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Speeches and Statements

Biosecurity Bill 2014

 

The Biosecurity Bill which seeks to replace the Quarantine Act 1908 is extremely important and relevant for Australia, as we enter into an unprecedented level of trade and globalisation.

 

When the original Quarantine Act was legislated and passed over 100 years ago, global trade has since significantly evolved. Where lawmakers once faced possible outbreaks of the small pox, leprosy, yellow fever and the bubonic plague, they are now alerted to numerous modern complex infectious diseases that are viral and can be transferred amongst animals as well as animal to human transmissions and of course, human to human interactions. Read More

 


Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Direct Lending and Other Measures) Bill 2014

 

The Bill will create amendments to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991 (“the Act”) and by doing so, will vastly improve the commercial opportunities of the many Australian export businesses right around the country.

 

Today’s bill is another piece of important legislation that has been analysed, reviewed and amended by this side of Government. This legislation is crucial and an ongoing part of the Coalition’s plan to revive Australia’s small to medium sized enterprises, which employs the largest number of employees and make up the bulk of our economy.

 

The opportunity to speak on this Bill today has coincided perfectly with the freshly inked trade agreements that we have concluded with China and India. Read More

 


 

Australian Citizenship Amendment 2014

 

The inauguration of the Australian Citizenship Act in 1949 was a key marker of our development as a fully-fledged, independent country accepting migrants on its own terms.

 

Through our strong Australian Citizenship programme, Australia has seen such notable national treasures as renowned ballet dancer Li Cunxin, Aussie rock legend Jimmy Barnes and South African born author J. M. Coetzee have come to our shores and contributed immeasurably to our national life.

 

Citizenship is the tool by which we invite the best and brightest from all over the world to join our national story and contribute to our shared community life. For that reason, it should be treasured, celebrated, and upheld.

In the succeeding sixty-five years, our nation has been strengthened by the diverse contribution of those from all walks of life. However, in our diversity a common thread of commitment to Australian values such as mateship, egalitarianism and a fair go for all unites us in our citizenship. Read More

 


Australian Citizenship Amendment (Intercountry Adoption) Bill 2014

 

For many couples across Australia and around the world, adopting a child will be one of the most significant, momentous and joyful decisions of their lives.

 

For many children, being adopted by caring and loving parents into a stable home will be one of the most important parts of their life.

 

For children who do not have parents to look after them, adoption provides for a chance at a better life , where they are loved and looked after, in a nurturing and secure household.

 

For this reason, I believe this Bill should be supported by both sides of Parliament. Read More

 


 

Social Security Legislation Amendment (Strong Penalties for Serious Failures) Bill 2014

 

As a fair society, our governments and policy makers have a responsibility to ensure a system of equal access to opportunity.

 

Similarly, governments and policy makers also recognize that people, despite best efforts, may not always achieve equal outcomes through no fault of their own.

 

In light of this, Australia has created a welfare system that provides assistance and resources which are available to those who need it most, but this system is built on the concept of mutual benefit.

 

A sense of mutual obligation within our welfare system has been a long feature of society, where job seekers who receive income support through tax payer funds, contribute back through activities such as work for the dole, active job seeking and meeting with job service providers. Read More

 


The Australian National Preventative Health Agency (Abolition) Bill 2014

 

Mr Deputy Speaker, I am very proud to speak today on this Bill. I am also very proud that all Australians have access to a world-class health system with access to top quality medical services and excellent health promotion and prevention programs.

 

Australia has an ageing population that now has a longer life span than their predecessors, whilst simultaneously faced with chronic illnesses, diseases and lifestyle choices that produce adverse health effects in the long term. There is an increased need for government to implement proactive health policies, and effective programs with sustained funding. Individuals are now expected to live longer with better access to healthcare than ever before. Read More

 


Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Bill 2014

 

I am proud to be speaking in favour of this Bill, a measure which finetunes the legislation governing military compensation so that it can best serve our returned service community.

 

The Australian community of Veterans is a proud and strong one, but one facing significant struggles and burdens. These challenges should give the Government and every Australian citizen cause to strive harder to provide ex-service personnel the strong level of support and gratitude which they deserve.

 

It is essential that our Government supports Australian injured servicemen and women with great programmes such as those serving the veteran population of the Electorate of Barton. Read More

 


Trades Support Loans Bill 2014

 

The Trade Support Loans Bill that the Government will provide to apprentices will ensure that young people are attaining the priority skills that they need for long-term employment and the skills that Australia needs for productivity and competitiveness.

 

These loans provide up to $20 000 over 4 years in a HELP-style concessional loan scheme to assist with the expenses of living and learning. Apprentices will repay the loan once they can afford to through the Australian Tax system like university students do.

