Thank you Mr Speaker,
How on earth did I end up here in the 58th Parliament of NSW?
Because It's no secret to anyone who knows me, - knows that I never ever wanted to be a politician. I never strived for that, I never plotted a course to be here. Yet here I am - in the class of 2023.
This boy from the western suburbs of Sydney - born in Auburn hospital in 1973. But Auburn is not on the Northern Beaches….
The son of a high school maths teacher aged just 22, and Mum, aged just 19 … yes I was a honeymoon baby……I think.
My grandparents were mid to early 40’s and I was the first born. Original of the species. First Grandchild, First child.
We lived in Merrylands - again a suburb not on the Northern Beaches - until my sister was born 4 years later and we soon moved to Greystanes - even further from the Northern Beaches!!
A lifelong cricket tragic. U2 and Bono fan.... Some say Stalker.. (trivia question - 32 times I have seen U2, plus 1 Bono “solo” show just recently). But I digress.
I’m a self confessed Northern Beaches “Blow in” who was fortunate enough to end up marrying a Harbord/ Freshy girl born at Manly Hospital. Thus giving me my visa stamp/ permanent residency to God’s own playground. Love you Bronwen. Thanks for all you do
As a child, I had always wanted to live on the beaches. My dad would pack up the family car every other Sunday for our pilgrimage to the coast… Saturday was for cricket, Sunday the Beach
And now look at this.. Proudly representing this beautiful area in State Parliament. An MP for goodness sake.
And what an incredible honour it is to stand here - in this place - the oldest Parliament in the Country - to represent the amazing people of Wakehurst and indeed the state of NSW.
In doing so as a proud independent, I acknowledge the diverse political history of our electorate - represented by only 5 individuals before me including one Labor member Tom Webster - who joins us today –
And also of course my immediate predecessor the Hon. Brad Hazzard who was to join us, but had to cancel at the last minute (not COVID I promise).
Brad I know you still read Hansard every night so I thank you for your service to our community and to the State and I thank you for the gracious handover you’ve provided to me and my team.
I acknowledge the other former members of Wakehurst, John Booth, Allan Viney and our first ever Member Dick Healey.
In Mr Healey’s first speech to Parliament delivered in 1962, his top issues were
- the bus crisis,
- the local hospital,
- the lack of school planning and
- affordable housing.
60 years later, that list sounds awfully familiar.
I’ve been reading through a few first speeches from Members in this place and a recurring theme seems to be a detailed explanation of who they are, what motivates them and what they hope to achieve.
When asked what drives me, I reflect back on my almost 50 years and it turns out it’s all the little things along the way that you don’t even realise at the time are shaping your life.
Those little moments in time and those little choices we make.
The people who love us and sadly leave us….
The people who shape us, work with us and mentor us.
The lessons we learn and the lessons we teach.
It’s the mates we choose and the music we listen to,
the sport we play and how we play it.
It’s the decisions we make every day - Big and Small.
I hope to share with you some of those formative stories this evening.
To begin those stories, it’s right that I acknowledge country - and so I pay my respects to the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation on whose lands we gather, and I acknowledge their elders, past, present and emerging.
On the Northern Beaches, there is an ongoing conversation about the indigenous history of our area and at the moment there’s no one group to acknowledge - but again, I pay respect - and gratitude - to custodians past, present and emerging.
As part of that acknowledgement, I recognise the sorrow that has been caused over generations and I express my hope for true genuine reconciliation in the future.
As Mayor of our community, I’ve had the privilege of working with many local Aboriginal leaders, and in particular I am so inspired by our young Indigenous leaders. Hello Noah and Aleta in the Gallery tonight.
I share their desire for all of us to work together - to listen, to learn and to walk gently on this earth and to learn from each other. It’s so important.
Wow, Wakehurst. Wow. Look what we went and did. You wanted change. And we got change. The first independent MP for Wakehurst.
You wanted Integrity and Transparency. You want local issues dealt with, not ignored.
You wanted to be heard.
And heard you will be.
The Government has said that this Parliament - like the election - will be a contest of ideas.
It will be about working with each other and not against. Not a race to the bottom.
On behalf of the people of Wakehurst, I will be looking for exactly that approach. That’s what they have come to expect from their Local Council and from me. And that’s what I intend to bring to this parliament.
A track record of working with any government and any community group and simply getting the job done.
It’s actually not difficult but it requires hard work and determination.
