State MP for Carlingford (1988-91)
State MP for Baulkham Hills (1991-2011)
Interviewee: Wayne Merton, born 1943
Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
for The Hills Shire Council
Date of Interview: 12 April 2012
Transcription: Glenys Murray, May 2012
This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee
So you became a solicitor in your early twenties?
I was about twenty three, twenty four yes.
Who did you work for, which firm?
I worked for a man called Russell Mote in Church Street Parramatta. It was a one man practice. He was a very skilful solicitor. He wasn’t a court advocate per se but he was more a conveyancing and property person. He knew his stuff, he was well qualified and I stayed there for the whole duration. I qualified about four and a half years after I started and became a solicitor.
What other kind of practices did you have as a solicitor?
Then I went to work for an entirely different situation. I went to work for a solicitor and I was more interested in court work. I got a job with a firm in Parramatta, K B Morgan and Company. Interestingly it should be noted that Mr. Kevin Barry Morgan again a decent fellow. An entirely different type of man, Russell Mote was very quiet. Morgan was more outgoing. He in fact was the Member for Parramatta in the New South Wales State Parliament for a period.
Now you opened your own law practice in 1970? Tell me about that?
Well after Morgan I went to work for Mr. Hazell, M J Hazell at North Parramatta, a name that was well known in The Hills area. His parents ran a car agency and his brothers were involved in a car agency. He had the solicitor’s office alongside the workshop of the car agency. People quite often got confused as to which sold cars and which did wills. So I worked there for two years and decided to leave and secured premises in Parramatta. This was with the assistance of my mother who at the age of fifty two came out of retirement. Her last job was working at a real estate agent at Merrylands. I think she retired there at eighteen when she got married. So we started off with a clean sheet of paper. I was able to get an appointment as a court solicitor for Parramatta, the same situation that Kevin Morgan had. I used to get some of these ladies and unmarried mothers too. Younger people they would come into the office and I would continue the Title work that I did with Kevin Morgan.
The next thing would have been when you became interested in politics, was it?
Yes, well I wasn’t always interested in politics. I first became interested in politics when I went out with a couple of mates on a Friday night. Nothing much to do, one of them had just obtained a driver’s licence. We went out in I think it was a 1951 little Renault 750 car, a small French car a wonderful little car. We went out to Marrickville Town Hall and Mr. Menzies was having a campaign rally. Well of course that was just an amazing experience. So I did a bit of research on Menzies and read his speech “the Forgotten People”. He virtually was the person who inspired me to get involved with the Liberal Party which I didn’t immediately. He really said it all in the Forgotten People”. His philosophy was pretty simple that there are poor disadvantaged people in the community and they obviously need support from governments of whatever persuasion. That does happen and regrettably there’s probably never enough money to go round. These people do need the support. Then there are people that are very wealthy that are able to cope out of their own means. That obviously don’t need the support that the others do as far as the poor people are concerned. The wealthy are essentially able to make their own way in life. Then in the middle you’ve got the average family situation. The Mums and Dads, Menzies described them as "trades people". They are still trade’s people but it’s probably a bit more of an extensive this and that now. There are the professional people that are not at the top of their fields at this particular time in life but are working their way towards the top. You’ve got business people, people who run their own factories and people that are builders. Trades people that have the ute and the small family companies. I guess it’s a broad spectrum of people who work very hard. They rely on their own initiative. They rely on their own efforts and resources for their weekly success. To keep their household afloat. On many occasions it’s a husband and wife situation or two partners that are working together to create their own household. Their own little enterprise and these people see in their own children. That’s probably one of the greatest assets that they have got, which obviously is the situation. They are just anxious to do everything they can to help their family and see their children succeed. Menzies believed, and he was right, that by and large these were the people that were overlooked and he referred to them as the “Forgotten People”.
Which branch of the Liberal Party did you join?
Well at that stage I was living at Round Corner and I joined the Kenthurst Branch. Just to get back to the “Forgotten People” I did give you a copy of my Maiden Speech and I do make distinct reference to Menzies speech and the “Forgotten People in my Maiden Speech. It was Menzies speeches that I heard so many years previously in the Marrickville Town Hall that got me involved in the Liberal Party.
I joined the Kenthurst Branch which was the local branch and I’d been there for twelve months. The lady there who thought I was pretty keen and interested asked me if I wanted to be President of the Branch. So it just went on from there. Someone else twelve months later said “would you like to be president of our Local Electoral Conference which is a conference of all the branches in a particular electorate. It was the Hawkesbury electorate. Kevin Rizzoli was the member he was very recently elected. We used to have meetings at Richmond. It was a big electorate. It went from Glenhaven to Bilpin then Wisemans Ferry and places like that it was a big electorate. So I joined the Kenthurst Branch.