 

Trades are essential for Australia's long term competitiveness. The Coalition is ensuring this sector receives the support and encouragement so it can continue its contribution to the nation's economy. Read More

 


Business Services Wages Assessment Tool Payment Scheme

 

This is a Bill worthy of support because the Payment Scheme it brings into effect will provide remuneration and certainty for thousands of intellectually disabled Australians while the Government seeks to reform wage assessment in this vital area of supported employment.

 

The Government is serious about its commitment to the lives of intellectually disabled Australians, to their ability to make a genuine contribution to society through programs provided by Australian Disability Enterprises.

 

A Payment Scheme grows out of this serious commitment. The Coalition is the champion both of the fair go, and of having a go. Those values are central to the philosophy of this Bill and all related measures. Read More

 


Bunny Cottage Preschool and Long Day Care Centre

 

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the Bunny Cottage Preschool and Long Day Care Centre in Bexley in my electorate of Barton. I was invited by the director and owner of the centre, a qualified childhood educator, Ms Sharon Akkanen for the centre's 20th birthday.

 

Like many childcare centres right across Australia, the Bunny Cottage plays an essential role in the community for parents and represents a fundamental pillar of our society - families.

 

Our increasing population and demands placed on working families mean that childcare centres like the Bunny Cottage are precious resources for our local communities. Read More

 


VISIT TO TRADITIONAL CHINESE FARM IN ROCKDALE

 

I recently had the pleasure to visit a traditional Chinese vegetable farm in Rockdale in the presence of councillors and notable members of the Chinese community.

 

This farm has been operating for more than 20 years as a family business, growing Chinese vegetables, wintermelons and bananas using specialist growing practices. Read More


 

EXCISE TARIFF AMENDMENT (PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP FOR OIL) AND CUSTOMS TARIFF AMENDMENT (PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP FOR OIL)

 

This Bill seeks to secure the cost-neutrality of the Product Stewardship for Oil Scheme, safeguarding the work it has been doing in the fields of environmental sustainability and resource-creation over the past thirteen years.

 

It was the Howard Government that introduced the Product Stewardship for Oil Scheme in 2001, a self-sustaining scheme that uses the revenue raised by excise and customs tariffs on petroleum-based oil imports to pay for benefits ranging between 3 and 50 cents per litre to incentivise the recycling of used oil.

 

At the heart of the Government’s intent for the financial mechanism of the Scheme was that the excise levy’s purpose was to fully fund the benefits scheme. As the original intent for the Scheme to finance itself has been breached, with the PSO running at a deficit, this Bill seeks to increase customs and excise levies from 5.449 cents per litre or kilogram to 8.5 cents per litre or kilogram. Read More

 


 

Matters of Public Importance (MPI): A Sustainable Health System

 

I was honoured to speak today on a Matter of Public Importance (MPI) in response to the Opposition about how the Coalition is making our health system sustainable so that all Australians will continue to have access to universal healthcare.

 

This budget has revealed that we have a government which is committed to record levels of funding for health. What this budget clearly states is that we are committed to safeguarding the sustainability of universal health care for generations to come. This is an MPI which flies in the face of that truth.

 

The truth about health funding is that hospital funding is increasing by over $5 billion over the next four years—$5 billion in real money, in costed and affordable increases that we will actually be able to deliver for Australians. That is not a cut to health. Read More

 


 

Australian Lebanese Foundation Scholarship Dinner

 

I was honoured to be at the Australian Lebanese Foundation Scholarship Dinner to represent the Prime Minister, The Honourable Tony Abbott at the University of Sydney.

 

The Foundation Scholarship Dinner celebrates students who have shown self-discipline, energy and the determination to excel. I was privileged to celebrate with everyone the achievements of outstanding young men and women of Lebanese descent.

 

Scholarships such as these provide recipients an exciting start to their future. I commended both the University of Sydney and the Lebanese University for their enormous contributions to the Australian Lebanese community and to our multicultural society. Read More

 


The Australian Egyptian Council Forum Gala Dinner

 

The Australian Egyptian Council Forum actively promotes positive multicultural relations and recognises the important contributions of individuals in our community. I had the great privilege of attending their Gala Dinner recently representing the Prime Minister, and met with distinguished achievers and leaders of the Egyptian community who work to better the lives of others.

 

One individual is chosen each year from areas of academia, law and order, medicine, social and community services, arts and the media. These individuals are truly devoted to their community and to strengthening Egyptian Australian communal ties.

 

They are role models to our youth, and encourage community efforts to promote Egyptian culture within society and develop positive relations between Egypt and Australia at communal, government and non-government levels. Read More

 


 

Badgerys Creek and WestConnex

 

I commend the recent Federal Government's commitments to economic growth, investment in infrastructure, and community consultation, which have all been evident in my electorate of Barton over the past month.
 
I would first like to register my enthusiastic support for the Federal Government’s recent commitment to building a second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.
 
