Thursday, 26 November 2009
It is not my intention to do any impersonations of Kylie Mole, or anybody else, at the dispatch box. I have already done enough of that during the valedictory speech by the shadow minister for education, apprenticeships and training—and I wish him and his family a very happy Christmas. From time to time we see commentary in the media about the number of portfolios I hold and the size of the job I perform for the government. We see that commentary come and go, but what we do not see in that commentary is recognition that I do not do this work alone. I do this work with the support of a terrific ministerial team, and I would like to start by acknowledging them and wishing them the compliments of the season.
Before the reshuffle, it was my pleasure and privilege to work very closely with Brendan O’Connor, who is an old friend and doing a terrific job for the government. He was a tremendous support for me in his capacity as Minister for Employment Participation. He has now gone on to the customs and justice portfolio. I also had the pleasure of working with a great Labor light, Maxine McKew, who assisted me with early childhood development. She has now moved to infrastructure, but I would like to record my thanks to her.
I work with a great ministerial team—with Senator Arbib, with parliamentary secretaries Jason Clare and Ursula Stephens, and with Kate Ellis performing in the jobs of youth and sport and also early childhood development and care. They are tremendous ministers. It gives me a great feeling about the long-term future of Labor to see such talented young people in ministerial jobs. To them, I would like to say a very sincere thanks for everything that they have done in working with me this year.
I would like to thank my ministerial and caucus colleagues generally—first and foremost, the Prime Minister. It continues to be a great pleasure and privilege to work alongside him day by day. We work hard, he works harder, and he inspires the team to keep working and to keep delivering, to make this a stronger and fairer country. He is a man of enormous vision and capacity. I continue to learn from him each and every day and I thank him very much for the work he has done over the past 12 months for the team and for the nation. I certainly wish him, Therese and their family—Jessica, Nick and Marcus—the best and happiest Christmas. They certainly deserve some time together and a break together.
I would also like to pay a very sincere tribute to my close colleague the Treasurer, Wayne Swan. He has obviously had an amazing 12 months, having the economic stewardship of the nation during a global financial crisis and global recession. It is a huge weight for anyone to bear. Wayne has not only borne that weight well but worked hard to see this nation through a very difficult period. Whilst, as Wayne would say, we are not out of the woods yet, the work he continues to do is greatly valued by the government. I believe it is greatly valued by the Australian people.
I would also like to pay tribute to a few other of my ministerial colleagues. Lindsay Tanner, too, has borne a great deal of the weight during this period and continues to do a remarkable job. I certainly wish him a happy Christmas and hope he gets a break with his family.
I would like to make particular mention of Anthony Albanese, leading the parliamentary team in here. The shadow minister for education and Manager of Opposition Business has gone through some of the rituals of opposition about meetings of tactics, committees and the like. We too obviously have our own rituals in government, and I have worked with Anthony Albanese—Albo—now through all of that when we were in opposition and we continue to work on it together in government. I have known Anthony Albanese since I was 19 or 20. It is a considerable length of time and he continues to be a great friend. It is a great pleasure to be able to work with him.
I would also like to make special mention of Jenny Macklin. Some aspects of our portfolios are very centrally locked together. We work together very solidly on the government’s social policy agenda and social inclusion agenda. She is a great thinker—one of the greatest thinkers in this country on social policy questions—and a great leader of a national reform agenda.
To each of my ministerial and caucus colleagues, I would say it is time for a break. They have all worked very hard in their constituencies as part of a united government team. We only get to do the things that we do because each and every day they are doing all of that work, and I thank them very sincerely for that.
I would like to thank some of the staff who work alongside me delivering the government’s agenda. I particularly would like to make mention of some staff who have left my office this year. First and foremost is my former Chief of Staff, Ben Hubbard. I have known Ben Hubbard for a very long time. We worked together way back when when I was Chief of Staff of John Brumby’s team in opposition in Victoria and Ben was on that staff. He came to work with me as Chief of Staff when I became Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He worked with me through the campaign into the set-up in government and into this year. He was absolutely pivotal to our success during that period. He has gone on to do what I think all Australians would acknowledge as probably one of the best but toughest jobs this nation has to offer in the modern age and that is as the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority. It is a huge job and a great opportunity for Ben and a great opportunity to work alongside those devastated communities and to make a difference for them. My best wishes are with him in that new job and as he proceeds to Christmas.
I would also like to acknowledge Erin Dale. Erin worked with me for a considerable period of time, starting in my electorate office and then moving on to my portfolio staff. She has gone onto bigger and better things. She has moved from being an adviser in my office to being Maxine McKew’s Chief of Staff, so she is not lost to federal Labor. It is a great opportunity for her and a big promotion. I wish her well for Christmas. I would like to make mention too of Barbara Wise, who worked with me as our early childhood adviser. Barbara is from New South Wales and she has returned to the New South Wales Public Service. She did a great job but wanted a more Sydney based existence. Some in Canberra would be able to understand that, although some in Canberra possibly would not understand why someone would select Sydney over Canberra—I will leave that where it is. She did a great job and my best wishes are with her.
