Thursday, 24 November 2011
Statements on Indulgence
I was speaking about how well the parliament was working. Now that the Leader of the House is here I will leave further commentary on that to him except to make the point that this year our budget went through in record time. That was very important, particularly given a number of initiatives in mental health and skills and training that are important to get into operation to further strengthen our economy.
I would like to say a few things about the parties in the House. I would like to pay a tribute to the Independents and minor party members in the House. They have been constructive. They have worked hard. These have been difficult circumstances, but I and the government appreciate not just their attention to detail but the spirit they bring to making good public policy in this House. They prove that we can all work together in the national interest if we have got the will and if we have got the faith to work together. I think they have, through their participation here, made a very significant contribution not just to the workings of the House but also to the quality of our democracy and the strength of our economy.
I would like to acknowledge the opposition. They have certainly lived up to their name over the past year. Politics is a battle of ideas and this year was a very long and tough battle. I certainly have enjoyed the debates in the House. I have enjoyed the MRRT debate in the House over the past few days. These are big and important decisions for our country. The battle of ideas happens here. Whether it is in the afternoon or whether it is three in the morning, it is important that we see these issues through in the parliament. Future generations will judge us all by the decisions we have taken in these big debates—the decisions to price carbon pollution and to put in place a resource rent tax. There are great differences between both sides of the House; nevertheless, the debate has been held here. I wish all opposition members a very happy Christmas. Don't rest too much because we will be ready for you in the new year.
I pay tribute to the Prime Minister. This has been a year of delivery and the Prime Minister has delivered. She is as tough as nails and we have passed some of the most important legislation that this parliament has considered in many years. I said that she is as tough as nails, but I think she is actually tougher than that. She is as tough as diamonds. She has proved that time and again. Her resilience, her courage and her determination are extraordinary, but she also has the good humour and good nature that comes with it. That has been on display not just in the House but out there in the wider community. From our point of view, all of those on this side of the House with Labor conviction very much support and pay tribute to the role that she has played over the past 12 months.
I want to say a few things about my cabinet colleagues and the caucus. I pay tribute to my Treasury colleagues, Bill Shorten and David Bradbury. I also thank Penny Wong for the extraordinary work she does as Minister for Finance and Deregulation. It has been a tough year in the economy, it will be another tough year next year, given what is going on in the global economy; but we have a dedicated team working very hard to ensure we put forward the best possible policy.
I also thank the Leader of the House for the extraordinary role he has played in the parliament in the past year. The speech that he gave about the Leader of the Opposition yesterday was a cracker. It will go down as one of the great parliamentary speeches. I was very familiar with the late Mick Young, who was also a great enthusiast for the House and particularly enjoyed the role that he played as Leader of the House. I can say to you, Albo, that speech was up there with all of the great speeches, including those from the late Mick Young. It is something you should be very proud of.
I also thank all of the staff of the parliament, from the Comcar drivers through to the attendants and everybody who cleans our offices, for all of their commitment to making our parliament a better place. I particularly thank all of the electorate office staff in my Brisbane office and also all of my staff here in Canberra. In particular, I would like to thank Amanda Sayegh, who has been with us for over five years, who worked for us in opposition, who has been here right through government and who is going back to the Treasury but who has put in an extraordinary amount of work. She has worked night and day for over five years and we will all certainly miss her. I would also like to mention Hamish McDonald, who has also gone back to Treasury but who is someone who has served our country very well over the past 12 months. I would like to thank all of the hardworking Treasury officials who do so much for our country. Their professionalism is very important to the future of our country. We should value their work and we should honour it all the time.
Lastly, I would like to thank my family. We all know that the lot of a politician's family is not an easy one. I have always had the enthusiastic support of my wife, Kim, and my kids, Erin, Libby and Matt. I thank them for all of their understanding. I also thank them for their advice—they are pretty good as political advisers actually. Our families bring us back to the grassroots in much of the advice they give us about what is going on out there in the wider community, and I thank them for that.
For the year ahead, I am so confident about the future of our country. As I said before, storm clouds are gathering again in the international economy. We are not seeing the progress we would like to see in Europe. We are not necessarily seeing the progress we would like to see in the United States, in terms of the United States dealing with their long-term financial challenges. But the one thing we can be confident of is that we are located in the right part of the world at precisely the right time. We are not, in this region, immune from the fallout of events in Europe or in the United States but, because of decisions that were taken over the past four years here in Australia in terms of our response to the global financial crisis and the global recession, we are in the best possible position to handle the fallout from these events. And so are many other countries in our region. The Asia-Pacific is the hope of the global economy. It does have the capacity to continue to grow and to harvest enormous productivity improvements. For the year ahead there are challenges, but I think we can all be confident, as we go through to Christmas, that we have a country which is in good shape and which has the capacity to respond to the challenges of the future.
