The NSW Nationals’ newest Member of Parliament made his inaugural speech on Wednesday night. Read excerpts below:
At the outset, it would be remiss of me, on this day in the midst of a week of unprecedented fire risks that our State has faced and continues to face, not to acknowledge the tremendous capacity of our great State to pull together and to stand up to the worst challenges. I speak with the certainty that all our thoughts and prayers are with those facing the fires and with all involved: from local service organisations, property owners and our very own RFS teams dropping all their own lives to serve, right through to the Premier and even members of Parliament who are absent today and in their electorates doing what they can to help their communities.
Out our way, you are either from the Central West or you are from somewhere else. I am not saying we are parochial, but I grew up believing it was a place on the outside of Trunkey. Some of you may actually know where Trunkey is. Born in the Bathurst Base Hospital in 1986, I am the eldest of five children of Warren and Leanne Farraway, who both have long family ties to the Central West region of New South Wales. My father was heavily involved in the automotive trade. In 1988 my parents took the plunge and purchased their very own small business: a Hertz car rental franchise in Bathurst. Like all small businesses starting out, it was very modest and not the largest operation you have seen. Their first office was set up in the oil room in the back of my grandfather’s Ampol service station on the main highway into town. With just eight cars and one Pantech truck, they were in business and ready to go.
Growing up, I was very fortunate not only to be close to my immediate family but also to have an amazing network of extended family and friends. I had the immense privilege of growing up with my grandparents. We were close, and it was just like having a second set of parents. Our family farm backed onto my grandparents’ farm on the outskirts of Bathurst. This was so important to me, my siblings and my parents because mum and dad were tirelessly running the business in town. I remember with great affection my grandmother picking us up at school. She was a pretty cool gran. She would pull into the school carpark where my brothers and sister would pile into the car, all jostling for the front seat, and as we opened the front door she would have Bachman-Turner Overdrive or the Bee Gees blaring through the speakers. All the other kids would be looking, but not once were we ever embarrassed.
My family have been involved with the land for generations and for the past 10 years I have continued that tradition through our family property and involvement with the Royal Bathurst Show as a councillor and president. The Bathurst Agricultural, Horticultural & Pastoral Association has conducted agricultural competitions for 161 years. In 2019 we conducted our 151st agricultural show and the twenty-sixth Royal Bathurst Show. It is the largest agricultural show west of the Blue Mountains and the largest annual community event in Bathurst. I am proud to be a part of the amazing team that continues to make this happen. As with the other 194 agricultural shows in New South Wales, the show is one of the most important community events in many regional towns. Once a year regional New South Wales communities come together at their local shows—in drought, in sleet and occasionally in good times.
Our showgrounds, reserved 141 years ago at the request of our association, are used and have been used in these past few days not just to conduct shows but also to help communities in times of dire need. Through the show and my community involvement, I have seen the work of other organisations that often come together to support their community: the Country Women’s Association, the RSL sub-branch, Legacy, Lions, Rotary, Probus, the mighty RFS, NSW Farmers and many others. I will continue to stand up for our agricultural societies, our local shows and our local organisations that make such a tremendous and important contribution to the fabric of our regional communities. My interest in politics started in high school. There were some very heated debates in year 12 economics and business studies classes. It is fair to say that we always set out to challenge each other and we would agree to disagree most of the time—a sound preparation for this place perhaps.
My involvement in the National Party has been extensive since joining—Bathurst branch chair, Bathurst State Electorate Council chair, Calare Federal Electorate Council chair, campaign manager for John Cobb in 2013, campaign manager for Paul Toole in 2019, central executive member, 2019 Senate candidate, and presently the senior vice chair of the NSW Nationals. Our party is truly a grassroots party, with a strong, open organisational wing that encourages all members to be active and engaged. It is the heart of our party and where our MPs are forged with a firm commitment to our objectives. First and foremost, it allows us to represent diverse communities across the whole State and allows someone like me to start as an ordinary member and in seven years arrive in this place.