For years, the constituents of Barton have tolerated the constant noise of busy flight paths at Kingsford-Smith and many fear that that it will only worsen in the future. This was frequently relayed to me throughout my election campaign. Read More
 

Anzac Ceremony at St Francis Xavier School, Arncliffe

 

Father Brendan Quirk, Principal Kevin Bryson, Veteran Mr. Ken Markos, teachers, students and parents.

It is an honour to be here this morning as St. Francis Xavier School commemorates Anzac Day.

 

On Anzac Day, we pause to give thanks for the sacrifice made by Australian soldiers during the First World War. Many young soldiers, some still in their teens, died in the war. Most Australian families lost at least one of their children.

 

Many of those that fought were very young, with some even lying about their age so they would be accepted as old enough to fight. This demonstrates that they were not veteran warriors. They were normal young Australians just like everyone in this hall today. Read More

 

MH370 Condolence Motion


I rise to add my condolences to those of my colleagues and join with the whole world in registering my sorrow and sadness for those on board Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 following this tragic set of circumstances.

My condolences go out to the families loved ones of all 239 souls aboard MH370. I am thinking of them and praying for them through what must be nothing short of a personal nightmare.

Those aboard the flight hailed from fifteen different nations. Indeed this has been a global tragedy with a significant relevance to our nation, as it sits on Asia’s doorstep. Read More
 

 

Celebrating Greek Independence Day in Martin Place 23.03.14


On Sunday I had the privilege of attending the Greek National Independence Day March and wreath-laying ceremony in Martin Place.


These celebrations were hosted by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, having been hosted by the Greek Community in Sydney for over one hundred years.


Many school children, members of the public and patriots in traditional attire gathered to celebrate Greek national values and commemorate the sacrifice of those fallen in the cause of freedom. Read More

 


Green Army

 

I rise to inform the House that I am advocating for a Green Army project to restore the long-term health of Kogarah Bay and the Cooks River within my electorate as part of ongoing project submissions to the Green Army taskforce.

 

Prior to my election, I met with local stakeholders to ascertain concerns for Barton's waterways and found that water quality was suffering and salt marsh communities were under threat.

 

The health of these natural habitats have been diminishing over the last decade and they require regular maintenance. Read More

 


 

Nan Tien Temple Visit


Venerable Master Manko, Cr. Annie Tang, Deputy Mayor of Kogarah City Council, venerable and distinguished guests.


It is an absolute honour to be here today in the presence of the Venerable Master and so many distinguished guests. I was privileged to be among you at the Kogarah Branch of the International Association of Buddhists for your grand opening.


I have long held a great interest and respect for the Buddhist religion. Read More

 


 

FOSHAN ASSOCIATION DINNER

 

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is significant to be in the presence of so many notable individuals at this evening’s dinner.


The involvement and attendance of so many officials and community leaders is a testament to the vital impact and importance of the work done by the Foshan Association of Australia.


I congratulate Amen Lee on his three-year term of service and his role in founding the organisation. Read More


 

 

ASSISTANT MINISTER LEY CHILDCARE VISIT – FEDERATION CHAMBER


I rise to inform the chamber that on Tuesday of last week, I had the privilege of escorting the Hon. Sussan Ley, Assistant Minister for Education to meet with childcare directors from the local area in a childcare sector forum.


Prior to the forum, Assistant Minister Ley met with local childcare directors in my electorate Stephanie Bruno and Eleni Wilson at their centre Barfa Bear to listen to concerns for the operation of the childcare sector and toured the facility.


I then escorted the Assistant Minister to meet with childcare directors and managers in a two hour open forum where the Assistant Minister and I heard from representatives of long day care centres, out of school hours care centres, and family day care centres. Read More


 

SOUTH ASIAN SUMMER AND FALGUN FESTIVAL – FEDERATION CHAMBER

 

It was with great honour that I addressed the South Asian community at Cahill Park recently on the auspicious occasion of the Summer and Falgun Festival, organised by Desperate Youth Australia.


I was among representatives from Rockdale City Council, the St. George Migrant Resource Centre and the President of Desperate Youth Australia, Mohammed Abu Saleh.

 

I was certainly privileged to witness and take part in the community’s cultural celebration of “Falgun”, a season in the South Asian Calendar which brings with it merry celebrations of spring, friendship and new life. Read More

 


 

The Prime Minister’s Visit to the Barton Electorate and the Impact of the Carbon Tax on Local Families and Businesses

 

On Monday of last week the Prime Minister, the Honourable Tony Abbott, was generous enough to visit light food manufacturer Frutex within my electorate of Barton.


During the visit, the Prime Minister met with members of the local Magiros family at their Kingsgrove facility to familiarise himself with one of the largest manufacturing employers in my electorate of Barton. Read More

 


 

 

AHEPA Dinner Dance Medical Awards


Ladies and gentlemen, I am privileged to be among you tonight on the occasion of the presentation of the Ippokratis and George Thomas Medical Awards.


