Hawker Scholar Dan Cregan MP delivers Maiden Speech May 2018

Dan Cregan MP
Member for Kavel


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Mr CREGAN (Kavel) (16:29): Mr Speaker, I have much pleasure in supporting the motion, and I thank you for the opportunity to address the chamber. I express the hope that I will do nothing in the future to unsettle your even-tempered ways. Representing Kavel is the greatest privilege of my own life, and I am deeply grateful to my community for their support. It will not be forgotten in this place.

I am the fourth member for Kavel. Serving before me has been the Hon. Roger Goldsworthy, deputy premier; the Hon. John Olsen, premier; and Mr Mark Goldsworthy, whose grace and good nature I would do well to replicate here and in my electorate.

I acknowledge that the Hon. Roger Goldsworthy and Mr Mark Goldsworthy are both within the gallery today. Mr Mark Goldsworthy leaves parliament without an enemy. Very few leave on those terms. I wish also to say that his friendship and encouragement has been fundamental in setting me on this path. I acknowledge the generous welcome I have received from both sides of the house and congratulate new members.

I also understand that it is customary for members in my position to reflect on their arrival here, if not by way of apology then at least by way of explanation. I acknowledge those guests who are now entering the gallery. I acknowledge, too, the generous welcome, as I mentioned, that I have received from both sides of the house.

My parents were schoolteachers and believed in an ethic or spirit of public service. They did not place any emphasis or premium on money, fame or good looks; in any case, such advantages have so far eluded me. However, watching mum and dad as community organisers, I absorbed, despite a lengthy teenage resistance, the first and most valuable lessons in local politics: work hard, treat people with respect, show some courage and be frank wherever possible.

My political hero, Charles Hawker, was also frank wherever possible and utterly fearless in politics—after all, he faced greater trials. Hawker was a survivor of the First World War. He carried deep physical scars. Lilias Needham, Charles' sister—and, in ways I will later explain, my benefactor—records that Charles was wounded twice at Ypres as a result of which he lost an eye. After recuperating from 14 operations, and although classified unfit for service, Hawker insisted on returning to the wretchedness of the trenches. Life was precious to him, and he understood very well the risks he faced.

On 4 October 1917, in Belgium Charles was paralysed from the waist down by machine gun fire. After a series of operations, he was able to walk with two sticks, although his legs remained in surgical irons. Charles lived to enter politics, becoming the youngest minister in the Lyons' cabinet but was killed in a Kyeema air crash. Hawker, a veteran of Ypres, would, I feel, have understood how arbitrary the Fates can be. You will know, Mr Speaker, that in Greek mythology the Fates preside over human life and death, spinning our destinies as if they were mere threads. At times, I am sure we have all felt that events are somehow beyond us, particularly at times of unexpected or cruel tragedy.

Opposition leader John Curtin believed that Charles Hawker had been on the threshold of great achievements. Harold Holt, himself later to die in office, said that Charles Hawker was the most inspiring man he ever knew. Some of Hawker's estate was, through his sister, ultimately invested in a scholarship fund that put me through Adelaide University and created the opportunity for me to later follow in Hawker's footsteps and study at Cambridge. In no way could I claim on arriving there that I was even close to Charles Hawker in stature or in service. Charles finished his studies, after all, following the war and with his body broken.

At the time I received the benefit of the Charles Hawker scholarship, my stepmum had advanced multiple sclerosis and, as you know, it is a hard disease. There were three other children still at school and one teacher's salary in the house. I know I would not have made it to university without the scholarship, but following in Hawker's name comes with responsibilities, including the responsibility to serve your community wherever possible.
As I have suggested, Hawker's example is nearly impossible to follow. He was not only brave physically but brave intellectually. At a time when protectionism was described by Sir Keith Hancock as a faith and dogma, Charles was amongst a small group who recognised that protectionism usually serves only special interests. In fact, it usually results in wealth transfers to what firebrand Labor premier Jack Lang described as 'rent seekers'.

In this way, Charles Hawker became a mentor to Bert Kelly, who much later campaigned against Jack McEwen's protectionist agenda inside the federal Coalition and in this process earned the moniker 'the modest member'. You will know, Mr Speaker, that 'Black Jack' McEwen was a fearsome political gladiator. At the end, the free-trade agenda, which Charles and Bert had kept alive even in the face of Jack McEwen, was embraced by Hawke and Keating and Howard and Costello.

