Nicole’s First Speech

Tuesday 29 April 2008

Thank you Madam Chairman.

I rise today to express my deep appreciation to the people of Tennyson Ward for their faith and confidence in electing me as their first Councillor, as part of the Campbell Newman Council Team.

It is a great honour and privilege to be both.  To represent the people of Tennyson Ward, to stand in this Chamber and give voice to their concerns and ideas is a unique privilege.

I accept that responsibility wholeheartedly, and today pledge that I am here to listen, to act and to serve the people of my local community.  I do so as part of a team that is focused on planning for Brisbane’s future, and delivering essential services to meet the needs of our growing city.  I do so because of my love for Brisbane and the encouragement and support of my family.

As a young child, I sat in my parent’s kitchen and watched as they discussed with their friends and neighbours how to fix a local road problem.  Each night, houses in our street filled with dust.  Peak hour traffic would barrel down an unsealed road behind our house.  In their view, the dirt track was a dangerous health hazard, and reflected poorly on the suburb of which they were very proud.

As concerned locals, my parents formed an action group.  They organised letters, coordinated petitions, and lobbied Council to seal the road.  They were successful.

In thinking about what I would say to you today, that experience is still fresh in my mind.  It has shaped how I think about politics, the personal issues that people care about, and the value of acting locally to improve our lives and those of our neighbours.  It is one of the reasons that local government is so important to me.

I am delighted that my family, particularly my parents, Pam and Rob Johnston are here tonight to witness and share in the occasion of my first speech.  I owe a debt of gratitude to them for their hard work, support and constant encouragement, not just over the past few months, but through all the endeavours of my life.

I would also like to acknowledge my sister and her family, and my friends, some of whom are here tonight in the public gallery.

Madam Chairman, I also want to pay tribute to the Tennyson Campaign Team.  The dozens of party volunteers and supporters who worked tirelessly to ensure the Can-do Team’s message reached the community.  Their spirit and enthusiasm inspired me and ensured the success of our campaign locally.

In particular, today we were joined in the public gallery by a man who is no stranger to this Chamber.  The former Vice Mayor of Brisbane, Denver Beanland.

I want to thank him for his friendship and encouragement over many years, and his leadership behind the scenes on the Tennyson Campaign.

Many years ago he gave a young university student the opportunity to learn more about grass roots politics and the values of the Liberal Party.  These are lessons I have always valued.

I stand in this Chamber today because the people of Tennyson have made their voices heard.  People who form a new community of interest in Brisbane’s inner south and western suburbs.

The ward of Tennyson includes the suburbs of Fairfield, Annerley, Yeronga, Yeerongpilly, Tennyson, Sherwood, Graceville, Chelmer and parts of Corinda and Rocklea. It is naturally shaped by the Brisbane River to the north and west, and by major arterial roads to the east and south.

It is one of the most beautiful and historic parts of Brisbane.  Home to two of Australia’s oldest memorial parks at Graceville and Yeronga, and significant tracts of bushland, including the Oxley Common and Sherwood Arboretum.

The Ward also includes some of Brisbane’s most gracious turn of the century and post war homes.  Its architecture and picturesque streetscapes make it one of the most iconic parts of our City.  It is also an area undergoing significant change as a result of new major sporting and residential developments like the Tennis Centre at Tennyson.

Importantly, Tennyson is also a hub of commercial and industrial activity.  It is home to Brisbane’s third largest enterprise, the Rocklea markets, and numerous medium and large companies. Many of these businesses are owned by proud, Queensland families that for generations have contributed to or local economy, and exported their products and services around the world.  I welcome the contribution they make to the prosperity and character of the new ward.

But of course what makes Tennyson extraordinary is the character of its residents, people from all walks of life and from many places around the world.  Tennyson suburbs are brimful with communities of interest.  Whether they centre around social, sporting, community, veteran, seniors’ welfare or school based pursuits.  It has been a great joy over the past few months to meet with them and learn more about the history and richness of my local community.

I look forward to working with the local residents and community groups, to make Tennyson an even better place to live and work.

As my colleagues in this Chamber would know, you cannot take anything for granted in political life.  Despite Tennyson’s status on paper, it could have easily fallen into Labor hands.

We did not take this notional status for granted, forging a strong campaign that achieved a swing of almost 11 per cent, and winning 17 of the 18 booths across the Ward.

Councillors may be interested to know that 14 of these booths were previously in Labor held wards.  In fact the last time that some of Tennyson suburbs formed part of a Liberal Ward was as far back as 1991.

Through you Madam Chairperson, I say to the Australian Labor Party who in the last week of the local campaign in Tennyson resorted to their usual tactics of lies and misinformation, you failed to present meaningful and relevant policies to meet the needs of the community and paid the price.

I suggest the Labor Party examines the reasons for its loss, takes note of the size of the swings in its heartland areas of Annerley and Fairfield, the backyard of Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Premier Anna Bligh, and look inwards for the reasons for their comprehensive defeat.

In contrast, I am proud to be part of a team with a plan for Brisbane’s future.  A team that will work on behalf of the whole community, regardless of their political views.

Our Lord Mayor Campbell Newman’s vision for Brisbane, to tackle traffic congestion, to boost public transport, and to make Brisbane the most environmentally sustainable city in Australia are goals that I strongly support.

Over the next four years I plan to work with him and members of Civic Cabinet to translate these promises into local actions.

My priorities for Tennyson are no secret.  They are to upgrade local roads and improve traffic and pedestrian safety.  To upgrade local parks in Corinda and at Yeronga Memorial Park and the Sherwood Arboretum.  To complete the Graceville Sherwood Neighbourhood Plan, and to fight for better bus services.

Like my parents 25 years ago, today in Tennyson, traffic and its impact on the local community is one of the most pressing issues.  Having worked for an engineering company for many years, I understand the economic and social benefits of modern and efficient road networks.  Goods get to shops faster, and onto shelves more cheaply, and workers get home to their families quicker, after a day at work.

I strongly support the Lord Mayor’s TransApex Road Plan.  It is reshaping our City’s arterial roads and providing critical transport corridors.  I will be working to improve our local road networks and through the Rocklea Freight Study, to look at new ways to reduce the impact of trucks on suburban streets.  I will also be working closely with my predecessor in the western part of Tennyson, Councillor Jane Prentice, to promote greater access to public transport solutions by bike, bus and river.

Unlike those on the other side of this Chamber, our team knows that to tackle traffic congestion in Brisbane, we need both new road networks and public transport solutions.

I also agree with local residents who have told me that sensible development and planning are critical issues in Tennyson.  I will fight to preserve the unique homes, character and lifestyle of Tennyson’s local communities.

My priorities will be to ensure that residential and commercial development happens in a sensible way.  That the Ward’s heritage and culture is respected, and that our beautiful parklands and open spaces are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.

And importantly Madam Chairman, that local people have a say in planning for the future.

I look forward to the challenges of the next four years, and to serving my community with all of the energy, enthusiasm and determination that I can.

Thank you.