Ms Crozier (Southern Metropolitan)
President, congratulations to both you and the Deputy President on your election to high office and indeed to all newly elected members of this house.
It is both a privilege and an honour to have been elected to the Victorian Parliament and to be representing the people of Southern Metropolitan Region. It is a unique region of Melbourne characterised by its rich diversity, culture and history.
It encompasses the oldest Melbourne bay side suburbs, the renowned Chapel Street shopping precinct, the vibrant arts and cafe culture of St Kilda and some of Melbourne’s most established suburbs which border the Yarra River — a river recognised internationally for its capacity to sustain native fauna and flora in the heart of a thriving city. It is home to the historic Como House, Kew Cottages, the Shrine of Remembrance and Victoria’s Government House. It also takes in some of the most popular beaches within Port Phillip Bay and the internationally acclaimed Royal Botanic Gardens.
Within its borders it has the world-class and iconic health and research facilities of the Alfred hospital and the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute. It contains the Very Special Kids program, a program that supports families and children who have life-threatening illnesses, SIDS and Kids, and Vision Australia, just to name a few.
It is a region that is well known for both its public and private education facilities and includes some of Melbourne’s most prominent independent schools, reflecting as this does the educational priorities of parents in the region and the financial sacrifices that many of them make to provide the best opportunities for their children.
It is home to a diverse group of individuals and communities that make our city one of the most liveable cities in the world. To maintain that status, however, individuals and communities should always have access to all levels of government. They should feel safe and respected. As individuals they should continue to have freedom of choice and the right to pursue economic independence with limited government intervention, especially if such intervention is likely to impact adversely on the living standards of the majority of citizens.
Nevertheless within the inevitable constraints of competing budget priorities our governments should endeavour to maintain appropriate levels of service to all their citizens, including the provision of a realistic safety net for the most vulnerable. These are the philosophies laid down by the party’s founder, Sir Robert Menzies — himself a former member of the Legislative Council — which still hold true today and in which I believe so strongly.
I have lived in the region for 28 years and feel very much a part of it, but before that I was also fortunate to have grown up in the heart of red gum country in far western Victoria. I attended the small local primary school at Wando Vale, then Casterton High School, before attending boarding school in Geelong for my final years of secondary school. The legacy of this background is both a realistic understanding of the challenges and rewards of living in the country and an abiding empathy with those for whom this is their chosen environment.
I am well aware of the hardships and personal trauma that harsh seasons and natural disasters can inflict on the farming community, but I also recognise and applaud the resilience of country people and their capacity to respond to emergencies on their own initiative. Whether the emergency be bushfire, floods or accidents resulting in some form of injury, my own family are all too familiar with these events.
My career led me to Melbourne where my first job was for a small business in Commercial Road, Prahran, before commencing my general nurse training at the Alfred hospital in February 1983. My training commenced just a few weeks before Ash Wednesday. That day and its immediate aftermath is etched in my memory.
Then, as it is today and as it was following the Bali bombings in 2002 and on Black Saturday 2009, the Alfred hospital was a major trauma centre, nationally recognised for the skills and abilities of its many devoted health professionals.
In this context it is pertinent to recall the involvement of our many voluntary organisations, both in their unfailing responses to emergency situations and in their roles of ongoing civic leadership.
The longstanding tradition of voluntary public service is manifest in a range of community activities, whether it be a Nippers program on the coast, Meals on Wheels, the Scouts, doorknocking for the Red Shield Appeal, or being a member of the Country Fire Authority and the State Emergency Service, just to name a few, and inculcates a sense of belonging in local areas, thereby enhancing a strong community spirit. Such programs should continue to be promoted and encouraged by government to build a more respected, stronger and inclusive society.
As I pursued my earlier career within the public health sector, dealing and respecting people from all manner of backgrounds and circumstances, receiving immense satisfaction from the most basic of tasks, to taking on leadership roles and studying further at university, I was privileged to work with so many capable and professional people all pursuing the best of outcomes. One of the areas I studied and in which I have an ongoing interest is chronic disease.
Our health system has been overburdened in recent times and there has been an alarming increase in chronic and complex health problems.
During my nursing career I specialised in the management of diabetes, and in particular gestational diabetes, a potential precursor to type 2 diabetes, and am acutely aware of the social consequences and ever-increasing costs of this insidious disease and its proven nexus to the lifestyles of many Western cultures, including our own.
The cost-efficient delivery of health services will obviously remain a prime responsibility of governments, both state and federal, but in contemplating the rising incidence of largely preventable disease, I am firmly of the view that all of us have an ongoing obligation to do whatever we can to safeguard our own health.
