Wednesday, 21 October 2015
When I first spoke in this chamber on 10 September 1996, my very first words were:
I am in Canberra today because I want to make a contribution to the future of Australia.
I believe I have made a contribution to the future of this nation. I would like to begin by thanking the people of my electorate of North Sydney for giving me the honour, the opportunity and the privilege of representing them in this great chamber. We have walked a successful journey together and I appreciate the enormous effort many locals made in helping me along the way. I have prepared a report card to my constituents to let them know what I have done for the last 20 years, and I seek leave to table that and make it available to my entire electorate.
I am not so conceited as to believe that I could have taken a seat in this chamber without the fulsome support of my beloved Liberal Party. In particular, I want to thank Robert Orrell for his outstanding commitment to help me from the first day of my career. He and my federal electorate conference have given me unqualified support through seven elections. Their advocacy and wise counsel have sustained me through the darkest of days. Other liberals who have gone on to bigger and better things have been great mates along the way, including the Treasurer of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, who is here today. I am very proud of you all.
Like all members of this place, my electorate office has coped admirably with the slings and arrows of local challenges and national expectations. I particularly want to thank Leona Sierakowski for her efforts. Of course, without volunteers our officers would never be able to meet the demand. I have had volunteers aged from 12 to 94, and the 94-year-old was the most enthusiastic. In particular, there is barely a day that passes when I do not think about my second mum, the late Barb Elliott. With Erica Wylie, Sirenne and Nat Gould, Dick White, Bill Tafe and Pamela McLeland, I have been blessed with unwavering loyalty. My personal staff over 17½ years on the front bench have been outstanding. I admire them all. As Treasurer in particular, there was Grant Lovett, who is here today. He is one of the smartest and most selfless people I have ever met. Alistair Campbell, my 'boy wonder', is over there. Many of my colleagues know who he is. He will one day reshape the world for the better. Angela Scirpo and Jacquie Parker have worked with me in a personal capacity for over 21 years as my PAs and they are honorary members of my family.
I particularly want to thank all of you, the members of this great House, and the senators who have come along today, for the enormous effort you put in every single day to serve the Australian people. Most people leave this parliament as a result of defeat, death, disillusionment or disgrace: we all have to work harder to leave with dignity. There are plenty of Australians who are critical of the politicians they have never met. Our jobs have become much more challenging over the years with the advent of a 'need it now' culture, which has been backed by the unending and often unreasonable demands of social media. Yes, the 24-hour news cycle has changed politics forever, but I am not sure that the traditional Westminster system has kept pace with that change. It is now far more difficult to examine and debate policy issues in a measured and considered way.
Of course, one of the things that sustains us all in this place is the friendships we make, and I have mostly met very honourable people in this place. To all of my colleagues, thank you for making me laugh, and, on a couple of occasions, making me cry. You have stirred me to great anger, but equally we have all shared many laughs. Above all else you have made me very proud to be an Australian.
In particular, to my long-term Canberra flatmates—Jamie Briggs, Brendan Nelson, who is here, and Bob Baldwin—you have seen more of me than many would care to see! I can now confess that our happiest moments were sitting at home late at night eating Paddle Pops, watching Jerry Springer, and admiring the latest Nickelback album—in my case, alone!
Ladies and gentlemen, if everyday Australians are to be their best then we as community leaders must be even better. That is why the revolving door in Australian politics must be jammed shut. If we do not show enough respect to each other, then how can we hope that the electorate will respect us. The stability of the Howard government has been replaced with rapid and unpredictable changes of government on both sides. That turnover has dramatically weakened the policy hand of whoever occupies the government benches in this chamber. Most public servants are very good, but some, confused by the inconsistency of policy and the rapid change in the number of ministers, will simply wait out a minister or a government when they are asked to implement very difficult decisions. And in this parliament the Senate has the capacity to turn every policy proposal into a bit of a mess, thus undermining public confidence in the process of government.
Ultimately, this chamber can end up being responsible for its own undoing. We cannot make it normal to have four Prime Ministers and four Treasurers in just four years. Leadership instability and ministerial turnover are the enemy of good public policy. It was a great honour to serve as a minister in a number of Howard government ministries. It was an even greater honour to serve as Treasurer in the Abbott government.
Tony Abbott, who sadly is overseas today, is one of the most selfless, hard-working and honourable people I have ever met. Yes, at times we have clashed, I confess. For more than 30 years we have argued our differences on everything from the republic to budget savings. But I say directly to the Australian people that the real Tony Abbott is more of a good and decent man than you may know.
The Abbott government was good at policy but struggled with politics. When faced with a choice, I would always prefer what was right than what was popular. On the economy and job creation, national security, border protection, taxation, climate change, immigration and federal-state relations, I believe we got the policies right. However, I admit that we could have done more to win over third-party endorsements and to win over the Senate. And we could have done more to win over the Australian people. We tried to achieve a lot in a short period of time. Whilst we were dealing with significant domestic policy challenges in health, welfare and education, we underestimated the massive time requirements associated with national security and chairing the G20. Nothing illustrated this better than the 2014 budget, where the government had more courage than the parliament.