AHEPA has long exemplified the best of philanthropic Hellenic ideals to the entire community.


Your longstanding commitment to charitable work, cultural education and intellectual excellence is a shining example for all to follow. Read More

 


 

Chinese New Year 2014 Kogarah Council Celebrations


Kung Hai Fat Choi!


As Federal Member for Barton, it is my honour to welcome you to the City of Kogarah to celebrate Chinese New Year: the year of the horse.


This is the twelfth year that Kogarah City Council has hosted these celebrations and in that time the event has gone from strength to strength. It is my hope that tonight we will continue in the spirit of excitement that we’ve always enjoyed across the years. Read More

 


 

Open Heart Book Launch


To my fellow Parliamentary colleagues from Federal, State and Local Government; His Excellency the Ambassador of Lebanon of the Consul General in Sydney, to our many distinguished religious leaders,


It is an absolute pleasure to be here tonight at the launch of Sayed Mikhael’s book, ‘Open Heart’ and I thank Sayed for extending an invitation to me.


This book showcases visits to Australia from Lebanese officials, whether they are government officials or involved in media, sports and the arts, and considers the positive impact that these visits have had on the Lebanese community in Australia. Read More

 


 

Australia Day 2014

 

Mr. Mark Coure MP, Mr. David Coleman MP, Mr. Emanuel Comino AM, Cr George Katsabaris, Cr Nicholas Aroney, Cr Nathaniel Smith, Cr Nick Katris, Cr Kathryn Landsberry, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to the Kogarah City Council Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony.


Firstly, on behalf of Kogarah City Council, I would like to formally acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we stand, the Dharawal people, and pay our respects to their elders past and present.


Becoming a citizen is a significant milestone both in your life and in the life of this nation. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely congratulate you upon your citizenship and reflect on the national character of the homeland that we all now share. Read More

 


 

Shandong Zibo – NSW Sydney Trade and Investment Seminar 2013

 

I would like to acknowledge Mayor of Zibo Municipal Government, Mr Xu Jingyan; His Excellency Li Huaxin, Consul General of The People’s Republic of China in Sydney, my colleague, Mr Mark Coure, State Member for Oatley and Mr Edward Lin, President of Auscham-Fujian Branch and Managing Director of Holiday (Australia) Investment Group.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Australia’s foreign trade and export industry is an important make-up of our economy and Australia and China are natural economic partners. Read More

 


 

Remembrance Day


To distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen,


Today is a date etched in the national psyche.


It is a date we share with other countries, the tradition of observing in silence the anniversary of the Great War’s armistice and to remember and commemorate the fallen and those who served during all theatres of conflict. Read More

 


 

 

Athenian Association 60 Year Anniversary Dinner

 

The Prime Minister is regrettably unable to attend tonight’s event, however he has asked me to represent him on this occasion and to pass on his message to you in his stead;


“I am pleased to provide this message on the occasion of the 2013 Surf Life Saving Association Awards of Excellence.


The surf life saving movement is part of the great Australian volunteer tradition. Read More

 


 

 

Sydney Chinese Business Association Christmas Dinner 2013

 

I would first like to acknowledge Consul General, Li Huaxin; Vice Consul, Ying Tang; Consul Can Wang; Consul Jiang Tao Han; Chief Representative of China Foreign Experts Affairs Office in Australia, Mr Jingfa Wan; State Member for Strathfield, Mr Charles Casuscelli MP; State Member for Oatley, Mark Coure MP; Deputy Mayor of Kogarah, Annie Tang and other distinguished guests that we have here with us this evening.


Thank you for inviting me to be here tonight.


Business has certainly faced challenges this year; this of course can be attributed to the election year, which, has a reputation for reducing consumer confidence, but the fruitful forecasted retail figures for this year’s Christmas spending is evidence that a change of government has restored the confidence of consumers. Read More

 


 

Official Opening of Kingsgrove Woolworths


Distinguished guests, staff and residents,


I wish to thank you for inviting me here today to help open what will be a fantastic addition to the local community. Read More

 


 

Maiden Speech

Mr VARVARIS (Barton) (17:07):

 

Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to commence my inaugural speech by expressing my sincere and deepest respect to and admiration for the concept of this parliament, to its origin and painstaking advancement through the years that have made this country prominent in the world, and I pledge my unreserved dedication in serving to the best of my ability within this temple of democracy. My respect, admiration and support continues further to Her Majesty the Queen and to our present constitutional system of government.