As someone who has also worked in the corporate sector, and more recently in small business, I also understand the enormous pressures and challenges that small business operators face and the ever-increasing demands of maintaining a viable business — factors such as the burden of operational costs, rising utility prices and the many imposts that business bear on a day-to-day basis. With these demands, however, there is also the immense reward for achieving something of your own or in partnership.
The experiences of my working life, whether as a nurse in my earlier career, an employee of a major corporate organisation, or as a small business operator, have all given me an understanding of what so many people experience every day right across Southern Metropolitan Region and indeed Victoria. These are experiences of which I hope never to lose sight.
The one experience that I have never forgotten, and which for me was the trigger to become more involved in our democratic process, was an event in the mid-1980s during the now infamous nurses’ strike of 1985. Although sympathetic to many of the issues faced by the nursing profession at the time, I chose not to take strike action. The personal intimidation directed at me as a consequence and the feeling of erosion of my right to stand up for what I believed in and the right to choose consolidated in my mind the ideologies and philosophies of liberalism and provided the catalyst for my active involvement in the Liberal Party.
As a member of this coalition government and as a representative of the people of Southern Metropolitan Region I am proud to be part of a government that represents all Victorians, provides leadership and makes decisions in the interests of all; one that is economically prudent and spends taxpayers money wisely; one that is consultative; one that aims to ensure the provision of adequate services to all; one that respects its citizens and embraces the diversity of our communities — a government that is accountable, takes responsibility for its actions or inaction and makes decisions without fear or favour.
State governments have an important role to play. They impact on the daily lives of the people they represent through responsible government and the delivery of services. To that effect I am reminded of the words of my father, who said in this chamber on 18 September 1973:
. . . that we as a nation are a federation; that long before Canberra was ever thought of, responsible government existed in Melbourne.
It is a great privilege — no doubt a common sentiment held by most members — to take my seat in the ornate ambience of this splendid chamber for the first time. I am reminded of its rich history and the contribution of many former members on both sides of the house whose endeavours in public life had a lasting impact on the affairs of this state and indeed the nation.
I have been fortunate to have known many great Liberals who have contributed to and have been recognised for improving the lives of many and who have been integral in the delivery of good and effective government. I have been fortunate to have been involved so closely with the people of Higgins and to have served on the electorate executive of the former federal Treasurer and member for Higgins, Peter Costello, where I learnt so much.
I have been fortunate to have received wise counsel from Peter Costello, my family and my friends — Stephen Mitchell, David Webster, Victoria and Robert Lane, Frank Greenstein, David Ryan, Ross Liebmann, Senator Michael Ronaldson, Senator Helen Kroger and Senator Scott Ryan.
To my mentor, very good friend and now parliamentary colleague Andrea Coote, who has given me guidance and support on so many occasions and who encouraged me quite a number of years ago to pursue this course, I say thank you, Andrea. And I say thank you to you all.
My thanks also go to the many Liberal Party members within Southern Metropolitan Region who put their faith in my abilities, as well as members in other areas of the state who encouraged me to stand for this office.
And of course to my family, who have given me so much love, support and encouragement, including my brothers, John and Will, and my sister, Annabel, their spouses Anna, Sara and Gus, I say thank you very much. To my mother, Jill, who gave all of us as children so much guidance and who ensured that we were self-sufficient and independent at a very young age, and my father, Digby, who together with Mum has given great wisdom, love and strength, I say thank you. I am so fortunate to have both of them here with me tonight.
The structure and support of the family — no matter an individual’s circumstances — is the basis for any well-functioning society and should remain its cornerstone. I am so fortunate to have a wonderful family and to have them here with me today to share in this occasion.
For my family, and especially for me, it is an enormous honour and privilege to be following my father and entering this place — as he did some 37 years ago as the member for Western Province before then moving to the Legislative Assembly and becoming the member for Portland until his retirement in 1988. During his time in Parliament he served as a minister in both the Hamer and Thompson governments.
I am so proud of his considerable achievements and the recognition by so many of his contribution to the people of western Victoria and the state of Victoria during those years. The Hamer and Thompson government years were renowned for the successful post-war economic development of Victoria and the expansion of international trade at a time when people and governments were also becoming increasingly aware of quality-of-life issues.
The world today is a different place to what it was then.
However, it is also of some personal significance that tonight I can reflect on the Parliamentary career of my great-great-grandfather, the Honourable John Crozier, who was a member of the Legislative Council of the young colony of South Australia from 1867 to 1887.
He also presided over very different times. But the fundamental values of good government — whether 140 years ago, 37 years ago or today — should remain, and as citizens and representatives of this great state we should seek to uphold them.
President, as I take my place in this chamber for the very first time, I look forward to the opportunities now open to me to contribute to this objective.