Core Values – Everyone Counts

Work hard.

Don’t sponge off anybody else.

Take responsibility for your actions.

Help others where you can.

Those are the core values I learnt from my parents. They were hard-working people. When I was young my mother and father took multiple jobs to make ends meet. Mum was washing dishes and Dad was pumping petrol to supplement his day job in order to make enough money to buy a house and raise four girls.

I remember when I had my first part-time job my Dad saying, ‘don’t you take a day off’, even when I felt sick. You worked hard and that was that. He instilled in me the importance of making a contribution and having respect for the workplace.

He placed real importance on being self-sufficient, not being dependent on others, paying your own way.

When they were in their mid-forties, my parents decided to have a go and start their own company based on what they had learned from working for others. They had enough money to buy a car. They were very successful and worked incredibly hard for 10 years until my father was diagnosed with a bone marrow disease. That meant selling the business but through their hard work, they funded their own retirement, still determined not to be dependent on others.

I remember when I had my first part-time job my Dad saying, ‘don’t you take a day off’, even when I felt sick. You worked hard and that was that.

When I was little, I went to kinder at North Blackburn Baptist Church. Mum introduced us to Sunday School and church and then Girls Brigade. In Nunawading, Mitcham and Ringwood, I participated in just about everything on offer: tennis, basketball, netball, indoor cricket and gymnastics.

As a young person, learning the life skills you get from sport reinforced my values while adding an understanding of how important it is to work as a team and play your role in order to achieve a common goal.

Nowadays as a parliamentarian, my overarching philosophy, and I said this in my maiden speech, is that everyone counts or no one counts. When I left school, I became a nurse (and later a small business owner). As a nurse you learn very quickly that it doesn’t matter who is in that bed, what their background is, what their religion is, where they come from or what their financial circumstances are. Each person is as deserving of respect, care and comfort as the next. You don’t pick and choose. Everyone counts!

Those experiences continue to drive me. In serving the community I still don’t pick and choose. When I’m on a parliamentary committee I take into account the needs of all Victorians. Our political opponents try to pick winners based on an ideological platform, but when you pick winners, there are always losers.

When you’re busy picking winners you don’t develop a comprehensive vision for the state. When you’re favouring one group over another, you don’t focus on increasing living standards for the entirety of our growing population and you don’t recognise the contribution that so many are making in the community.

I see many groups in my electorate who make a voluntary contribution. We have people like the Eastern Volunteers, who take people in need to medical appointments; Eastern Emergency Relief assists people who are in difficult circumstances when confronted with an emergency; the Babes project that supports women through their pregnancy when they have no other support, often birthing with them following a referral from a hospital or the DHS.

I meet people at sporting clubs like the Mitcham Football Club where there is a new generation of parents of female footballers who love the sport. They tell me that as parents they have a new dimension in their lives, a common interest they can enjoy, which is important in relationships. They also have something in common with their daughters, strengthening their bonds as families.

It doesn’t matter what type of contribution people make; it all strengthens the fabric of a civil society. A civil society doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It requires us to invest in infrastructure and core services including health, education and law and order while also supporting the vulnerable by giving people a hand up when they need it. To fund service delivery and to renew and expand infrastructure and meet the social needs of the state requires every dollar to hit its mark. We have to be responsible stewards of money because if we blow money in one area then we can’t spend it in another. I learnt those lessons as a small business owner, where money can be scarce

I meet people at sporting clubs like the Mitcham Football Club where there is a new generation of parents of female footballers who love the sport.

We must manage the tension that exists between spending, providing services and being economically responsible – there is always unlimited demand on the limited resources of government finances. My time in parliament has reinforced that awareness. The importance of improving standards of living particularly in the current climate of crime, congestion, population growth and exorbitant electricity costs, raises the key question, how to do it?

One of the answers is decentralisation – for Victoria to be a state of cities rather than a city state. Our infrastructure investments can’t just be centred around Melbourne but must include infrastructure to connect our regional areas with the city. That infrastructure must be of a standard that actually encourages people to move into the regions and feel that they’re going to be well served by government regardless of where they live.

As a government, we need to invest in infrastructure to provide options. We seek to provide independence and freedom for people to make their own decisions and spend their own money the way they chose but at the same time have the services they need to be the best they can in life.

Victoria is a fabulous state and I believe Victorians are aspirational people; they want to do better, to be the best they can be and they want to achieve. At their fundamental core,I think that’s what Victorians have always been about which makes me feel optimistic.

The Victorian government needs to listen to its people and centre itself around their needs, balance competing priorities, manage the economy and the state’s finances, interfere less in people’s lives, and ensure their freedom while maintaining a civil society.

That’s what a Liberal government would do.