Maiden Speech-House of Representatives
31 Jul | '2019
Angie Bell MP: I congratulate the Speaker, actually, on his re-election as the chair of this House. I also pay tribute to retiring clerk David Elder, who made the transition for 27 new members in this class of 2019 such a pleasure and who, without doubt, will be sorely missed. I congratulate also Claressa Surtees on her role as the 17th Clerk in this place.
As one of the 1,203 members since Federation 118 years ago, I’d like to take the opportunity to acknowledge every parliamentarian who has served before me and congratulate the newest members on their first speeches. In particular, I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister for earning the confidence of the Australian people. What an honour it is to be part of a great coalition team as a proud member of the LNP. Thank you to former member and minister the Hon. Steven Ciobo and his family for 18 years of dedicated service. Before him, the first member for Moncrieff, the Hon. Kathy Sullivan AM, served 17 years in this House after 10 years in the Senate.
In Kate’s maiden speech, on 26 February 1985, at the start of my last year of high school, she outlined that, when Moncrieff was formed, it was an electorate of some 3,000 square kilometres, including Beaudesert, Albert Shire and Gold Coast city, with a population increasing by around 35 per cent per year. Today, Moncrieff covers just 92 square kilometres of pure paradise, known to the rest of the world as the fabulous central Gold Coast. With a population of just over 606,000, and Australia’s sixth-largest city, we’re projected to grow to almost a million in the next two decades.
Moncrieff shares boundaries with the electorates of Fadden to the north, McPherson to the south and Wright to the west. Can I take this opportunity to thank the honourable members who represent those electorates for their support before, during and after the recent election campaign that saw the people of the Gold Coast support the LNP in these key seats. We stand united, working together for the Gold Coast.
Can I pay special mention to the member for Fadden for his unwavering support since we first met some six years ago. My journey began in this place as his guest. On that day, I experienced a great inspiration, and a great aspiration unfolded. I met a number of ministers whose dedication to the country stirred something deep inside me. Their passion to improve the lives of Australians touched me so profoundly that I dared to believe that a girl like me, from humble beginnings, could and should try to make a difference alongside them. After that day—and a semester studying economics 101, can I say—I believed in the Liberal Party and what it stands for. I joined the Liberal National Party and stepped onto the path which has led me to this place today, to represent the wonderful people of Moncrieff.
Our home stretches from its central Gold Coast southerly boundary at Sixth Avenue in Miami, past the North Burleigh headland, along the iconic coastline featuring the Q1 to Main Beach and the Spit to the north-east corner, then westward toward the hinterland, through Nerang, Highland Park and Gilston, and south-west through Worongary and back to the coast. It includes the suburbs of Ashmore, Benowa, Molendinar, Broadbeach, Broadbeach Waters, Bundall, Carrara, Main Beach, Mermaid Beach, Mermaid Waters, Southport and, of course, famous the world over, Surfers Paradise. We are proud to make this our home, along with many who have journeyed far to live in Moncrieff. Almost one-third were born overseas and came to weave their threads into the rich tapestry of social inclusion that adds to a community spirit beyond description.
What a great place the Gold Coast is to live and work! Our lifestyle is the envy of Australians nationwide, and, indeed, of visitors from across the globe. The harmonious melting pot is made up of New Zealanders, people from the UK, China and India, Italians, Hungarians and other Europeans who emigrated to Australia in the fifties and sixties.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represent 1.5 per cent of our population, and, as well as acknowledging the Ngunawal people on whose land our parliament meets, I acknowledge the Yugambeh people, traditional owners of the land in and around Moncrieff. I pay respects to elders past, present and emerging. With the friendliest permission from Borobi the Koala, the indigenous language ambassador who shone at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, I say jingeri jimbelung—or ‘g’day, mate’—to all in this place and to those who may be watching from afar. Borobi serves the noble cause of preserving Aboriginal languages in South East Queensland schools.
What else does it mean to be a Gold Coaster and to belong in Moncrieff? I’m truly delighted to live in and serve the city of opportunity, the home of the entrepreneurial spirit; of self-made people and families, of iconic surf brands and sporting greats, of developers and real estate tycoons; the mecca of tourism and the natural home of small business. In fact, Moncrieff has over 30,000 small businesses, who are the backbone of our economy and who now enjoy the tax cuts and benefits the Morrison government is delivering.
Tourism is driven by visitor numbers, and visitor numbers are assisted with airport connectivity to our very special linear city. My vision is for the Gold Coast to be the premier domestic destination and to improve the international numbers to our city so that small business thrives and so that families flourish. In the last year, we welcomed 13 million visitors to our great city. Tourists come to experience our lifestyle, and they stay to enjoy the spectacular beaches and attend the many iconic events held in Moncrieff.