Having had the honour of serving our community as Mayor of “Awesome Town” for nearly 15 incredible years, many may think my journey to this place is pretty typical - but in fact I can tell you it’s absolutely not.
While there will be some, including my high school principal Mr Carrol who would be thinking “I told you so”, there will be others looking on now in disbelief. Some of them even in the gallery this evening!
In terms of the nay-sayers, I’m thinking in particular of my year 11 history teacher - and also the Head PE Teacher who took an instant dislike to me because I was allowed to wear basketball boots to school when everyone else had to wear proper black leather Clarkes.
At the time they didn't make Clarkes in size 14. What’s a boy to do?
It didn’t help matters with my PE teacher that my dad was a local high school teacher up the road and when not playing cricket or soccer himself - he would volunteer to referee inter-school matches as an independent umpire.
When he made decisions that didn’t go the way of MY school, I copped my fair share of - how should we say - “physical intimidation”, sledging and the like from my own PE teacher and schoolmates.
It was hilarious that my dad had white line fever whenever he played sport - including family games of Trivial Pursuit.. but always played hard and fair.
And as a referee or an umpire… he enforced the rules and the spirit of the game. Always
But back to my history teacher - I still remember the day my best mate and I were kicked out of class before we even got through the door.
The teacher took a pre-emptive strike and asked us to leave before we even sat down so we gladly headed off to the basketball court.
That’s where Mr Carrol, the principal, soon found us and asked why we weren’t in class.
Mr Carroll pulled me aside, and said “school isn’t right for you. We all learn differently.”
I’d gone from a top 10 student at the end of year 10 to the bottom 5 within 6 months of y11.
There are lots of reasons or excuses for that, alas, Principal Carroll saw past all that and told me to get a full time job.
He said that if I did, he would give me a completion certificate for year 11.
I was already doing over 30 hours a week as a casual check out assistant at K-mart…
but according to OHS I was too tall (and probably chatted too much to the customers) so I got sent out the back to the cash office… and was offered a full time position as a trainee manager...
Fortuitously a job at the City of Sydney came up as a clerk in the Engineers Department. Much more interesting and a genuine challenge I thought.
As it turned out, an absolute sliding doors moment if ever there was one.
I met my first wife Michelle there at Council and we had 2 children James and Alexander. My 2 most favourite people in the world.
James and Alex, I know the journey has not been easy on you two…. But this is actually all about you. Everything I do and have done in public life (which is most of your lives) has been by and largely for you. For you and your generation.
I want you growing up in a world where
- The environment is protected and nourished;
- Where you and your families can truly thrive;
- Where politics is done differently, done better;
- Where differences are celebrated and all people are respected.
- Imagine that world…..
As naive or cliched as it sounds, I genuinely want to make this world a better place. To ensure you have the opportunities I had and that many people in this place have had.
I love you both to the stars and beyond. And I’m incredibly proud of what you 2 lunatics are doing with your lives.
James a 2nd year apprentice mechanic and car nut, (I just need to win you over to the brilliance of EVs);
and Alex.. finishing y12 and trying your hand at TAFE as an apprentice electrician.. Or maybe a shares trader, or… a personal trainer…
I love that like me at your age… you don’t really know what you want to do yet. But you’ll give anything a go.
Don't worry son, I didn't know either - the job finds you.. Eventually.
Just try everything and have fun. Say yes to every opportunity. And Never burn bridges. …..
Back to that sliding doors moment and accepting the job at City of Sydney.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT has been a big part of my life. First as a bureaucrat.
Always saying yes to the various job opportunities thrown at me and even creating new ones in some cases.
But gee you learn quickly in local government.
Empathy and the ability to listen are the skills I value most from my time in local government.
I soon saw and loved the unique role Councils play in helping people and supporting local business … and I was hooked.
So to the many people working in local government that have helped me along the way and who I have learnt from every day - Thank you for that support and opportunity - that was the first 20 years of my working life.
So then becoming the Mayor of Warringah.
In 2007 a group of us residents in Warringah wanted a fresh start for our council as we came out of Administration. I just wanted better cricket pitches to play on and said to my team mates I could do a better job than this administrator.
“Run for Council” they said. My reply… yep.. great idea. I will.
I teamed up with the residents and said I would play my part.
Everyone wanted change - few were in a position to put their own hand up to be a councillor. I then stupidly missed a meeting and they nominated me for the contest to be the first popularly elected Mayor of Warringah.
“Don’t worry. You won’t get elected as the Mayor. There are 12 others running. No one knows who you are”.
