Tuesday, 20 September 2022


Member for Narracan

Member for Narracan

Valedictory statement

Mr BLACKWOOD (Narracan) (15:05): Speaker, can I thank you, the clerks and all members of this house for the opportunity to make a final contribution and for coordinating the time so that members of my family and friends could be with us.

As a mark of respect and appreciation for the working relationship and friendship that I have with the traditional owners of the land on which my electorate is located, I thank the Kurnai elders—in particular Cheryl, Pauline and Sandra Mullet—and all current and former elders. There is no doubt that when people are elected to this Parliament their overriding ambition is to do the best they can for their electorate. They truly want to improve the social, economic and environmental fabric of their community in honour of the legacy of those who have come before us.

In my early world most occupations involved extremely physical and demanding work. The men and women worked hard and sometimes played hard. Les Christian from Nayook was a second father to our family. Working with Dad in the bush, he taught us so much about sustainable harvesting, making sure there would be another crop to harvest for future generations. He worked damn hard, as did everyone who worked in the bush in those days before mechanisation made things so much easier for us when it was our turn. In everything he did there was always consideration of the future, not just the present. With every system of harvesting he deployed, every road he constructed, care for the bush was his primary concern, and the time he spent passing on his knowledge has been to the benefit of so many, including the bush he loved. Les passed away two years ago at the amazing age of 96. He will always be missed.

My parents, Norm and Jean, also worked very hard. They were a perfect team, raising 11 children on one income, and it goes without saying that Mum’s home duties never ended. We were always dressed well and well fed, although there was always plenty of competition for the spare toast at breakfast. We were also given every opportunity to get a good Catholic education. But the example they set for all of us—their work ethic, integrity and support for each other—was exceptional. I hope I have lived those values of respect for others and love of family and community and maintained my faith as they would have expected, although I know and they know there have been times when I have failed. But as true Christians they were always prepared to forgive.

My wife, Fritha, has been so patient and tolerant for the last 16 years. There is no doubt the role of an MP has an impact on your family. To Fritha, thank you. Very soon it will be my turn to repay your loyalty and love.

To my children and their partners—Mark and Katie, Lee and Paul, Glen and Michelle, Tony and Prue, Nicky and Matt, and Adam and Michelle—and my 15 grandchildren, I am so lucky to have you and so proud of you all.

To Fritha’s children and partners—Louisa and Hayden, Ben and Catherine, Lizzie and Chris—and Fritha’s six grandchildren, thank you for your friendship and support and the respect you have always afforded me.

To the mother of our children, Lyn, I could not have wished for a better person to be the mother of our children. Thank you for all you have done over many years.

My four brothers and six sisters are very special to me, because without them, their families and their friends I would never have become the member for Narracan. There is no doubt the size of one’s family has a profound input into one’s electoral success. To my sisters, Diane, Kerry, Lynette, Anne Maree, Bernadette and Paula, and my brothers, Chris, Michael, David and Peter, thank you for your unquestionable support and love, especially Peter for his influence from heaven.

To my wonderful nieces and nephews, a campaign team of 34, thank you for your eagerness to man the polling booths and provide a very effective community endorsement of our brand. Three of my very special nieces are here this afternoon, Sienna, Ava and Harper.

One of the most remarkable things about being a member of Parliament is the broad range of people you meet and the problems they bring to you. From constituents experiencing the toughest life can throw at them to those with the joy and expectation as new citizens on Australia Day, there is always a reminder of how lucky we are to have the opportunity to live in Australia. Every person’s story is unique and important and deserves respect. It has been such a rich experience to get to know and work with people from so many different walks of life.

One of the best things I have been involved in during my entire parliamentary career has been Kokoda. The George Collins Kokoda Award, established in 2007 with the help of my valued friend Bernie Rowell, has enabled us to take 36 year 11 students to trek Kokoda so far. To the sponsors, I thank you all for your support over this 12-year period.

One of the toughest things I have had to deal with was the aftermath of Black Saturday. The impact on the communities of Labertouche, Drouin West and Jindivick was devastating, and the threat the fire posed to neighbouring communities was frightening to so many. The resilience of these communities really shone through, and the generosity of our community was once again second to none. Similarly, in 2019 the communities of Tynong North, Bunyip North and Tonimbuk found themselves under direct attack from fire, and the threat to neighbouring communities caused enormous concern. However, once again the resilience of our people and their support for one another really came to the fore, especially the amazing work of Tony Fitzgerald, the chair of the bushfire recovery committee. During both of these disasters the work of our emergency services and first responders was incredible. The CFA, SES, CWA, Red Cross, police and shire personnel were, as always, selfless and committed.

During the coalition’s last term in government, in 2010–14, I was very fortunate to work with Terry Mulder as Parliamentary Secretary for Transport. Thanks to Terry and Premier Ted Baillieu the Warragul railway station car park and underpass were constructed and the Sand Road interchange was also commenced. The new technology wing at Neerim District Secondary College was also delivered with the support of the then Minister for Education, Martin Dixon. I am so lucky to have these three men as good friends, and this would not have happened without my time in Parliament.

