Thursday, 24 November 2011
Parliamentary Office Holders
The Clerk: Honourable members, I have received the following communication from Her Excellency the Governor-General:
I desire to inform the House of Representatives that I have received a letter dated 24 November 2011 from Mr Jenkins MP tendering his resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and that I have accepted his resignation.
Accordingly, I invite the House to elect a new Speaker.
The next business is the election of a Speaker.
Mr Clerk, I move:
That the honourable member for Fisher, Peter Slipper, do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
Mr Clerk, I was first elected to this place on 24 March 1990 and I have had the opportunity to observe seven Speakers during that time. I want to say something in the first instance about the immediate past Speaker. I regard Mr Jenkins as having served with distinction in this House—
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
doing himself and his party proud and more importantly doing this parliament proud.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
I am proud also to call him a friend. In relation to Mr Slipper, I moved on 28 September 2010 his nomination as Deputy Speaker of this place, and he was successful in that nomination. He has been Deputy Speaker since that time. If one goes to the Parliamentary Handbook one will see that he is eminently qualified to occupy the position of Speaker. He has been on the Speaker's panel since 18 February 2008. He was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration from 21 October 1998 to 26 October 2004. He was acting parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister from 14 March 2002 to 7 October 2003.
But I particularly want to talk about his service since he has been Deputy Speaker of this place, since 28 September 2010, and I do it through the prism of having served on the Privileges Committee, having served on the Procedures Committee of this House and having a strong love of the procedures of this place. Mr Slipper has impressed—because it has been a difficult position. He has not been intimidated. He has acted with independence and impartiality. He has, I think, incurred the wrath of some of those opposite with some of his actions, because he has observed the rules of this place.
So when one looks to who is to replace former Speaker Jenkins, one has to say: who is best capable of keeping the House in order? I say, without hesitation, that Mr Slipper, the member for Fisher, fits that bill—and fits it impeccably in terms of his service to this House.
I observed a press conference today that seemed to indicate that the opposition believe that the Speaker should come from the government side of the House—as if it were some convention; writ large. Let me say to all members of the House: that is fine but let us not rewrite history and let us not rewrite what those opposite have done. One of the first acts I was involved in when I was first elected to this parliament was the election of the then Speaker for that parliament. We actually had an election. The Liberal Party actually nominated one of their own for Speaker—Mr Dobie, who was defeated 79 to 67 on 8 May 1990. So the view of the Liberal Party at that stage was that they felt that one of their own was better to be Speaker, and it became a matter for the House. So it was not an unopposed position. Was it an accident in 1990? No; it was repeated.
Opposition members interjecting—
I am arguing here why Mr Slipper qualifies for the position of Speaker, notwithstanding that he is not a member of this government. On 4 May 1993 there was another election for Speaker where Mr Dobie was again put up, and he was defeated by Speaker Martin by 78 to 63. So this notion—this recent invention—that the Speaker has to be a member of the government is not what the opposition used to think.
You have to have a long memory in this game and, fortunately, because I have almost 22 years of experience in this place, I remember some events past—and we have also got the honourable member for Berowra, the father of the House, who knows it was usual in the early days for the opposition to put up one of their own. I do not decry that; there is nothing wrong with that. But I am not going to stand here and allow it to be unchallenged that something is wrong because the Speaker does not come from the governing party.
So, Mr Clerk, I say to you that I believe in the time that Mr Slipper has occupied the position of Deputy Speaker he has shown that he is worthy of being elected to the position of Speaker in the way that he has run this place. I believe he will be a good, independent Speaker, which is what this House needs.
The Clerk: Is the motion seconded?
I second the motion. I have the honour of seconding this nomination of Mr Slipper. First of all, I would like to join the member for Banks in my sincere regret that Mr Jenkins, the member for Scullin, is leaving his position. I would like to restate that he has not just done the parliament proud but that he has also done his party proud. We have all, in the very difficult circumstances of a hung parliament, had as Speaker a man whom I believe has exercised his responsibilities with all the neutrality and goodwill that he can.
Anyone who has observed Mr Slipper as Deputy Speaker in the period of this very difficult hung parliament would have to say—whether one knew him well beforehand or not—that he has also exercised a knowledge of procedure and fairness to a very great extent. If one observed his knowledge of standing orders and procedures, one would know that he is, just as the member for Banks described him, a man who, with his knowledge of procedure, is perfectly fit for the role of Speaker.
