Maiden Speech

David Southwick MPMr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — In response to the Governor’s address, it is with unsurpassable pride that I stand here today as the member for Caulfield in the Legislative Assembly of the Parliament of Victoria. Caulfield is my home. It is where I grew up, and it is where I raise my family. To be able to represent my community in Parliament is an honour and a privilege that I will cherish and respect. I thank the people of Caulfield for their trust and assure them that as long as I am the member for Caulfield I will fight for them and honour that trust.

The electorate of Caulfield sits within Melbourne’s inner suburbs and is only a few kilometres from the spectacular beaches of St Kilda. We are lucky to have the great shopping strip of Glenhuntly Road and the historic Rippon Lea estate. In the heart of my electorate is Carlisle Street, which some people refer to as the ‘bagel belt’, a centre of Jewish food and culture.

In addition to some of the best suburban living and a strong sense of community, there is much to do and see in Caulfield. Caulfield Park has for more than a century been a suburban oasis for the people of Caulfield, providing an escape to nature as well as sporting facilities for everybody, from soccer to lawn bowls.

One of the many things we are proud of in Caulfield is our diverse mix of ethnic backgrounds, including our strong Jewish, Russian, Indian and Chinese communities. To walk down any of the streets I have just named and see this diverse group happily contribute to their local community is truly reflective of our great city.

I know every member of Parliament here today would say that their electorate is truly unique. I would like to advise the house that my electorate of Caulfield is in fact truly unique, possessing something that no other electorate in this place possesses and something that exists nowhere else in the Southern Hemisphere.

At the corner of Balaclava and Hawthorn roads, near my office, is a grand junction — a piece of public transport infrastructure which allows an approaching tram to turn in any direction desired. It is remarkable that no other exists in a tram network as large as Melbourne’s and simply amazing that it is the only one in this hemisphere. I consider this engineering feat to be symbolic of the ingenuity, intelligence and creativity of the people of Caulfield, and — if the house will permit me to draw such a conclusion — I consider it symbolic of the many directions and opportunities offered to the people of Caulfield through education and hard work.

Education is an important part of life in Caulfield. We are lucky in my electorate to have 24 schools across the public, private and religious sectors. Caulfield has the highest number of private schools of any electorate in this house. As a member of the Liberal Party I am proud that my constituents have so much choice in education. The educational culture of Caulfield is also visible through the presence of the Monash University Caulfield campus. I am proud that these educational opportunities are available at every level to my constituents.

As the member for Caulfield I am lucky to follow in the footsteps of many great former representatives who served in this place with honour. These former members include the father and son Edgar and Ted Tanner, who together represented Caulfield for more than 25 years. I would like to pay special tribute to my immediate predecessor as the member for Caulfield, Helen Shardey, who is in the gallery tonight. Helen represented our community in this place for more than 14 years and was a tireless advocate for our community and its interests. Helen was an outstanding local member for Caulfield. She served on the coalition front bench for more than 10 years and was always a great fighter for her community. This house and the state of Victoria are richer for her service, and I am richer for her support, her advice and her friendship.

I was born and raised in my electorate of Caulfield and have lived there most of my life. My parents provided me with a loving and warm family home, and I know it is because of their love and support that I stand in this place today. I was the first in my family to attend university. I studied at Victoria University, and I am proud to continue my association with that institution today. I later went on to do postgraduate study at the Monash University Caulfield campus.

I hope that it is clear how proud I am to be a resident of the great community of Caulfield. I am also proud of my family’s long association with Melbourne’s west. I went to university in Footscray, played football in the west and my father, Stuart, had a long association with the west. My father was a councillor in Werribee for nearly 30 years and in 1979 was the Liberal candidate. Unfortunately Dad was not successful, and it took another 31 years for a Southwick to enter this place. I continue to have great affection for Melbourne’s west. My mother Beryl was the calming influence in our family, and our smallest accomplishments made her proud. Sadly she passed away in May last year and did not get a chance to experience our win. My mum was a big fan of the Premier’s and would be very happy to know that we won government. I am sure she will be watching over me today, feeling very proud.

Being a seventh generation Australian from a large family and one of the first Jewish families to settle in Australia, my family instilled in me the importance of hard work combined with a passion to give back to the community. I have had great role models in my life, with my father and grandmother each receiving an Order of Australia medal for their tireless community work. I will be forever grateful for the values they have instilled in me.

Throughout my career I have started a number of small businesses and have offered employment and security to as many as 50 people and their families. Through my own experience I am aware of the importance of the small business sector to the ongoing growth and strength of our economy. As the Governor mentioned in his address to this Parliament:

The fundamental purpose of the government in the economy is to foster the creation of wealth, products and jobs by individuals in the private sector, and to encourage innovation to help deliver sustainable prosperity through higher living standards and greater employment growth.

I am proud to be a member of the new government, which recognises that, and I look forward to delivering on this platform of sound economic management and business growth.

