Jason Falinski MP
Federal Member for Mackellar
Jason Falinski MP
Federal Member for Mackellar
15 September 2016
It is an honour to stand before you today representing the people of Mackellar. The Northern Beaches of Sydney are my home and the only community I have ever wanted to represent.
The story of how I came to be here is not uncommon, yet it represents everything I love, everything I admire and everything I hope for Australia’s future.
The son of a Polish migrant who fled communist oppression in 1957, my father came to Australia as a young man.
His father, my grandfather, had fled Poland when the Nazis invaded, returning to his home after the war, he changed his name to avoid discrimination. He met his wife, my grandmother, in the USSR. She was recovering from the siege of Lenningrad.
When my grandparents looked to flee the old world of ancient grudge to a new one of hope and opportunity, they choose Australia. There is little that I can say or do to repay my gratitude for their choice.
Polish Jews, half a world away from anything they had ever known. They arrived here with nothing, no assets, no income, no connections.
With the promise of a better life sustaining her, my grandmother spent her nights screwing caps on tooth paste tubes. Often coming home with bleeding fingers.
My Father sold encyclopaedias door to door so he could learn English faster. Unfortunately, most of the English is not fit to be repeated in this chamber.
Meanwhile on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, my mother’s parents, an Irish Catholic and an English Protestant were getting married; overcoming a divide of history and tradition, religion and upbringing. At a time when in other parts of this world Catholics and Protestants were still at war.
It is remarkable that two people from such improbably different backgrounds would meet. But the most remarkable part, is that in Australia, it is not that remarkable at all.
In Mackellar, as in too few parts of this world, I, a child of all these nations, all these cultures and all these religions, grew up to stand here before you today.
To represent every single member of my community that in their own way, contributed to making this a great nation.
As anyone who has started their own business from the ground up will tell you, it is the most frustrating, engrossing, stress inducing, yet strangely satisfying thing you can do.
It is when I started my own business at the age of 34, brick by brick, that I understood what governments should truly be about.
I dreamed of creating beautiful furniture and equipment. A business that would employ people. Importantly, a business that would enrich and improve the lives of those in aged care.
It is my most fundamental belief that a government’s role is to enable, not create, not dictate, but enable, all of us, to reach our full potential.
A good government should enable individuals to thrive, it should enable businesses to flourish, and it should enable communities to prosper.
Instead, over the years successive governments, have heaped program upon initiative upon program upon us, creating a thicket of regulations whose purposes no one can any longer remember.
Government should do less, but what it does do, it should do better. Liberals have never believed in a world of no government, just the dangers of unlimited government.
No Government, of a free people, has ever had to build a wall to keep its people in.
I believe in a world of limited government. A world in which the government gets out of the way. In which it encourages and allows companies and industries to adapt to the future, to innovate and push the boundaries in order to remain competitive.
In that world, governments too should remain nimble and flexible in their governance.
Start-ups change the world. But we don’t know which ones will turn into success stories. What we do know, is that if they fail they must fail fast.
So should we. Admit defeat, and change tack if the laws we pass, the regulatory burden we impose on others do not achieve their intended purpose.
Seeped into the history of my family’s journey to Australia is a yearning for freedom: freedom of individuality, freedom to associate, freedom of self-expression, and freedom of self-realisation.
None of the freedoms offered in a totalitarian communist regime, but all of the freedoms found in Australia.
I believe the cornerstone of these freedoms to be free markets.
Take the fight against global poverty. After four decades of government sponsored programs, we had hardly moved the needle.
Within two decades of opening up markets, trade lifted billions of people out of poverty, more than in rest of human history combined.
It has reduced inequality and conflict, brought us closer, improved education, human rights and reduced discrimination, especially against women.
As Thomas Friedman pointed out: in the history of the world, no two nations with a McDonalds have ever gone to war with each other.
But we cannot expect people who have not benefited from this change to welcome it. Globalisation has hurt those in developed countries with easily transferable skills.
And while some will say that Australia was not competitive in manufacturing, and these jobs were always destined to move elsewhere, I wonder what our reaction will be when globalisation starts to impact professions such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, and nurses.
Government’s response to date has been to first erect tariff walls to avoid the inevitable, then bail out failing companies (many of which were owned by overseas parent companies to begin with), and finally provide welfare payments to the unemployed.
No wonder many of our fellow Australians feel like victims of forces beyond their control.
If I were to stand here and suggest to you that we need to implement a program that takes our most vulnerable, and puts them into a system that will reduce their life span, education and health, increase their likelihood of teenage pregnancy and family breakdown, subjects them to increased incidents of violence and crime, and entrenches this outcome from one generation to the next, you would query my state of mind.