I was elected the Mayor.
Another sliding doors moment and I will always be grateful to those who encouraged me in those initial stages of our efforts to do politics differently on the Northern Beaches.
My 8 years as Mayor of Warringah was then followed by a community campaign to unite the Northern Beaches and become one Council.
In the Statewide amalgamations of 2016, it was first proposed to split Warringah, creating two smaller councils which went against logic, geography and most importantly, the wishes of our community.
I’m proud of the leadership role I took in ensuring a bad political decision to split our community was overturned and that instead, the Northern Beaches was united as one.
My own personal journey also continued as I then became the first Mayor of that new unified Council… how fortunate am I?
But my success in local government was our community’s success and it really was a team effort by a number of people so this evening I’d like to thank:
- My fellow Councillors - past and present;
- The “orange” Candidates at 4 different elections who put their hand up to support our community team, most of them knowing they wouldn’t get elected but wanted to support us and propel us over the line;
- The Clayton’s “Political Party” and all our supporters and volunteers - initially Wake up Warringah, then Your Warringah, then Your Northern Beaches - … but simply, the orange people, - not Teal - you know who you are;
- The elders who I learned so much from
- Emeritus Mayor Julie Sutton OAM
- Former Councillors Phil Colman and
- David James
- The professionals working in the local government sector - from CEOs to childcare staff, event managers, town planners and waste collection officers - incredible people working in local government. Thank you.
I’m so proud of what our community achieved together at both Warringah then Northern Beaches councils. It culminated in winning the A.R Bluett Award as the best Metropolitan council in all of NSW. Twice - 1 for each of the Councils I led.
And what I’m most proud of – how we supported our community through the challenging years of COVID and through the recovery process we are still enduring. That’s a whole other story to be told…
What drove me at all times in my role as Mayor was a sense of service, of helping others, of finding genuine solutions to improve our community.
I can’t just sit back and throw stones at the tent. I want to be in the tent helping to solve the problems. Be part of the solution. The more complex the better.
I know exactly where this sense of service came from - my family and my upbringing.
My mum and dad are sadly no longer with us but I was so blessed to have them both show me the way. Each in their own style taught me so much.
Dad, the Maths teacher constantly giving of his time and his skills to others.
I hate that I didn’t fully appreciate him and his sacrifices until we lost him. Gone at just 48 years old. Having fought off melanoma as a teenager in the 1960s, it came back for him a few decades later.
I think that early brush with death compelled him to live life to the full.
He had so much love for his siblings, his mates, his nieces and nephews and of course his four children - Suzy and I and then Ashleigh and Andrew – just 8 and 6 when he died….
But yeah, I hate that he never got to meet any of his 5 grandsons… and I’m acutely aware that I’ve already outlived him.
And my Mum, what to say about mum? Again, I didn’t realise how much she was showing me at the time about family, about love, about sacrifice. Again, taken too soon, just a few years ago …. Cancer again.
I was fortunate to be surrounded by family on both sides who taught me a sense of what is right - to speak up - to act.
Mostly they were strong, vocal women and I’m so grateful for that.
I have my beautiful Aunty Deb, Aunty Beth and Aunty Olga here tonight who I think have been putting up with me the longest - and my step mum Kim who’s been trying to pull me into line since I was 15.
All strong women.
My sister Suzy who is here from Perth - 45 years we’ve been in each others space –
Thank you for travelling across Australia to be here -
To meet Suzy today you’d never know she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis - or MS - in her early 30s.
Her newborn son, my nephew only a few weeks old and she was told she would be in a wheelchair within 5 years.
She bravely put her hand up for a medical trial and today over a decade later, thanks to science and experimental drugs, she is with us still - Pretty much cured - and she helped get the drug onto PBS.
She has absolutely changed the game for other MS patients.
Suzy, their world - and my world - is a better place because of you.
Watching online I’m sure I’ve got all my brilliant QLD relatives (including uncle Mick who always taught me to not take myself too seriously.. ever..) – Those relos loved my campaign colour of “maroon” although I insist it was “Pinot”…..
And of course my awesome Central Coast cousins and my beautiful uncles over in San Francisco.
My family have taught me so much over the years, about courage, community service, justice, sacrifice and love and I will be forever grateful for the upbringing I had and the lessons that formed my values and sense of purpose.
From Aunty Deb - so nurturing and caring, a surprise to no one that she’s dedicated her life to nursing and mentoring others in the medical profession. Married Uncle Dave - a teacher who again gives so generously to his students and to his family.
