House debates

Monday, 15 June 2009

Member for Higgins

2:09 pm

Photo of Peter CostelloPeter Costello (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

On indulgence, Mr Speaker, may I say I did not think I would ever see the day where both sides of this parliament would say nice things about me! It is just possible that both sides of the dispatch box are happy with the announcement that I have made. I want to thank both the Leader of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull, and the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, for their very kind words.

Woody Allen was once asked what he hoped to hear people say at his funeral, and he said, ‘As I’m lying there at my funeral I would hope to hear somebody say, “Look, he’s still moving!”‘ It is a very nice thing to come here, not being quite departed, and hear the kind of speeches one usually only hears as eulogies. In fact, I might come back tomorrow for a little more, I am enjoying it so much!

The Prime Minister, rightly, I think, talked about Australia’s role in the formation of the G20. The G20 would not have happened without Australia. It brought together the developed world and the developing world, and Australia as neither—we came in as an honest broker because we stood in Asia’s hour of need as the only country, along with Japan, that came to the rescue of those crisis affected economies. I do not need to say that, from our perspective, a seat at the table which represents 90 per cent of global GDP is a very, very important diplomatic position for us and for our country. It has moved up a notch now with the leader’s summit. I think the role that it played when it was convened by President Bush and also by Prime Minister Gordon Brown shows just how important it is. I do think that this is something Australia must never let go of. There will be others that will try and refashion a G-something else—a G8, a G7, a G13, a G14. Bear in mind the G20 is a forum where Australia can play a role, and it always has. We have chaired it; we have hosted it here in Australia. It will be integral, I think, to the shape of the future global economy.

I thank the Leader of the Opposition for mentioning our achievements in the economic sphere. Of course, those on the other side will not want to refer to them as much, for obvious reasons, but I will make one point. It is a point I have actually made in the new chapter of the forthcoming paperback edition of my book. I do not know if I mentioned that the hardback copy has sold out, and we are publishing a paperback edition with a new chapter. The point I have made is that the strength of Australia’s position in terms of its debt-to-GDP ratio has nothing to do with the journey in the last year but everything to do with the starting point. If we had not had a starting point of a net negative debt—that is, an asset position—then our debt position would be ending up where the Europeans, the Americans and the British are. It was the strength of the starting point that gave Australia ammunition that could be unloaded and unlocked in the current situation. Every now and then it is worth paying credit to the people who put in place important reforms before your time. None of us come to politics in the year zero. There is always something that has gone on before. I have always paid credit, because I think they were right, to Hawke and Keating for the liberalisation of the financial markets and the cutting of tariffs, and there are things that we could also be given credit for, I think, by the current government. It will make Australia stronger if we do that.

In that maiden speech that I gave so many years ago I said these words: ‘I believe in the parliament.’ And I do, and, although it was my privilege to be a minister for a very long period of time, the parliament is still important. There is no person in this place that is not important. Everybody had something that got them here and got them elected and everybody has a view that has to be listened to. We are lucky to have a parliament. That is why I very consciously decided after the election that I would stay in the parliament—because the parliament is an institution that should be preserved and valued, not just the ministry. It has been my privilege to be in this parliament for 20 years—what I consider the best years of my life.

I also want to say I think Australia’s best years can still be in front of it. This is still a young country with wonderful opportunity and, properly governed, there are greater things in store for us.

The Prime Minister was very generous in his words. I thank him for those words. On this occasion he did not come the raw prawn; he gave a fair suck of the sauce bottle! And I appreciate the statement that he gave.

Family means everything to me. You cannot imagine the strength that a strong family gives a person. I thank my family and my colleagues, my branch members and my electorate committee for everything they have given me. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve in this parliament.


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