Scott Barrett MLC has delivered his inaugural speech. He spoke of his love for the land and his love for his family. Scott spoke about his strong ties to the regions, and of his plans while in the Parliament. Here’s what Scott had to say:
I am humbled and honoured to be standing in this House today, a latecomer to the Fifty-Seventh Parliament of New South Wales. I acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation as the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand, and the Wiradjuri people of the Central West, the place I call home. I pay my respects to Elders past and present. For a strong New South Wales, we need strong regions. After spending the bulk of my life living in and working for the regions, I am committed to doing everything within my power to ensure that regional New South Wales continues to be the most wonderful place to live and to seeing the conditions and opportunities improve so that our regional communities across the State reach their full potential as sustainable, prosperous and vibrant places to live, work and raise a family.
I say that fully aware that I am doing it with—and could not be doing it without—The Nationals, a party with an important role to play in unapologetically championing the people of regional New South Wales. Every moment I have in this place is a privilege. It is a privilege bestowed on me by the people of regional New South Wales and the members of The Nationals, and made possible by those who have come before me, the likes of Jenny Gardner, Duncan Gay and Rick Colless. They all did great things in this place and have provided great support to me, for which I will always be grateful. I thank my immediate predecessor, the Hon. Trevor Khan, for everything he has done for the people of New South Wales, for The Nationals and for me. The mountain of work he did in this place is overshadowed only by the respect he earnt while doing it.
Another who came before was Niall Blair, a fellow old boy from Hawkesbury Agricultural College. While I always had a bit of an eye on regional politics, it was Niall, then party chairman, who first drew me into being actively involved with The Nationals as a way of playing my part for the regions. Unbeknown to me, that was a big step towards being in the Chamber today. It led me to working on a few campaigns and then as a regional coordinator, all the while learning about the Parliament, The Nationals and how politics can be an effective vehicle for positive outcomes for regional New South Wales. I was then asked if I would consider a move to Sydney because the Minister for Primary Industries wanted someone in their office with “dirt under their fingernails” and some real life experiences. I made the move and became an adviser to the first female Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson. The learning continued and I thank Katrina for her support, and also for coming along today.
The next step on my journey was working for Niall himself when he was Minister for Primary Industries, in a team led by Sean O’Connell and Julian Luke. It was impossible not to learn in that environment, and I am glad to have been a part of some of what we achieved in that office. More than that, though, I am glad to be able to count Niall Blair as a friend. I thank him deeply. Having been around The Nationals for a while, it has been great to have built relationships with many who are now my Nationals colleagues. It has also been great to have been a small part of their journey as well. I have seen a nurse from Nimmitabel become the passionate and determined Minister for Regional Health, and first ever female Deputy Leader of The Nationals; a young mother from Gunnedah become the committed and tireless Minister for Education and Early Learning; a young business owner and long-time dedicated and hardworking Nationals member become the Minister for Regional Roads; and a chopper pilot from Wagga Wagga become the Deputy President of the New South Wales Legislative Council.
I thank the Hon. Bronnie Taylor, the Hon. Sarah Mitchell, the Hon. Sam Farraway and the Hon. Wes Fang for their work for The Nationals, and for the warm reception I have received into their team. I especially thank Sarah, who, as leader of The Nationals in this place, has gone above and beyond to try to make my entry as smooth as possible. I will single out another of my now colleagues, the Hon. Ben Franklin. Ben was the State director when I first became involved with The Nationals. To be sharing this privilege with him provides a nice chapter to our journey. I thank him for his support and guidance along the way. I say to my Nationals colleagues in the other place, many of whom I have known for several years, I look forward to what we can continue to achieve as a party as we move beyond our 100th year.
I thank our leader, Deputy Premier Paul Toole, for the calm pair of hands he provides and the support he has given me over the years. I also acknowledge members of the House wearing different party colours. I say to those in the Liberal Party that I intend to become one of those annoying Nationals reminding them how important regional New South Wales is to the State, as we continue to do good things together in government. I say to Opposition and crossbench members that while I know we will disagree on things as we fight for our particular constituencies, I suspect we will agree on lots of things as well, given we are all ultimately in this place for the good of New South Wales. To all of you in this House, I look forward to working with you. I look forward to learning from you and I look forward to making New South Wales a better place together with you.
A child of regional New South Wales, I was born, grew up and became who I am in regional communities, where I am now raising a family of my own along with my amazing wife. I count myself extremely lucky because of this. The bulk of my formative years were spent on a sheep and cattle property just north of Orange in the State’s Central West. My childhood memories are filled with times on this and surrounding farms catching yabbies, trapping rabbits, building tree houses and riding horses through the hills; and then there were the days when the whole family would saddle up and muster the sheep or cattle.
While the passing of time may have romanticised these memories a touch, I have no doubt this was the perfect childhood for me. It moulded me into the person that I am: a person who is passionate about agriculture, who respects our land and our farmers, and who values our family farms. It is what our country was built on and I am proud of that. I am proud of the fact that my family—Mum and Dad and many generations before them—have been a part of this tradition. They have poured sweat into the land and dedicated their lives to feeding and clothing our country and the world, making us who we are as a nation and as a State and making me who I am as a person.