 

As a person born and raised in the St George area of Sydney, within the constituency of Barton where I was elected, I am blessed to have achieved my standing in this House and, of course, grateful and indeed humbled by the honour my constituents and the men and women of my party have bestowed upon me. In making my first speech, it would not be right to disregard the great work done by the former member for Barton, the Hon. Robert McClelland. I have had the opportunity to work very closely with Robert in my role as the Mayor of Kogarah City Council, and, as the former member for Barton, he was a man who got on with the job and who many in my electorate have always spoken very highly of. In his 17 years as the member, he served his electorate and party well and followed in the great tradition set by his father, the Hon. Doug McClelland AC, former senator and President of the Senate. It was disappointing to see how he was treated by the party that not only he but his family had devoted their careers to. It has come as no surprise that, no matter who I have spoken to at parliament about Robert, they have all described him as a wonderful person of great character. Robert, you have certainly left me with big shoes to fill.

 

Madam Speaker, my warmest congratulations on your election—a proper recognition of your widely-acclaimed services to this nation. I, too, extend to you my total support in your vital role.

Barton is a seat that is the very definition of multiculturalism. Barton has never been regarded as a safe seat for the Liberal Party, and I am humbled to note that only two Liberals have had the honour to represent this electorate before me. Even former Liberal Party member and World War II heroine Nancy Wake, who ran twice, with swings that exceeded my own, failed to gain the honour of representing the wonderful people who reside in Barton.

 

The seat of Barton is the birthplace of Australia as we know it today, starting in 1788 with the arrival of the First Fleet at Botany Bay and the beginning of European settlement. The First Fleet, followed by the Gold Rush, boosted Australia's total population from 430,000 in 1851 to 1.7 million in 1871, marking the beginning of Australia's multicultural society.

Multiculturalism to me is not just a slogan or passing fashion. I see it as a whole component of life in Australia which has been pivotal in the pursuit of a variety of goals over the years, including the principles of social justice, the recognition of identities and appreciation of diversity, the integration of migrants, nation building and attempts to achieve and maintain social cohesion. Multicultural diversity on a democratic platform guarantees our shared values in future, and, if it were limited to a three key-word formula, for this unique success, I would nominate 'tolerance', 'unity' and 'justice'. In a sense, I feel that the same values of tolerance, unity and justice can be applied on a greater scale, with dignity and mutual respect, law and security for the wider Australian family, the people we represent.

 

I wish to acknowledge and thank the Hon. Philip Ruddock for the genuine interest that he has demonstrated towards migrants in Australia over an extensive career to date, including as Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. I would also like to thank representatives from a host of different nationalities that are present today in the gallery. In particular I would like to acknowledge the Ambassador of Greece, His Excellency Charalampos Dafaranos, and his wife, Eva Dafaranos, and the High Commissioner of Cyprus, His Excellency Yannis Iacovou. I would also like to note the attendance in the gallery, from the United States of America, of Major General Roosevelt Mercer Jr, the Director of Plans and Policy, United States Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; and the first Australian-born astronaut to journey to space, American Paul Desmond Scully-Power AM.

 

Whilst the electorate of Barton is culturally and religiously diverse, there is one defining element that unites us all, and that is family. I stand before you, the son of a Greek Orthodox parish priest, a person raised within a religious environment, and one in which life revolved around serving the needs of the community. It has recently dawned on me that, although I never followed in my father's footsteps in the church, our paths are more aligned than would meet the eye. I am very proud of the work my father has done in serving our community. My father has been serving the St George community for over 40 years. He has dedicated his life to improving the lives of his parishioners by looking after and fostering the spiritual, educational, welfare and cultural needs of the area. Growing up in my family, it was not uncommon to be taken to every type of event that you could imagine, attending weddings, christenings, funerals, cemeteries, hospitals—and the list goes on. From this I came to appreciate that such events are not for appearances but serve as a more important role in being able to interact with and absorb the issues that affect people. So at an early age I became very aware of the multitude of circumstances and challenges everyday people are faced with. Since very early, I was always taught and guided by the principles of family and faith, modesty and respect to my fellow human being, and I was firmly expected to strive in my education like my father, to apply all that I had received at all levels of my education for the benefit of all.

 

My parents migrated from Greece and were married in this country in the early 1960s, attracted to Australia by the fulfilled promise of a better life. The hardships in their country of origin had taught them a single and profound lesson: to work hard and honestly, and appreciate the value of education for their children, which they considered the key to a better life.

It was tolerance, unity and justice that my family instinctively applied in our upbringing and allowed me to grow, and moulded my life through hard family finances that were overcome only thanks to the highly-developed skills of the joint treasurers of the family, my father, John, and my mother, Ourania. Raising properly a family of five children was a herculean task at that time. They both worked hard, not only to provide for us but also to contribute to the greater Greek community of Kogarah, where they were pivotal in establishing a very successful Greek community association and an aged-care centre. I vividly remember my mother visiting hospital patients every Monday for over 30 years, something she did not out of obligation but out of her drive to assist those in need. Their combined efforts have been recognised and appreciated by many state and federal dignitaries and the ecumenical ecclesiastic authority.

