House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Parliamentary Representation


12:38 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | Hansard source

on indulgence—I thank the member for Cook and the former Prime Minister for what was a very thoughtful, generous and warm final speech in this place. He has certainly left nothing on the field, and he can be proud of that fact. He has shown a real respect for this parliament in giving that speech here today and, importantly, a real respect for the people of his electorate, because none of us have other titles unless we have that very important one of MHR, member of the House of Representatives, for our particular electorates. I know that he is very passionate about and proud to represent the Sutherland shire for the electorate of Cook.

I also give my respect to the former Prime Minister for the public recognition that he gave that all of us in this place rely upon so many others—our electorate officers, our ministerial staff, public servants and, as he said, our CPT. I well remember the news of the accident in Tasmania on that day. I spoke with the then Prime Minister on that day to check that he was okay and to check that the police officers who serve us and protect us were okay as well. I confirm that the then Prime Minister was very emotional about feeling that other people had been hurt in protecting him. That was to his great credit, and I acknowledge that.

He has had so much support. We all ride on other people's shoulders to get here, and more important than any of the paid staff in various roles are, of course, the unpaid staff and they're sitting up there as well with you today.

I can say, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, that Prime Minister Morrison was a truly formidable opponent, and that to win an election is a big deal. Not many people have done it. To be one of the 31 prime ministers is something that can never be taken away, and I know that when you leave this place, Mr Morrison, you'll always be former prime minister Morrison.

In the United States, they acknowledge these things differently, of course, and I suspect you may go to the United States, as do other people afterwards, just so that you keep that title of Prime Minister! It's an interesting tradition. When I was first called 'Deputy Prime Minister' when I was there after 2013, I hadn't quite clicked at that tradition. It says something about the respect for the office, which is so important.

We always knew that, whatever the circumstances, this was a person who would bring 100 per cent of his energy and determination to the political contest. That was something that was acknowledged by Labor. It won you the admiration of your Liberal and National party colleagues. In 2019, that was very successful in your election at that time.

I also want to acknowledge the contribution that the member for Cook has made as a parliamentarian. Your first speech in this place was16 years and two weeks ago. More than half of that time was in government and indeed in cabinet, and, for nearly half of the time in government, you were serving as Prime Minister—as I said, one of only 31 people to know that incredible honour.

You and I have had our differences, but we have absolutely agreed—absolutely agreed, and I hope that you have the same view that I have, which is that we do not doubt for one second that this is the greatest country on Earth and that our job, wherever we come from in the political spectrum, is to try and make the greatest country on Earth that much greater by what we do each and every day.

As Prime Minister during a once-in-a-century pandemic, the member for Cook was confronted with a challenging set of circumstances and just so many unknowns. This was an unprecedented time. It was a time of real anxiety amongst so many Australians, especially in those early days. It required decisions to be made that, if you had said prior to 2019 that a government, with the support of the opposition, would literally work with states and territories to stop people leaving home, to stop social interaction, to stop the normal activity that we engage in in this great country, and that it would close borders, not just national borders but state and territory borders as well, you would have thought that was something of fiction—that that would not be possible. We shouldn't take for granted the fact that those decisions were made and that that required leadership by yourself as Prime Minister and by the premiers and chief ministers working together across the political aisle. It required us, as the opposition, to sit in the cabinet room for some discussions, as well as in this place, and say what hasn't often been said by an opposition, which is: 'Regardless of what happens, we will vote for what is put forward.' That is what we did, in order to provide not just political certainty but, critically, economic certainty and social certainty, and the confidence that the Australian public required of their political leaders at that time in order to make personal sacrifices. No-one had ever envisaged Australians being put in a position to make such sacrifices, whether as individuals, as businesses or through the family unit.

In your speech today, you spoke about good intentions. I don't doubt that everyone at that time had good intentions. Not everything was perfect, but today is not a day to dwell on that. Today is a day to say that everyone went into those processes with good intentions, and I don't doubt for one second that that was the case. So many of those decisions were critical, and it was important to project confidence. The nation needed that confidence. I'm sure that in the solitary moments, of which there were too many for all of us, due to the COVID restrictions, you must have gone through some really difficult times in trying to reassure yourself that the decisions that were being made—big decisions—were the right ones. I don't doubt for one second that the motivation in that was absolutely right.

In your first speech you said, 'Family is the stuff of life.' All of us know that serving in this place takes a toll on family life, including during that period, of course. For the member for Cook, I imagine this will be a day of some mixed emotions, as farewells always are. For your daughters this will be a day of joy. And congratulations, Abbey and Lily, on encouraging your dad to work in that Taylor Swift reference! It was quite an achievement to go through all of those album titles and add in some song titles as well, just to complete the picture—to fill in the blank space, so to speak. It is fantastic that you're joined by your beloved mum, Marion, and she is very welcome here. We've had private discussions—I'll let the gallery in on a secret: even the toughest of political opponents can have private discussions—and I know that today you'll be feeling a sense of loss for your father.

Jenny, I want to take this moment to acknowledge the dignity and diligence with which you have performed your role in public life. It is a difficult role. There's no script or manual, unlike in the United States. It's a very different system. And I thank you, Scott, for your personal wellwishes for myself and Jodie going forward. You're right: you always think about the things that really matter and the people around you when you leave this place, which we all will—hopefully not for some time, but you do think about those things. Family is so important. I know how critical Jenny's support was for you during your public life, particularly during what was an incredibly difficult period when you were Prime Minister during the pandemic. On behalf of the nation, thank you to the Morrison family. As Prime Minister, I will be so bold as to say I speak on behalf of the entire nation because I do believe in that respect. Scott—I'm going break with protocol there and not be pulled up with a point of order—I wish you every success for your future. Thank you for the service that you have given to this place, to your community in the great Sutherland Shire, to your party, the Liberal Party, of which you are a proud servant, and to your nation.


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