We’re spoilt for choice by an embarrassment of riches, which among others includes the Magic Millions, Polo by the Sea, the Gold Coast 600 V8 supercars, the Gold Coast airport marathon—which I might run one day—Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, the Gold Coast Triathlon, Australian Open Bowls, the Australian university nationals, the PGA Championship, Eurovision, the Logies and art and music events, including Sand Safari, Bleach* Festival, Blues on Broadbeach and, just this past weekend, the Groundwater Country Music Festival. I’m sure you all want to move to the Gold Coast. If that’s not enough, we now have our very own Home of the Arts, HOTA, as it’s known, with its soon-to-be-opened Green Bridge, linking Surfers Paradise via Chevron Island. I give credit to a hardworking Gold Coast City Council that gets the job done. What a place.
As a Queenslander for half my life and a Gold Coaster for 18 years, training as a surf lifesaver at Mermaid Beach Surf Club was a highlight. I commend and congratulate the contribution that Moncrieff’s nine surf clubs made to last years record of zero deaths on our beaches. Today we are also the home of national teams the Gold Coast Titans and the Gold Coast Suns. A premiership for one or both is surely only a matter of time and something to look forward to in the future.
Moncrieff, via the expanding Gold Coast Airport, is the magical home of our iconic coastline, world-class surf breaks, red hot cafe and restaurant dining precincts, Sea World and, of course, the gateway to theme parks and the hinterland experience. It is indeed a splendid and beautiful place to call home. With the lasting legacy of the 2018 Commonwealth Games sporting facilities, I’m proud that the coalition government is working towards a South-East Queensland Olympic bid that will further benefit our city with continued improvements to infrastructure, strength for our local economy and, importantly, the opportunity to amplify our tremendous grassroots sporting culture, which will impact our next generation of youth.
I’ve taken care to choose policy committees that will best represent the lives and aspirations of the people who live in Moncrieff. As I begin my service in this place, I’ll be focused on making a sensible and effective contribution to committees on health, aged care and sport; small and family business; employment, education and training; communication and the arts; foreign affairs and trade; tourism and investment, defence and veterans’ affairs; Indigenous affairs; and family, disabilities and social services.
Moncrieff is named after light opera singer Gladys Moncrieff, known as ‘Our Glad’, who settled in her latter years with her companion, Elsie, on the Isle of Capri. Our Glad was well known and loved for her personal support of the tourism industry—well ahead of her time and clearly a woman who understood the Gold Coast’s potential as a tourist destination. I’m pleased to note that Canberra also honours our Glad, with a suburb named after her. While, sadly, I never saw her perform, my grandparents did. Her last public performance was in 1962, some six years before I was born.
As someone with strong personal connection to the Australian Defence Force, I’m proud to say that Moncrieff is home to a large veteran community. Nerang, Southport and Surfers Paradise RSLs are all very active clubs on the Gold Coast that provide services and important support for our service men and women.
Like many Australians, my own family has a history of service to our nation. As a young girl, I remember my great-uncle Maurice Bell, or Uncle Mott, showing me the shrapnel lodged in his gnarled hands and the eye that was replaced with glass after he survived stepping on a landmine while serving as a Rat of Tobruk. Great-uncle Frank served as a light horseman. For his 80th birthday, some 40 years ago, my family helped him to realise his dream of mounting a horse once again. My Uncle Harry Alderson, my mother’s brother, served in the Royal New Zealand Navy as a submariner, with both his children, my cousins, serving as cadets. Today, my young nephew, Isaac, who is in his final year in high school, is here in the gallery from Adelaide. He is an award-winning air cadet who aspires to serve in the Royal Australian Air Force. These many stories of service and sacrifice remind us of those who pay the greatest price to protect our precious democracy and way of life. I acknowledge all those who have served and who serve today to keep our nation and our families safe.
Although I will not face the same risks to life and limb as our soldiers, this office is one I do not take lightly. Members of parliament have a great responsibility to put our fellow citizens first, and when we serve them, informed by the sum of our collective life experience, we serve the Australian people well. As a young woman in my 20s, the personal experience of losing my mother to cancer was a difficult time for my family—the pain imprinted in our hearts forever. As part of my service in this place I hope to have some input towards the advancement of cancer cures and the growth and success of the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct at Griffith University, my own alma mater, which sits in the north of the Moncrieff electorate. I’ll also advocate for all those in my electorate and across the country living with homelessness, domestic violence, drug and alcohol challenges, child sexual abuse, mental health and eating disorders. These are all problems that people don’t want to talk about but which touch so many Australians.
