Thursday, 29 November 2012
Statements on Indulgence
By indulgence—We are now commencing that section of business at the end of the parliamentary sitting which is Christmas valedictories. I know, to many people who are listening, this will seem quite a strange custom because we are here still in November and talking about Christmas valedictories. I do want to assure those who are listening that does not mean that their members of parliament, or their government, is ceasing to work on this day. What is happening on this day is that it is our last parliamentary day. For myself, I have a lot to do before the end of the year and I am raring to getting into doing it, particularly some very big work that we have to do at the forthcoming Council of Australian Governments meeting.
For members of parliament and senators who are returning to their home communities, they have big work programs too. This is the time of year, particular, that people attend a lot of end-of-year events at local schools and enjoy the opportunity to do that very much. But this is also the time where we do say thank you to those who make parliament possible for us, and reflect on the year that has been—the year 2012. In so doing, I do want to mark that the final day of House sitting is actually on a significant Australian anniversary. It was 60 years ago today that Gough Whitlam won the by-election which bought him to this House. Our thoughts are with him this year and on this anniversary. I recall particularly the example he has given us in the House of a parliamentary career dedicated to the highest of purposes: the public good. We will, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China in the weeks to come, have an opportunity to reflect on his remarkable legacy to the nation in opening us up to our world, and particularly to China.
As we reflect on the year that was, this was a year of some happy days. Every Australian who takes even the smallest interest in diplomacy felt pride in our international status when we were elected to the United Nations Security Council. It was a good day to be an Australian. But good days in Australia often revolve around sport more than they do around diplomacy, if the truth is told. It was a year of Australian achievements in sport, too. Sydney won the Australian Rules Grand Final and Melbourne won the Rugby League Grand Final, and the world has changed. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were not there in the AFL Grand Final.
Right, we are now getting commentary on everybody's Bulldogs. Queensland won the Sheffield Shield and the A-League—with Brisbane—and the State of Origin series, again—so not everything has changed. The achievements of our athletes were simply olympic. We cheered for seven superb Olympic gold medals for our athletes at the track, the velodrome, in kayaking and sailing and, of course, in the pool. We were delighted by the world-beating performances of our Paralympians. We were proud of all who represented us in two sets of great games: the Olympics and the Paralympics.
This has been a year of some historic events: the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen of Australia. I was able to pass on the nation's congratulations through her Majesty's son, Prince Charles, who visited us so recently. We saw the re-election of an American President, and I was able to pass on the nation's congratulations to him in person this month. We welcomed the Chinese leadership transition, which saw General Secretary Xi Jinping rise to lead our largest trading partner.
It was a year with some sad days too. Some remarkable Australians died this year. Murray Rose, who swam like a fish; and Jimmy Little, who sang like a bird. Sir Zelman Cowen, who spoke of a touch of healing. Robert Hughes, who showed us the shock of the new. Bryce Courtenay, who taught us the power of one. We farewelled the indomitable Jim Stynes and the incomparable Margaret Whitlam. We have not forgotten Pete Veness, just as it is hard to believe that it has been five years without Matt Price. Also, my family and I were so moved by the kindness of so many members of the House and the Australian people on our own loss.
We remembered friends and members of the House who died—Joe Riordan, Frank Walker, Lionel Bowen, Gordon Bilney and Senator Douglas Barr Scott. The loss of Senator Judith Adams is still keenly felt by her many friends in this place.
Seven Australians died for us in Afghanistan this year. The parliament has honoured each of them as we should. As the year ends, we will remember them. We will think of their families facing the toughest Christmas of their lives. We will care for their 32 mates wounded in service in Afghanistan this year.
We had the opportunity, too, to acknowledge the amazing courage of Corporal Daniel Keighran that saw him awarded the Victoria Cross. Then, of course, Dan amazed us again with his grace and humility having seen that huge honour awarded. We have a good thought for their mates still serving us overseas in Afghanistan and around the world.
Coming closer to this parliamentary chamber, there are many people that I acknowledge and to thank. To the Leader of the Opposition and the opposition generally: I hope that you enjoy some rest and respite over Christmas with their families. To you, Speaker Anna: my sincere congratulations, and on some days I feel like I should be offering words of apology. To your predecessor, Mr Slipper: thank you for your service as Speaker as well during the course of the year. Thanks to the Deputy Speaker and the panel and everybody who works so hard, sitting in that chair to keep the business of parliament turning through.