I have also worked as a lecturer at both Victoria University and RMIT. I served as RMIT’s first Entrepreneur in Residence in 2003, at which time I helped advise students on their business plans and ideas. I am fortunate to have had some business success. I strongly believe that if you make a go of business you need to give back by helping others get on their feet. I have long believed that it is important to give back and to help those who are less fortunate. As a Liberal I know that the best way society can help those who need it is through giving them the tools to help themselves. As Ronald Reagan said, ‘Welfare’s purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence’. I firmly believe in, and my work in the charity sector has been based upon, the principle of a hand up, not a handout.

I am proud to be involved with charities that have worked in the early intervention areas, such as the Ardoch Youth Foundation, Try Youth and Community Services, Virtual Enterprise Australia and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Australia. Groups such as these make a real difference to the lives of young people and help form the fabric of a compassionate society.

I am honoured to stand here today as a member of Parliament and also as a member of Melbourne’s Jewish community. The Jewish community is one in which its members not only look after each other but also do outstanding philanthropic work through broader organisations in Australia.

When the Jewish Diaspora fled Europe at the end of the Second World War they fled an evil regime that today has become a byword for inhumanity and injustice.

While this evil was defeated due to the united strength of the Allies, it left many millions displaced and without a home. Both during the Second World War and after, many Jewish people moved to Australia, seeking a new life in a new country. I am proud that so many of these new Australians embraced their home and made such a great contribution to this country.

The Parliamentary library’s records note 16 past Jewish members of Parliament, including Walter Jona, who served as the member for Hawthorn. In addition to serving in this place with distinction, Walter Jona is known for his work to introduce compulsory seatbelt laws in Victoria. He can be credited with saving hundreds of lives and is a great role model for members of Parliament, showing what can be achieved.

Also among the 16 members is Sir Archie Michaelis, who, it might interest you to know, Speaker, sat in your chair for two and a half years in the 1950s. He was the first, and so far the only, Jewish Speaker in the Legislative Assembly. As the most recently elected Jewish member of Parliament I hope I can achieve as much as Walter Jona, Archie Michaelis and the others who came before.

In describing my electorate of Caulfield I explained that we are proud of our location and are gifted with beautiful open spaces. Unfortunately the growth in development in recent years has threatened our local amenity. The city of Glen Eira is reported to have the lowest amount of public space in Melbourne. This report is concerning as it includes the Crown land at Caulfield Racecourse, which is currently not easily accessible to the public. I look forward to working with various stakeholders to get a better use of this public land for the community, while at the same time ensuring that the needs of racing are appropriately met on this historic site.

I have a real passion for youth and kids. They are our future and the opportunity to get things right. In particular we have a lot of work to do in early childhood development. Although there are no easy answers to this we need to ensure that the child is put first in any of our policy decisions. Government should provide a framework that recognises the need for a holistic view of the child. I know the coalition government will not be afraid to make some hard decisions in these important areas.

Education and training is an important area in which I hope to play a role. Non government organisations promoting early intervention programs that engage business and community should be encouraged and supported. I look forward to working with my government colleagues to provide pathways and opportunities for our youth.

Finally, I would like to thank a number of family and friends who have supported me throughout my political endeavours; firstly, my great party members in Caulfield who assisted me with my campaign. Frank Greenstein, chairman of the Caulfield electorate conference and co chair of my campaign, has been a great friend and always a source of sound advice. Co chair Jason Aldworth has been a fantastic support and has given me wise counsel over a number of years. Jason and Warren Samuel were the first two people to encourage my passion for a political career.

Although I cannot mention everybody on my campaign team I would like to make special mention of some longstanding members of the Caulfield electorate conference who played an important role on my campaign. Special thanks go to Cath Kraina, Geoff Marwick, Stephen Lilley, Leo King, Warren Samuel, Jeremy Samuel, Kevin Ekendahl, Terry and Kaye Farrow, Jim and Merlyn Logan Bell, Nathan Spiegal and, finally, Benjamin Koppel, many of whom are here tonight.

I also thank Tony Nutt, Damien Mantach, David Kemp and the team at Liberal Party headquarters for the professional way in which they ran our state campaign.

I would also like to thank members for Southern Metropolitan Region in the upper house, David Davis, Andrea Coote and Georgie Crozier, who I look forward to working with in the future.

I thank my family members: firstly, my mum and dad, Sharyn and Darren, who have supported me through all my endeavours. I also thank my fantastic in laws, Tom, Judy and Corey, who are the best in laws one could ever ask for.

The final thanks must go to the three loves of my life — that is, my wife Hayley and my beautiful children Tyler and Paige. Hayley has been my best friend and my soul mate for 15 years and has been by my side throughout all my business endeavours and each of the three political campaigns I have fought. In fact it was only last night that we celebrated our 12 year wedding anniversary. As well as giving me her love and support, Hayley and I are lucky to have our two wonderful children Tyler and Paige. A father could not ask for better children, and I am constantly amazed at the joy and happiness they provide.

Speaker, I stand before you today excited to take up this new role, I stand before you aware of the challenges facing Victoria, and I am elated that I am able to work with my government colleagues to provide solutions. I am confident that we will be able to make Victoria stronger and more prosperous than we found it. I thank the house for the courtesy it has provided me today.