I hope not to detain the House for long, but it is important to thank and acknowledge some of the people who have made this a good year. I was given a list of the people I needed to thank, and the first person on the list is the Speaker—and it says 'Harry Jenkins'. He is not the Speaker anymore. He has had a good year, even if he might have had a bad day today. We do remember his work in the chair with gratitude, affection and respect. He will be able to go home to his family this Christmas with his head held high. He has had a good year. I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your work. I thank your Deputy Speaker, the member for Maranoa, and I thank the Speaker's panel.
I thank the clerks, led by Bernard Wright. Bernard is probably the truest and most conscientious custodian of the best traditions of this House. I thank the Deputy Clerk, David Elder; the clerks at the table, Robyn and Joanne; and the serjeant, Claressa. I thank the attendants, who help to keep order in this place, led by Cheryl Lane. I thank the Department of Parliamentary Services, from Secretary Alan Thompson down, and all of those whom we deal with day by day who help to make our days convenient, safe and pleasant—whether it be the attendants, whether it be the Comcar drivers or whether it be the people who clean our offices. They have our gratitude even if we do not stop often enough each day to say so.
I thank my whips, led ably by Warren Entsch and supported by Pat Secker, Nola Marino, Mark Coulton and Paul Neville. It is very difficult to keep up the spirits of a parliamentary party—but, Warren, you are a party man in every sense of the word. You have kept our spirits up this year. I am very lucky to have such marvellous support from my senior parliamentary colleagues, from Julie Bishop and from Warren Truss. I could not ask for a better deputy and for a more supportive coalition partner. I thank and appreciate the Manager of Opposition Business, Christopher Pyne. I pay a particular tribute to my own personal staff, who are extraordinarily hardworking, extraordinarily dedicated and awesomely competent, led by Peta Credlin.
Above all else, and I am sure I speak for every member of this parliament, I thank my family. We all should thank our families. We are volunteers; they are conscripts. We can only stay in public life because of their forbearance while they allow us to do what we do—and I hope, as they look at us, at least some of the time they can be proud of us.
I will not pretend that this has been a great year for the parliament. I do not believe that it has been. Nevertheless, if we could take off our parliamentary hat, take off our partisan hat—
Mr Perrett interjecting—
and yes, in the case of my friend on the other side, our particular rugby league hats—as one human being to the human beings opposite I say: may hostilities momentarily cease and may compliments of the season go to them. May God bless us, may God bless this parliament, may God bless our country and, finally, may I pause to acknowledge brave Australian soldiers killed and wounded this year in the war in Afghanistan.
It has been an extraordinary 12 months. Indeed, this year marks 60 years since the role of Leader of the House was created. The first Leader of the House was Eric Harrison. A lot of things have evolved since then, but one thing has stayed the same. The Leader of the House's job is to be the leader of the party's lieutenant. I take that job seriously in terms of looking after the interests of the government. Also, however, in this parliament, I think the Leader of the House's job has evolved due to the nature of it. I very much try to look after the interests of members across the board and have probably more contact with non-government party members than any previous Leader of the House. I note that the nature of this parliament means that we have a Speaker who is an Independent just like we had in the last hung parliament. From 1941 to 1943, under that great Labor leader John Curtin, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was a member of the United Australia Party. In terms of the position, that is the case.
It has been an extremely successful parliament. In spite of the fact that we started off with 71 votes on each piece of legislation, now 72 votes, we have seen some 254 bills passed by the House of Representatives, including major legislation: the National Broadband Network, all of our budget measures, national health reform, putting a price on carbon and, this week, the mining tax. This is important reform in spite of the fact that it has been opposed by the opposition, whom I have dubbed the 'noalition', which is what they have transformed themselves into. I hope that over Christmas Santa brings the leader of the 'noalition' a policy, but I am reminded of the fact that Santa says, 'Ho, ho, ho,' not, 'No, no, no.' So, when the leader of the 'noalition' talks to Santa and asks for a policy, I hope that does occur.