To Henry Thomson, my department's parliamentary liaison officer, and his team: thank you very much, and thank you very much for making sure that I listed everybody in these remarks, including them—that was very clever—but they do a great job. To the Clerk and Deputy Clerk: thank you very much for everything you do for both sides of parliament and for the parliament generally to keep the business of the parliament on track here in the House of Representatives. To the Serjeant-at-Arms, to the attendants, to the guides and to all those who reach out to people in the parliament and help make it work: thank you very much for your special efforts.
To the Parliamentary Library, Hansard staff, the Table Office, the Parliamentary Relations Office, to those who look after our magnificent lawns and gardens, to those who do the cooking, to those who operate the switchboard, the computers, security and everyone else who makes sure that parliament works: we thank you. We thank, too, our parliamentary cleaners—and if I could sneak in just a little reference to my own cleaners, to Anna and Louisa who come and clean my office, they lift my spirits on a lot of mornings. To Aussies, thank you for the coffee—I am still very reliant on it—it is an institution. Don Watson called it the only place of communion in the building, and he might be right about that.
To the child carers, they are doing some of the most important work that gets done under this roof: thank you for your efforts. To the staff of HRG who diligently got people where they needed to be, sometimes under extraordinary pressure: thank you for your efforts. To COMCAR drivers who assist us in getting us where we need to get to: thank you very much for your ongoing courtesy and support. To broadcasting staff, I do not know that Australians are always grateful for the work you do, seeing some of the images of parliament on your TV screens, but you do your best to faithfully record parliamentary proceedings out in the wider world, and we thank you for that. To the press gallery, I will host a function for them tonight, and I think what I have to say is probably best reserved for off the record.
To my Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer, thank you for being the guardian of our budget, making sure that all of our budget works for us. Thank you for being acknowledged around the world as a great Treasurer, for your stewardship of our national economy, and also for being a guardian of Labor values and Labor purpose. Thank you very much.
To the Leader of the House—Albo—our minister for fighting Tories and for doing so much more: thank you very much for everything you have done to contribute to the successful work of the parliament this year. I think many members are aware—certainly on our side of the parliament—of the extraordinary lengths that you go to.
To the Senate leadership team, to Senators Evans and Conroy—possibly a study in contrasts—they are a great Senate leadership team—and Senator Evans has been on a tremendous health kick, as people would have seen, so he has not only done well as a Senate leader this year but he is also a far more svelte human being and a healthier human being for it. I thank them for their efforts and for their occasional reminders about how long they have been dealing with difficulties arising from not having the numbers in that chamber—they have reminded us of some of those things from time to time—my thanks.
To my cabinet, my ministry and parliamentary secretaries, time does not permit me to name them individually but they are a remarkable team. I thank them for their extraordinary efforts. They are always full of enthusiasm and full of ideas. I always go out of my way to listen to my colleagues and to treat their ideas with respect. I thank them for being so supportive and for their enthusiasm and Labor faith.
I thank the team of whips here and in the Senate. They do remarkably hard work. I thank them for their efforts. I say generally to my parliamentary colleagues, to all of them, whatever office they serve, to the backbench here and the backbench in the Senate: we have emerged from 2012 strong and as a political party of purpose. No-one can leave 2012 doubting the courage of the Labor Party to come to this parliament and get the big things done. I am tremendously proud of you and the way that you have worked under some extraordinary pressures.
To the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Watt: in the tradition of frank and fearless advice, Ian is amongst the best. Thank you to him and to all at PM&C for their support of me. I am very well served by my department and very grateful for it.
To the entire Australian Public Service, I pass onto you the thanks of your ministers. Thank you for what you do to support the agenda of government and to serve your fellow Australians. Too often, public service is denigrated in our society; this is a moment to applaud it. Thank you for what you do.
To George Wright, the ALP organisation, staff and volunteers and our true believers in their many thousands, and the number is growing—thank you for our new true believers as well—I know how hard you work and I know you will be out there for us in 2013 as we move finally to an election phase.
To the staff who work with Labor MPs and senators, whether as staff in electorate offices or as staff in ministerial offices, thank you very much for your efforts. There has been some public commentary on political staff this year, but I want our staff to understand my view about them and my view about what they do. To a person, they are people who could ply a more profitable trade in the private sector. They choose instead to dedicate their lives to the future of our nation, and that is to be applauded. Thanks to you for what you do for Labor and for our country.