With the gratitude my parents expressed in every manner and on every occasion for the blessed opportunity that their destiny held in relocating to this country, their constant reminder to all five of us—myself, my brother, Con; sisters, Sylvia and Chrissa, and my twin-sister, Irene—was: 'honour our name'.

Being a twin child of a Greek migrant family of seven, I have fully lived the experience of the cultural melting pot, amidst the struggle and sacrifices of our parents and grandparents who were the labourers that built the roads, the railways and the majestic Snowy Mountains scheme. They were the factory workers, the coffee lounge owners and farmers whose children would later become builders, businessmen and professionals.

 

I was fortunate to attend good schools with committed teachers. I would like to pay tribute to the headmaster of Trinity Grammar School, Roderick West, whose comments when I was in year 7 have remained with me for life. He stressed the importance of utilising the opportunities and experiences that a well-rounded education could offer. I would also like to acknowledge the support and mentoring given to me by Max Taylor, the former director of the school's Society of the Arts, in developing an appreciation in the arts during my schooling career.

This experience was a lesson well learnt. It equipped me with social skills and proved valuable later in my life, in particular during my 14 years on Kogarah City Council, six years of which was as mayor. It is a highly multicultural place with diverse cultures of mainly Greek, Chinese and Arabic-speaking backgrounds, to name a few, all of whom live, work and prosper harmoniously.

 

During my 14 years on Kogarah City Council I received my taste for politics and love for serving my community. I am very proud of the achievements made whilst I was on council. All councillors from all sides worked together in a collaborative manner to deliver the very best for the people of Kogarah. We upgraded Kogarah from suburb to city. We delivered a cleaner, greener and sustainable city.

Kogarah City Council was recognised as a leader in the field of environmental sustainability and Kogarah was named amongst the world's most liveable cities at the International Liveable Communities Awards in December 2012, along with being awarded the state and national title of Most Sustainable City by Keep Australia Beautiful. Kogarah won the New South Wales Green Globe Award for being the leader in sustainable water management in the state, and achieving a Sydney Water 5-star accreditation for total water cycle management. We implemented water-sensitive urban design using litter traps and baskets on all stormwater outlets, preventing rubbish and soil entering our precious waterways. We were and still are the only council in New South Wales to have implemented a sewer-mining program for irrigation purposes.

 

We fostered culture and arts by implementing the Kogarah Art Prize, which attracted national attention, and kicked off the mayor's Music at Twilight concert series and a widely supported public arts program. Our appreciation for our multicultural local government community saw us play host to a number of cultural festivities, such as Australia Day, TVB Jadeworld Carnival, the Asian Cultural Festival, the Being Greek Festival and the Boshonto Mela festival.

 

Upon my election to Kogarah City Council I recognised the council was in a poor financial situation. In response I drove the implementation of long-term financial planning, disciplined fiscal management and I can proudly boast that the council is debt-free and one of a handful of New South Wales councils that received a positive report card from the New South Wales government. I am also proud to say that Kogarah City Council provides quality services for a lower budget and fewer staff than most in the state.

We did not accomplish this by imposing more and more costs onto the ratepayer. We accomplished this by implementing strategic and innovative measures. Through all my experiences on the council I have realised the importance of partnerships between federal, state and local governments, working together to provide services to the community. As I now embark on a new journey, serving a wider constituency, I will build on my experiences and knowledge, successes and milestones, to deliver even more for my area.

 

It is common practice when preparing for your maiden speech to peruse inaugural speeches made previously. There is one particular maiden speech that I would like to mention. It is the speech by former Liberal member for Barton James Bradfield. In his speech, when acknowledging the former member, Mr Bradfield stated 'I realise that he—' referring to Mr Reynolds—'came here under completely different circumstances from those under which I came here only on the day before yesterday. He came here when the economy was healthy and when everything was rosy. On having a glance at his maiden speech I noticed that it was unnecessary for him to talk on matters of the economy. We did not have any of those problems then. We did not have the problems that are outlined in the Governor-General's Speech.' It seems that Mr Bradfield, who was a member of the Fraser government had, like us, inherited a problem, so there are certainly similarities. If we want to get Australia back on track, it is important that we direct funding for projects that will deliver real returns for all Australians. As custodians of the public purse it is unacceptable to waste hard-earned taxpayers' money on projects which deliver little or no benefit to our community.

 

The time has now come for me to thank those who have played a pivotal role not only in my current election but all the way through my working career. As I have mentioned, I have lived my entire life in the St George area, and although a career in parliament has not been a lifelong ambition, I am grateful for the opportunity to represent an electorate with which I share a lifelong association.

