Mr WAKELING (Ferntree Gully) – In this address-in-reply debate I should like firstly to congratulate you, Deputy Speaker, on your election to the high office you occupy, and secondly, to congratulate the other newly elected members of this house.

It is a privilege to be elected as the first Liberal member for Ferntree Gully. The electorate of Ferntree Gully lies to the west of the picturesque Dandenong foothills. Located within the municipality of Knox, the electorate comprises the established suburbs of Ferntree Gully and Boronia to the north. To the south lie the suburbs of Rowville and Lysterfield, which over recent years have experienced significant growth as many young families have established their new residences within these two suburbs. I am a passionate advocate for the needs and aspirations of residents in the Ferntree Gully electorate. It was this passion that inspired me to serve this community as a councillor with the City of Knox and now as a member of this house.

I firmly believe that the Ferntree Gully electorate deserves a greater range of services and infrastructure. This community has demanded improvements to public transport, road infrastructure, law and order, education and health services. Over the next four years I commit myself to being a strong advocate for my constituency. It is clear that the Ferntree Gully electorate requires significant improvements to public transport. The Rowville community is demanding a long-term solution to solve its transport needs. As a Rowville resident I understand the frustrations of my constituency and will continue to advocate for the completion of the Rowville rail feasibility study.

Furthermore, to overcome concerns about community safety I will continue the fight to upgrade Ferntree Gully railway station to premium status.

Law and order is a major concern to my community. The Rowville police station is currently operational for only 16 hours a day. This situation is untenable and I will continue lobbying for this station to be operational for 24 hours a day. The road network throughout my electorate requires significant upgrade. Many residents complain that there appears to be no clear planning to overcome congestion on our local roads. I commit to fight for the duplication of Napoleon Road. Once completed, this will allow for the construction of the long-awaited Dorset Road extension.

Health and education services in the region also require significant upgrades.

I will continue to lobby for important upgrades to the Knox Community Health Service and also continue to push for the upgrade and redevelopment of our local school infrastructure. It is not acceptable for my constituents to be educated in substandard facilities.

The Ferntree Gully community has been well served over many years by a number of highly regarded Liberal members of Parliament. Sir George Knox served the region with distinction for 33 years. In April 1927 Sir George was elected to the Legislative Assembly as the member for Upper Yarra. In November 1945 he was elected as the member for Scoresby, a position he held until his death in 1960. During his period in Parliament Sir George served as Speaker of the house between 1942 and 1947. Prior to his tenure in Parliament he served as a commanding officer with the 23rd Battalion, which included service in Gallipoli. He also served as a councillor with the Shire of Ferntree Gully for five years.

In recognition of his service to the Ferntree Gully community the City of Knox was named in his honour.

The Honourable William Borthwick represented the region with distinction, serving as the member for Scoresby between 1960 and 1967 before serving as the member for Monbulk until 1982. During his tenure in Parliament he served at various times as a minister of water supply, lands, soldier settlement, conservation, health and also as Deputy Premier between June 1981 and April 1982.

The Honourable Geoffrey Hayes represented the region as member for Scoresby between 1967 and 1976. He also served the Parliament with distinction as a minister for planning and housing. Mr Hurtle Lupton, who would be known to many in this house, served as the member for Knox between 1992 and 2002.

Hurtle was committed to the Knox community, having served as a councillor with the City of Knox for 20 years, including three terms as mayor.

I am proud of the contributions my ancestors have made to life in Australia. My maternal ancestors emigrated from England and Ireland in the 19th century. James Tomkins and his wife Maria produced 10 children in their native Dublin. Like many victims of the potato famine the family travelled to Australia on the Midlothian in 1853 in search of a better life. Upon arriving in Victoria with his family James obtained employment as a member of the Victorian public service, serving as a messenger and housekeeper in the office of the Master in Equity. Another maternal ancestor, Thomas Hoskin, and his future wife, Tryphena, emigrated from Cornwall to Melbourne in the 1850s in search of a new life. After marrying in Melbourne the couple travelled to the country, where they helped pioneer the community of Violet Town in Victoria’s north-east.

My maternal grandfather, Norman Tomkins, worked as a chauffeur for Sir Henry Wrixon at his property named Raheen in Kew. Sir Henry served as President in the Legislative Council. With the outbreak of war Norman immediately enlisted for service. Serving with the 6th Battalion, my grandfather was a proud Anzac, having landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Upon returning to Australia after sustaining an injury at the front, Norman and his new wife, Elsie, raised four children during the height of the Depression. I am proud of their contribution and the manner in which the couple raised my mother, Jacqueline.

My paternal ancestors emigrated from England. John Layburn emigrated to Australia in the 19th century and took up residence in the rural New South Wales township of Carcoar. His son, John Joseph Layburn, later served his country on two occasions as a member of the Bushmen’s Regiment during the Boer War in South Africa.