Or my Aunty Beth who back in the early 80’s - despite being 6ft tall and passing her exams - was not allowed to join the Police force.
Because she was married.
That decision would prove to be the best and worst decision for the people of NSW.
Why? - Because thanks to a bit of help from a now high profile former officer, she was allowed to join and went on to impact the lives of many victims in a positive way despite the best efforts of the male dominated force to destroy her.
As well as that, she reluctantly helped reform the NSW police force, along with her husband - my Uncle Paul- who was also a police officer of note in the homicide squad.
They changed the way the force treats their own and their legacy continues to change the lives of our first responders.
Then there’s my father’s brother - Aunty Glenn (as he insists I call him).
In 1984, at age 23, when I was just 11, Glenn was bashed to within an inch of his life and ended up in intensive care.
A victim of a targeted gay bashing.
I remember being there when he finally came out of the coma - and he told my mum and dad he was gay.
He explained to them that this was why he was attacked but he begged them not to tell Nanna and Pop.
At that point, my parents smiled and said “no kidding you’re gay”.
They reassured him they were pretty sure his parents already knew.
When I reflected years later, I thought... how awful.
Fancy hiding who you are and then losing the opportunity to come out in his way, in his time, and control his own story.
Robbed of the most basic of rights. …
I was 11…I didn’t really know what a gay man was. I just thought he dressed better than the rest of us and hung out with trendier people.
And speaking of fashionable folk, my beautiful Aunty Olga, who’s family had escaped Russia in WW2 and wound up in a refugee camp in Cessnock.
I’m pretty sure that’s where Aunty Olga was conceived.
She’s taught all of us about making the most of our opportunities, the importance and strength of family and never forgetting our past.
She married my beautiful Uncle Al who gave so much to his local cricket community - particularly youth development and women’s cricket, recognised with a posthumous OAM after we lost him so tragically to cancer in 2019.
I know Uncle Al would have loved to have been here tonight –…He’d certainly appreciate the tie I’m wearing –
The black and gold of the original SCG XI cricket team – I played with them at Lord’s the day Uncle Al joined me in the Long Room for our team dinner.
Those that know me know how much I love my cricket but I want to take a moment to explain that passion.
It’s not simply about the contest of the bat and the ball - as thrilling as that is - it’s far more than that.
Cricket is a big part of my life.
- The friendships I’ve made,
- The wins I’ve had,
- the crushing defeats I’ve dealt with,
- the travels I’ve had; but most importantly,
- the values I cherish.
The Spirit of cricket has always been vitally important to me and it’s why I choose to wear this tie tonight.
The Spirit of cricket is hard to define, many have tried and failed over the years but I’ll give it a go…
You see Cricket is an exciting game that encourages
- friendship and
It brings together people from different nationalities, different cultures and different religions…
The Spirit of Cricket involves respect for:
- Your opponents;
- Your own captain and team;
- The role of the umpires;
- The game itself and
- its traditional values.
It involves putting the team ahead of personal interests and milestones;
It requires you to play with discipline and control and to be a good example on and off the field.
The Spirit of cricket is a theme with me and it’s how I try to live my life.
I also think the Spirit of cricket is especially relevant when you look at our Parliament.
Imagine a Parliament that encourages
- friendship and
Where all Members show respect for:
- Colleagues on both sides of the aisle;
- For the Speaker
- For the original values of the Constitution of NSW.
Imagine a place where the community interest is prioritised ahead of personal interests and milestones;
Where we all exercise our role with discipline and control and strive to be a good example inside and outside the Parliament.
My request tonight to the Speaker, the Premier, the Opposition and to my crossbench colleagues is to execute our duties to the People of NSW in that exact manner.
How about no more attempts at “Gotcha moments”…..
How about just asking or answering a question without spin?
How about we demonstrate to the public that Question Time is actually a valuable part of our parliamentary process and without the perception it has now of
- intimidation and
- immature behaviour.
The exact kind of stuff we try to protect our kids from on social media or in the playground.
It’s not that hard.
Work with and not against.
Support and Respect
Is any of that too much to hope for? Or indeed ask for – even demand? Cause I’m pretty sure it’s what the community wants.
Let’s be the parliament that passes the most legislation, that works across party lines and every now and then compromises on things…
.. because compromise is not a dirty word.
Let the 58th Parliament be the parliament that “gets it done” …
That’s the challenge, so Pad Up!
