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MR SPEAKER: I remind members that these inaugural speeches are to be heard in silence.
MR WHITECROSS (8.01): Mr Speaker, let me begin by adding my congratulations to you on your election to the important office of Speaker of this parliament. It is impossible to contemplate the position of member for Brindabella in the ACT Legislative Assembly, which I have undertaken and with which the voters of Brindabella have entrusted me, without a sense of awe and humility and without a sense of the weight of the responsibility of the task that lies ahead. Let me assure those who voted for me and those who must now look to me as one of the members of this important ACT institution that I will give my all to the task of representing them and working for the best interests and the common good of the people of this Territory.
I am a Labor member of this parliament and I am very proud of it. The last few months have not been great for the Labor Party. We have had to relook at ourselves and to learn lessons, and we are still learning them; but I have great confidence in my party. The Labor people I know - both my parliamentary colleagues and others in sub-branches, in unions, and out in the suburbs - believe passionately in the importance of the principles of equality and justice for which Labor stands. Spurred on by these convictions, reflecting on the lessons of recent times, we will together build a strong Labor team equipped to lead the ACT once more.
When I first put myself forward for election, I identified three things that summed up what I thought was important for voters in my electorate of Brindabella and that I committed myself to work for: Jobs closer to where people live; improved infrastructure and community facilities and services; and an active approach to protecting the environment. These are the things I will work for over the next three years.
Mr Speaker, it is widely recognised that a job is an important ingredient of self-esteem. We all benefit from the dignity of being able to support ourselves and our families, of contributing to something useful, of working with other people, and of using our abilities, our creativity and our initiative. We enjoy the structure that work brings to our lives. An essential element of work is that it is integrated with the other aspects of a person's life. When a person can work close to where they live, it adds to their quality of life, bringing them more time to spend with family and friends and bringing vibrancy to the local community, including thriving local shopping and entertainment and better patronised, and therefore more accessible, public transport. There are only 9,000 jobs in the Tuggeranong Valley - not nearly enough for a community of nearly 90,000 people. This is not so much a matter of money but of planning and priorities and creative thinking.
Urban infrastructure and community facilities and services are part of the fibre that binds a community together. They bring people out of the isolation that can so easily be life in the suburbs. They help people with needs as diverse as health, housing, education, child care, recreation, and support with the difficult task of bringing up families. We must be vigilant to ensure that our city's infrastructure and this community's facilities and services are maintained and are improved.