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Maiden Speech

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 17:02 ): Thank you, Mr President. I am pleased to support the motion for adoption of the Address in Reply, and I thank His Excellency the Governor of South Australia for his speech with which he opened this 53rd Parliament of South Australia.

I offer my congratulations to the other new member of the Legislative Council, the Hon. Tung Ngo, and wish him a fulfilling career in this chamber. I also wish to acknowledge the service to this council and to the state of those members who have left this placeā€”the Hon. Carmel Zollo and Ms Ann Bressington. I thank the former president, the Hon. John Gazzola, and the staff of the Legislative Council for their welcome and the assistance they have provided me. I congratulate the President on his election and wish him well in his leadership of the council.

I am also grateful for the welcome from honourable members from both sides of the council and the consideration they have shown me upon my election. In particular, I appreciate the care and attention my colleagues have taken to ensure that I begin to learn the ways of this place. They have been generous with their time and in sharing their experiences. The government must be congratulated on its re-election. I will work diligently to hold it to account in order to fulfil my obligation to all South Australians as a member of the opposition.

I come to this place as a strong advocate of Liberal values. It is my belief that it is these values, which respect individual freedom and encourage free enterprise as well as the preservation of the environment, that are the best foundation for ensuring a strong, confident and compassionate society in this state. I have always been attracted to the Liberal belief in encouraging initiative and the taking of personal responsibility. In many ways, it could be said that these values underpin the experience of my family in these lands.

The first of my line to come to South Australia was Colin McLachlan, as a young boy with his mother, Catherine, and his stepfather. They came to this state on the ship Macedon, seeking opportunities they were unable to find on the west coast of Scotland. He spent the remainder of his youth on Kangaroo Island, as his stepfather had found work manning the lighthouse at Cape Willoughby. I suspect that life on Kangaroo Island at that time would not have been much different from crofting on the west coast of Scotland.

Demonstrating initiative and learning, he became the commander of coastal ships in the state and settled on Lefevre Peninsula and in Port Adelaide. He married Mary, the daughter of Captain Hugh Quin. Captain Quin was a local identity at the time, being the harbourmaster. He has the distinction of forming one of the party that witnessed the proclamation of the colony and can be seen in Charles Hill’s painting of the occasion.

Their son, Colin Graham McLachlan, purchased a custom and shipping agent business which was a successful house until recent times, when the business was merged with another firm. This enterprise sustained an extended family for four generations. National competition, driven by technology, forced consolidation of the marketplace. Geographic location was no longer the key to success, and business flowed to the east.

While saddened by the closure of this business in the port, I do not mourn the passing of this trade in the state. Over its 100 years of existence, it was a contributor to the economy of the port and to the wellbeing of its community. Its time had come and new industries had to be explored. The great-grandson of Colin had to seek other endeavours to pursue. However, I have not drifted that far, even as a member of this chamber, as I row with the Port Adelaide Rowing Club, the same club Colin Graham rowed for in 1892, on the same narrow waters where his father navigated his ships to berth.

When plying those waters you can see that the port was once a thriving gateway for our industrial and trading people. Today, these waters are increasingly being used for leisure pursuits. It could be argued that this is a physical representation of the decline in our economic confidence and the turning away from exploring trade to the singular pursuit of lifestyle for its own sake. As much as I am encouraged by the efforts to renew the district, the only true foundation for a prosperous and healthy community is sustainable and competitive enterprises that deliver real opportunities for employment and advancement as well as leisure.

My parents and grandparents believed education was the key to advancement. Much was sacrificed to ensure that I received the education that would allow me to study at university. I chose to read law at the University of Adelaide, and to this day I continue to apply the knowledge that was taught to me and enjoy the friendships that I made. The commitment to pursuing education that I was taught in my youth did not abate at the end of my undergraduate years. I subsequently pursued degrees of other universities, including the University of Edinburgh in the country of my blood.

At an early age I was imbued with the notion that my education was to be used for the service of others. In keeping with this belief, I have endeavoured to apply my legal skills for the benefit of the community. I joined a law firm with a strong commitment to social justice and spent my time in my formative years as a young lawyer serving the community in Port Augusta and the surrounding districts.

In my time working in the Mid North, I came to appreciate life in the regions and its challenges. I am proud that my party has such an abiding commitment to the regions of the state and its communities. The regions are where the natural wealth of this state lies and are the source of much of our economy. It is important that we build vibrant communities across our state and that they have every opportunity to develop and grow. I do not find appealing the thought of an empty state with all its peoples in one city.

When I was living in Port Augusta, the city was experiencing tough times. The stresses of a declining economy were played out in criminal and family courts. From my experience as a young advocate, I learnt important lessons in life. We must not seek to judge others; rather, we must do all that we can to assist those experiencing hardship and help them find a better road to travel. Further, a strong and healthy society is dependent upon, at the very least, a modicum of material prosperity. Perhaps these experiences were my first steps towards becoming an active member of the Liberal Party.

During this time, I also worked as a junior on certain matters for the advancement of Aboriginal communities. It was then that I formed the firm belief that it is the responsibility of all of us to assist in the development of sustainable and strong Indigenous communities throughout this state. From these formative experiences, I fell into the world of banking and securities law. After a time studying overseas, I returned at the height of the recession and took the first offer of employment.

After a spell in a commercial law firm I joined a financial services house and enjoyed a career in law and management that lasted over a decade. During my time in financial services I witnessed the flight of employment in commerce to the east coast. It reinforced in me the necessity of a strong economy to ensure the future and vibrancy of this state. Our brightest and best should have an opportunity to pursue their dreams in the place of their birth, for they will be the drivers of our state’s growth and the guardians of our future.