I am not naive … I know that Wakehurst and indeed NSW faces some big challenges - issues that can’t be solved by me solely but can only be solved by coming to this place, ensuring my community’s voice is heard and working with all members to find and implement solutions.
The list is long:
- The lack of affordable housing options;
- Public Transport nightmares;
- The Cost of Living crisis;
- Environmental challenges and the need for greater action on Climate Change;
- Smarter planning for our community;
- Local issues like the Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 – or “PEP 11” as it’s come to be known. How that is still alive is beyond me but I will continue to fight it to protect our coastline.
- The Lizard Rock development, where pristine native bushland is being carved up for housing in the middle of a bushfire zone.
Approval was granted despite independent reports stating what a disaster that would be.
The Lizard Rock development is outside any good planning principles and not part of our agreed housing targets – and I will fight to ensure the approval is overturned.
- In terms of caring for the most vulnerable I want to ensure that in Wakehurst we create a caring, inclusive society - I think of local groups like
- the Cerebral Palsy Alliance,
- Fusion Pride,
- Gotcha4Life and
- Fighting Chance (look those groups up; “Google it mate”) –
- These are just some of the many local groups ensuring the voices of the vulnerable are heard and that they are given every opportunity to participate and contribute to society…
- I see Jo Berry here with her own tales to tell. Ask her about her life journey and the awesome fighting chance social enterprise she works with.
- Better still ask her how she swims at Shelly beach or Collaroy with nothing but a noodle and her carer.
- I am so pleased that Jo can join us today and while it’s great that she has the best seat in the house down here in the Chamber, it’s a sad reality that we can’t accommodate her up there within the gallery-
- I absolutely appreciate the efforts that Parliamentary staff have gone to to ensure Jo is accommodated today but is it good enough that she can’t just come in as a punter and sit and watch in the gallery without others having to fuss over her?
Another challenge I know to add to the list ….
And I know the “To Do list” is not unique to Wakehurst.
Don’t Get me wrong, Wakehurst is unique and it’s special.
But so is Woollondilly. So Is Lake Macquarie , Wagga Wagga and Sydney. So is Barwon and Newtown, Manly, Dubbo – basically every seat.
Our communities are diverse and brilliant but ultimately – whether they voted red or blue or green or teal or – heaven forbid – orange and pinot - I think they all want the same things.
- Common sense.
In conclusion, many of you are expecting a quote from Bono – I won’t let you down
Some of you have heard it before, but here goes:
“Vision over Visibility”
The insistence to look past what you can see in favour of what could be. The ability to see what’s possible beyond our current reality.
That is the challenge before us.
To the WAKEHURST Team Regan volunteers and supporters.. you guys….
“You had one job!” ….
And you did it spectacularly.
I know of course you actually didn’t have just one job …. you all had about 10 jobs each.
But we did it. Look what we went and did.
I share your incredible infectious excitement and enthusiasm about the change we have created and I assure you I am up for the challenge.
But there is much more to do and I need your help on the journey.
To Susie Morgan in particular as my campaign director, “Bossy Spice”… incredible. Thank you and the whole executive team.
To all my family - my sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, in-laws, step-mum, Ash and Andrew, friends, colleagues, teammates …..
to my wife Bronwen and of course my two awesome boys…..
Thank you for what you have all taught me, thank you for allowing me to do what I do….
Thank you for letting me be me and for each of you being you.
And to the Wakehurst community. On the 25th March many of you voted independent for the very first time. And I’m so humbled and honoured by that. I thank you for that trust and that faith and I look forward to serving our community.
One last Bono quote for the road and it’s a little known song but one that means a lot to me. The message is simple
“We are the people we’ve been waiting for”.
To me its reminiscent of Ghandi’s message that we be the change we want to see…
To the people of Wakehurst, we are the people we’ve been waiting for.
We’ve seized the moment to create a new destiny, to speak up and to step up for our community.
And to my colleagues in this chamber, fellow Members of the 58th Parliament “we are the people we’ve been waiting for” …..
If - like me - you desperately want politics done differently, to be more respectful, more productive, more compassionate, then let’s be those people we’ve been waiting for.
The 58th Parliament is an exciting place to be - full of opportunity and spirit. I thank the Clerk (its Regan btw – not Reagan ) and all her Parliamentary staff, the former Speaker and the current Speaker for all the training and guidance and support you provide to us MPs. You guys rock!
It's truly an honour to be here in this place.
I will forever be grateful for this opportunity and I intend to use every day to make the most of it for the people of Wakehurst and the people of NSW.