As for the staff that work with me now, I would like to acknowledge their very hard work and long hours of efforts for the government and for me personally. I would particularly like to acknowledge my Chief of Staff, Amanda Lampe. She was my Deputy Chief of Staff and moved into the job when Ben left. She has done a tremendous job during this year. When Ben left I obviously thought he was irreplaceable. Amanda is a different sort of chief of staff than Ben, but she is doing an absolutely tremendous job. She is very ably assisted by Tom Bentley. Tom Bentley, of course, is a UK migrant to this country. He fell in love with an Australian girl and came to live here. He had worked with the Blair governments and with social policy think tanks in the United Kingdom. He continues to be a pivotal part of the driving of this government’s reform agenda.
To my policy advising staff, I would like to say a big thankyou to Jim Round and John Spierings, who developed and delivered the biggest round of reforms for universities since the Dawkins reforms of the 1980s and are continuing to deliver a profound reform agenda in vocational education and training, which will make a real future as to both the economic prosperity and the equity of this country.
As for the team working on schools—to Gerry Kitchener, Rondah Rietveld, Natalie Cooper—when you are delivering an education revolution, transparency, new measures for teacher quality, new measures for disadvantaged schools, the Building the Education Revolution, trade training centres, the digital education revolution, national curriculum—and the list goes on—it is a big policy advising task for a very limited group of people. They do a tremendous job.
For Andrea Lester and Craig Carmody, this was, of course, the year of the Fair Work Act, the year we got rid of Work Choices. That would not have happened without the work of Andrea Lester. That reform is very much her reform. She did so much work on it. My congratulations go to her. My congratulations go to Craig Carmody for working not only alongside Andrea but separately—we are almost delivering; I am hoping that we are going to get there—on the uniform system for occupational health and safety. Craig has played a tremendous role in cracking what has been a policy chestnut for this country for decades and decades and decades.
As for the media advisory staff who work with me—Kimberley Gardiner, Russell Mahony, Leanne Budd—dealing with the press gallery all day, every day isn’t everybody’s idea of fun, and with a range of work that we do we obviously deal with a wide range of people both in Canberra and beyond. They do what is hard work, starting early in the morning and finishing late at night, with remarkable good cheer each and every day. My thanks go to them.
My thanks also go to the administrative staff: to Rachael Purcell, also known as ‘Monkey’—it would be better if you did not ask, Mr Speaker—and to Janine Robb. I thank them for all of the work that they do. To the staff who work with us travelling with me, doing research, doing speech writing, my thanks go to them—to Alex Williamson; Emma Smith; Andrew Stark; and to Silvana Anthony, who worked with me in opposition and went on a period of maternity leave and is now back. They are great friends, great company and tremendous contributors in the office. I thank them for the work that they do and wish them well for the Christmas break.
I come to our DLOs, Sue, Sarah and Deb. We work hard, we work fast and we churn a lot of paper and the paper would never get back to where it is supposed to go—get to me or get back the other way—without their work. They are our interface with the department. They work tremendously hard and my thanks go to them. I would also like to acknowledge a couple of new starters in our office—very recent recruits: Claudia Perkins and Jack Whelan. I am looking forward to working with them over the course of next year.
I would also like to thank my electorate office staff. They are the public face for me in my very precious electorate of Lalor, a very special place in Melbourne’s west. You have a special sort of mayhem in your office when you employ sisters. That is what I did. I will ask people to think about that as a management conundrum. To Vicki and Michelle Fitzgerald, thank you very much for your work over a long period of time. Michelle has been with me since I was first elected. I want to thank them for everything that they do in the electorate office. I would also like to thank Carlos Baldovino, once again a very long-serving staff member. Carlos has been with me since the day I was first elected as well and continues to do a great job for me in the electorate office. To Helen, to the two Johns—just to cause some confusion in the office, John and John—and to Amy, I would thank them for everything that they do. They are a tremendous team.
Of course here in Parliament House and beyond there are a set of people that we could not lead our lives or do our work without. I would like to acknowledge them at this very special time of the year. As for the clerks, Ian and Bernard, I have had cause to trouble them in all sorts of occupations whilst I have been in this parliament. I think I used to give them the most trouble when I was Manager of Opposition Business. Hopefully they now think I give them less trouble. But from the days that I used to give them lot of trouble, I am well aware of the quality of work that they do and their unflappable demeanours. That is very prized by all of us who really do put a lot of stress and strain on the system. To Ian: the very best to you in retirement. You are, I know, moving to a different stage of your life. Whether you will miss us I think is an open question. We will miss you. We will obviously continue to work with Bernard in the years to come.