Immediately prior to my election to this chamber I worked at the University of Adelaide at its International Centre for Financial Services. It was a delight to return to the institution that had nurtured me so many years before. The centre was established to foster excellence and thought leadership in financial services. I commend the university for its research into financial services and its advocacy for the growth of the sector in this state, for there are significant employment opportunities in the wealth management and international education sectors in South Australia.

A career in financial services should not just be the preserve of a chosen few who reside on the shores of Sydney Harbour. We should aspire to build, nurture and retain the talent of the young of this state in all fields of endeavour. Lord Haldane said that it is in universities that the soul of the people is mirrored. We are fortunate to have such universities in the state that conduct important and significant research. I believe that it is in these institutions we will find the ideas that will drive creation of new sustainable industries. We must ensure that our universities are at the centre of our debates concerning our state’s future. It is important that they capture the imagination of the public and are cherished.

The structure of our economy is increasingly being challenged by national and international forces. Our survival as a prosperous and self-reliant community is under threat, and we must discover new opportunities for growth. We must create an environment for small and medium businesses to flourish, innovate and trade internationally. Critical to creating this environment will be the role our universities play in the development of new technologies and fuelling innovation that drives commerce.

The role of government is to create the environment which encourages enterprise in its citizens who actively take risks to pursue prosperity. Governments by their very nature are unable to take the place of those in our community who run businesses and generate growth, which in turn drives employment opportunities. Further, there is increasing evidence that government fiscal stimulus does not necessarily produce economic value and assist recovery. Rather, governments should seek to restrain public debt, as it is this debt that ultimately can have a negative impact on growth. When debt is incurred it should be invested in those things that will produce an economic dividend.

This parliament must do all it can to assist South Australians to rediscover the same skills and innovation enterprise which drove our economy since its founding as a colony and which has sustained us as a state. Many valuable lessons can be learnt from the experience of cities and regions in the Midwest of the United States. These cities have discovered the road to growth and secured the survival of their communities.

A consistent thread through all these endeavours has been strong leadership, not just from government but from all sectors of the community. Like them, we must find a collective will that drives change and seeks new paths to invest in an energetic and dynamic future. We can no longer simply see, as the only solution to our ills, the demand for more funds from the commonwealth.

We must seek to carve out our own place as a trading state in the Asia Pacific region. We must resist the temptation to look across our immediate borders for comparison or even inspiration. Our gaze must be to our far north, with the ambition to build relations with other trading states far beyond the borders of the federation. Only this will deliver us the prize of self-reliance from the federal treasury.

Where a government has responsibility for both raising revenue and expending the same, it will be clear to its citizens the priorities it has set. But this is not the present situation in our federation. Unfortunately, our federation has delivered a significant level of fiscal imbalance, which undermines the ability of our governments to take real accountability. The financial arrangements between states and the commonwealth are in need of recasting, together with their respective taxation regimes.

The ideal for any functioning federation must be the accommodation of the desires and needs of all of the many regions that make up our nation. This can only be truly achieved by vibrant, energised and prosperous states.

A particular challenge that is facing all states but more so South Australia is our ageing population. Our demography is working against us. We face the prospect of a declining participation in the workforce and increasing demands placed on our government for the delivery of services. This makes a drive for greater productivity in our economy not a choice but an imperative.

History instructs us that all great societies have an energy that drives them. Societal vigour and vitality derive from many sources. In essence, it is the people’s confident belief in their community, its values and the capability of its citizens. History also demonstrates that however permanent and sophisticated society appears, it is fragile and can quickly fall into decline. We must not be like the fallen communities that have come before us and make an enemy of change. We must not let our past prosperity and comfortable lives undermine our confidence to reproduce and grow our population.

My own experience of the fragility of states came relatively recently when observing life in an extremely challenged country. With ANZAC Day just past, I reflect on my experiences in Afghanistan. I have always been an engaged citizen. I have sought to make a contribution through service in the Army Reserve. When joining, I never imagined that I would experience operational duty. At the time I enlisted, the world was enjoying a reasonable period of stability, yet things change and, after almost 20 years of service, I was asked to deploy.

The Afghan people know only too well the fragility of a civil society. My time there reminded me of how grateful we should all be for our democratic institutions and that we all have a responsibility to use them for the best effect for our own people. We should never be so arrogant as to take institutions such as this chamber for granted. My time there renewed my desire to pursue public office and to aspire to a seat in this place.

I also acknowledge the service of the young men and women who have served their country in Afghanistan. The profession of arms remains unique in that it asks every member to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. In the places that I was required to live and work, I was often one of the oldest by many years. It was a privilege to carry out my own tasks alongside them and to witness them carrying out their dangerous duties with diligence and youthful good humour.

I am a proud volunteer for St John Ambulance in this state. I acknowledge the efforts of its volunteers, who work tirelessly to keep South Australians safe by training them in the skills of first aid and watching over their community events. Much of the social fabric of this state is woven by the work of volunteers, like these men and women, who selflessly give their time to St John. Their diligence should remind us all in this place that we must endeavour to assist our fellow citizens to create an environment where contribution to the life of the state is not only encouraged but expected, valued and recognised.

I thank everyone who has assisted me in my journey to this place and the confidence they have placed in me. I congratulate those of my Liberal brethren who have taken seats in the other place. I acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all our candidates who did not prove successful at the election. I make mention of two who I had the privilege of working alongside in the campaign: Mr Joe Barry and His Worship the Mayor of Playford, Glenn Docherty. Both are good friends and were strong candidates who fought valiantly for their party. I wish them every success for their future.

I make special mention of my parents, my wife Marcia and my sons Hamish, William and Alasdair, and I thank them for their unswerving support for my endeavours. I acknowledge the privilege of having the opportunity to represent all South Australians, and I look forward to serving them in this chamber to the best of my ability. I commend the motion.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!

See full session on Hansard