As many people in this House know, when you are a parliamentarian you make unlikely friendships. There are people on both sides of politics who become knowledgeable of each other. Over the last years I have got to know Peter Slipper—and his very charming wife Inge, who I hope is here to participate in this honour to him—and I have observed a man who has been attacked by his local media but who in this parliament has behaved extremely honourably and has discharged his duties well. Despite his reputation in the local newspapers—which have seemed to me to have political axes to grind—he has a great affinity with human rights. He and I have travelled together to India and into the foothills of the Himalayas to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Mr Slipper, in the role of Speaker, will have to exercise a great deal of diplomatic dexterity, which I am confident, with his knowledge of international affairs and of people of other places, he will exercise. That is a very important role for the Speaker along with his performance in the House.
I am pleased to get all of the interjections from across the aisle. They interject because they find the political circumstances of this nomination very uncomfortable, and I can understand that. I am not going to extend their discomfort any further. I have a great honour in seconding the nomination of Mr Slipper, the member for Fisher, as the Speaker, joining my good friend the member for Banks in that nomination.
The Clerk: Does the honourable member for Fisher accept nomination?
Mr Clerk, I move:
That the member for Chisholm do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
Mr Clerk, it is my honour to move the nomination of the member for Chisholm, because that is the orthodox political position of the Westminster parliamentary system. This is the first time that a government has not nominated one of their own to be Speaker of this parliament. I heard the member for Banks trying to find some kind of alibi for what he knows has been an extraordinary day in Australian politics, and I respect the member for Banks. Without reflecting on the member for Fisher, I say that the member for Banks, the member for Melbourne Ports and all members of this parliament with any experience know that it is utterly unprecedented for the government not to follow the Westminster tradition of nominating one of their own members to be Speaker of the parliament.
The member for Banks referred to precedents in past years of members of the opposition who have been nominated for speaker, but the point that he did not make is that on all of those occasions a member of the government was also nominated and that on all of those occasions the opposition could not possibly be successful in its nomination. The tradition of the Westminster system has always been in this country that a member of the government is nominated and a member of the opposition is nominated and that the person who comes second in those ballots usually takes the role of either Deputy Speaker or Second Deputy Speaker. My good friend the member for Cook in those days, Mr Dobie—I happened to be in the parliament in 1993; I have been here almost as long as the member for Banks—was nominated and he knew full well that he would not be elected as Speaker. This is the first time in this country that the government has decided to nominate a member of the opposition, and we all know why.
I nominate the member for Chisholm today because the member for Chisholm is, quite correctly, a member of the government and should take the chair as Speaker. The member for Chisholm has been the Deputy Speaker before in this parliament, from 2008 to 2010. Since that time—since the government did not re-elect her as Deputy Speaker after the minority parliament began—she has served on the Speaker's panel. I have served with the member for Chisholm on parliamentary committees in this parliament for many years. The member for Chisholm is a member of integrity and honesty who would fill the role of Speaker with absolute aplomb. She deserves to be nominated by the government for Speaker, not by the opposition, but I will nominate her in the absence of the government following the Westminster traditions upon which this parliament is based.
It grieves me that the former Speaker, Mr Jenkins, has retired today as Speaker of this parliament. I have had a topsy-turvy relationship with the member for Scullin over the period that I have been Manager of Opposition Business, but I think he has always been fair and reasonable. I have sometimes been known to say to him that, if I were him, I would have thrown me out more often than he did!
In praising the member for Scullin, can I say how disappointed I am, on behalf of the opposition and on my own behalf, that he has chosen to retire prematurely. He should have, in my view, served out his term as Speaker until whenever it finished. He was doing the job as well as anybody could be expected to do in a minority parliament. I will not reflect on the reasons for his resignation. I accept the statement that he has made to the parliament today. In doing so, I conclude my remarks and urge members of the House to support the member for Chisholm.
The Clerk: Is the nomination seconded?
That the member for Lyons do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
I am disappointed that the member for Chisholm has refused the nomination. She would have been assured of my support and the support of the opposition. I believe she would have fulfilled the role with all the capacity that she has brought to this parliament since she was elected.
But, in the absence of the member for Chisholm accepting nomination, it gives me great pleasure to nominate the member for Lyons as Speaker of this House. I do so because the conventions of this parliament are that a member of the government takes the role of Speaker, in our Westminster tradition.