 

Firstly, I would like to thank the emeritus mayor of Kogarah, Sam Witheridge, for paving the road and giving me the opportunity to serve the people of Kogarah at the early age of 25. Life in politics, and being a citizen of a country where the 'fair go' is an everyday expression, has made me privileged to serve the nation that provided me with the opportunity to apply the principles and values of freedom, integrity and justice taught to me by my family and teachers.

I would like to acknowledge the friendship and guidance provided by the executive at Kogarah City Council, in particular the general manager, Paul Woods, and his directors Evan Hutchings, Rod Logan, Andrew Sharpe and Amit Chanan. There have also been some exceptional councillors who I have had the privilege to have worked with over my 14 years as a councillor. In particular I would like to acknowledge the late Councillor Col Ritchie, who served on the council for fifteen years. Those who had the opportunity to know Col would know that he was a formidable and imposing yet generous individual. For those reasons, and the fact that he always said what he felt and thought without holding back, he polarised how others viewed him. But what remains etched in my mind is his passion for the local community. Despite suffering for several years with a terminal illness, he continued to front-up to the council time after time and continued to fight for his constituents and what he believed in. Very few people have had as much of an impact on me as Col has, and I do miss his companionship. I would also like to acknowledge his beloved wife, Gai Ritchie, who is in the gallery today.

I would also like to acknowledge the previous mayors and longstanding Labor councillors Michael Platt and Nickitas Katris for the balanced approach that they have taken in fulfilling their duties. They have been strong advocates for their community and, irrespective of party politics, were always willing to work together with me in the interest of the community.

 

I would like to acknowledge the great friendship of and support received from the Deputy Mayor of Kogarah City Council, Councillor Annie Tang. She has been a great guide to understanding the large Chinese community within the electorate and together we have developed several partnerships that have generated beneficial cultural, social and learning exchanges. These partnerships have resulted in the gifting of two significant pieces of public art, one of Lei Bow and the other of Bruce Lee, and the design and construction of a major Chinese garden park in Kogarah, Ma'anshan Friendship Park. I would like to acknowledge the Shunde Association and the various community groups that have assisted in this coming to fruition. Representatives of these groups are in the gallery today.

 

I would also like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the many men and women who worked tirelessly throughout the campaign to ensure that the people of Barton secured the representation that they deserve. I would also like to thank my fellow councillors: Mayor Stephen Agius, Councillor Sam Stratikopoulos, Councillor Nicholas Aroney, Councillor Nathaniel Smith and, in particular, Councillor George Katsabaris.

I would like to thank Rockdale City councillors Councillor Ron Bezic, Councillor Nick Micovski, Councillor Paul Sedrak, Councillor Lydia Sedrak, Councillor Petros Kalligas and, in particular, Councillor Peter Poulos. I would also like to thank Canterbury City councillors Councillor Michael Hawatt and Councillor Con Vassiliadis. I would also like to thank the Mayor of Hurstville City Council, Councillor Jack Jacovou. I have always believed that local government is the closest level of government to the people, and without that local knowledge and support our campaign could not have been as effective as it was.

 

I would also like to thank the following individuals who stood by my side throughout the campaign and were there without fail when needed to offer any support needed. These were: Bryce Macryannis, Nathaniel Openshaw, Byron Zhou, Sam Elmir, Rami Abdullah, George Vassiliadis, Costa Potiris, Jim and Yvonne Liaros, John Aslanidis, George Hatzikiriakos, George Mavrocordatos, Benjamin Jiang, Ye Feng, Wen Zhao, Nihong Chen, Juanling Zeng, Binkun Wan, Peng Qu, Weiliang Wang, Yuanyuan Wang, Hua Liu and Benjamin Chao AO and the many Young Liberals who committed to giving up their weekends throughout the campaign.

 

I would like to acknowledge all my supporters who have given so generously to support my campaign. There are too many to mention individually, but you know who you are and your support is very much appreciated. In particular, I would like to thank the many people in the gallery, who have made the journey to be a part of this important day. I would also like to acknowledge the support received by the ethnic media, some of whom are in the gallery today.

I would like to thank both of my former employers—in particular, George Cassim from CCS Partners and Bill Kamper from Kamper & Co—for the guidance and support that they have given me, throughout my career. I must stress that having to tolerate an employee who has been embroiled in public service as much as I have would have tried the patience of even the most tolerant of people.

 

In view of the history of this great electorate, Barton and my campaign did not attract the attention and support that was afforded to seats that were identified as marginal. There were, however, several people who had great belief in me, one important individual in particular: Senator the Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who continually fought to secure the same opportunities for my electorate as were provided to other seats which were considered to be more winnable, even though this was a difficult assignment at times.

