House debates

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Parliamentary Representation


3:13 pm

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

On indulgence: I think all members of this place would agree that what we have just heard has been an elegant and humane conclusion for an extraordinary public career in the Australian parliament and we are going to be poorer for your absence, as an institution and not just as an Australian Labor Party. Smithy is one of the few folks to have served since the Second World War as both defence and foreign minister; there are not many of them, and it actually says something about the professionalism of the minister that they can extend themselves across these two critical institutions of state which lie at the heart of our national security arrangements.

What do you say about Smithy? He is disciplined, organised and methodical, and the best joke in the cabinet, which I will now publicly reveal, is about when you really want to get under his skin. He has this impeccably organised set of papers which are basically organised like this, as I show you, and they are not a centimetre out of place. So when he gets up and goes out of the room to get a sandwich or a drink, the thing you do is just twist them slightly and when he comes back his entire visual universe is turned on its head. True?

Government members: True!

That's right. So, Smithy, we love you for that because you are even more anally retentive than I am.

The other thing I would say about Smithy's career is we know him to be disciplined, highly professional, unflappable. Prior to when the good people of Australia voted us in, in 2007, we were having a discussion about portfolios and I said to him, 'Mate, how about you lend yourself to the Foreign Affairs portfolio?' That is the first time I have seen the universally unflappable Stephen Smith look like a stunned mullet. Smithy, it was the first occasion when you looked as if you did not see it coming.

Can I say, having served Australia as a foreign minister myself, he has served Australia well. What he has just referred to with our critical relationships in the region is absolutely true. Australia's diplomatic relationships in East, South-East and South Asia are in their best state ever, and that is a consequence of the diplomacy of ministers like Stephen Smith, who has made a singular contribution. Let me give you one example; he referred to it briefly. One of the major foreign policy achievements in the last several years has been the invitation from ASEAN to the United States to become a full member of the East-Asian Summit and to persuade our dear American friends to accept that invitation once it had been extended—talk about a double treat! The person who did a large amount of the diplomatic legwork to make that happen was one Stephen Smith. It is important because it is the first time the United States is a full member of a regional institution with an open political, security and economic agenda.

I commend also his role as Minister for Defence. He has made an extraordinary contribution. Around the world—this is when I run into foreign ministers and when I have run into others engaged in the international policy debate—he is a figure who is universally respected. He is calm, he is utterly professional and he honours his word.

As for the Labor Party, he outlined his career in the Labor Party going back to 1975, almost the Mesolithic period for some of us who have been in this business of politics. That is an extraordinarily long service to the party, the movement, and the values which we on this side of the House serve. He has been a Labor warrior first-class, and the party deserves to extend to him a great vote of thanks.

I would say this finally to all members who come to this place from Western Australia, and I think of the member for Curtin—and, on our side of the House, the member for Brand and the member for Fremantle—and the senators: this is an extraordinary sentence which you all endure. I can only say that your commitment to the nation, whichever side of the political divide we fall on, is doubly great because you spend so much of your lives on that plane. So, Smithy, I understand full well how much your family have finally put their foot down, and I wish you and your family all the best on behalf of the Australian government.


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