To the Leader of The Nationals, I have really enjoyed working with you over the past 16 years. Thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of our timber industry. Your efforts to have me defect to the Nats came very close to succeeding on more than one occasion, but joining a party that used green as their flagship colour was just a step too far!

Indeed, the friendship, advice and support I have received from the member for Rowville, the member for Eildon, the member for Ripon, the member for Sandringham, John Vogels, the member for Malvern, the member for Forest Hill, the member for Gippsland East, Louise Asher, the member for Mornington, Georgie Crozier, Gordon Rich-Phillips and the member for Benambra have been very special and will always be appreciated.

My comrade the member for Morwell has had an enormous battle in recent years, but with amazing tenacity and persistence he has learned to manage his mental health. Despite his own battles he has still found time to help so many others having a similar battle—very, very proud of you, brother.

On the other side of the house—yes, I am going there—there is the member for Lara, chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, who was made to look real good by his deputy chair over the past 3½ years! To the member for Northcote, how can I not like you, Kat? You dislike the Greens almost as much as I do. To the member for Ivanhoe, Carbs—a great Kokoda trekking buddy. To the member for Bundoora—a very kind Speaker. And to the member for Keysborough, chair of the Privileges Committee—an invaluable parliamentary associate. Also to a member for Eastern Victoria, Harriet Shing in the other place: out in the electorate Harriet has been a pleasure to work with, and in this place I am referred to, by her, as her parliamentary boyfriend—that really worries me. A special mention to the member for Bayswater, Jacko. Jacko was severely traumatised by a suggestion in one of my earlier contributions this term that most of the new Labor members were still in nappies—a reference to their age not their continence status. I am very pleased to announce to the house today that the member for Bayswater has been toilet trained.

Michael O’Connor and Jane Calvert have worked so hard and often in difficult circumstances to support the timber industry, and I thank them for always putting their members before politics.

I know the politics that is such a big part of this place can overshadow the potential for friendships across party lines, but I would like to see that change and to see respect restored in this house, indeed for the Speaker and each other.

I want to thank the Liberal Party for the support and faith they have shown in me, in particular the branch members in Narracan. We have been a great team, winning four elections. I could not have done it without you.

In particular I want to mention John Delzoppo, a former Speaker and member for Narracan; Barry Donellan, Mark Dunsmuir, Mary Aldred, Andrew Ronalds, Bill Westhead, David Balfour, Heather McCarthy, Duncan Smith, Leigh Bates, Glynn and Liz Fankhauser, Don Handley and Ray and Sue Howe. My federal colleague Russell Broadbent, as a mentor, assisting with federal issues and a constant companion at events around the electorate, I cannot thank him enough.

My electorate office staff have been so dedicated, resilient and committed. Jenny has been with me from the start in 2006; Matt for 15 years; Faren, 10 years; and Bec has been doing Fridays for a couple of years. They have been so loyal and have always had my back. Kaye has been working in my office since 2012, but in fact Kaye and I have been working on local, federal and state campaigns since 1996 when we supported Russell Broadbent’s campaign in his win over Barry Cunningham. Her attention to detail and work ethic is unrivalled. To Faren, Jenny, Matt, Bec and Kaye, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

To the people of Narracan, all of you, thank you for always being respectful and friendly. Thank you for giving me this great opportunity to finish my working life as your representative in the Victorian Parliament. We live in the best part of the best country in the world. We live in freedom, with unfettered ability to live as we choose, practise religion, respectfully speak our minds and raise and educate our children so that they can be the best they can be. We must continue to fight to protect our precious values and lifestyle that so many have fought for and for which too many have made the ultimate sacrifice. We must encourage good people to become champions in their communities and bring that experience to Parliament. Values of tolerance, respect and forgiveness underpin our way of life—we must fight to ensure this is not destroyed. As I leave Parliament, I wish the Liberal candidate for Narracan, Wayne Farnham, every success. He is working very hard and being received by people extremely well. He is giving himself every chance to be the next member for Narracan.

Thanks to Bridget Noonan and her team for their advice and support; Hansard for always ensuring our contributions make us look good; the attendants for looking after our school groups and members’ welfare; and the security team, including the PSOs, for always looking after our safety.

In closing, can I thank my family and friends in the gallery today. Thanks for making the effort to be here. Thanks for the love, support and friendship that have helped me so much, especially over the past 16 years. To our grandchildren, here today and at home, you have been my inspiration and my encouragement.

This is my last chance to stick up for the Victorian native timber industry in this place. To every person involved from stump to market and their families, I salute you all. To David Lindenmayer, you are still a fraud using false, manipulated scientific research to support the decimation of the native forest industry. You are destroying the lives and livelihoods of hardworking timber families and country communities. You are a disgrace. To Sarah Rees, as a director of MyEnvironment you continue to bludge on the Victorian taxpayer by not paying your bills in your desperation to destroy a sustainable industry and replace our homegrown and locally manufactured product with the same product from unsustainable sources. You too are a fraud.

Finally, I wish every member of this and future Parliaments well. May their efforts in this place be always focused on good outcomes for their communities and Victoria as a whole.

Members applauded.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Before I call the next member I would like to acknowledge in the gallery the former member for Clarinda, Mr Hong Lim.