Member for Banks, the Clerk will not entertain a point of order during these speeches and you should not place him in that position, as you well know.
As we know in this parliament, the Westminster tradition dictates in this country that a member of the government is nominated for, and usually elected as, Speaker. The member for Lyons has served in this parliament since 1993. He was elected in the same election as I was elected in 1993 and he has been re-elected on many occasions since that time. He has been a member of the Speaker's panel of this place since 1996. For 15 years he has been a member of the Speaker's panel of this place and, of course, in the Tasmanian state parliament he was the Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker from 1980 to 1981, and as a former member, of course, of the Tasmanian House of Assembly from 1979 to 1982.
He has served as chairman and deputy chairman of many parliamentary committees. He is eminently qualified to fulfil the role of Speaker in this parliament. I am almost trepidatious in nominating the member for Lyons knowing how he would like to deal with the opposition if he so took the role of Speaker in this parliament. I know that, if he fulfilled the role, he would do so fairly and reasonably.
I know, most importantly, his No. 1 qualification for Speaker of this parliament is that he comes from the government. Everyone in this parliament knows that the Westminster tradition in this country has been that the government nominates the Speaker and the government fills the role of Speaker. That is as it should be and that is why I nominate the member for Lyons.
The Clerk: Is the motion seconded?
That the honourable member for Braddon do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
Surely there is one member of the Labor Party who regards themselves as worthy to take the chair as Speaker of this parliament. Surely there is one member of the Labor Party who believes they could fill the role of Speaker in this minority parliament. Is there no-one in the Labor Party who believes that they would be capable of filling the role of Speaker in this parliament?
I nominate the member for Braddon, another member of the Speaker's panel who would fill the role of Speaker eminently well. I know his view of the opposition but I put it to him: does he have the courage of his own convictions? Does he believe that he could only be a member of the Speaker's panel or does he truly believe that he should take the great office of Speaker of this parliament and maintain the Westminster tradition which has been established in this place for 110 years?
The Clerk: Is the motion seconded?
That the honourable member for Cunningham do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
The member for Cunningham has been a member of the Speaker's panel since 18 February 2008. I would put it to her that she is eminently worthy to fulfil the role of Speaker of this parliament. I would put it to her, as I did to the member for Braddon, that surely she believes she has the capacity to be the Speaker of this minority parliament. Surely her colleagues would share the confidence the opposition does that the member for Cunningham can fulfil the role of Speaker in this parliament.
Again I state for the record that the No. 1 qualification of the member for Cunningham to fulfil the role of Speaker of this parliament is that she is a member of the government. If the government truly believe in this parliament and in the Westminster traditions upon which it is based, they would not be trashing the Constitution, trashing the standing orders or trashing the conventions of this parliament for 110 years, and not nominating a member of their own side to take the role of Speaker of this parliament. So, I put it to the member for Cunningham: take the role of Speaker of the parliament and do the job that we know you are capable of doing and that you should have the confidence that you are capable of doing.
The Clerk: Is the motion seconded?
That the honourable member for Capricornia do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
This is an extraordinary day in the Australian parliamentary system when the opposition is forced to move that members of the government take the role as Speaker of this parliament because the government would instead trash the traditions of this place by electing a member of the opposition. I do not wish to reflect on the member for Fisher by nominating other members, in this case the member for Capricornia. What I am trying to say to the parliament and to the people is that surely the Labor Party believe that there is one of their number who has the ability, the honour and the integrity to accept the role of Speaker of this parliament.
The member for Capricornia has been a member of the Speaker's panel since 20 October 2010. She has fulfilled that role with integrity and ability. I would put it to her that the opposition will support the member for Capricornia should she accept the nomination and take the role as Speaker of this parliament.
I have said before, and I will say again for the record, the Westminster tradition of this parliament dictates that the government fulfil the role of Speaker of this parliament and nominate one of their own. In the absence of the government having the courage and the political acumen to fulfil the role that they should of upholding the Westminster traditions, it falls to the opposition to do so.
The Clerk: Is the motion seconded?
That the honourable member for Hindmarsh do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
It has been my privilege to know the member for Hindmarsh as a fellow South Australian since he was elected to this place. He attempted on numerous occasions to be elected as the member for Hindmarsh and was finally successful on his third try. Since that time he has been a member of the Speaker's panel in this parliament and he has fulfilled the role with all the ability he has been able to muster to do the job as well as he can.
