House debates

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

International Tax Agreements Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2009

Second Reading

5:51 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, on indulgence: Brendan, on behalf of the Liberal Party and the coalition, I want to thank you for your years of service to our party, to the electors of Bradfield and to the people of Australia. I also thank you for your remarkable address. You quoted Robert Menzies’ ‘Forgotten people’ speech from 1942. Nothing in our pantheon can equal that, of course, but you gave a speech today which will be cited for decades to come. It was humane and humorous—we always wanted to know about the earring too, Prime Minister, and now we know the answer was ‘cherchez la femme’! It was also as complete as it was compelling. You gave a clear understanding of our past, our history, and a clear vision for the future. And you revealed so much of yourself, the man we know who has served this nation so well for so many years—so passionate, so compassionate, so committed to helping those who are not well off, particularly Indigenous Australians, for whom you have always laboured hard, from your very earliest days as a young medical practitioner.

You served our nation as an education minister, as a defence parliamentary secretary and as a defence minister. You served our nation vitally well in all of those roles. You secured record government investment in the Australian Defence Force—an average of three per cent real annual increase in defence expenditure out to 2015-16. At so many times in the past, investment in our defences has been neglected, and you certainly addressed that with the commitment that you have shown to everything you have done.

As you noted, you oversaw the deployment in our region of Australian troops who helped successfully to restore stability to the Solomon Islands and East Timor. You implemented far-reaching reforms to boost recruitment. You understood, as not all defence ministers have, that the core of our defence forces is the men and women, the human capital—far more important than the steel, the guns and the bombs. You recognised that humanity in our defence forces is our most precious asset.

Your achievements as education minister were truly remarkable. That is testified to by the fact that so many of your initiatives are being continued by our successors in government in the Labor Party. You developed and you implemented the Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future package. You made the pigs fly, as you described it. You were able to take that on—a comprehensive reform package for our higher education system which increased the Commonwealth investment in that sector by $1½ billion over four years.

But perhaps most importantly you put in place an agenda for higher standards and greater consistency in Australian school education, including requiring publicly available information about performance in schools, plain English report cards and the explicit teaching of values in our schools. Your remarks about that today, as I said a moment ago, will be read and re-read for many years to come—a very keen insight.

You also introduced the Investing in Our Schools Program. Far be it from me to introduce a note of current affairs into these remarks, but that was a very popular and effective program. It had the result, both in your hands and in the hands of your successor, our deputy leader, of investing substantial Commonwealth moneys into school infrastructure that schools and their communities actually wanted.

As our leader—when you took over the toughest job, of leading a political party after a defeat—as a minister, as a colleague and as a friend, you have always been consultative. The Investing in Our Schools Program is a good example of that, in the way you reached out to school communities and said: ‘What do you need? How can I help? I want to listen to you.’ That is an example, or perhaps a piece of advice, that you might be able to share with your friend now that the hostilities have ceased.

I commend you, finally, Brendan, on the touching remarks you made about family. Gillian, all of us understand the sacrifices that spouses of members of parliament make. Brendan spoke eloquently of that. Really you, Gillian, and all the other wives and husbands of members of parliament are the unsung heroes of the struggles we engage in. You feel the blows more keenly than we do, because we can strike back but you simply have to share the pain and support your loved one. Brendan, you spoke beautifully for yourself, but you spoke powerfully for all of us when you spoke of family. On behalf of the Liberal Party, the coalition, the opposition and, joining with the Prime Minister, the two leaders here in the House of Representatives, we salute you, we thank you, we respect you and we know that you will go on to serve Australia well in many capacities in the years ahead—and the business with Bruny Island will be a very, very long way in the future!


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