Old Northern Road, Wisemans Ferry with paddlewheeler Lady Hawkesbury in distance 1988
When did you actually enter Parliament, when did that actually happen?
Well after being the Conference President I started to get further involved in it. Someone came up to me and said “look would you be prepared to run for the position of Regional President”? Regional President was a president of all the branches in a particular region. It was the North West region and there was about sixty branches in the area. “Would I do that”? I said I don’t know these people, would I get elected”? The person assured me that I had a pretty good chance of getting elected. I’d known the person for some time so I put my name in and the next thing I got elected. That meant then I became a member of the State Executive. This is happening pretty quickly. But it also meant that instead of running around looking after about seven or eight or ten branches in the Hawkesbury local electorate at night time. I suddenly inherited something like sixty branches from Northmead to Bilpin to the Hawkesbury area, Brooklyn places like that down to Warrawee on the north shore. Then coming across to Carlingford and touching on Parramatta so it was a pretty big area. So I was busy. I was out four or five nights a week doing Liberal Party business or going to Branches and things like that. Then what precipitated me getting involved in State Parliament was that in the dying days of the Wran/Unsworth Government a redistribution of the seats was held. As a result of the redistribution there were ten new seats created. So the number of seats went from ninety nine to one hundred and nine. There was a new seat called Carlingford and people suggested that I might run for that. I thought about it. This again is another situation with the cross roads. So I thought about it filled out the forms, put them in the bottom drawer. Working hard in the solicitor’s office and suddenly one Friday I recalled that today was the day that nominations closed. It was about two o’clock. I had the nomination there all signed and everything was ready to go. So at three o’clock I said to the switch girl “ring the courier and ask him to come out here and say we’ve got an urgent parcel to go to the city”. So the guy turned up at a quarter to four and it had to be there by five o’clock. I gave him the parcel and I don’t know whether I was about to take it back from him. But off he went and the nomination went in.
Who was in power at that time?
We’d just got into power. The Labor Party was in power for twelve years. In 1988 with Nick Greiner as the leader there was a change in government. It was a decisive result, a decisive result. So we went straight into government and of course that was a most interesting experience to turn up and to go into a party room with so many new members. I think there was sixteen new members.
Carlingford Railway Station 1986
So what were your priorities as a new Member of Parliament would you say?
Survival. I went there with a fundamental interest to try and see what I could do. I know it might sound trite. To do what I could to help the local community. We lived in an area that had seen tremendous expansion as far as populations concerned. The big issue of 1988 was transport, transport and transport or roads, roads and roads. There was no M2 Motorway. The only way to Sydney was Parramatta Road or Victoria Road or if you wanted to go a long way out of your way would be the Pacific Highway. The situation was that buses were the only transport. To go to Sydney in the bus along Victoria Road was a very difficult situation. The other way that it was possible to go was to go via Epping but then again that still led onto Victoria Road and it was difficult. Buses were bumper to bumper. I can recall going to Parliament in the morning and it would take something like two to two and a half hours to get to Sydney from The Hills in the morning in busy peak hour. In the afternoon it wasn’t all that better. I know some Thursday afternoons when Parliament finished at a quarter past four which meant that you hit the Sydney peak at five, five thirty it was a difficult task getting back to The Hills. In fact on some occasions coming up via the Epping Railway you were often stopped for five minutes at a time. It was just an absolute nightmare, an absolute nightmare. So transport was the issue. That was one of the issues that really fueled me on. So that’s why I pressed and my colleagues pressed to upgrade our transport facilities. The Windsor Road was only a single lane. One lane into Windsor and one lane back. To Parramatta from The Hills in the morning was just bumper to bumper. It was just an absolute nightmare.
So did you actually campaign for better transport?
Oh yes, yes, yes. Both in 1988 and during the time I was there, whilst there were improvements and we can talk about the M2 and we can talk about the M2 bus way. We can talk about the upgrade of the Windsor Road. They were outstanding achievements, they really were. That required a lot of work from a lot of people for these things to eventuate. Even when I left in 2011 the main issue was still transport, transport and transport, roads, roads and roads.
M2 construction near Barclay Road North Rocks looking west Feb 1996
Of course even now with the proposed rail line to Baulkham Hills and Rouse Hill and so on. It’s still an issue isn’t it?
Well it is still an issue. I mean whilst those improvements were made as I said before with the M2 and the motorway and the bus way that goes with it. The upgrade of the Windsor Road. You’ve got to understand the situation is very volatile and still quiet fluid. As so far as the Rouse Hill development that you spoke to when finished will have something like three hundred thousand people living there and that is the size of Canberra. So here you are these people are some thirty or forty kilometres from the city.