Yet in too many parts of the world this is what the welfare system achieves.
I, like my fellow Liberals, believe that welfare reform is about saving lives, not saving money. So why is reform so hard?
More money does not save more lives, and less money does not save less lives. In education we’ve increased spending, yet outcomes have not improved.
We need to stop fighting globalisation and dedicate ourselves to giving our fellow citizens the tools they need to thrive. The greatest tool we can give them is education.
As my father’s family had to learn the ways of Australia, and adapt to a foreign environment, so too should we adapt to the challenges of an increasingly rapidly changing world.
Educational institutions in other countries like Germany, Switzerland, Singapore and places like Silicon Valley are an important part of their economy’s ability to adapt and innovate.
They have proven critical to ensuring that German manufacturing remains cutting edge and doesn’t become a commodity producer.
It is through policy innovation that other countries have been able to improve their educational outcomes.
In the United States and the United Kingdom, charter schools are experimenting with different ways to educate the most socio-economically disadvantaged. Because they know, that if effective, it will be education that lifts the disadvantaged out of the cycle of poverty, not hand-outs.
But bespoke solutions require us to trust the people on the ground to figure out how best to tailor solutions to their communities’ needs.
Some experiments will fail, but more importantly, some will succeed. And those successes will achieve far greater outcomes than we can imagine.
It was my father who taught me that a life without failure is a life half lived.
He spent over 10 years building Osborne Computers into the largest manufacturer of PC computers in Australia.
After one of their biggest clients failed to pay their bills on time, cash flow became stressed and the Bank refused to extend a loan. The business went into voluntary administration and the bank took our family home.
A devastating loss, it had the potential to destroy our lives. It could have robbed us of our identities and our sense of self.
That’s not how we choose to see it. That’s not how we decided to live it. Without risk there is no entrepreneurship, there is no progress.
I don’t have the answers to the problems of the future. But, we will experiment, we will make mistakes, we will learn, and ultimately, we will succeed.
As we sit here today, the overwhelming majority of Australians suffer from crippling traffic congestion.
Across the nation, 40 per cent of road capacity is underused. Every year, we carry the burden of $6 billion in avoidable road congestion, and these figures are rising.
Yet ground-breaking advancements, like driverless cars, are no longer science fiction, they are a reality of our lifetime. They will mean more time with family and friends, improved access to employment, and might even make the most expensive real estate in the world more affordable.
When it comes to energy production in this country, our systems and infrastructures are outdated. We generate energy too far away from those who require it, use our grid too inefficiently, with consumers and the environment bearing the cost.
Leaps in household battery technology, the deployment of smart grid initiatives and energy saving devices are already changing how and where we source our energy from.
These changes aren’t dreams or figments of my imagination, they are happening now. And they are challenging perceived wisdom in industry after industry.
The question before us is which technology will wither and which will grow.
The good news is that we don’t have to choose. The market will decide for us.
Friedman’s analogy has never been more apt: in a democracy you get the breakfast cereal that 51 per cent of people want, in a free market you get the one you want.
Free markets are not about money, they create fundamental social benefits. They empower the individual and turn our most selfish traits into public good. They civilise us all.
Markets ensure that the only way to fulfil our needs is to fulfil the needs of others.
A free market fosters accountability.
A business owner is accountable to his employees and his customers, just as a parent is accountable for the education of their child. So a politician is accountable to their community.
I am accountable to you.
To the many family members, friends, supporters, that have brought me here. To the overwhelming majority of Australians who contribute to our collective representative system of Government. To the constituents of the modern and dynamic Northern Beaches.
I am accountable to you.
I will account for how I spend your money, I will account for how I make the decisions that affect you.
I will be held accountable for continuously striving to do better, explore possibilities and create opportunities for you, for your children, for our today and your tomorrow.
To this day my home of Mackellar has only been represented by three Members.
Billie Wentworth, who before many others spoke of and demanded equality and opportunity for our first Australians.
Jim Carlton, who brought an intellectual rigour to this parliament and what it means to be a liberal. Jim recently passed away, but not before he made a further contribution to public life as the head of the Red Cross.
And Bronwyn Bishop, whose dedication to this parliament and the liberal cause, will be long remembered.
The Northern Beaches of Sydney is in urgent need of transport infrastructure. Three of the seven most congested roads in Australia service Mackellar.
The value sharing model that has been proposed by Ministers Fletcher, Constance and Stokes promises to free up billions of dollars to build the infrastructure we need.
