Path to parliament started over a century ago

IN his maiden speech to NSW Parliament Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh recognised the courage and foresight of his great grandfather who bought his family half way across the world.

"My path to parliament started over 120 years ago with the decision made by my great grandfather to seek up opportunity on the other side of the world in Australia," Mr Singh told State Parliament.

He came from a small village "the size of Hyde Park" in the Punjabi region of north India.

The family first pursued opportunities in the canefields of northern NSW, but would later move south to the fertile region of Coffs Harbour to play their part in the expanding banana industry.

"Farming is in my blood going back many generations but I was not exactly in love with the job when I was a little boy.

"Looking back I realise I had a relatively privileged upbringing. Banana farming was enough to provide an honest living and I learnt the value of a strong work ethic."

He paid tribute to former Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser who mentored and supported him throughout the entire campaign and was in the chamber for his speech.

Gurmesh Singh was officially sworn into NSW Parliament.
Gurmesh Singh was officially sworn into NSW Parliament.

"I pay enormous credit to Andrew for supporting me and providing great mentorship. He is a man with a tremendous work ethic. Together we walked almost every street in the electorate.

"Already my family is feeling the impact and for Andrew to serve for 30 years is an incredible team effort."

Gurmesh attended school in Woolgoolga but then, like many his age at the time, he felt his only option was to leave the region and pursue higher education and a career in Sydney.

"I thought it was my only option to discover a real life. It never crossed my mind I would one day move back but I got tired of the high octane life of the city."

After 10 years working in marketing and advertising he returned to Woolgoolga with his wife and eventually found himself back in the agricultural industry.

He spoke of his role in the development of the OzGroup co-operative from humble beginnings in a shed in Woolgoolga to becoming the biggest blueberry supplier in Australia.

He spoke of the "nuanced and sometimes fractured and antagonistic" relationship between urban and rural areas.

"Unfortunately activists focus on the worst while ignoring that modern society is wholly reliant on these industries for their quality of life. The call for more red tape and shut downs ignores how recent our secure access to these commodities are.

"I'm surprised that it was farming that prompted me to seriously consider politics."

Rather than more red tape he said governments should work with industry to help them embrace best practice.

Many of his extended family were in the gallery to hear his speech including his wife.