I particularly want to acknowledge Jim Chalmers—Dr James Chalmers, to use the full name and official terminology—who departs the government after years of service. He has been a remarkable contributor to his party and to the work of this government, and I expect that in the years to come he will continue to be a remarkable contributor to our nation.
To my chief of staff, Ben Hubbard, all of my staff in the Prime Minister's office, my electorate staff—some of whom have been with me since the very start of this journey when I was first elected in 1998—thank you very much for everything you do.
To my branch members and volunteers, I wish that I could be with you for more time than I am able to be, but thank you for keeping the faith locally and doing all your hard work.
To my speech writers—they have deliberately inserted a little reference to themselves in these notes!—I think it is probably worth saying they have got one of the less enviable jobs in Australian public life; people are always very, very keen to give them a character assessment along the way. I thank them for their hard work too.
To my friends from the Australian Federal Police, we have survived another year together, sometimes in more difficult circumstances than prime ministers and AFP details have faced in the past. I thank them very much for their efforts.
Finally, to my own family—to my partner, Tim, to my family in Adelaide—I am looking forward to spending some time together. We will make sure that we spend some time in Adelaide over the Christmas break and make sure that we are there together for what will be a different Christmas for us and our family.
Speaker, in a few weeks when the working year ends, I wish everybody a time of rest and recovery. I will be doing that. I know those around the parliament will be doing that. And then we will be back, ready to go, full of energy in 2013, and I am really looking forward to the contest to come. Thank you.
Government members: Hear, hear!
Yes, 2012 has been an interesting year. Every year is an interesting year, but 2012 has had its moments. We had a change of government in Queensland. We had a change of leadership in China. We had the Olympics and the Paralympics come around again, and Australian athletes did magnificently in both. We had the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings. That was a terrible stain, but so many people are trying to bring healing even from that. We had tragedy but progress in Afghanistan. Of course, just in the last few days we had the completion of the Howard-Anderson-Turnbull Murray-Darling plan, which reflects well on many people in this parliament, although I do acknowledge the deep concerns over the implementation of the plan which are held by many people in the basin communities.
Madam Speaker, I thank you for the difficult task that you perform well. I thank the clerks for their guardianship of the standards of the parliament; the PLO for the work they do with all members; the Library for making us seem more knowledgeable and wise than we often really are; the attendants, who keep the place running smoothly; the guides, who introduce this building to the public; the drivers, who get us to places on time; and the cleaners, who have had a lot of work to do this week, in particular. My own cleaners, Olga and Maria, deserve a special mention.
And, of course, I thank my colleagues. I am incredibly well served by my senior colleagues: Warren Truss, the Leader of the National Party; Julie Bishop, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition; Christopher Pyne, the Manager of Opposition Business; and Joe Hockey, the shadow Treasurer. All of them have shown tremendous team spirit; all of them have had excellent years. I acknowledge my staff, led by Peta Credlin, my strong right hand.
I acknowledge and honour my family. All of us acknowledge our families; we could not be here but for their patience, forbearance and tolerance. They are the people who suffer through our public lives and we must remember them at this time and perhaps resolve to be better to them next year—although I doubt that we will be, given the burdens and demands that will fall upon us in an election year.
We do not know when an election will be, but this may well be the last opportunity to provide a valedictory before then, so I should note now that some distinguished members of my team will not be recontesting the next election: Alby Schultz, Jo Gash, Judi Moylan, Mal Washer, Sue Boyce and Ron Boswell. I see Russell Broadbent is on the list—I didn't know Russell was retiring. I don't think he is—I think I have been misinformed! What gremlin is in our system? And he should not retire—we need a strong and conscience-driven voice in the parliament and inside the coalition.
Well said, Alby! Finally, this has been a year of ups and downs. It has been a year of ups and downs for most Australians. I am sure it has been a year of ups and downs for both sides of this parliament; 2012 has had its exhilarations and its frustrations. We must hope that 2013 will be a better year, because we always hope that every year will be better than its predecessor. I am sure that in one respect at least 2013 will be a better year than 2012—it will be an election year. None of us are in any way trying to avoid that. For all of us on this side, it could not come quick enough. We look forward to it very much.