I’m proud to say that our government is working hard to reduce the terrible effect of these afflictions on individuals and, subsequently, our nation. I’m deeply humbled to be a part of the Morrison government, which is on the side of all Australians to improve the serious issues that affect so many each and every day. I believe in an Australia where if you’ll have a go you get a go! Under the Morrison government, that’s what happens, and that’s why I stand on this side of the chamber.
I’m a proud member of the Liberal National Party because I believe in a better future underpinned by responsible economic management; open markets; freedom of conscience and association; stronger families; a sustainable environment that we must work hard to preserve; reward for effort; and equality of opportunity. I believe in standing up for what’s right and what’s good—standing up for what makes a difference for the people in my electorate and across Australia.
It’s time to talk about firsts. I’m proud to say that the Liberal Party was the first party in Australia to welcome a woman to parliament and to cabinet—Dame Enid Lyons. A former member for Moncrieff, Kathy Sullivan, was the first woman to serve in both the Senate and the House of Reps, and only one of four women elected in May 1974. It’s wonderful to see an increase in women in the 46th Parliament and in cabinet. My view is that it’s important that our parliament is diverse, to represent all Australians.
My good friend the jazz legend Don Burrows told me when I was just 14 that I was the first young woman he saw playing the tenor saxophone in high schools. He inspired me to dream of great heights. In 1985 I was the first from Gawler High School to win a music scholarship, a life-changing opportunity for which I owe a great debt of gratitude to Rotary International. Recently, Rotary inducted me as an honorary passport member, which allows me to attend any Rotary Club in the world. My incoming district governor tells me that I am one of only a few who have stood in this place as a former Rotary International exchange student.
I thank my dearest friend, Melanie, from Sydney, who is sitting in the gallery today, for our 33-year friendship—through ups and downs—since our scholarship together all those years ago, for your guidance and love for so many years. I also thank the four families I lived with for teaching me so much about language, culture and another way of living. To Tim Young and the Rotary Club of Gawler, and Herning Sondre in Denmark: a thousand thanks for giving me the opportunity. In Danish, of course: ‘Tusind tak skal du har. Det var saa godt’!
After my exchange I attended the Adelaide Conservatorium of Music, studying jazz, saxophone and voice. As a young person I was blessed to find a passion that gave me rare opportunities. Music was my road map to success and education the vehicle. I commend the high quality of work that our schools, teachers and training organisations undertake to make a difference for the youth of Moncrieff, and I flag my passion for education as one of the keystones to the future of our country. As a professional musician for some 35 years, I was lucky to travel the world performing in, and visiting, 23 countries. I worked in business during the day as a merchandiser, sales rep, state manager, a retail consultant in my own business, a workplace trainer and assessor, and a national business development manager where I learned a lot about people and enjoyed helping thousands of small businesses. My work took me across all states and territories and I feel confident in saying that I have visited most electorates in Australia. I thank the Paint Place Group Stores and their wonderful members for the privilege of working with them for the last decade. Their chairman, Mishy, and his wife, Rachel, are in the gallery today.
In my early 40s, I returned to study business and marketing at Griffith University and I wrote a book to help small business in the area of rebranding and marketing. I remain as a mature age student who deferred from the last two subjects of a masters to run for preselection, and it’s entirely possible that it will remain that way for some time. At 45, I was the first in my family to join a political party, and not just any political party but the country’s most successful political party—first, the Liberal Party founded by Sir Robert Menzies and later of course, the broad church that is the LNP in Queensland. Across three generations of factory workers, my family helped to build the automotive and clothing manufacturing industry that South Australia enjoyed for so many decades. I’m proud that they all now understand that it’s the Libs and the Nats who stand for workers keeping more of what they earn and that we are the party that supports Australians having a go to get a go. This is why I entered politics. I want to preserve equality of opportunity and reward for effort, particularly for young people into the future.
Those who know me are well aware that I was also the very, very first to start the trend of sausage dog worship on the Gold Coast, long before they became popular on our beautiful beaches. But it is true that I am also the first openly gay woman in a major political party in this place. I’m pleased to say that, when I fact-checked this statistic with the Parliamentary Library, the response was that the library does not collect information on the sexuality of parliamentarians as part of its biographical information database, and so it should be. While I do not consider this my highest achievement to date, nor my defining quality, I appreciate that, for many in the community and in the party, it is indeed a special milestone. I celebrate that achievement with them and stand with the LGBTIQ community and other minority groups to celebrate diversity. I acknowledge that, in a world where in some countries your sexuality can have you imprisoned, persecuted or even killed, it says a lot about Australia that our tolerant, free democracy can be fully and openly represented in our nation’s parliament.