After leaving school in 1996 I spent the next year on Moola Bulla Station, a 1.6 million-acre cattle property in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. There I earned $35 a day chasing cattle through the scrub, catching cleanskins, spending long days in the saddle behind mobs of cattle, taking bad busters off horses and spending hot days in the yards with a band of dusty mates. It was a time I loved: an experience that reaffirmed and further romanticised my views of regional Australia. It set me on a career course that saw me spend the next four years at Hawkesbury Agriculture College out at Richmond, known by some—but not us—as University of Western Sydney.
I was one of the decreasing number of students seeking tertiary education and a potential career in primary industries, and I was fortunate to do this at Hawkesbury Ag. This is a trend we need to reverse. Our young bright kids need to know there is a future for them in agriculture and this needs to be instilled from an early age. There are all sorts of opportunities, from unskilled labour through to robotics and science. I would say to any student nearing the end of their time at school, first of all, to make the most of that time; but secondly, to look to agriculture and our regional communities for a wealth of career opportunities, social activities and just an all-round great place to live. They are vibrant and dynamic regional communities without the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities but still with high-quality education and health services; great sporting facilities and a range of activities, as well as access to our amazing landscapes; and wonderful people. It is a good life. It is a great life.
Unfortunately, with all this opportunity and optimism there are still those in regional New South Wales who are disadvantaged. They are disadvantaged by geography, education, history and access to health. Regional people have a shorter life expectancy than those in Sydney. They are less likely to complete the HSC and are more likely to know someone lost to suicide. We must do better in these areas. In these regional centres, we understand there are things that we will go without. Molong is doing just fine without a dry cleaner. But there are certain things we need and can always improve on. Our education and health services are at the top of this list, but these gaps are closing—and have been closing every day. I am proud of the role the National Party—in particular a couple of Ministers in this Chamber—has played in this improvement. We can do better for regional New South Wales, and that is why the Nats are here. That is why I am here. When a policy is discussed, a bill worked on or an inquiry underway, I will fight to protect and promote the people of regional New South Wales.
It would be remiss of me to stand here in the Chamber today without taking a moment to acknowledge those people still reeling from the impacts of the floods that occurred only a few weeks ago. Like many others I sat watching the footage with a broken heart as the brown, muddy water swallowed everything those people had built, everything they had worked for and everything they owned. The compassion I feel for those people and my admiration for their strength are quite intense. Having walked through the ashes of my own family home on two separate occasions, I watched the footage and heard the stories of these floods with a heavy and empathetic heart. I wish those affected all the strength they need, not just for now but also for the difficult times to come. While these will be difficult times indeed, I am confident those affected communities will get through it. We have gone through these things before and we will get through them again.
The people of regional New South Wales are a tough bunch, but it would be nice if we did not have to prove it every couple of years. It was not that long ago the State baked in the worst drought in record. Then our houses, our farms and our bush burned in the worst fires. This year’s floods have taken the mantle from last year’s floods, and we are currently still in the worst pandemic for 100 years—throw a mouse plague into that as well. Personally, I am proud to say I have been able to work on the recovery from these events with a charity called GIVIT. I could talk for hours about some of the amazing things I got to see and do while working for GIVIT, but the crux of it was working with local charities to identify genuine needs—say, a pair of work boots. We would then either match this need with a potential donor or, ideally, use donated money we received to purchase these items in the local town, providing the extra benefits not just to the person who received the goods but also the local businesses, which do great work in those local communities.
I am proud to say that while at GIVIT we were instrumental in directing this generosity to where it was needed most, making a genuine difference to the lives of those in need. While I am before the House I give a quick shout-out to GIVIT founder Juliette Wright, CEO Sarah Tennant, Caroline Odgers, Denim Rose and Kirsty Bender, who worked with me on this project at the time. I know the work you have done is very much appreciated, especially what you are doing now to help the people in the Northern Rivers. Recently I received a message from out at Trundle, just the other side of Parkes. Essentially it said, “Scotty, GIVIT gave us so much support during the drought. Just wondering how we can go about helping those affected by the floods.” This short message tells us so much about not only the impact of GIVIT in areas of need but also the spirit and generosity of the people of regional New South Wales. Both these things make me immensely proud.
Like others in this place, my path to get here was not a first-try thing. In 2016 I was the losing candidate in a by-election for the seat of Orange. In this election the people of the Central West sent a very clear message to The Nationals in Government. Clearly many felt we had stopped listening and become disconnected to what was important to them. But it was a message that as a party we heard loud and clear, and one I felt intimately. It left an imprint on me that will not be forgotten. It is an imprint that sees me put a greater value on the privilege and responsibility it is to be in this place, and an imprint that will see me listen and do everything I can to promote and protect the people of regional New South Wales.