It takes the average person in Mackellar nearly two hours a day just to travel to and from work. This must change.
We need greater road bandwidth and more options, like a metro.
We need the NBN, and we need it now. This vital piece of infrastructure that the Turnbull Government is rolling out will bring jobs to the area and allow more people to telecommute.
Mum and Dad remain grateful to the people who supported them along their journey, I too will never forget those who have stood by me.
Few of us come to be here by accident. For most of us there was a lot of work, support and understanding from others.
To Pat and Allana Daley and Jose and Isobel Menano-Peres who sustained me throughout those long four years that I sat on Council, thank you.
To Michael and Bronwen Regan, Helen Wilkins, Christina Kirsch, Rik Hart and Julie Sutton, thank you for your friendship.
To Stephen and Elizabeth Choularton, David and Karin Hand, John and Angie Beale (who ensured the campaign was not homeless), Stu Cameron and Ant Gleeson, you more than any others know what it is like.
To the three wisest men I know in Pittwater: Jim Longley, Ross Barlow and Rob Stokes, I thank you.
Although I do owe more to Rob’s wife Sophie, for she introduced me to my wife Nichola.
I will repeat what many have said here before me: the sacrifice we make is nothing compared with that made by our families and our loved ones.
Sweetheart, you have been my bedrock, my north star, and the better angel of my nature, your fierce conscience means that you will never go gentle into the night. You have also given me the greatest gift of all.
When Zara-Jean was asked how old she was by the Governor-General, she told him that she was seven, and promptly asked him how old he was? ZJ always stay curious. It is because of you that I keep persevering, fighting for a better world.
They say that it takes a village to raise a child, I would like to thank the most excellent Alison Brent who runs Zara’s school, her teachers Rebecca Williment, Katherine Slattery and Natasha Zivanavic, and her netball coach Susan Cook.
To Jenny Stokes and Michelle Quinn who look after Zara when Nichola and I can’t be there – thank you.
Hubert Humphrey lamented that every time he went to West Virginia he kept running into Kennedys. I imagine some of the other candidates in Mackellar were feeling the same by the end of the election.
From my mother and father to my uncles and aunts. All my brothers and sisters including, Tim Falinski, Georgina and Peter Koch, their children Ted and Penny, and even my self-adopted ones – Vanessa and Zac.
I have bad news for those who are thinking of running in three years time, my brother Nick and his wife Leigh have just welcomed Hugh into the world.
Not to be outdone, Nichola’s side of the family may be smaller in numbers, but they cast very long shadows. Simone and Mark, Chloe and Ellie, Darrel and Therese, Helen and Barry, Marguerite and John, thank you.
As hard as it is to believe, it has been a privilege to know Andrew Constance. As a Minister, Andrew set up the sale of poles and wires, in various ways, but by most famously pointing out that the very same unions who opposed it, happened to own a privatised water company in England and even a privatised electricity asset in China.
With Dominic Perrottet, he has recycled endless amounts of capital to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in NSW. Andrew was the lead minister that ensured NSW was the first state to reform the taxi industry in over two centuries.
His example is one I hope to replicate.
To his team of Chris Muir, Ryan Bloxsom, Russell King, Barb Williams, Adam Achterstraat, Dom Cuscheri and Josh Murphy – thank you.
I was barely pre-selected when the Prime Minister called an election. Tony Abbott, you threw me a life buoy. You gave me support, guidance and frankly reassurance I did not even know I needed.
To Nick Greiner who inspired me to get involved.
To John Emmett, Chaddy and Nick Johnson, Vicki McGahey, Alan Clarke, Wendy Starkie, Kate Raggatt, Tina and Geoff Hodgkinson, Michael and Dorothy Highland, who I know would have preferred to be sailing.
To Sarah Cruickshank, Gary Sturges, Amanda Rawnsley, Leon Beswick, Natalie Ward, Alex Calvo, Audrey Harpur and Deb Wiltshire.
Thank you for the long days you put in.
To Rory Amon and Kristina Cimino thank you for the faith you showed from the very beginning.
Alex Briggs and Warren Wardell who braved bus stops at 6 am.
To Matthew Koder, my old friend, Adam Schofield my even older friend, Roger Masey-Green, Rick Lee and the many others who I do not have time to mention here who supported us when it mattered most – my deepest gratitude.
In standing here today, in this place, I have cause to reflect on Tennyson’s words at the end of Ulysees:Tho' much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Mr Speaker, Australia’s best days are ahead of us, for no other reason than that we have so much to hope for, and so little to fear.