As my new friends the members for Chisholm and Wentworth expressed last week in their first speeches, I hope the work I have ahead of me is not interpreted through a narrow lens and that I, as a true liberal, am judged only on my achievements and contributions to modern Australia. I am proud that my partner and I have built a wonderful life together over the last 18 years. I thank Ros, who is here today, for her two decades of inspiration, unwavering support and, frankly, patience. It’s largely due to her dedication and enthusiasm as a teacher and a university lecturer in education, sport and health and the contribution her PhD body of work made for gaining equal pay for women in sport that I myself was inspired into lifelong learning and, consequently, find myself in this place. She is a wonderful mother, grandmother and supportive partner—and golfer, by the way—and I’m proud of our family with her four adult children and our two beautiful grandsons. To our family No. 1 son Sam; darling Emma, whose family is here today in the gallery as Canberra natives; little Archie Bear who calls me Bebar; Jilly, Jono and little Freddie moving home from the UK next month; Timma, we are so proud of you and your career; and Fiona—the world is your oyster, with so much talent, warmth and intellect—thank you for all you have taught me as a stepmother about family, life and love for the last two decades.
Members, most of all, I’m proud that our friends, our neighbours, our community and our party all stand behind and with us and I’m proud that Australians far and wide support families like mine that might look a little different. Modern Australia is about celebrating diversity and equality of opportunity for all, especially our youth. I hope that my presence in this place will remind those around me and across the country that in Australia there is no place for discrimination.
Just as the law protects us from discrimination based on race, religion and gender, sexuality too must be shielded from harmful and hurtful deeds and words. Modern Australia needs a responsible and respectful approach to those who are different from traditional norms, while still protecting all of the other rights that we so enjoy. I hope that my presence in this place reminds young people and all Australians that sexual preference is no barrier to career aspirations or life goals. You can do anything in Australia; we are a great country that offers so much opportunity. Our choice of partner is only one very private facet of the sum of who we are as Australians; in each of us, there is so much more. The vast majority of Australians contribute to the most successful multicultural society in the world because we understand that inclusion, respect and tolerance are the building blocks of a stronger and better nation.
Many parliamentarians have referred to ‘true liberalism’ in their maiden speeches—and I am no exception. When referring to the father of modern liberalism, John Locke, from 1689, one such parliamentarian, my friend and mentor Joe Hockey, said that the first principle of modern liberalism is the recognition of the inalienable rights of the individual and that, with these rights, come some community responsibility. With this sentiment I wholeheartedly agree.
Mr Speaker, I stand before you today on the shoulders of many giants. I thank my wonderful late mother, Barbara, for her love and warmth, her tolerance and her generosity. I stand at the beginning of my parliamentary career at the same age she was when we lost her. I pay tribute to her parents, Harry and Ellen, for their decision to emigrate to this great country in 1957 with a view to a better future for their children—June, Barbara, Harry, Pauline, Stephen and, later, Tracey. Yes, my grandfather was Catholic! They all built a great life in Australia and New Zealand, and their children have all had the opportunity their grandparents imagined for them. I thank my father, Roger, whom my mother adored—a hard worker, an aviator, an artist and an intellectual. He is sitting in the gallery today. He worked hard for his family and made sacrifices for me so I could achieve my goals. Thanks, Pop. Your reward today is to be in awe of our great country where your youngest daughter has been given the same opportunity as many others from humble beginnings. Today you have enjoyed your first visit to our nation’s capital, to the War Memorial to remember your uncles and to the National Gallery to see the fine art that you admire so much. You have even witnessed live in the chamber the revelation that is question time— I hope you’ll be back! I also pay tribute to my late grandmother, Doreen Bell, for her tireless work for the Church of Christ and countless charities, particularly the blind, well into her 80s. I’m pleased to say that my older sister, Cher, now 54 and also in the gallery today, has just recently enrolled in higher education—and her sons, Jack and Isaac, have attended higher education and will achieve success in their own fields of Asian languages and airmanship. I pay special mention to my brothers Stephen in Cairns and Glen in Adelaide and their families. My thoughts are with them. My family are aspirational Aussies. They are inspirational Aussies. They are Aussies who understand the value of hard work and perseverance. They have never had it easy but they keep fighting to get ahead. They are the quiet Australians.