I thank the Prime Minister for her support of my position as Leader of the House. I thank the Deputy Prime Minister and my friend the Treasurer, Mr Swan. I find it always pays to be nice to the Treasurer, and on that basis I also thank the Minister for Finance and Deregulation just because I can! It is always good to have the Treasurer and the finance minister as friends, and I certainly do that. To my deputy, Mr Smith: it is always nice to have a deputy leader who has assets, and the Minister for Defence is always good to have as Deputy Leader of the House.
To other ministers, including those who represent me at estimates, and to my friend the Chief Government Whip: we have been in this place through the long years in opposition. It is terrific to work so closely with you as the Chief Government Whip. To the crossbenchers, with whom we have meetings at least weekly and often many more times than that: thank you for your honesty, your integrity and your goodwill. It is important in terms of the functioning of this parliament that people mean what they say and do what they say they will do, and in each of the crossbenchers I have found that that is the case.
Henry Thomson and the team in the PLO do a fantastic job in making this parliament work, as do the people in the Chamber Research Office and Parliamentary Library. To the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Bernard Wright; to David Elder and their team; to all of the House of Representatives staff, including Luce: thank you for the work that you do. And thank you to the Table Office, the Serjeant-at-Arms, catering, housekeeping, HRG, IT support, security, attendants, staff at Aussie's, Comcar drivers and other DPS staff. I spend probably more time with the Manager of Opposition Business than either of us would like to occur, but the fact is that the Manager of Opposition Business is someone I have a good relationship with. We should not make that very public, because it would undermine both of our careers! But we do have a good working relationship that helps the parliament to function.
To the secretary of my department, Mr Mrdak; to all the staff of my department; to the Chief of Staff, Michael Choueifate; my personal assistant, Karen Bissaker; my electorate office manager, Chris Cruden, and all my other staff; to the volunteers who go out there and help in the proud name of Labor to keep me as the federal member for Grayndler: thank you. To my family, who give up a lot of time and commitment: thank you for your support.
Finally, as the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport I encourage everyone to drive safely on the roads over the holidays. It is a sad case that every year around Christmastime there are tragedies on our roads. We need to make sure that we get that drive-safe message out there in the community. It is something I encourage all members of the House of Representatives to do in terms of the messages to their electorate. For too many families in this country Christmas is a time of sadness as they reflect on past Christmases when they lost loved ones. Let us make sure that we minimise the road toll this Christmas. I wish everyone a very merry Christmas.
I will be brief as much already has been said in these valedictories which I agree with—not everything, but I certainly agree with much of it and do not wish to repeat it. I would like to send best wishes to the former Speaker, the member for Scullin, Harry Jenkins. I did not really get the opportunity in the tumult of the earlier debate to put on the record my very genuine affection for the member for Scullin. I am sure the words he put to the parliament today stand on the record. I know that he loved the job of Speaker, and he did it with great aplomb. We will miss him as Speaker, and I will miss him personally for the good relationship that we had. It was always candid and always friendly, never in the least bit acrimonious. I appreciated his often good advice and have a genuine affection for him.
I also place on record my thanks to all the people who make this place work, who make us look good all year round. This has been a gruelling year and next year will be a gruelling year, but the clerks, led by Bernard Wright; the House attendants, led by Cheryl Lane; the Department of Parliamentary Services, led by Alan Thompson; and the PLO all ensure the parliament operates smoothly and well in spite of the frailties of many of its members.
I also wish you the best in your role as Speaker. I look forward to working with you next year to try to bring about a better parliament and a better question time. The beginning of that would be a ministry and Prime Minister who tried to answer questions rather than simply slag and bag the opposition.
I also thank my staff in my office. Some people think I am quite hard to work for. I cannot see that myself. Adam Howard, my Chief of Staff, leads a tremendous team. They do a very fine job. James Newbury works here in Canberra with responsibility for my role as Manager of Opposition Business. It is a very changeable job during the day. I would say that today was probably one that came somewhat out of the blue for me and my staff. All of us have to roll with the punches on a daily basis, but today might have been one of the more exciting days from my perspective as the Manager of Opposition Business.
In thanking my own staff, I would also like to thank some of the members of the Leader of the House's staff: Jo and Moksha, who spent a lot of time talking to my office—and we spent a lot of time talking to them. It is not their fault that their bosses are not always as reasonable, calm and pacific as they should be. Both of them—this year Jo has been replaced by Moksha—and also James and others, in spite of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that visit us in this place on a regular basis, certainly do their job very professionally and very well.