As my good mate the outstanding Minister for Finance, Senator Matthias Cormann, will tell you, it is easier to spend money than to save money. Unfortunately, in modern politics it is far easier to demolish good policy proposals than to build and implement them.
In this place we all know that it will only be our family and very close friends who will push our wheelchairs around as we grow old. My closest mate, Andrew Burnes, has been a tower of support for me, through thick and thin. My family, both the Hockeys, that I was born into, and the Babbages, that I married into, have provided much love and unconditional support. My parents taught me values, and for that I am forever grateful. I hope I have made them proud. My brothers, who are here, and my sister shared that journey. I grew up in a house full of integrity. There was no back door you could sneak out of with a temporary leave pass to be disloyal or dishonest for just a few days. Growing up in a small business family I learnt that rewards will come as a result of hard work and innovation. In particular, you should never, ever put your honesty or your integrity up for sale. I was taught by the Jesuits that it is better to serve than be served—to be a man for others. It would have been impossible for me to serve in this place without the support of my wife, Melissa, and our children. Last Monday was Iggy's 6th birthday, and I have missed every single one of his birthdays. I won't miss another one.
On the day I got married I officially joined the 'men who bat above their weight' club—and I was heavier then! For more than 20 years, Melissa has earnt the majority of the income, paid the bills, paid the mortgage, given birth to our children, and raised the family. I suppose she is probably asking, 'Why did I bother?!
She ran a global business and suffered my long absences from home. My wife, like all of your wives, husbands and partners, was a conscript to politics—I was the volunteer—yet her counsel has been wise and her loyalty has been fierce. She shares my values and well exceeds my capacities. I am so pleased for our children, Xavier, Adelaide and Iggy, that their mother's DNA has been dominant over mine! It has been the greatest advantage for them in life to have a mother who is simply the most impressive person I have ever met.
Of course, the greatest achievement of a parent is to leave the next generation better off. The best measurement of political success is to look around you and see that you have made a positive difference. 'Si monumentum requiris, circumspice'—which is Latin, meaning: 'If you are looking for a monument, look around you.' I have always subscribed to the view that, no matter what, I want my successors to succeed. I want them to be better than me. I want the Turnbull government to succeed. I genuinely want you, Malcolm, and all of my colleagues to be very successful—to be the best government Australia has ever had—because I owe that to my community and I owe that to my children.
All my life, I have subscribed to the principles of modern liberalism. In my maiden speech, I defined them as protection of individual rights, defence of parliamentary democracy, a commitment to positive reform and equality of opportunity. It is true, but it must be said: if you do not have core beliefs, then you have no core. When you are asked to make very difficult decisions that have a huge impact on people's lives, without a guiding philosophy you will inevitably be indecisive or, worse, inconsistent.
In the darkest days of opposition, I delivered a number of speeches that encapsulated my values. They focused on issues as diverse as faith, liberty, youth, opportunity, enterprise and, the most controversial of all, entitlement. Finding the solutions to the social challenges and the financial threats of today cannot be postponed to another time; it cannot be left to another generation. Intergenerational theft and betrayal is not the Australian way. Because we are running deficits and borrowing money, our lifestyle today is being paid for by our children and the generations beyond. I challenge all and sundry to name a speech in the last 20 years that has influenced the national debate in the way that the 'End of the age of entitlement' speech did. I gave it in opposition to a group of just 40 people in London, including quite a few Tory MPs. No media were present. Yet the speech had an impact in a number of different countries. From opposition, it gave the Labor Party in government a leave pass to start to wind back unfair welfare entitlements. When we came to government, if we had not begun by ending the age of entitlement for business, there would have been no free trade agreements because the cost to the nation would have been too great. They are outstanding agreements, but they had been earned. We did not write out billions of dollars of taxpayer funded cheques to Toyota, Holden, Qantas or Coca-Cola Amatil because we could not justify taking money off the local butcher or the local plumber or the local farmer so that a profitable big business could be even more profitable.
And we began ending the age of entitlement in welfare by abolishing seven different payments and means-testing three others—but there is still a long way to go. It is unconscionable in 2015 to have non-means-tested welfare. How someone in the top one per cent of income earners can still qualify to receive welfare payments, free health care or free education is beyond me. When Iggy broke his leg last Christmas, the total cost for us was just $35 to cover the cost of a waterproof leg cast; otherwise everything was deemed free. But, in truth, it was not free. We borrow billions of dollars to pay for the health and hospital system, and he and his generation are going to end up paying for it. I see that as unsustainable. It is unfair and I will not be party to a generation that passes the buck. What we have to do is live within our means. We need co-payments in health, greater cost recovery in education and universal means testing in welfare so that we have a sustainable and affordable social safety net for those most vulnerable in the community.
