House debates

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

International Tax Agreements Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2009

Second Reading

5:42 pm

Photo of Kevin RuddKevin Rudd (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, on indulgence: there are times in this place when we see it at its best, and we have just seen one such time. The reason we are here on this side of the chamber for this last address by the member for Bradfield is very simple: we on this side of the chamber regard him as a decent human being. That is the reason we are here. To have risen to the leadership of your political party is a mark of the esteem in which your colleagues hold you. For the parliament to assemble as one reflects something deeper in terms of their evaluation of the person. That says a lot about you, Brendan.

I am glad that you have set to rest the story of the earring. It occupied so much of the time of the then opposition tactics committee. But you have now put all of those questions to rest by your clear rendition as to the sequence of events and why they occurred. Mind you, I responded quite keenly to your remarks about being confronted by that posse of, I presume, Liberal Party matrons asking you for the removal of your earring. Had you been confronted instead by Labor Party preselectors they would have asked you to add one and to get a nose piercing as well—hence the difference in our political traditions. On the question of hair, mate, in my case I say, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ I am glad you have also set to rest who came up with that extraordinary calumny of the cardboard cut-out of me. I hope it has raised much money at Liberal Party fundraisers.

You mentioned also the importance of Gillian, Emily and Tom and Rebecca. It is right and natural, of course, that you say that on this occasion. But, having spent some time discussing our families together, I know for a fact how much they mean to you. It is a good reflection on you and a good reflection on them that you have been offered to this place with their support. Also in our discussions going back some years you made mention of the impact on you personally of your father dying just before the 2004 election. We spoke at that time, you may remember, because my mother died the day before that election. I often think that in this place and more broadly in the Australian community there is a text to be written on something simply called adult grief. However old we are when our parents die, and however old they may be, it makes it no less searing and no less acute. I remember well our conversations at that time.

As the Leader of the Labor Party, I thank you also for your decision to join with me in the apology to Aboriginal Australians. This was important. Those of us who are experienced in this place know full well the range of views and tensions within political parties on the various matters we discuss and debate in this place, and of course we are conscious of those which existed within your party and the coalition. I think it is a testament to your leadership that you prevailed in that difficult internal discussion within your side of politics, because in fact the national interest was served by that decision. The fact that we were able to gather together as one as a national parliament and speak with one voice on the question of the apology to Indigenous Australians will be something which echoes down the decades way beyond the time when you, I and others present are in this place. Our resolve then was to turn that into a genuine turning point for the long-term future and the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. At best we have made one small step in that direction, but that small step would never have been taken absent the critical events of that day in this place when you joined with me in that apology, for which I thank you.

In this place we will be remembered for smaller things and larger things. One of those things which may seem to be small in Brendan’s contribution will in time come to be seen as large. Let us call it in this place today the Nelson initiative on hearing. There are something like 500 littlies born each year who have significant hearing impairment. Prior to Brendan badgering me about this, I knew very little about the incidence of hearing impairment in kids. We had no experience of that in my family or my circle of friends and acquaintances, the normal way in which we become familiar with things. So in a number of discussions we have had in my office in the time, as you said, since hostilities ceased, you have raised this with me and we have done some work on it. As you know, we have made an important first step, which is to get the Commonwealth and states to agree that every child in Australia will be screened at birth for their hearing. That is the first step. Is Bruce Shepherd here with us today? I have offered him honorary membership of the Labor Party, given my backing of Brendan Nelson’s initiative on this, the Nelson initiative. The second step is what then happens in terms of the proper and universal provision of cochlear implants to children so diagnosed. That is the next piece of work to be done, and we will work our way through that. This Nelson initiative may be regarded by some as small. Aggregated over the years, thousands and thousands of little people, who become big people, will have normal hearing and normal speech because of this thing that has been done here, and it is a good thing done between us.

I said we were remembered for small things and larger things. One of the larger things for which Brendan will be remembered will be for his role as education minister and as defence parliamentary secretary and as defence minister. These are important and challenging portfolios. Being defence minister of Australia during a time of armed conflict is a doubly challenging enterprise. Each of us who occupy positions of responsibility in this place at a time when our men and women in uniform are under physical threat in foreign fields to which we had sent them understands something of the responsibility which falls on one’s shoulders, and that responsibility was well discharged by Brendan as defence minister.

I conclude where I began. You made reference to the Jesuits. I was never educated by the Jesuits myself—there was not one in Nambour—but the Jesuits’ aphorism ‘give me the child of six and I will give you the man’ is well applied in the life we see before us today in Brendan Nelson. To sum up a parliamentary career and to do so with such obvious, visible and understandable emotion is a hard thing to do in this place, but you have done it well today, Brendan. You will be remembered for it and for the achievements which you have reflected upon as well.

You mentioned before having your ashes interred on Bruny Island. Mate, that is just a bit too morbid! There is a lot of other stuff to do in the meantime. Lighten up. I am sure others will respect that in due season. Am I right, Gillian? Just lighten up a bit. Good. And the kids? Lighten up? Got it. That may be attended to, but I have a suspicion, Brendan, and more than a suspicion, that you will be doing more in the public interest of Australia in the months and years ahead. The parliament salutes you, the Australian Labor Party salutes you and I as Prime Minister of Australia salute you and your contribution to this place as well.


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