiting family and friends as well as visitors. I want to see a city that offers endless opportunities. I want Canberra to represent who we are locally, and also to represent who we are as Australians.

I would also like to pay tribute to our growing ageing community. We must recognise the needs and expectations of these residents and respect the contributions they can continue to make to our community and the local economy. They should never be treated as a burden.

Madam Speaker, In my electorate of Yerrabi, the Gungahlin Town Centre suffers from low patronage caused by too many locals travelling elsewhere for work.

A focus on more local employment opportunities, is key to stimulating additional commercial development in the Town Centre. I welcome Senator Zed Seselja’s efforts in securing a Federal Government office block in Gungahlin, thus providing another potential 300-600 jobs.

In concert with the philosophy of Canberra being comprised of vibrant Town Centres, Gungahlin needs an updated Master Plan to give business confidence that the government is focused on investing in our local town centers.

Gungahlin needs better infrastructure, better local amenities, better access to local waterways, more visitor accommodation, and more aged care facilities.

I welcome the recent opening of the new KMart centre in Gungahlin; however, there is still a need for greater diversification of its retail base.

Improved social amenities are also very important thus the need for indoor sporting facilities, town or district hall, an entertainment precinct on the Yerrabi Pond foreshores and a focus on facilities for the growing youth population.

Madam Speaker, I’m very proud to carry on the fight that Vicki Dunne and Alistair Coe started in standing up for the forgotten suburbs of Belconnen. For too long the suburbs of Kaleen, McKellar, Giralang and Evatt have been waiting at the banquet table, of this Labor government, for the proverbial scrap of meat to come their way. For too long local residents have been ignored by this government. During my service as a Member for Yerrabi, I will continue the Canberra Liberals passion and desire to bring government focus back to the forgotten suburbs of the ACT.

I would now like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the many people who helped in my campaign, and to all those people in our community in putting their trust and faith in me to represent their passions and interests in this Legislative Assembly.

I would like to acknowledge a few, of the many friends and supporters in our community that helped me during this election which started well in advance of party pre-selection in April. I received a fantastic level of support from many within our party and our community, which I am thankful.

I would be nothing without the magnificent support and dedication from my family – my beautiful wife Katrina, who never stopped supporting my political ambitions, and my son Blake, who became a keen member of the Party and gave up much of his teenage interests to be a persistent and key member of the campaign team.

There was times where I thought he was waving my signs on the side of roads, only to learn that the sign he was waving read “I need a formal date”. You will be pleased to know, that he eventually found a date for formal.

I am very proud of my son. 2016 has been a busy year for him, he just successfully completed year 12, whilst holding down a part time job and helping me with the campaign in his spare time. We want our children to have access to the best education and to have greater opportunities than what we had. As parents, we tend to go without to give our children the best possible start in life, and I believe Blake has a bright future ahead.

The extraordinary drive, commitment, and support Katrina gave me, was truly inspirational, it pushed me in my desire to succeed, and to not let her down. I firmly believe in the term; Behind every great man, is an even greater woman.

I have a wife that proves it!

I love you both, and I’m deeply indebted to you.

My superb campaign team, many with a wealth of knowledge from past elections, put in a sterling effort to help get me across the line. This involved months of planning, many meetings, plenty of advice and countless hours on the campaign trail.

My team put in many hours doorknocking and letterboxing and holding community stalls. I believe our use of social media made a real difference and our campaign launch event was magnificent.

I owe the success of this campaign to my team.

Firstly my wife Katrina and our son Blake, Tony Cole, Ewan Brown, Sarwat Maqbool, Chris Horsecroft, Martin Dunn, Karin Oerlemans, Wayne Waryon, Ian Barrass, Sam Fairall-lee, Chris Inglis, Clinton White, Zach Lombardo and Ben Puckett.

And the many dedicated volunteers and supporters in the community.

Madam Speaker, I wish I had a dollar for every time I was asked why I decided to enter politics.

It’s quite an easy question to answer, mateship is the reason. I was raised to value differences of opinion, I grew up respecting different points of views, I am proud to say I continue to hold that same respect and bond of mateship. It’s this very skill that will translate well in this chamber, but more importantly out in our community.

I am the first to admit, I certainly don't know all things. I will be a member of this place who is focused on consulting with the individuals in our community, business, organisations, and charity groups, on the real issues that matter to them.

I have proven my ability to listen and now is the time for me to speak for the people of Yerrabi, to begin the process of building strong relationships, and representing the real issues here in this place.

My commitment to the journey I have undertaken to be here today, I owe to the competitive sporting nature I learnt from my father, and the lessons I learnt from watching my mother run the family restaurant and her tenacity during her final years of life.

That same commitment my parents taught me, will be used to serve the people and families of Yerrabi, here in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

I will endeavour to retain, and work on improving, the characteristics that define me now. I am approachable, and have no limitations in regard to conversing with people from all walks of life.

My values-based beliefs lead me to being compassionate and having a willingness to listen to people. These are essential features for any good representative. I intend to champion issues of merit and push for good governance. This is what the ACT population deserves.

I will adopt a forward-thinking position on key issues and will steadily develop and refine my vision for the future. I will be pro-active and show a real capacity to think outside the box, to encourage the advancement of ideas, that will enhance the reputation and status of Canberra, as well as continuing to improve its liveability rating.

As an MLA, I hope to pursue my interests in boosting and diversifying the business sector, particularly small businesses, in Canberra so that they can contribute much more to our economy by creating more jobs to continue to support our families and our community.

I am not one for following the crowd, Madam Speaker, I am one for merit. I want to help provide opportunities so that our kids can be as happy as I was growing up. I want the leaders of our future to have the opportunity to demonstrate courage to have a go without judgement, not to have a handout but a hand up. There are too many people making decisions for other people, which strip this generation of skills for the future. How can we possibly expect future leaders to know how to problem solve when they have been taught to be reliant on government for decisions.

To those that trusted me with their vote and support this election, I can and will represent your interests with the same tenacity and passion I use to approach the issues and desires for my own family. I will continue to serve with the same honesty, integrity and courage that I demonstrated during this election. I am proud to be a true local representative of Yerrabi.

Thank you for providing me with this opportunity to speak Madam Speaker."

You can view the speech on the Assembly on Demand here