12 March 1991 - Current
Mr RAMSAY (Western Victoria) -- President, I congratulate you on reaching the high office of President in this 57th Parliament. As I stand to speak for the first time in this chamber today I am more than ever conscious of the responsibility and honour that the people of western Victoria have bestowed on me, a responsibility and honour which I take very seriously. All my life I have worked in rural and regional communities with and for country people. I am proud to say that my family history is a story of many men and women who have played an important leadership role in their local communities. The church, politics, agriculture and the towns and communities of western Victoria have all been symbols of the life travels of my family. My great-great-grandfather, the Reverend Andrew Ramsay, arrived from Scotland on 4 January 1847, settling in Melbourne. In 1850, with three other ministers, he formed the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church of Victoria. He was the first minister at Port Phillip of the United Succession and helped build St Enoch's Church in Collins Street. While the church played an important role in the values of my family, it was my great-grandfather, Robert Ramsay, who forged a career in politics. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Victorian Parliament in 1870. Over a long parliamentary career he served as Postmaster-General and Minister for Education. For a short time in 1880 he also served as Chief Secretary. History tells us that in this role one of his most celebrated achievements was dispatching resources to capture the Kelly bushranger gang. My grandfather, Major Robert Ramsay, served in World War II before becoming active in local government, most notably as mayor of Colac Shire over
successive terms. He also served on the Graziers Federal Council of Australia from 1939 to 1942 and played an important role with Sir William Gunn in shaping the wool industry at that time. Here we have a mixture of three generations involved in religion, politics and agripolitics, and a love of the land that was to shape my life. My father, Andrew Ramsay, tragically lost his life to cancer at a young age. I know how proud he would have been to see me standing here today, advocating the values that have been passed down through the generations -- the importance of hard work, respect, fairness and equality of opportunity -- all of this mixed with the principles of liberalism and a passion for the land and its people. Throughout my life I have been encouraged to speak out for what I believe in -- that so-called political correctness should not sway the passion of one's convictions. I am passionate about speaking out for the people of western Victoria. As a third generation farmer from Birregurra, I learned from a young age the importance of standing up for my community, whether it be in the local kindergarten, school, the Country Fire Authority, the farming community or small business. That work continued on behalf of many rural communities throughout Victoria when I served for four years as president of the Victorian Farmers Federation. There were many challenges through that time, supporting communities through droughts, floods and bushfires, advocating for investment in research and development, fighting for tax reforms, improving sea freight lanes to improve export competitiveness, to name but a few. I also fought for sensible environmental policies which aimed to strike the right balance in the preservation of our environment. The region of Western Victoria is rich and diverse. It spans all the way from the western suburbs of Melbourne to the South Australian border. It includes large regional cities like Geelong, Ballarat and Warrnambool, and many smaller cities and towns like Colac, Ararat and Mortlake, to name but a few. Western Victoria comprises the iconic Great Ocean Road coastline, rich farmlands and magnificent national parks. Agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and small business underpin the economic success of this region, and so too innovation, technology and education services. It is also one of the country's most important food-producing regions. Much of our produce -- dairy, wool, beef and wheat -- is exported around the world. Whether people live in large cities or small towns like the one I grew up in, job security, health, education, communications, public transport, better roads and safety are vital. Over the past 11 years critical services in regional Victoria have suffered, coupled with a failure to make proper investment in infrastructure -- all of this while encouraging population growth at a rate that is now causing real concern. Regional Victoria was not only crying out for big improvements in basic services, it was looking for a government that could provide a vision -- a vision that would enrich our regional communities with an improved sense of worth, security and hope. It is clear that in 2010 the people of Victoria wanted change. But with a change of government comes great responsibility. It is my solid commitment to fight for all country communities throughout western Victoria. Decentralisation of services is absolutely critical. Business and industry must have the appropriate motivation to move country communities and to provide jobs and opportunities. Just as important is proper planning to ensure that we can provide affordable housing, safeguard our environment and protect our food-producing regions. I make the commitment to the Parliament today that I will work tirelessly for the people whom I represent and, in doing so, with no parliamentary representative from the coalition, Ballarat will become a particular focus of mine. I take this opportunity to thank those who have been instrumental in my election as a member of Parliament. Thank you to the many hardworking members of the Liberal Party for their support and belief in me. I thank in particular the Premier, Ted Baillieu, the Liberal Party president, David Kemp, and the state director, Tony Nutt. I would also like to acknowledge my predecessor, John Vogels. I wanted to call him honourable, but he did not want me to; however, I will, because I find him a very honourable person. John was widely respected for his work in representing the region. He had a great ability to communicate with all sections of the community; he was a willing listener and a strong advocate for western Victoria. John's political life has been filled with twists and turns: two seats he held were abolished, and he retired just prior to the coalition being returned to power. John says he has no regrets and to me that is the measure of a man who says it how it is.
I also look forward to working alongside the other members of the coalition team in Western Victoria Region -- David Koch and David O'Brien -- and working constructively and respectfully with all members of this house to deliver better government and improved services. While many people have helped me on my political journey, I would especially like to thank the Honourable Dick de Fegely, the Honourable Ian Smith, David Harris and Andrew Gubbins. To my immediate family -- my mother, Gillian, who has been a guiding light through all of my life; my stepfather, Geoff; my brother, Michael; my sister, Serena; and my wonderful children, Nicola, Tiffany and Andrew -- thank you. My father remains my great inspiration. Thank you to my partner Sarah, who has been a rock of Gibraltar during my campaign and a wise counsel during the good times and the tough times. I thank members of this house for allowing me to express my pride and gratitude today. It is with a great sense of duty and honour that I embark on my service to the Victorian Parliament and to the people of Western Victoria Region. Debate adjourned on motion of Mr O'DONOHUE (Eastern Victoria). Debate adjourned until next day.