Another paternal ancestor, George Alfred Wakeling, and his wife, Jane, moved to Manly, New South Wales, with their three children. George established a small business in Sydney. His son Reginald was passionate about political discussion and instilled in my father, Bill, and his three brothers the significance of political philosophy and debate.

I am proud to serve in this house as a member of the Liberal Party.

The late Sir Robert Menzies, founder of this great party, developed the Liberal Party on a philosophy of smaller government and encouraging the right of the individual to grow and prosper. One only needs to look at the proposal by the then Chifley Labor government to nationalise the banking system. Menzies, as Leader of the Opposition, declared in the House of Representatives that such a move was:

… a tremendous step towards the servile state, because it will set aside normal liberty of choice, and that is what competition means, and will forward the idea of the special supremacy of government. That is the antithesis of democracy. Democracy rests upon the view that the people are the rulers as well as the ruled; that the government has no authority and no privilege beyond that granted by the people themselves; that while sovereignty attaches to the acts of Parliament, that sovereignty is derived from the people and has no other source.

It was this philosophy of free enterprise, small government and hard work that encouraged my father to join the Liberal Party at an early age and later serve as a ministerial adviser in the former Hamer government.

During my formative years I was taught about the Liberal philosophy around the family dinner table, a philosophy which supports the concept that wealth is created in the private sector and the health of the private sector determines the ultimate health of the economy. My philosophy was further developed through my experiences in both my education and employment.

My education at Haileybury College, my political studies at La Trobe University and my postgraduate studies in industrial relations at both RMIT and Monash universities provided me with the opportunity to explore and debate a range of political philosophies. I can recall many passionate philosophical debates with lecturers and fellow students during these formative years.

I also look back with fondness on my time in student politics. As the new member for Malvern would recall, in the early 1990s spirited debate was led by Liberal students throughout university campuses regarding the need for voluntary student unionism, a dream finally realised with the recent passage of legislation through the Senate.

I bring to this house a range of business experiences in both the private and the public sectors that have enabled me to understand the impact of government regulation on Australian industry. Working in the industrial relations department of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce allowed me to understand the significance of the small business sector to the Victorian economy.

Small business is the engine room of the Victorian economy, and it is vital that the Victorian government develop the best mix of policies to encourage these businesses to prosper. Furthermore, my more recent role in a senior industrial relations position with the Adecco Group has provided me with a unique opportunity to understand the employment needs of many Australian businesses. Working for one of Australia’s largest employers that on-hires over 10 000 employees to thousands of businesses throughout Australia has enabled me to develop a range of employment models with a large number of businesses throughout this nation.

Developing employment models on a national level has also demonstrated the disparity in legislation amongst the states in a range of portfolios. These experiences highlighted the need for greater harmonisation of government regulation throughout the commonwealth. The former Kennett government should be commended for achieving harmonisation at a national level with respect to industrial relations. I believe it is incumbent on future governments to explore greater opportunity for harmonisation amongst the various legislators.

I have been provided with a wonderful opportunity to represent the needs and aspirations of my electorate. I remain steadfast in my desire to see the delivery of better services and infrastructure for the Knox community. I also commit myself to working for a better Victoria, a state in which business is encouraged to grow and prosper to allow all Victorians the opportunity to achieve a better quality of life through the benefits of full-time employment.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful campaign team and supporters for their hard work. I am indebted to the commitment of Liberal Party members in both the Rowville and Ferntree Gully branches, who committed many months to my campaign. I would also like to pay credit to my fantastic campaign committee, in particular Glynis Allan, Dawn Keast and former member Hurtle Lupton. I will always be sincerely grateful to my campaign chairman, Graeme McEwin, who is here today, for his commitment, drive and passion. Graeme is unswerving in his commitment to the Liberal Party in the Knox region. Graeme put his faith in me many years ago, and I am sincerely indebted to him.

I would like to thank my state colleague Kim Wells, the member for Scoresby, plus my federal colleagues the Honourable Chris Pearce, the federal member for Aston, and Jason Wood, the federal member for La Trobe, for their support and counsel. The efforts of these members demonstrate the resolve of Liberal parliamentarians to assist their colleagues wherever possible.

I will always be proud of my parents, Bill and Jacqueline.

I will always be very grateful to my mother, who put aside many issues to make sure that my education was the no. 1 priority in her life whilst trying to cope on a single fixed income with the 17 per cent interest rates in the 1980s. I would like to pay credit to my brother, Tim, and my wonderful parents-in-law, Colin and Judy Golding, for being so giving of their time to my campaign.

I would like to thank my wonderful wife, Levili, and my two children, Thomas and Emily, who are not here today, for being such a fantastic family. Members in this house would know only too well the impact that an election campaign has on our immediate families, particularly those who fight an 18-month campaign.

I would also like to thank my work colleagues at Adecco who are here today for their support and friendship, and the many companies within the recruitment industry for their support.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the contribution made to the electorate by the former member for Ferntree Gully, Ms Anne Eckstein. I wish her and her family well in the future and on behalf of the constituents of Ferntree Gully thank her for the work she did during her term in office.