I joined the Liberal Party as a 17 year old because I believe people should be free to choose their own paths in life, that they should be rewarded for hard work and enterprise, and that everyone, regardless of background or circumstance, deserves respect and the opportunity to live their best life.
I have been profoundly grateful for the opportunity to represent those values and the privilege of representing my local community’s issues, both big and small, as the Federal Member for Higgins.
However, today, after much agonising and with a heavy heart, I am announcing that I will not recontest the next election.
This decision has been made both harder, and easier, because of my admiration for, and friendship with the Prime Minister and my conviction that he will lead our Government to victory in May.
I need to be honest that I cannot commit to serve another three years and continue to deliver the quality of service that my country, Party and community are entitled to expect. There have been too many by-elections of late, and I have no intention of causing one in the next Parliament.
The reasons are complex, and the most compelling are deeply personal. Normally, I wouldn’t canvass them at all, but some will no doubt try to use my announcement to advance their own agendas – and I do not want that.
My two smart and loving children, Olivia and Edward, who are here today, will reach primary school age during the next Parliament. Compiling photo books over the break brought home to me how many special moments I have already missed and how many more I will miss. Everyone makes sacrifices for their work and I know that I am in a more fortunate position than most. But I no longer want to consistently miss seeing my children get up in the morning or go to bed at night, and I want to know that when I am around, my time with them is not constantly disrupted. They clearly want to spend more time with me too.
There is another very personal reason. Like so many families, our journey to parenthood has not been straightforward. If my husband and I want to give ourselves the best opportunity to have a third child we need to be realistic. I turn 42 this year, and everything would have to go right.
This does not mean that men and women need to choose between family and public service. They don’t. Of course, there are sacrifices and, for a time, I have willingly made them. With the right support, you can do both and do both well. I am enormously grateful not just to my loving husband, Jon, but also to Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison who led through their actions – including supporting a breastfeeding mother in Cabinet and the Expenditure Review Committee.
However, no job is forever. After four elections and going on a decade in the Parliament, it is time to give someone else the opportunity to serve. There are so many talented Liberals who can bring a new energy to serving in this seat.
I look back at my parliamentary and Ministerial career with gratitude and satisfaction.
Superannuation is now on a more sustainable footing, and more Australians have an opportunity to unlock its potential through reforms such as deductible personal contributions for everyone, and ‘catch up’ contributions. I am proud to have taken on vested interests in the sector by introducing legislation that better protects Australians’ superannuation savings by capping fees on low balance accounts, banning exit fees on all accounts, improving insurance arrangements and proactively reuniting lost and inactive superannuation accounts with their rightful owners. The Senate must urgently legislate these reforms to save millions of Australians billions of dollars of their own money.
My consumer focus has seen the Australian Financial Complaints Authority established, world leading whistleblower protections introduced and our insolvency laws overhauled.
Together with the Prime Minister, I am proud to have contributed to legislated tax cuts for small and medium sized businesses, and tax cuts for individuals that will see the 37 percent tax rate eliminated altogether.
As a member of the Expenditure Review Committee, I am also proud to have played my part in returning the budget to surplus while also championing key infrastructure projects such as the Victorian Airport Rail Link.
Legislation passed recently that sets minimum standards in the workplace for family and domestic violence leave will help many families. I also hope that last year’s inaugural Women’s Economic Security Statement is an initiative that all governments will commit to. Whether through more flexible paid parental leave or emergency access to finance in domestic violence situations, it is essential that we continue to build women’s financial security.
I am also proud to have been part of securing the permanent home for Australia’s first children’s hospice in the heart of Higgins. Very Special Kids is one of Australia’s most impressive organisations, helping families with care of profoundly ill children and in dealing with unimaginable grief when a child dies. I am exceedingly grateful for their work and compassion.
I would like to place on record my thanks to the people of Higgins who have entrusted me to represent them; to Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison for the opportunity to contribute in Cabinet; to my brilliant and talented staff; to the public servants in my various portfolios; to the wonderful team at our childcare centre; and to the Liberal Party and my dedicated local Party members, executive and supporters. Most especially I would like to thank my family for their understanding and unconditional love.
Finally, I would particularly like to thank the Prime Minister and Jenny for their personal support in what has been a very difficult decision. I have worked closely with Scott not just as PM, but also as Treasurer. He is the right person to lead our nation, and I will do all that I can, both locally and nationally, to ensure that this continues. The opportunities for our children and the generations that follow depend on it.