Page 2093 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2022

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Life throws us curveballs sometimes—some good, some not so much. Lord knows, we have suffered far too many of the latter in the last few years. The pandemic and its continuing reverberations have seen people lose livelihoods, lives and loved ones. In many ways we have lived in an atmosphere of intense uncertainty for three years since the first stirrings of COVID-19 were observed overseas.

Since then our health system has been stretched to breaking point. Our economy faces the prospect of inflation not seen in a generation. People are struggling to afford a home, especially in Canberra, and rising interest rates may see home ownership turn from dream to nightmare for many.

Our economy is under threat, and at the same time we face a very long tail of mental health impacts resulting directly from the lockdowns and restrictions that we all endured, however necessary they were. Call rates to mental health support services skyrocketed. Services have become harder to access, and ABS data indicates more people than ever before may have experienced a mental health condition during the pandemic. An unexpected curveball has brought the pandemic to our world, and an unexpected curveball has brought me into this chamber. I am determined to use this opportunity to serve my community and my electorate to the best of my ability.

Our city is the national capital of Australia. It is the home of the Australian parliament and the home of the Australian Public Service. It is the home of our national cultural institutions, the custodians of the Australian story. But Canberra is much more than its stereotype. Canberra is home to over 467,000 people—people who are strong, caring and generous; people who are smart, driven and passionate. Our people make Canberra more than the sum of its public service offices and Parliament House.

Canberra is home to an amazing concentration of knowledge, skills, talent and initiative. It is home to world-class educational institutions, researchers, engineers, doctors and thinkers who are making a real difference, not just in Australia, not just in Canberra, but around the world.

Importantly, Canberra is home to ordinary people, too—people who do not necessarily set out to change the world, but do so and make it better just by their everyday actions; people who work hard to provide for their families; people who go out of their way to volunteer for a local club or charity; people who take time out from their job to care for their children or an older relative.

Canberrans, on the whole, are people of conviction. We believe in doing the right thing and leading by example—treating people well and lending a helping hand when others need it. We live in a great and unique city, unlike anywhere else in Australia or the world—a place where great ideas are born and a place where great things happen.

But after so many years of one government, Canberrans, and, especially those of us living in the south, can see problems—problems of confidence, competence and vision. For too long we in the south have been missing out. It is time for a new vision for our southern regions, one that moves beyond the city focus of the current government and treats the south as more than a place to sleep, and a source of rates and revenue.

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