To the attendants, to the Serjeant-at-Arms, to Hansard, to all of the people who make this chamber function, thank you very much for the special care and concern you show to each of us each and every day. To the people who make this building work—to the cleaners, security staff, the people who work in dining, the people who organise the travel—thank you very much for all the things you do and do so cheerfully and so well.
I would like to make a special mention of Aussies. I am probably the single biggest contributor to its ongoing profitability. I am almost a co-owner in the business, given the number of coffees I have bought over the years. It is a special place. Parliament House is a grand building, sometimes criticised for being a building where there are not enough meeting places for people, but Aussies is probably the best of the meeting places that we do have, so it plays a special role in all of our lives.
I acknowledge the work of Comcar drivers, particularly the driver who works most with me in Melbourne, Dianne Stanford, known now as ‘Disie’—she has been renamed! Disie also travels frequently with the member for Corio, who is at the table. She lives in our part of the world and she does a tremendous job.
I would also like to thank the Australian Federal Police officers who work with me from time to time, most particularly Chris Robey, who very frequently leads the team. They obviously are very special people to do the work that they do. The fact that they do it so well, so diligently and with so little intrusion is really a tribute to their professionalism.
I would like to acknowledge the work of my department. It is a sizeable enterprise. We took a majority of the former Department of Education, Science and Training and considerable portions of the former FaCSIA department, as early childhood moved across, and all of the old DEWR has been amalgamated into the new Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. It has been a big department to integrate and manage, and that work has been done amazingly well by Lisa Paul, my departmental secretary. I would like to pay a very special tribute to her, to her skills and to her fortitude. The team that she leads is a tremendous team, and the delivery of the government’s reform agendas would not have been possible without the professionalism, independence and capacity of our departmental secretary and the team that she leads. I thank them very much for that.
I would also like to thank some people external to this building. I would like to thank our national secretary, Karl Bitar. Political parties are funny things. Alby and I were just sharing a joke about what odd beasts political parties can be. That means that being the national secretary of one is not an easy job, and Karl Bitar does that with a great deal of pride in his work and support to the government and the team.
I would also personally like to thank our Chief Government Whip, Roger Price, who works alongside Karl and with our caucus members in this place. Roger is one of those people who integrate the work that we need to do here in parliament with the work that we need to do as a political party and as a team. I certainly thank Roger for all of his efforts. Of course, I refer to him as ‘Rogie’, but he is not going to thank me for getting that on Hansard!
I would like to particularly thank my partner, Tim, and my family: my mother and father, Moira and John; my sister, Alison; and my niece and nephew, Jenna and Tom. They do bear some of the pressures of this life. They bear them in a derivative sense. The shadow minister for education was right to say, ‘We chose it; they didn’t.’ This is the right time of year to acknowledge that they bear those special pressures because of the choices we made.
I would also particularly like to acknowledge my two mad girlfriend mates Robyn McLeod and Julie Ligeti and thank them for all their fun and friendship during the year. You need people like that in your life, and Robyn and Julie are certainly like that in mine.
In conclusion, Mr Speaker, I would like to wish you and the Jenkins family the compliments of the Christmas season. I have had some insights into the sorts of festivities that the Jenkins family has. I know that they can be big, boisterous and—I might just conclude it with ‘big’ and ‘boisterous’ and not use any other adjectives! I know that you will enjoy the Christmas season with your family.
I conclude by wishing the members of the opposition well. As for Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop, I am sure it has not been the year they might have hoped for in January, but that is politics. It goes up, it goes down, it has its turns and its tumbles. In some way, that is the seduction and the fascination of it. I wish them well for Christmas. I hope each of them gets a much deserved break over the Christmas season and gets some time to spend with family and friends. As for my other counterparts on the opposition benches—I keep a stable of them; I do not like to content myself with one counterpart!—Christopher Pyne, Andrew Southcott, Michael Keenan and Sophie Mirabella, I am glad that we are keeping them all in jobs. We will continue, I hope, to lead a merry dance for them to try and follow as we work on our reforms next year. I certainly do wish each of them well as we move towards the Christmas break.
This is a fantastic life, a life of great privilege, where you get to serve the Australian people, where you get to meet so many of the Australian people and where you have the opportunity to change the nation for the better. Each and every day, in that sense, is a delight. Obviously each and every day brings its pressures, and the amount of work we do under the kind of scrutiny we do it is a special kind of pressure, not necessarily much understood by people outside the political arena. In some senses, despite the party divide, that gives us a better understanding of each other than many people on the outside have of us. At this time of year, as we move from the political combat to a happier and gentler pace, it is important to acknowledge the shared bonds in this place. I would like to end by wishing each member of the House of Representatives and, yes, even each member of the Senate a happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year.