I thank the party whip, Warren Entsch, who leads a team that in this parliament have a great deal more to do than they would normally have to do. Warren does it with great friendliness and affability and holds the show together tremendously well.
Also, while it pains me, I would like to thank the Leader of the House for being generally available to me to try to make the place work and also for being mostly candid with me about things that happen in this place. I would like to place on record that I think there was a very unkind cartoon of the Leader of the House in the Daily Telegraph, in the Piers Akerman story about the Leader of the House, because it is not true that Anthony Albanese has such dreadful ties or wears his pants so high. I actually rang the Leader of the House on this occasion; I felt that he might have been rather mistreated by the Daily Telegraph in the cartoon. I look forward to working with him next year as we go toe to toe on a tactical and strategic basis in this place for our respective sides.
I also thank the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott; the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Julie Bishop; the Leader of the National Party, Warren Truss; and the leadership group in the coalition in general. We have had a good year. It has been a tough year. We have met the standards required of an opposition: to hold a government to account. I think that has been reflected in the field evidence that I receive from the public but also in the published opinion polling. We would much rather be in the position that we are in at the end of this year than the position that the government is in.
Finally, I thank my family, Carolyn, Barnaby, Eleanor, Felix and Aurelia, who are 11, 11, nine and three—well, Carolyn is not, obviously; she is my age. But the others are my four beautiful children, the little small people who do not really understand, I think, why I spend so much time away from them when I could be with them. They are tremendous in their stoicism. All of our families put up with a great deal, and my family is an inspiration to me. I thank them so much for allowing me to do this job, and I wish everyone in the place a happy and safe Christmas.
Mr Speaker, I will speak briefly. Firstly, I congratulate you on your appointment and wish you well in the job. I also extend, on behalf of the crossbenches, my congratulations to the former Speaker, Harry Jenkins. I think he did an extraordinary job in difficult circumstances during this year, but also an extraordinary job in the previous parliament. I thank him for the way in which he conducted his work within the parliament and for the affable manner in which he has conducted himself. I wish him well on the backbench. We might be blessed to have him as a guiding light near the Independent benches, although he seems to have slipped away a bit during the day. At the risk of testing your indulgence, Mr Speaker—because I think you might be a fairly tough nut to crack in some senses—I would like to express in my traditional numbers form my estimation of the former Speaker and issue him a 10. I congratulate him on his work.
This year has been a very interesting year, and obviously the crossbench have been very much a part of that. I thank all of those that we have had contact with through the year, from both sides of the parliament, particularly people from both sides that were involved in the Murray-Darling committee. I thought the people—including the member for Riverina, who is here at the moment—did a sterling job in trying to come up with a consensus on that particular issue, and hopefully in the weeks to come a consensus attitude will be maintained in trying to come to grips with a very difficult issue.
I thank my staff particularly. I will not name them all, but we have had a very, very interesting year. We are very good friends, as I think we all are with our staff. I thank the electoral staff and the staff that come to Canberra with me for the work that they do. All of our families obviously need to be thanked, and I join with others that have thanked the parliamentary staff, from the clerks, who are outstanding individuals as well as guiding lights in terms of the operations of the building, right through all of the internal staff in the building, including the security people. I think it makes us much better members of parliament to see the way in which they conduct themselves in the building and the way they express themselves to the community. It makes me very proud. I have seen the deterioration in the New South Wales parliament over the years as to the regard that the staff are held in, and I think the staff are held in very high regard in this building. It is something we should maintain, because I think it says a lot about the work that comes out of the building if our staff are respected and they respect us.
The year has been an extraordinary year. I congratulate the government on their performance in what has been a difficult year. I have been in a hung parliament before. I have some idea of what it is like as a participant, but I also have some idea of what it is like for the leader within a hung parliament: not easy. I particularly thank and congratulate the Prime Minister for the way in which she has conducted herself in the many negotiations. She must get sick of it from time to time. But I have never seen an occasion where she has become rattled or rushed or irritated in any sense in terms of her conduct towards me as a crossbencher or others in any meetings I have been in. I am sure in other private meetings she has a similar demeanour.