 

I would like to thank the Prime Minister, the Hon. Tony Abbott, for his support and belief and his genuine concern in the issues that affect my electorate. I would also like to thank the ministers who took time out of their busy schedules to support my campaign, these being our Madam Speaker, the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop, the Hon. Julie Bishop, the Hon. Joe Hockey, the Hon. Scott Morrison, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, the Hon. Greg Hunt, Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz, Senator the Hon. Arthur Sinodinos, the Hon. Luke Hartsuyker, the Hon. John Ajaka and former Prime Minister the Hon. John Howard.

Since being elected to council over 14 years ago, I have continually sought to improve the Liberal brand in the St George region. When first elected, the region had two Labor federal members, three Labor state members and only six Liberal councillors out of 39 across the surrounding councils. This has progressively shifted to two Liberal federal members, two Liberal state members and 16 Liberal councillors. This is a remarkable transformation for the Liberal Party in the St George region, and is clearly linked to our local representatives acting on behalf of the diverse community that resides in this great area.

 

As I also reflect on the diversity of this seat, it is important to note that the majority of seats with large populations of people who speak a language other than English or who were born overseas have not historically been held by the Liberal Party. Reference to census data from 2009 on the top 10 ranked seats in both of these rankings reflect this fact. I believe that there is much needed to be done to better reflect the changing face of our community and to remain relevant to the changing face of Australia's community into the future. The success of the Liberal Party in my seat of Barton and the seat of Reid should be used as a template to address this issue in the future. I am committed to ensuring that this gap closes and that we learn even more about how to communicate our message to all communities more effectively.

 

I would also like to acknowledge one of my opponents at the recent federal election, Rockdale City Councillor Michael Naji, who ran in the election with the goal of making Barton a marginal seat so that the community that he is so passionate about would finally see funding and resources go into much needed infrastructure after being neglected for so many years. Councillor Michael Naji's efforts have been rewarded, with Barton becoming one of the most marginal seats in Australia. I know he has worked tirelessly to deliver for his community and I make this commitment: I will take up his fight for them in parliament as well as the broader community.

 

I would also like to thank my godparents, Andrew and Eleftheria Condoleon, for all of the support that they have given me throughout my life. I would like to thank my in-laws, John and Diana Mitrothanasis, for the unwavering support that they have offered to me from when I first met my wife, Dorette. They too have been a part of this long journey and have stood by us at all times.

 

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the vital importance and position that family has in my life. I have taken the values that I have learnt from my parents and I now apply the same family values in a more blessed way to raise, with my wife Dorette, our own family, with two children, lovely Renae and young John.

I would like to thank my wife, Dorette, for allowing me to serve in an area with which I have had a lifelong connection and to which I wish to give back so much. What most people would not know is that I was elected to council in September 1999 and married the week after, so Dorette has had to put up with me being away from home for countless evenings throughout our marriage whilst I attended to my duties. I am eternally grateful for all the support and love she has shown throughout this period, even when public life became difficult from time to time. Dorette has undertaken more than her fair share in raising our two beautiful kids, and is an impeccable mother and wife.

I thank my family for allowing me to serve and for understanding my struggle to balance long hours of public life and the precious time with you at the home that I love so much. Like my father before me, I aspire to raise our children to enjoy a bright future and a better quality of life.

 

The Federal Electorate of Barton, comprising the St. George area and other inner southern suburbs of Sydney, is home to iconic historical sites and beautiful waterways.

Bounded by Cup and Saucer Creek and the Cooks River in the north, Botany Bay in the east, the Georges River in the south, and Beverly Hills in the west, Barton is home to over 140,000 people.

 

Barton’s main suburbs include Kogarah, Arncliffe, Rockdale, Banksia, Bardwell Valley, Bexley, and Brighton-le-Sands. The electorate hosts the beautiful shores of Ramsgate Beach and Kogarah Bay at Carss Bush Park.

 

The electorate is named after Sir Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister of Australia and the Leader of the Federation movement in NSW. Sir Barton was a founding justice of the High Court of Australia and was knighted as part of the Knight Grand Cross of St. Michael and St. George in 1902.

 

Barton holds a special significance among Australian electorates as it was here that the HMS Endeavour sailed into Botany Bay to signal the British settlement of this continent.

 

Barton is a community proud of its cultural diversity. Ethnic communities dominate the social landscape of the area and contribute to the distinctive ‘mixing-pot’ feel of our cultural and civic centers. The people of Barton are a welcoming, social and charitable community.

 

Barton is home to the St. George Illawarra Dragons rugby team and contains the important medical and educational institutions St. George Public and Private Hospitals and the St. George TAFE. The electorate includes the Local Government Districts of Rockdale Council, Kogarah City Council, Canterbury Council, and Hurstville Council.

 

Business within the electorate generally focuses upon light manufacturing, commercial and retail industry, tourism, bakeries, chocolate making and health services.