It should never be a simple decision taken lightly to enter politics. After a great deal of contemplation and discussion with friends, family and mentors, I arrived at the conclusion that my genuine commitment to make a difference, to use my experience for the benefit of others and to serve the people of New South Wales was strong. I believe in our political system and I want to make a meaningful contribution that provides tangible benefits for all those who live in New South Wales, in particular regional New South Wales. I have a deep respect for our traditions and institutions; a respect, though, that is informed by modern views. I have a healthy regard for the past with a broad view of where we need to go in the future. It is clear that The Nationals are not, as some would paint us, just the voice of akubra and R.M. Williams wearers—although we do wear them far better than most. We are far more than that. We are the voice for regional workers, the voice for families, whether it is on the farm or in town. We are the voice for the family business.
For me, that means we should continue to build strong communities, providing the circumstances that allow our families and businesses to thrive through their own hard work and innovation. Small business is at the heart of our communities and our successes, and it is in my blood. I am not one to dwell on things. When my father passed away I was forced to make a choice: Go off to Sydney and university, like many of my mates, or, as the eldest of five children, grow up, get stuck in and work hard, running what was our family business. As I have said, I am passionate about small business. I know what it adds to families and regional communities. I know the importance of the jobs they create and I know how difficult they can be to manage and run. Providing full time jobs has strengthened my community, kept families in regional New South Wales and supported many other local businesses.
Whilst there are sacrifices, knowing that people’s ability to pay their mortgage, buy the groceries or put fuel in the car is reliant on you, it is a serious and very personal commitment but one that is enormously rewarding when you get it right. My experience tells me that, whilst university is important, it is not for everyone. You can build a successful career in the regions through hard work, motivation and determination. There are opportunities in small businesses, in trades and in apprenticeships. In fact, there are opportunities across all sectors in the regions, even in drought—through agriculture, education, manufacturing, mining, forestry and emerging technology. It does not matter whether they are small or large enterprises. It is through getting stuck in, adhering to your values and building relationships with people that the job will get done.
Bringing opportunity to country people is the reason The Nationals have existed for 100 years and it is the reason we will exist for another 100 years. Agriculture, small business, investment in critical regional infrastructure and water security are the vital policy issues right now and for the next decade. I believe that there are real opportunities to build on the hard work of the past eight years and to see the ambitions of regional New South Wales come to life. In my view, that means building dams now to improve our resilience, readiness and survival for the next drought. It means investing in the capacity of our towns to meet their water needs for families and business right now and into the future. It means making sure that the rules that our farmers operate under are fair—rightly prosecuting the few who give the many a bad name but not cruelly pursuing the others. It also means that those who provide advice on how our rivers run and how our environment is managed should live in the communities they are making those decisions about.
Regional communities want government to push ahead with this agenda and deliver better water security and a fairer system. I will push for shovels in the ground, for smarter systems and for more public service jobs in our towns. I believe in giving people a fair go. I believe in the value of hard work. I believe in the best possible opportunity for all people, no matter their postcode. The Nationals in government are, together, showing that we can tackle our big problems from all angles, which means listening to the community, making the hard decisions and delivering the resources needed. The $4.1 billion that was quarantined by the NSW Nationals from the sale of Snowy Hydro was an outcome delivered by the Deputy Premier and his team and an outcome that has directly benefited regional communities.
It is often said that family is everything. I am so fortunate to have a supportive family that has been by my side from the beginning and been supportive of my political pursuits, even though they have called me mad several times. To my mother, Leanne, my brothers, Toby, Ben, Liam, and my one and only sister, Sarah, thank you so much. It is your support and love that has got me to this point today. To my grandfather Norm Sweetnam, who is here today, thank you for all you have done—not just for the unconditional support you have given me but because we have always been close. Having you here today means so much.
Finally, there are two people I want to particularly mention. Unfortunately both are no longer with us. It is truly a shame that my father, Warren Farraway, and grandmother Gwen Sweetnam are both not here today. They played such a significant role in my upbringing, life and education. They always kept me grounded and gave me the strength to always have a go. I am sure they are both looking down proudly today. I will always remember the journey and the people who got me here and will use their example to guide me in my role. The promise I make today is that I will do my best to deliver for the people of rural and regional New South Wales. I will play my part in representing the regions. I will fight to develop outcomes that have a real benefit for our communities. Thank you, Mr President, and fellow members.