The importance and value of Charles and Bert's lessons can easily be measured. As Ray Evans has observed, in per capita terms Australia and New Zealand were the wealthiest countries in the world at the time of Federation. After Federation, we slid down the per capita income ladder. By 1980, Lee Kuan Yew, president of Singapore, said to us as a friend that we were at risk of becoming the poor white trash of Asia. In that year, we were 22nd or maybe 23rd on the income ladder and falling. Only the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s arrested this trend.

In South Australia, our export performance has been a painful disgrace over the last 16 years. When Labor came to office in 2002, South Australia was supplying 7.4 per cent of the nation's merchandise exports. We now supply 4 per cent. Had we retained today in a proportional sense the same share of merchandise exports as in 2002, these exports would be worth $9 billion.

We have the best wool, wine, meat, fruit and seafood in the world. Our manufactured food and other products have few equals. If we are to succeed as a state, we need to find and cultivate new markets. I am proud that our government will open new trade offices. We need to look closely to the success John Key enjoyed as Prime Minister of New Zealand. Over a decade, Mr Key transformed the New Zealand economy, an economy which looks very similar to the economy we have inherited from Labor in South Australia. I am sure that I will speak again on this subject.

As you know, Mr Speaker, Kavel is an electorate of great physical beauty. You can see much of the seat from the eastern slopes of Mount Lofty or, alternatively, from Mount Barker summit. Within Kavel is Piccadilly, Carey Gully and Mount George, Verdun, Hahndorf, Paechtown, Mount Barker, Littlehampton, Nairne and Hay Valley and the Onkaparinga Valley, including the Onkaparinga Valley towns of Balhannah, Oakbank and Woodside. Also within Kavel are the townships of Blakiston, Brukunga, Charleston, and Dawesley. Hans Heysen, Australia's most respected landscape artist, lived in Hahndorf within my electorate, and he was right to make that choice.

I wish to reflect, too, on the deep belief in community that exists throughout Kavel. Margaret Thatcher once said that there was no such thing as community or society, just individuals and families. She did not visit Kavel. From the CFS, to school councils, sports clubs, service clubs, church markets, fetes, country shows, environmental groups and support groups to street parties and book clubs, Kavel believes in the principle that you should wherever possible help your neighbour. As our district grows, it is important to share this ethic with newcomers.

Although a place of great beauty and real volunteer spirit, we face local challenges in Kavel. Members opposite, despite the clear objections of my community, rezoned large areas of Mount Barker for rapid housing development. We referred that decision to the Ombudsman. The minister of the day, the Hon. Paul Holloway MLC, resigned sometime after the rezoning decision. Despite Labor's many commitments to support the growth they had created by executive fiat, Labor effectively abandoned my community. My electorate, not just in Mount Barker but elsewhere, including Nairne and Littlehampton, is now growing rapidly. We are the fastest growing community in the state. From opposition, and with the assistance of the federal Liberal government, we were able to deliver the Bald Hills interchange, the largest infrastructure investment in the district for a generation. Such an investment was not made because we were a marginal seat. It was made because a majority federal government was able to see through its program of works and following the patient, determined and diligent advocacy of the former member, Mr Mark Goldsworthy.

I am also pleased that we have made a number of significant commitments to improve my community, including opening a Service SA office in Mount Barker, upgrading the Nairne intersection, funding the 24-hour doctor service at the Mount Barker hospital and working with the Women's and Children's Health Network to enhance paediatric services. We are also committed to cutting the ESL, capping council rates and reducing power costs—a platform that was welcomed in my electorate and elsewhere.

Of substantial concern to my electorate is the present condition of local infrastructure, including roads. We need to invest in infrastructure in the Hills and Fleurieu growth corridor. Our Royalties for Regions plan is a substantial commitment to divert 30 per cent of state mining royalties into a special purpose roads and infrastructure fund over a decade. Long-term planning of this type is welcome in Kavel and throughout rural and regional South Australia.

