Former Nats’ leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro delivered his Valedictory speech to Parliament on Wednesday, November 24. This is what he had to say.
Who would have thought that after the events of the past 18 months, Andrew and I would be doing valedictory speeches on the same day and neither one of us is running for the seat of Eden-Monaro? After almost 11 years in Parliament as a member for Monaro, seven years as a Minister and almost five years as Deputy Premier, where do I start? I thought I would start at the start. A wide?eyed, naive chippie from Queanbeyan got elected after a very tough fight for the seat of Monaro against a very good Labor member, Mr Steve Whan. At the time in 2011 Labor was on its knees. Steve was seen as a shining light of the Labor Party and possibly a future leader. Who would have thought a chippie who went out doorknocking for 12 months in advance of the election was able to sneak up and win by 700 votes? That same wide-eyed, naïve individual got to this place and thought he was going to change the world. My inaugural speech had a lot in it.
Three months into his term that same naive new member for Monaro called on Brad Hazzard, who was the planning Minister at the time, to resign because he had not approved the very controversial Tralee development. Only last week I was at South Jerrabomberra, which is what the development is now called after we found a compromise. A new Jerrabomberra high school is being built as we speak. I am excited to see that from the first term of 2023 kids will be able to start their education journeys in Jerrabomberra at Jerrabomberra Public School and continue on at a local high school. No longer will 3,000-plus kids have to cross the border into Canberra each and every day for education. The cross-border anomalies that we have always seen mean that we surrender our responsibility as States, especially to border communities against a major centre like the Australian Capital Territory. I was at Jerrabomberra the other day to see where the exciting new industrial park, sports stadium and housing estate will be. It is a beautiful community and I am glad that I have fought for it from start to end.
Brad has never forgiven me. Over the past 11 years he has consistently raised the moments when I have called for his resignation. One of the most touching things that he has ever done happened in 2014 on the day that I was promoted to Minister. On day one he sent me a fake media release that called for my resignation. I will never forget that; it was a nice touch. Recently I did a write-up in one of the tabloid papers on Brad as health Minister over the past two years during the COVID crisis. I meant every word that I wrote. I have learned a lot from Brad Hazzard, who has been in government, out of government, in government, out of government and then back in government. He has been here longer than most and longer than the furniture. I took his wise counsel, which I know has shaped me into the person I am.
I went from being a backbencher to being promoted to Minister late in my first term. I held some significant portfolios and then became Deputy Premier. I took every step and saw every journey as an opportunity to learn more from my colleagues because none of us has all the answers. None of us can pretend that we are experts in all our fields. One thing I am proud of is how I have tapped into the public service. A Minister has their ministerial office staff, who are political appointments. They are there to make sure we get re?elected, but they are also there to push through policy. You have to build relationships, and from the outset I have been very proud of the relationships that I have built with my public servants, including Secretary of the Department of Regional NSW Gary Barnes. In the end, I believe I did not just have public servants working for the bush or for the regions, but I built a public service that was a warrior for the bush and that bought into the blueprint and the passion for the need to do more for regional and rural New South Wales.
I think back to the special activation precincts and the renewable energy zones, which the Matt Kean got absolutely right. I copped criticism for backing him because, as Nats, we are not meant to be green and look at renewables, but I saw an opportunity to transition. His energy plan was right, and I have always supported Matt. He gave me my final farewell gift today when he signed off on the draft Kosciuszko management plan for the brumbies so that it would become the management plan, which finds a balance between protecting the most precious parts of Kosciuszko National Park while recognising the heritage of those horses. Matt, thank you very much for everything that you have done in that space.
I also think back to the Regional Growth Fund. Today I came into the Chamber at the end of question time and heard a question on the Stronger Country Communities Fund, which gave me a bit of trauma for a second—question time has not changed! When we designed those funds they were meant to be fair and distributed across every area. The Stronger Country Communities Fund was the first time that we moved away from the big beauty prize of one fund that everyone applied to and often the major centres in the bush received the funding because they had the staff to put in decent proposals. We moved away from that so every local government area in regional and rural New South Wales would receive an allocation of funding, base funding, a loading for population and a loading for merged councils, which meant that every year they had a guaranteed fund or program to make sure they could invest in their communities.
That was not just in National Party or Liberal electorates. Barwon, which I think is made up of 13 local government areas, gets the largest chunk of the funding because it has the largest geographical footprint in the State. I am proud that we were able to do that. I know that Phil Donato in Orange, Roy Butler in Barwon and Helen Dalton in Murray are appreciative that the fund was designed in a fair way. I look back at the billions of dollars from the Regional Growth Fund for the regions. At lunchtime today, while he was cooking snags and smoking out level 12—as we normally do in The Nats party room—Chris Gulaptis said that we are playing catch?up. That is all we have done, we have only ever played catch-up in regional and rural New South Wales. That is why it was important that we put in place more than just programs, grants and Expenditure Review Committee submissions and bids but also laid the foundations for success for regional and rural New South Wales.
That is the Department of Regional NSW, where the vast majority of the public servants live, work and play in the regional and rural New South Wales communities that they, and we, represent so they are not forgotten. The best decisions for the bush are made from the bush, not from Macquarie Street. When we talk about legacy, that is something I am very proud of. Again, I acknowledge my secretary, Gary Barnes, who has led an army and has been able to deliver the roughly 2,500 projects that are currently on the go within the agency. I do not have time to name all the great people under him but I am so proud of them. When I announced that I was going to resign, I received messages from public servants and senior members of the executive of the public service also sent me text messages or rang me to thank me for my service and for giving them the passion that I had, which is something I am very proud of.
I think back to money for the future through the Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund and the special activation precincts that will create new jobs for the regions as we transition from traditional jobs. Our 20-year economic blueprint for regional and rural New South Wales is an economic blueprint for success for regional and rural New South Wales in investment, population growth and guaranteed…