Mr Clerk, you would assume that the member for Hindmarsh would have the confidence in his own ability to accept the nomination to be Speaker of this parliament, to take the chair. I know in his heart of hearts he is well aware that he would be capable of being Speaker of this parliament, and I would be very proud to have a fellow South Australian sit in the chair and preside over the House.
In fact, Mr Clerk, it would be most unusual if the member for Hindmarsh was not to take the role as Speaker of this parliament, because it would be the first time in this country's history that the government did not support one of their own to be Speaker of this parliament. Today will mark the day in Australia's history that the Westminster tradition was overturned in this country by the Labor Party simply because the Labor Party always puts political interests ahead of what is good for the parliament and for the country. Political interests have determined the day's proceedings by the Labor Party, but the Labor Party will come to rue this day. They will come to rue the precedent that they have created. I would urge the member for Hindmarsh to recognise the very serious act of vandalism that the Labor Party is visiting on this parliament and on our conventions and seriously consider accepting the nomination of the opposition to take the chair as Speaker of this House.
The Clerk: Is the motion seconded?
That the member for Reid do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
The member for Reid has been a member of the Speaker's panel since 20 October 2010 and he has been in this parliament first as the member for Lowe since 1998 and now as the member for Reid following a redistribution in New South Wales in 2010. The member for Reid is well known to this side of the parliament for his integrity and for his honesty and for his intention to always uphold the values and principles upon which he came into the parliament. I know that the member for Reid has on many occasions agreed with positions the opposition has taken, particularly on life issues, over the course of the time that he has been in the parliament.
I know the member for Reid would be truly disappointed, surprised and probably quite hurt with the way that the Labor Party has today decided to traduce the Westminster traditions of this parliament. I know that the member for Reid would have a very high regard for the member for Chisholm. I know that the member for Reid would be one of the people who would have been urging the Labor Party upon the retirement of Speaker Jenkins to support the member for Chisholm to be Speaker in this place. But in the absence of the member for Chisholm accepting the nomination of the opposition, I think it does fall to the member for Reid to search inside himself and recognise that today's act by the Labor Party—this unprecedented act—will ring as a day of infamy in this parliament. Therefore, to protect the traditions of this parliament, to protect the Westminster system upon which our democracy relies, the member for Reid should recognise his own ability to take the role as Speaker of the parliament and accept the nomination of the opposition that I move with pride today.
The Clerk: Is the motion seconded?
That the member for Calwell do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
The member for Calwell and I have not always agreed on every issue, I think it is fair to say, particularly on issues to do with the Middle East, but I know that if the member for Calwell was prepared to recognise her own ability and understand that she could be the Speaker of this place then she would accept the nomination of the opposition to take the chair of this House as Speaker. The member for Calwell is another member of the Labor Party who serves on the Speaker's panel and has done so in this minority parliament. You would assume, Mr Clerk, that every member of the Speaker's panel who is a member of the Labor party would recognise that they were worthy enough to be members of the Speaker's panel and thereby one day to be Speaker of this parliament. Is there no-one in the Labor Party who believes that they have the ability or the honour to take the role as Speaker of this parliament?
I would appeal to the member for Calwell, who has been in this parliament since 2001, for 10 years, to recognise that by accepting this nomination today as Speaker of the parliament that she would be supporting the traditions of this place that she has vowed to uphold before. She has given many speeches in this place—as has the member for Chisholm, the member for Reid, the member for Hindmarsh, the member for Capricornia, the member for Lyons—about the importance of the Westminster tradition, the importance of the parliamentary system and the importance of democracy to this place. Fine words, but today is the day to back them with action: not to come into this place with syrupy words and drop those words into Hansard, but to back them with action when they are put to the test. I put all these members to the test today and I am putting the member for Calwell to the test and ask her if she will back her good intentions with the action to support the traditions of this parliament.
The Clerk: Is the motion seconded?
Mr Clerk, I move:
That the member for Petrie do take the chair of this House as Speaker.
In doing so, can I say that the nomination by the member for New England unfortunately underlines what high farce this parliament has become. The member for New England's attempt at humour underlines what high farce the Labor Party has brought this parliament to. Far from being amused by the member for New England's action, all the members of the Labor Party who have signed up to this deal today should hang their heads in shame that the parliament has become such high farce that here in Canberra, inside the beltway, the Labor Party thinks it is amusing to trash the traditions of the Westminster system in this country.
