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 3 March 2014


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (15:12): I rise to speak to the Address-in-Reply to Her Excellency the Governor-General. It is an honour to speak again on this matter. My previous address-in-reply was my first speech in this place in October 2010, and I congratulate the new member for Griffith and all my new colleagues who have given their first speech during this debate.

Following the custom adopted by many of my colleagues, I will use this opportunity to provide the parliament with an update on some of the programs I have implemented in Bennelong and also a short review following the results of last September’s federal election. In my first speech I said:

Opportunity is the first essential ingredient to achieve success.

… … …

To realise our country’s full potential, every Australian must have the opportunity to compete and earn just reward for their effort and success.

I remain grateful for the opportunities provided to me throughout my life. In this role, as legislators, we are endowed with an important task of ensuring those less fortunate than ourselves are also provided opportunities to succeed in life. It is, therefore, most appropriate that the first local program I will talk about, and also the one I am most proud of, is the Bennelong Gardens Project.

As patron to the disability services organisation Achieve Australia, and also as an ambassador for Lifeline, I developed this project as a way to empower those in our community suffering from debilitating health issues, to give them the opportunity to take ownership over a local venture, with the aim to build it into a rewarding and profitable exercise. The Bennelong Gardens project seeks to utilise unused public land to establish commercial market gardens operated and owned by people with disabilities. Retirees are also invited to participate as a way to facilitate active recreation and social engagement, and to give a new sense of purpose to their lives. For their continuous support of the Bennelong Gardens project, I thank Michael Trail of Social Ventures Australia, Anne Bryce and Sunita Menezes of Achieve Australia, Tristan Harris of Harris Farms, Patrick Soars from Australian Native Landscapes, Sue Dennett of Karonga schools and Martin Wren from Nova Employment. We look forward to receiving support from the New South Wales state government in the form of approving sites that we have identified. No pressure—yesterday would have been just fine!

I entered this parliament on the back of many years as a small business operator, following my father’s lifetime of experience in this most difficult but most rewarding of sectors. While distributing ANZAC brochures to local businesses in 2012 in some of our 20 villages, there was a tale of woe being repeated by nearly every business owner. The complaint was: ‘These are the toughest times we have ever had to endure.’ The dominance of the major retail players had left many in despair, contemplating capitulation. Shortly after my election in 2010, I commenced the Bennelong Village Business initiative, or BVB. This was designed to help local business owners by providing a platform for a collective approach to marketing the unique services they provide to the community. Inspired by Prime Minister Abbott’s direct action philosophy, we formed Bennelong Village Businesses to gain a collective power to negotiate on the part of some 350 traders in 20 villages. The first result was a 33 per cent discount for advertising in our local paper, John Booth’s The WeeklyTimes. Then more assistance came from Boehringer Ingelheim with marketing and design of our brochures, which were letterbox-dropped throughout the community.

In 2012 I moved a motion in this place for which I was grateful to receive bipartisan support. The motion formally recognised the significant contribution that Australian Chinese have made to our nation’s modern multicultural society. The motion noted the strong history of Chinese migration to Australia throughout the past 200 years, and the vibrant festivities and events hosted by the Bennelong Chinese community and enjoyed by people from all cultures in the region. Over the past month, I have been fortunate to attend many community events as part of the lunar New Year, with our strong and vital Chinese and Korean communities coming together to treat us to a magnificent program of celebrations as we farewelled the Year of the Snake and welcomed the Year of the Horse.

One of the local events I developed in early 2011 has become a growing annual celebration. This is the Bennelong Cup Table Tennis competition, which grew out of the Bennelong Schools Table Tennis Program. This program was developed to engage students from a variety of cultural backgrounds through the sport of table tennis. Hyundai generously agreed to sponsor the provision of table-tennis tables and equipment to all 40 schools in the electorate of Bennelong, which has one of the largest Chinese communities in Australia. The Bennelong Cup has become an annual event and sees top table-tennis players from China, Korea, Japan and Australia compete to promote social engagement through their sport.

In September last year, I received a strong vote of support from the people of Bennelong. The support I received from across my electorate is a product of both my ongoing work as a local member and the strong national leadership of Prime Minister Abbott, who leads a united and focused team. Former member for Bennelong and Prime Minister John Howard once said, ‘All politics is local.’ The people of Bennelong have elected me and this government with a mandate to govern in the best interests of our nation—to provide a safe and secure Australia, to return to the levels of hope, reward and opportunities that we grew accustomed to during the Howard era.

I commit to the good people of Bennelong, from Ermingon to Chatswood West, from North Epping to Meadowbank, from Carlingford to Gladesville and from Eastwood to East Ryde, to continue to serve as a representative for the entire electorate, to work hard for you, for your businesses and for your families. We will face many challenges over the coming years as our economy is put back on track. By working together, we will develop a stronger community and a better future for our next generation.

As every member in this place will agree, elections are gruelling tests of our dedication to the task and to our community whilst trying to balance the needs of our families and those close to us. I was very fortunate to receive an abundance of assistance and tireless dedication from a large team of campaign workers. I have thanked each and every one of them personally but wish to reiterate my appreciation to them on the parliamentary record.

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