The only transport is road and that’s the reason why we need rail. The previous Government in 1998 indicated that the rail would be built and that the first train would pull up into Castle Hill in the end of 2010. Of course 2010 came and went pretty quickly and then 2011 when they were still in Government until March not one sod of soil had been turned. Not one sleeper laid. Effectively there might have been some pieces of paper hidden away in some office the details of which were really skimpy. No one ever saw it. I certainly didn’t see what their final plan was. Nothing had happened.
So what did you actually concretely do to try and get this M2 Motorway built at that time?
Well the M2 Motorway didn’t come without some grief and problems because there were a number of community groups that opposed that. Although as I recall surveys carried out at the time indicated that the majority of people that lived in the area supported the M2 Motorway. The M2 Motorway was an outstanding success in its time. Clearly it has been shown that it should have been wider. We battled to get that through. We were in a situation where we did not have a majority in the Parliament. The Labor Party opposed it and actually snubbed the opening of the M2. I think Susie Maroney was called into to open the M2 because the Labor Party was in Government then even though the work had started during the term of the previous Coalition Government.
So did you actually launch any petitions or did you make any advances to the Government about this?
Yes, yes absolutely.
M2 construction near Oakes Roads Carlingford July 1996
Tell me what you did?
We had protest meetings. We called meetings of residents. We campaigned in the local press. We had illustrations for example we had one chap driving an old car from Sydney to Parramatta showing that a car that was made in the 1920’s got there at the same time as a modern car because it was the roads that were the problems not the vehicles. We got support from a lot of the local media and also the radio commentators. It was quite clear that things were in a chaotic situation. The roads were rapidly approaching grid lock. But see that wasn’t telling the whole story. Rather the whole story wasn’t visible because at that stage the Rouse Hill development had not really taken place. There was still chicken farms and orchards in Kellyville where of course now there are something like for every acre of land there would be ten homes. You couldn’t see how serious it was going to be unless you took into account the proposed development that was going to take place with the Rouse Hill development. Again I say eighty or ninety thousand homes, probably close to a hundred thousand now if not more because it has been extended. Something like three hundred thousand people moving into an area that had a single lane of road between Parramatta and the city and between The Hills and the city too. It was just a disaster waiting to happen. A disaster had happened and it was only going to get worse until the people would be gridlocked and virtually would not be able to leave their homes. So that’s why we pushed for both the rail and also the widening of the Windsor Road.
The Windsor Road campaign was very successful. Even then without all the development in the Rouse Hill development project the Windsor Road was gridlocked from six o’clock in the morning to seven o’clock at night. Commentators like Allen Jones and John Laws in those days. Later Ray Hadley and people like that all got involved in it. The Daily Telegraph and the Sunday papers and The Herald realised that this was probably Sydney’s number one priority. Getting the road widened. What the Government offered first up was to extend one third of the distance between Parramatta and Windsor to dual lane. That wasn’t acceptable to the local people. So they went kicking and screaming and agreed to upgrade the Windsor Road. The Local Members, that’s the Member for Hawkesbury and the Member for The Hills. Myself and a number of the Councillors all joined in the protest. We would on a daily basis lodge a petition in the Parliament complaining about the Windsor Road. I know that on most occasions I would have a drawer full of them so I could just whip one off.
M2 construction near Pennant Hills Road Carlingford July 1996
Now you were still the Member for Carlingford at that time were you?
No, Carlingford was one of those ten seats that were abolished when they had the redistribution in 1991. In its place the Seat of Baulkham Hills was created.
You were the member for that?
Yes I was the member for Baulkham Hills. I am the only member for Carlingford because it was only there from 1988 till 1991. From 1991 since then we’ve had Baulkham Hills.
Now you attained some Ministerial posts during your time in Government. What can you tell me about those posts?
I was pleased and honoured by the then Premier John Fahey to be appointed as the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Emergency Services, two distinct ministries. The Minister for Justice was a Ministry which consisted of part of the Ministry that was formerly covered by the Attorney General’s Department. That was the Courts' Administration, that’s looking after the infrastructure of the courts. The employment of judges and magistrates and the other major part of it was the Corrective Services Department. Then we had Juvenile Justice. I also had the Emergency Services. The Emergency Services consisted of the Rural Fire Services, then referred to as the Bush Fire Brigade. We had the State Emergency Services and we had the Volunteer Rescue Association. But it was essentially Emergency Services, Bushfire and SES.
Go To Part Two