In this election, we have lost from the upper house a great advocate for the rights and needs of disabled people and their carers. Kelly Vincent was not a member of my party; nevertheless, I have great respect for her and for her party and also for her candidate in Kavel, Cristina Rodert. I mentioned that my stepmum has multiple sclerosis. She uses a wheelchair. Occasionally, she loses her sight. My dad, after training as an English teacher, later worked as a special needs teacher. My uncle was a disability care coordinator. Perhaps as a result, and also after working in my electorate, I understand the need to be a strong advocate for the rights and needs of disabled constituents, and I intend to be. I believe it is the proper role of government to use its resources to help those genuinely in need.

As well, I bring to this house a personal story and a prayer for change. My godbrother committed suicide at 18. Many other young men in my community commit suicide. I have known several others, including a schoolfriend whose memory is very dear to me. It is not only young men, but it seems it often is. The Premier has acted early on his commitment to preventative health and wellbeing with the establishment of the Premier's Council on Suicide Prevention. It is an unhappy fact that more people in South Australia take their own lives each year than die on our roads. South Australia's suicide rate exceeds the national average.

One of the most practical ways I can address this issue as a local member is to speak widely about suicide prevention in my community. I encourage other community leaders to do likewise. We need to make plain to young men in country South Australia—and to all young people—that they are deeply valued by their communities and that, whatever hardship or anguish befalls them, the value of their own lives is incalculable. I encourage the government to continue to fund practical help.

On these and other issues, I hope to find common ground with members of the opposition. I say in this place, too, that, though it is now fashionable to embrace

hyper-partisanship, I have never been very fashionable, and I look forward, as a result, to working with opposition members wherever possible.

I am, of course, a member of the Liberal Party. The philosophical heritage of our party is substantial. It draws on some of the most impressive intellectual movements of the 20th century: liberalism and conservatism. I am a Classical Liberal. Classical Liberals jealously protect individual freedom, tolerance, markets, the rule of law and an autonomous civil society. Departure from these ideas, while on occasion seductive, ultimately diminishes the standing of any liberal democracy. I believe, too, the best way to ensure the ongoing relevance of our party is to reflect more deeply on the value of these principles in crafting new solutions for the problems of our state.

As you know, Mr Speaker, being a Classical Liberal also comes with its drawbacks. As P.J. O'Rourke famously said:

One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding someone to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it is remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver's license.

Further and more seriously, I have been alarmed at times by the readiness of many parliaments to compromise principle, reason and science for expediency. As a solicitor, working on occasion to defend people's very real liberties from encroachment by the state, long-established principles of English and Australian law are the only thing I have been able to fall back on. In this context, I was taught by a chief justice that –

As a general rule, people who are popular or powerful or who enjoy the support of the majority either do not need or do not have any difficulty in securing the protection of the law. The people who need that protection are the weak, the friendless, the people who are accused of crime or other disgraceful conduct, people who can appeal only to the law to protect and vindicate their rights.

On our best days we are the party that defends the rights of individuals against the state and against injustice and inequity wherever it lies protected. And on every day we stand for something else: the rejection of the class logic that our opponents are captive to. In an age when, as the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP has remarked –

People increasingly refuse to be bound by outdated concepts or preconceptions about how they fit into society or where they sit in the pecking order of the economy, socioeconomic mobility is the new normal. When tradies can earn more than lawyers, millennials change career every few years, and with women taking on more than 60 per cent of all new jobs … we are seeing a realignment of the challenges and opportunities available to every person in every community …

There is no class logic left in politics and our politics can, I hope, be much nobler in consequence of that.

Finally, I record in this place my gratitude to the people who have done more for me than I can adequately acknowledge: my campaign manager, the Kavel campaign executive, members of the Young Liberal Movement who gave to me much more than I could have reasonably expected, serving and retired parliamentary members, my parents, Jen's parents and the volunteer members of my party who have worked so hard to ensure our success.

I know that you have not placed me here so that I can make a statement of your names. Instead, and adopting for myself the sentiments of the Hon. Christian Porter MP, rest assured that every late night and early morning in service of Kavel is also meant as a small repayment of the substantial debt that I owe to you all.

To Jen, your love and kindness has made all the difference. Mr Speaker, thank you for your indulgence. I understand that I am the last of the maiden speakers from my party in this parliament.