With me on this whole journey have been my mum, Belinda, and dad, Ian, both of whom have always been right behind me in whatever I have done. They have felt my losses and enjoyed my wins and I am thrilled they can both be here today. Mum, with her ever constant support, has always provided a safe place to land. I genuinely believe Dad would literally give his right arm to make any of his kids happy. As kids we were happy, and still are.
My sisters Jane, Lucy and I lived this good country life that I am here to promote and protect. We have so many opportunities to make our towns and small communities not just livable but fabulous places to live, to work and to raise a family. Jobs, investment and entrepreneurship—as members of this place it our responsibility to see these opportunities and this potential realised. And this is what you will see me working on every day I am privileged enough to hold this position and this responsibility, determined and committed to ensure that this situation not only remains but improves; that we create more opportunities, more advantages and more attractions to living and working in regional New South Wales.
This is going to get tough now. Obviously I did not get here alone, and there are a couple more people I want to acknowledge while I have the floor. Firstly, to everyone for coming along today, it means so much for you to make the effort. To the Central Council of the National Party, this is your position and I am humbled that you have trusted me to fill it. To the staff of the Parliament—I still do not have a clear understanding of who does what, but I must thank David Blunt and his team, and Mark Webb and his. The “Mr Barrett” stuff we will work around but, to a person, every single one of these people has been overly accommodating and friendly and helpful and I am deeply appreciative of this. To Bruce Reynolds and Gordon Eggins and everyone who worked so hard on the 2016 Orange campaign, thank you so much for your efforts. They are not forgotten. This includes Ross Cadell, who is here; Alana Black; and Gill Burke, our Women’s Council chair, who is also in the gallery, as are her parents, Bede and Narelle.
I cannot miss the opportunity to thank two special people who have played a major role my life in all the big moments since I have known them—unfortunately they cannot be here—Julian Luke and Philippa Noakes. Our lives have changed substantially since we first met—I have not even got to the hard bit yet—but now, through weddings and babies, wins and losses, you have always been there for me and I will be forever grateful. And finally, in the President’s gallery today is the most beautiful person I have ever known—I am not looking, sorry—my wife, Maryanne Hawthorn. In a moment that so easily could have been missed and very nearly was, Mez became a part of my life at exactly the right time. It is hard to even fathom where I would be without her, but it certainly would not be here.
Once upon a time I thought the greatest day of my life was scoring a hundred for Cudal cricket. While this says things about me I would rather not have explored, boy was I was proven wrong when, by the campfire on the banks of the dry Bogan River, I recited a poem that ended with dust on my knee and, ultimately, a flow of happy tears that put the Bogan River to shame. I thought our wedding day was the greatest day of my life but, with all the amazing things we have done together, I have quickly learnt that each day I wake up with you as my wife is the best and luckiest day I have ever had—be that today, tomorrow or every day for the rest of our lives.
They say you cannot improve on perfect—well, I beg to differ. The evidence to this is sitting in the gallery here today. When Mez came into my life, she did not come alone. With her came Darcy James Mitchell, the most delightful little boy you could hope to meet. Darcy, mate, you make me so proud every single day in everything you do. From your efforts and improvements in your bowling, to the thought provoking questions you ask, the conversations we have and the kindness you show to other kids, it would be impossible for me to love you any more than I do and I am very lucky to have you in my life.
And then along came Henry, who so clearly has no idea why Dad is standing in this strange building with all these people around him. Mate, every single day with you is a blessing, particularly the past six months when I have been lucky enough to be a full-time stay-at-home dad. A mere photo of you makes me smile and brightens any moment. To hold you, see you smile, hear your laugh and watch you wonder in learning something new—that is everything to me. Both of you melt my heart and I love you with everything I have. And this goes to my beautiful wife as well. Mez, I want you to know, wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I would always prefer to be at home with you, having dinner with the boys, preferably eating your spectacular corned beef and white sauce, but if it is bangers and mash that would do just fine—the key ingredient is you.
My journey to this place has not been a straight line. It has had twists and turns, jumps and bumps, but there have been a few constants through it all: a passion for regional communities and regional pursuits, in particular our primary industries; an enthusiasm for building and supporting regional communities; a romanticised love for our country’s heritage and our history; and a genuine connection with and empathy for the people of regional New South Wales. It has been a journey undertaken not for the sake of the destination, but a destination that is the result of the journey. And by no means is today, my appointment to this esteemed place, the end point or final destination of this journey. However long my time here, I intend on using all of it to promote and protect regional New South Wales—the land, the businesses, the communities and the people.
To you, Mr President, and my colleagues, I say thank you for your time and your welcome. To my friends and family, thank you for your support, engagement, encouragement and friendship—and your engagement as well, baby; that was beautiful. To the National Party, thank you for the trust you have put in me. To the people of New South Wales, particularly regional New South Wales, thank you for the privilege to be able to serve you and represent you. I am honoured and humbled to do so. And to all of you I say that, for every day I am fortunate enough to carry the responsibility of this position, I will work with you, I will work for you and I will work tirelessly for the betterment of regional New South Wales. Thank you very much.