The Labor Party thinks it is fun and amusing to entertain the nomination of me, a member of the opposition, as the Speaker of this parliament when the whole point of this debate today is that a member of the government should take the role of Speaker of the parliament in the Westminster system. It is no surprise that that nomination was not seconded, because nobody else was silly enough to second the motion of a member of the opposition to take the role of Speaker except the member for Banks and the member for Melbourne Ports who have done just that today. Their parliamentary careers will be remembered by the fact that they took part in this grubby action today. I had more respect for them than they have demonstrated they deserve today.
I nominate the member for Petrie, Mr Clark, who has been on the speakers panel since 20 October 2010 and was elected to parliament in 2007. I hope that she, at least one member of the Labor Party, will take the nomination. Can I find one member of the Labor Party who believes in themselves enough to uphold the traditions of the Westminster system and take the role of Speaker of this parliament?
The Clerk: Is the proposal seconded?
I decline the nomination by the member for Sturt.
The Clerk: Is there any further proposal? There being no further proposal, the time for proposals has expired. I declare that the honourable member proposed, Mr Slipper, has been elected as Speaker.
Honourable members: Hear, hear!
Mr Speaker, on indulgence, I seek to make some remarks about the former Speaker, Harry Jenkins, and also to you. I quote in this parliament the words of Winston Churchill, who once described himself in the following terms:
I am a child of the House of Commons. I was brought up in my father's house to believe in democracy.
Those words could well have been written by anyone about Harry Jenkins. He certainly is a child of his father's house, a very distinguished Speaker in this parliament, and he certainly is a child of this House as well, having served as a very distinguished Speaker in some remarkable days. Harry Jenkins served as Speaker of this parliament when Kevin Rudd delivered the historic apology to the stolen generations. He served as Speaker in this parliament during the days of some of the sharpest contests and most difficult debates that our nation needed to have about its future. He served in this parliament as the parliament's face to the world as we have welcomed leaders from around the world, most recently President Obama and, before President Obama, her Majesty the Queen. On all occasions Harry Jenkins, as Speaker of this House, has carried out his duty with honour, with dignity, with a strict non-partisan approach which brought him credit from all sides of the parliament.
Perhaps the only flaw in the speakership of Harry Jenkins was identified today by the member for Sturt. I would have taken the advice and thrown the member for Sturt out of the chamber on more occasions. But with those words of gentle chiding, former Speaker Harry Jenkins has served this parliament well. He is a child of this House. He is someone who learnt a love of democracy in his family home, but he is also a child of the Labor Party. He grew up in a Labor home with Labor values. He has witnessed for those values all of his adult life as he has served his constituents in the seat of Scullin. Harry Jenkins, as the member for Scullin, has decided that it is time to return home, back into the active service of the Labor Party, and we welcome him back in the Labor family in a very warm embrace. We look forward to working alongside him in 2012. He was a great Speaker and is a great Labor Party man and a great friend to all of us on this side of the parliament.
Mr Speaker, the only difficulty you face is stepping into the shoes of a man so distinguished. Perhaps I should have joked slippers, but stepping into the shoes of a man so distinguished, we anticipate that you will, as Speaker, guide this parliament in the way that you have guided it in the chair as Deputy Speaker. We have seen you, when you have exercised the role of Deputy Speaker, show a fierce sense of balance and appropriateness in this parliament. You have had the courage to take some difficult actions when they have been called upon to maintain order in the House. I am sure that we will continue to see that from you as you step now into the position of Speaker, and from the government side of this parliament, we will provide you the support required as you carry out the duties of Speaker.
Mr Speaker, I rise like the Prime Minister to speak in praise of the former Speaker and to acknowledge your elevation to high office. I say very genuinely that Speaker Jenkins was an adornment to that high office. Speaker Jenkins was a friend of the parliament. Speaker Jenkins was an admirer and an upholder of the best traditions of this parliament and, I have to say, he will be much missed as he leaves the chair.
He has been in my judgment one of the very best Speakers to grace the chair of this parliament. Certainly he is the equal of the best of the Speakers that I have served under in my 18 years in this chamber. As the Prime Minister said just a few moments ago, he was a really outstanding Speaker with a really strong love of the parliament, which begs the question: why has Speaker Jenkins left the chair? Just why has this great man with a great love of this chamber and a great love of its traditions, left the chair?