The other issue that I would raise, Mr Speaker, is one that I hope becomes part of your demeanour next year, as the year progresses, both in this chamber and outside it. I also make this call to the press. I think, if we have learnt something from this year, it is that we need to respect one another to a far greater degree than we have. The way in which the press conduct themselves, and they are taking their lead from some of us in this building, such as the lack of respect that has been shown to the leaders of various parts of this parliament is something that we really do need to look at as individuals. And I would urge you, Mr Speaker, in your capacity, to try and lead the charge in relation to that. I think it is something that all of us should have regard to. We all talk to our schools, at times, about how precious democracy is. But it is built on mutual regard and respect. Even though the numbers are tight in this parliament—and the rough-and-tumble will always be there, irrespective of the numbers—I think it is time that we reigned in the vitriol a little bit in terms of the way in which many of us conduct ourselves, including some of those in the press. We all should play a greater role in gaining greater regard and respect for others who might have different views from us within the community. It is paramount to our democracy that we do so.
In conclusion, I thank all of those who have been involved in the year and wish all of you a very happy Christmas and a restive time. No doubt, we will back here to do battle again next year—hopefully, in a slightly different spirit. Thank you.
on indulgence—I am conscious of the time and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition's keenness to make a contribution, so I will be very brief, much briefer than the Government Whip should be. But I do thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for deferring to me. I think it may have been her turn; I am not sure. It gets a bit confusing with the crossbenchers.
I want to begin by reflecting on those who are serving Australia in overseas defence operations. We should all be thinking of them and their families at this time of the year, particularly of course the families who have lost their sons and those who have had their children wounded in the theatre of war. Christmas will be a challenging time for them.
It has been mentioned many times that this has been a very busy year. It certainly has been. I would suggest that this has been a busier year for MPs and indeed the staff that support us than any other year in the history of Federation. I could be wrong. Obviously, I cannot provide evidence of that! But I think it is stating the obvious.
It has also been a successful year for both the parliament and the government. I was just asked on ABC 24 whether I believed the parliament was serving the Australian people well. I said, yes, it is, because we are progressing through this chamber and, indeed, the other place the government's positive and progressive agenda. If this House is doing that, then it is serving the Australian people well.
I want to reflect very quickly on the former Speaker, Mr Jenkins, someone I consider a very, very close friend, someone who is liked very much by all in this place and someone who did an absolutely wonderful job as Speaker of the House of Representatives. I look forward to not only having dinner with him tonight but also observing him make a significant contribution in this place in other ways in the future. To you, Mr Speaker: congratulations. You are undoubtedly qualified to undertake the task you have been elected to do. I look forward to working with you and I wish you the very best in those endeavours.
I must say some thankyous. My staff gave me a two-page list of people I need to thank. I will put everybody in this room at the moment out of their misery and not read that list; I am just going to talk about four or five groups. Of course, I want to thank all those in the government that I have worked with—the Prime Minister, ministers, the Leader of the House and, maybe most important of all, my backbench colleagues, who have without doubt worked harder than any backbench in the almost 16 years I have been here. I note the Deputy Speaker is in the room; I take the opportunity to congratulate her on her election today as well. I look forward to working with her.
I also thank the opposition to the extent to which we have had cooperation. Certainly, I have good cooperation with the Opposition Whip's office. We have our moments, particularly on the Selection Committee, as you know only too well, Mr Speaker—and you are no doubt looking forward to chairing that committee on a regular basis! I wish you the best, Mr Speaker; you will need a degree of luck.
I thank the crossbenchers for their cooperation on a range of issues, both machinery and policy, and their contribution to the Selection Committee.
I thank my staff. I am blessed with wonderful staff. I know it is easy to say that, and most people in this place do, but I say it from the bottom of my heart. Most of the good work done in the Chief Government Whip's office is done by my staff: Anna George, Natasa Sikman and Jay Suvaal. I am very lucky to have them, and I thank them. I also have wonderful staff in my electorate office. They give me enormous support in the job here as well.
I also thank staff in this building more broadly, all the way from the clerks, who do a wonderful job, right through to the cleaners, the gardeners and the other people who do the practical things that make life more comfortable for us here.
Finally, I thank my wife and my children, who have given me enormous support in this role and in this job as a member of parliament over the last almost 16 years. All of us here know that we cannot do it without their support. We, in a way, get to do the interesting things; the wives, the partners and, in some cases, the husbands keep the home fires going and do the tougher stuff, for which they get very little credit. But I certainly appreciate it, as I know other members do. Then, of course, there are our children. I have been almost 16 years in this place. My children have seen nowhere near as much of me as I would have liked and I am sure they would have liked—I am confident they would have liked!—and they have made sacrifices as well. I thank them.