I thank the many colleagues who have, in one way or another, contributed through their time, enthusiasm, confidence and sometimes just a kind word when needed. Ambassador Hockey, you inspire me with your leadership style, your mateship and approachable manner that I hope to emulate. I thank Trevor Evans, Karen Andrews, Michaelia Cash, Peter Dutton, Mathias Cormann, Bert Van Manen, Nicolle Flint, Paul Scarr, Linda Reynolds, Andrew Wallace, John McVeigh, James McGrath, Michelle Landry, Jane Prentice, Larry Anthony, Queensland LNP Leader Deb Frecklington, Rod Molhoek, Sam O’Connor, Graham Quirk, Vicki Howard and Tracy Davis. And to the many new colleagues in this place who have supported me over the last weeks: thank you.
Having been a volunteer for some years, I understand that sometimes the only thing you get back is a thankyou. So I am going to be brave and name a few very special people. But I will preface that by saying thank you to all the volunteers in the LNP and particularly in Moncrieff. I have had encouragement from great women in the party—in particular, Theresa Craig, Julie Tancred and Leonie Campbell, who have done so much to support so many women and have worked tirelessly for the last five years to see more women in the LNP in Queensland. I say thank you to Penny Williams, Kate Zegenhagen, Amanda Byrne, Deirdre Ford, Fran Ward, Deb Richardson, Sam Conry, Therese Feagan, Tanya McLaughlin, Pinky Singh and Casie Scott. These women are the sparkling stars and true champions who volunteer to ensure the future for our country is bright. To the wonderful Vice-president of the Liberal Party, Fay Duda, for your warmth and support, to the federal Liberal Women’s executive, Helen Kroger, Victoria Opitz, Robyn Nolan and close friends Georgia, Natalie, Ange, Kate, Trudi, Kathy and Megan and Sally—thank you for so many years of support.
It’s no secret that good women need good men to support them in life and in business. Again, I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister for earning the confidence and support of the Australian people. I have very many special men in my life and, for their support, I thank them. Uncle Eric, Uncle Steve, Cousin Rhys, Mark Meallin, Rod Watford, David Corbett, Greg McNamara, Mark Sutton, Bruce Sutton, Peter Leather, Roger Emerson, Viv Grayson, Ben Naday, Chris Andersen, Simon Troeth and Robbie Bennetts—you have all helped me along my journey, and I thank you.
I thank the LNP state executive, state director and campaign director, staff at LNP HQ and the party members throughout Queensland for their ongoing support and for preparing me well, through the office of LNP Women’s president for two years and vice-president before that. I thank the Moncrieff federal divisional council, wider membership and Moncrieff women for their support and assistance with campaigning and for their belief in me. To the State members and SECs, The Chinese Heritage Branch, Mermaid-Robina Branch, and some outstanding dedicated individuals, although a few among many who went the extra mile, Frances Aguggia, Di Grayson, Maggie Myers, Rosa Zoli, Kirsten Gooding Jackson, Juval Stephens, Benson Spong, Peter Barlow, Ken Magoffin, Andrea Chivers and Bevan Simms, Neil and Valerie Peters, Di and Cliff Harmsworth, Alf and Robyn Vockler, Sallie Gardiner, Muriel Duncan, Darryl Hennig, Juanna Fatouros, Richard Wallace-Barnett, Chris O’Mara, Karen Whitcroft, Steve and the crew from Dudley St, Aniela Hedditch, Brooke Patterson, Karen Phillips, Barry Wang and lshaan Haikerwal—here today—and, again, every single person who spent their precious time on pre-poll and on election day with very little notice: thank you. I also acknowledge John and Denise Collins who have made the trip from Earle Haven in Nerang, here in the gallery today.
To our close family friends who stepped up to assist; to Ros Bates MP, the state member for Mudgeeraba and shadow minister for health in Queensland, for her support and guidance throughout the campaign; to Karen Embrey, now in my office with Sophie, for the volunteer heavy lifting that pulled together the campaign resources in the five weeks from preselection to election day: thank you all. A very special thank you to Helen Lewis for her friendship and belief in me from the very beginning of this journey.
Most importantly, to you, the great people of Moncrieff: I thank you for choosing me as your representative and the LNP for choosing me as your representative. I remain deeply humbled by your support and I promise to shine a light on your needs and work with you for a better and stronger future for you and your families. It’s my ambition to mark my time in office with a record of humble contributions to you, my wonderful community of friends, neighbours and family.
To finish, can I say to the people of Moncrieff and to my party, the Liberal-National Party, to whom I owe it all: I promise you a leader who listens and a leader who cares, a leader who will speak with vigour and courage on your behalf when national debates arise that affect your goals and aspirations, your trials and challenges—the person who understands your struggles and your disappointments, your blessings and your triumphs. But, most importantly, I promise to put your needs before all else. That is my pledge to you.