Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (10:56): It is a great honour to represent the people of Bennelong in parliament, and I would like to take this opportunity to update the House on events and projects in my local community. Bennelong is a unique corner of Sydney and a wonderful place to call home. It is one of the most ethnically diverse regions in Australia, being home to a large diaspora of cultures from Asia, Europe and across the globe. These communities retain their traditions but also welcome us all into them, as we have seen in recent times with the Lunar New Year celebrations. For five years now I have been supporting these communities and their integration with the wider Bennelong region through the Bennelong Table Tennis Schools Program. What originally started as a way of getting children of different ethnic backgrounds to play sport and engage with each other has now delivered free tables to almost every school in the electorate and has led to an international tournament that is played in Canberra and Marsfield, featuring professional players from six nations and students from 30 local schools. It has been a resounding success, and I say thank you to Hyundai for their generous support.
Bennelong is the innovative capital of Australia. We are home to tech giants on the cutting edge of the ideas boom. But the innovative heartbeat comes from across the electorate, in many small and medium businesses in our local community. In the coming months we will be celebrating all of these at the Bennelong Innovation Fair here in the Great Hall.
Throughout my time as local representative I have pledged to listen to the views of my constituents. Last year’s Bennelong’s Biggest Survey saw an unprecedented number of responses, providing feedback and ideas on which I have taken instant action. In response to concerns about local crime, I arranged for the Minister for Justice to come to Bennelong and hear their concerns directly. When only 40 per cent of residents said that they shop at their local small businesses, I put more effort into the Bennelong Village Business campaign, which over the past two years has provided free advertising for over 200 businesses, directed to thousands of local homes. When I learnt that many local seniors were downsizing and missing their gardens, I started Bennelong Gardens, which has recently opened up to a number of local schools and has inspired other gardeners in the area to set up community gardens of their own.
But the benefit of being a parliamentary representative as well as a community advocate is that I am able to shape debate on issues that affect local residents on a national scale. From prior to my election to parliament I have had conversations with thousands of local residents about home ownership and the need to rebalance the tax benefits of property ownership back in favour of the owner occupier over the investor. Home ownership is becoming increasingly out of reach for Australian families, and so, as chair of the Standing Committee on Economics, I instigated an inquiry to look at opportunities for reform. The committee is due to report in the coming months. Prior to that I chaired the Standing Committee on Tax Revenue, which looked at ways of increasing access to light-touch returns. This aims to make an individual’s interaction with the ATO as simple as possible. Taxpayers will notice improved options through Etax and myTax in the coming months.
Upon my appointment as chair of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities, I immediately commenced an inquiry into the opportunities of value capture to be used as a sustainable funding tool for large transport developments. My particular passion is to stop talking and finally start building high-speed rail from Melbourne to Sydney. This has led to several large international private consortiums approaching me with genuine proposals—watch this space.
My attention always remains focused on my local community. One of the many Bennelong based charities or organisations that I support is Motor Neurone Disease Association NSW. A few months ago in an effort to raise awareness for motor neurone disease, from which I have lost two close friends, I completed a 200-kilometre walk around the electorate, stopping at 35 schools, 24 small business villages and 11 aged-care homes, while also raising almost $10,000 for this great cause. These are just some of the projects that keep me busy as the representative of the people of Bennelong. I look forward to updating the chamber on more developments over the coming years.