Finally, Mr Speaker, I congratulate you again and I wish all colleagues on all sides of the chamber all the very best for a wonderful Christmas and more quality time with those they love most.
This year will go down as one of the most tumultuous in federal parliamentary history, and the unprecedented events of today are no exception. Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your elevation to this high office of Speaker of the House of Representatives. I also pay tribute to the previous speaker, Harry Jenkins. He did develop quite a cult following. There were a number of people out there in question time viewing-land who were just wild about Harry and he will most certainly be missed.
This chamber has been the setting for robust debates over competing policy decisions this year. It is the battlefield in the war of words as we fight for the principles and ideas that each side of politics believes are in the national interest. We have seen some of the most intriguing backroom deals this year—a level of Machiavellian conduct that would make the master proud. But tradition, convention and precedent underpins the Westminster system of government upon which our democracy rests. Ours is one of the oldest continuous democracies in the world, and while question time might often descend into disorder—all Australians know why it is called question time; it is certainly not called answer time!—we should never apologise for robust political debate. For however passionately we hold our views, argue our case, advocate our cause, in the end we must never lose sight of the fact that people are entitled to a different viewpoint, and in a free society should be free to express that view, however much we may disagree.
Over the century of this parliament we as a nation have upheld the fundamental freedoms. We have fought to retain those freedoms and I want to mention our armed forces representing our country overseas. Our defence personnel are defending those freedoms and fighting for the universal ideals of freedom and choice. I particularly want to mention our troops in Afghanistan and the troops and families of the Special Air Service Regiment based in Swanbourne in my electorate of Curtin. People all over the world aspire to live a life free from the threat of violence, wherever they are, and they aspire to live in a peaceful environment. Recently, I attended the funeral of Lance Corporal Luke Gavin, one of the 32 soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan. It was heartbreaking to reflect on the human cost of conflict. As a nation we must never forget those who have given their lives on our behalf and we must always support those who have been wounded.
Turning to home, I pay tribute to the Leader of the Liberal Party, the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott. His inexhaustible energy is much admired. He is a strong, courageous and committed leader. Last year he forever changed the political landscape in this country and achieved what no other Leader of the Opposition has achieved—seeing off a first-term Prime Minister, although the faceless men certainly finished that Prime Minister off. When a first-term government lost its majority for the first time in 80 years Tony Abbott made political history. He will make a fine leader of our nation. I have worked closely with Tony for many years now and we have a mutually respectful relationship. I enjoy his company and I look forward to continue working with him.
To Warren Truss, the Leader of the Nationals, and the whole coalition team—the members and senators—I pay tribute to their extraordinary efforts. We have a close-knit leadership team. I value the professional relationship I have with Tony and Warren and my other colleagues, Eric Abetz, George Brandis, Barnaby Joyce and Nigel Scullion as well as Joe Hockey and Chris Pyne. We are a team. We spend a lot of time together and it is always positive, good humoured and quality time. My fellow shadow ministry colleagues have worked well together this year. Our policy development committee is well advanced. Our work on identifying wasteful spending in the budget is ongoing. I thank not only our colleagues but also our policy committee chairs, our whips, those who serve of the Speaker's panel and all those who take part in the everyday ongoing parliamentary process in this place.
I place on record my thanks to my Western Australian parliamentary colleagues for their support and their company on those long trips across the Nullarbor. To the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the House and the cabinet ministers, the Labor Party and the crossbenchers, I wish them the very best for the Christmas break, hopefully with their families and friends.
I want to take this opportunity to thank my staff—a competent, loyal and dedicated band, who work very hard for the cause that they believe in. In the Canberra office there is Murray, my chief of staff, Peter and Sam; in the electorate office, the indispensible Kirsten, Sue, Georgina, Judy and Mandy. I acknowledge and thank all of the staff who work here at Parliament House, all who work in this great public institution—who get up every morning, come into this place, hoping to make a difference, hoping to ensure that this parliament functions as the Australian people expect and deserve.
Finally, I acknowledge the members of the press gallery and thank them for their reporting. 'Fair and balanced' is the phrase, I believe. I wish everyone a safe and happy Christmas and hope that we all return refreshed and reinvigorated as we strive to provide better public policy outcomes for all Australians. I wish all Australians a safe and happy Christmas.