I respect the observations that the Speaker himself made from the chair this morning, that he has left the chair because he wants to more fully participate in the councils of the Labor Party and he wants to more fully participate in the life of his Labor colleagues. Doesn't that look to be the case, Mr Speaker, as he sits in that rather lonely position close to the gangway? Doesn't that look to be exactly what has happened, that he has gone to rejoin his comrades? I think that probably the loneliest man in this parliament right now is our former Speaker.
But I say this of our former Speaker: our former Speaker was born and bred in the Labor Party, and if there is one institution which he loves as much as he loves this parliament, it is in fact the Labor Party. I know that as a very loyal son of the Labor Party, he would have accepted the dictation of his Labor superiors with a very heavy heart. That is what he would have done. He would have accepted it and, as a man who is also a creature of party and lover of party, I respect him all the more for doing it. You leave the great chair of this parliament, member for Scullin, with our respect, with our affection, and with our best wishes for your future inside the parliament and outside the parliament.
What has happened today in this parliament is extraordinary and unprecedented—absolutely extraordinary and unprecedented—and in the end this is about the judgment of one person, the person sitting opposite, the Prime Minister of this country. This is happening because she has made the judgment that the government needs to shore up its numbers in this place. That is why this is happening. She wanted the former Speaker gone to shore up her position in this parliament, and she should be judged accordingly. This is the Prime Minister's decision, sure, and it has just been ratified by the parliament as inevitably as it was going to be. This is her decision and her judgment, and she will stand or fall on this judgment.
Mr Speaker, we have known each other for many years. We have shared good times and not-so-good times. You have been an extremely effective and efficient Deputy Speaker of this parliament. You certainly have the technical skills and the knowledge of this parliament to be effective in this chair. We congratulate you. We wish you well and we express the hope and the confidence that you will serve without fear or favour.
Very briefly, on behalf of the crossbenchers—although the member for Melbourne may say some short words also—I would like to acknowledge the service of the former Speaker. Everyone who was here at 3 am to see section 88 pulled out at such an ungodly hour, would agree that it was one for the purists, an example of the technical skills of the former Speaker as well as the personality of the man.
I was recently on a Q&A panel on ABC with William McInnes who, I think, did a better interpretation of Harry Jenkins than anyone in this chamber could do. Quite often we look at personality with regard to the role, however, it is those technical skills that make the job and over the past year, in what has been a challenging parliament, those technical skills have been on full display and are the mark of the man.
As far as events of today are concerned, we are all counting numbers and wondering exactly what did happen overnight. I am assured that it is a voluntary move.
An opposition member: Who gave you that assurance?
The former Speaker gave me that assurance. But we are all watching closely. It does change numbers and it does change dynamics. There are still issues such as private health insurance, poker machines and a whole range of other issues that we as a parliament need to deal with throughout 2012. I hope that agreements currently in place remain in place and that this is a parliament that does want to do reform for the future.
Concerning the Speaker in the chair now, based on latest mail, I not only welcome an independent Speaker in the chair, I gather that I also welcome a new Independent member in this parliament. I congratulate you on the role that you are taking on and wish you all the best in sticking to the standing orders and making this place operate as objectively as possible.
Having been dobbed in by the member for Lyne, on behalf of the Australian Greens I also acknowledge what I think has been extraordinary work, in a very interesting and novel parliament, from the member for Scullin and I welcome you to the chair, Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, may I also congratulate you on your election to office. You are and always have been in this parliament my electorate neighbour and I wish you well in the high office which you have now been elected to. You follow Mr Jenkins into this position. Mr Jenkins has been a remarkable Speaker. I certainly hold him in the highest regard. He has held the office of Speaker in perhaps the most difficult and challenging of all parliaments, one in which neither he nor the government could be absolutely assured of their numbers—they did not lose too often but never could absolutely be assured of the numbers. He carried the responsibilities of the office well and really added to the parliament because of his own manner and the way in which he held the office. He demonstrated always good humour, tolerance and wise judgment. In a sense, he was born to be Speaker and he fulfilled every possible expectation that I am sure his family, his party and, indeed, this parliament could have expected of him.
He gained, in my view, his great authority in the chair because of his superlative understanding of the standing orders and the accuracy of his rulings. We may not have always been in agreement with them, but he always had an arguable case. It is his superior understanding of the standing orders that deserves him to be numbered amongst the very greatest of Speakers that our parliament has known. For you, Mr Speaker, it is almost an impossible task to follow your predecessor. We respect the office and we wish you well in the position you hold.