Of course, the easiest way to achieve these reforms is for bipartisan agreement to be reached. I am pleased that there is some agreement coming through now. It is possible because, I think, we all genuinely care for the elderly, the sick, the poor and the disadvantaged, but the only way for future generations to be able to pay for compassion is to end the age of entitlement.
Earlier this year, I released the Intergenerational report, which detailed the challenges and opportunities that Australia's ageing population brings. Living longer is something we should all celebrate, but it requires careful economic planning. We must prepare for change and not squander it. Some experts have observed that babies born today could live to 150, meaning the challenge is even greater than what we are currently planning for—so we have to think ahead. Consider this: unless we change the retirement age to 70 by 2035 and then index it to longevity, by the middle of this century some Australians will be spending the majority of their lives in retirement. Both our superannuation system and our age pension entitlements must be calibrated for our changing demographics. We need a comprehensive and bipartisan review, followed by action in this area.
And we need the infrastructure to support the change in demographics. Over the last 20 years, mobile phones, coupled with better, more affordable broadband, have been a technology and lifestyle game changer. Over the next 20 years, battery technology, energy efficient technology and driverless cars will be revolutionary. Unless we build the infrastructure now that facilitates the future, rather than languish with infrastructure that impedes the future, we will fail our children.
I want to pay tribute—at some risk to my safety in getting out of this building!—to the previous, Labor, government for initiating the National Broadband Network. It was not fully paid for, and the Prime Minister did a great job repairing it, but it was a very significant commitment. My Asset Recycling Fund and the record infrastructure funding in the 2014 and 2015 budgets will make a big difference. The Medical Research Future Fund is my single proudest achievement. It will dramatically change the lives of Australians and people around the world forever.
But of course we need to pay our way for this new social and economic infrastructure. For 20 years I have joined with the member for Grayndler in fighting for Badgerys Creek airport, and at long last it seems to be happening. But it will only truly happen if it is fully funded. As Treasurer I started work on this and had policy approval for a levy on traffic movements at Kingsford Smith Airport. That locked in the funding for a fair dinkum Badgerys Creek airport and fast-tracked transport services to Western Sydney to match. I sincerely hope it goes ahead.
Our soft infrastructure is crucial as well. The financial system inquiry that I initiated ensures that we have the best financial system in the world. I am very proud of it and I am very pleased that the Turnbull government has embraced it. The competition policy inquiry that I initiated in opposition, which had the support of the indefatigable Bruce Billson, member for Dunkley, is a positive new direction for commerce in Australia. We are the only government that had the courage to introduce the most significant changes to our foreign investment regime in 40 years. I make no apologies for being the first Treasurer to have the courage to properly enforce the divestment powers in the act. But ultimately, if we want to be more innovative and competitive, we must have an industrial relations system that is contemporary and a tax system that is fair.
John Howard always loved giving me the easy jobs, so I was very enthusiastic when he gave me responsibility for Work Choices—I relished the chance! Yes, Work Choices did go a little too far, and the fairness test was too late. But I am afraid Labor went too far the other way, and we have a structural imbalance in our workplace relations system that costs Australians jobs—and better-paying jobs at that. The current structure of penalty rates is profit murder for small business, particularly if they are competing on a digital platform. It also drives consumers to buy their goods offshore.
Our taxation system needs reform for the 21st-century economy. Integrity is crucial for that, and through our leadership of the G20 we hardened the resolve of major economies to address base erosion and profit shifting. In the 2015 budget I released legislation that goes after profit shifting by multinationals with what would now be regarded as the strongest laws in the world. I also managed to carry the states—no mean feat; sorry, Gladys!—on GST reform that ensures that our offshore suppliers charge the GST and are not disadvantaging Australian based businesses. Integrity is hugely important, but the best way to get compliance is to have lower, simpler and fairer taxes, and we started that process by abolishing seven taxes and fixing 96 other tax problems. But the reform had to go further, and through a comprehensive review of the tax system I endeavoured—and failed—to keep all options on the table.
We must increase and, over time, broaden the GST. We must lower all income taxes so that people and companies are given more incentive to take risks and receive rewards. But at a minimum we should aim for a 40-20-20 rule: a 40 per cent top personal tax rate at a much higher threshold, a 20 per cent tax rate for most taxpayers and a 20 per cent tax rate for businesses. We should be wiser and more consistent on tax concessions to help pay for that. In particular, tax concessions on superannuation should be carefully pared back. In that framework, negative gearing should be skewed towards new housing so that there is an incentive to add to the housing stock rather than an incentive to speculate on existing property.
And we should never, ever forget small business. The 2015 budget was the best ever budget for small business. It was all about tax cuts, not more government spending. The $20,000 instant asset write-off was a game changer for Australian small business. The budget also gave more farmers more choices. It gave them an opportunity to have a go. It gave northern Australia an opportunity to have a go. And it gave families the chance, through better child care, to have a go. The 2015 budget aimed to fire up ambition for everyday Australians. On the back of that I really welcome the Turnbull government's commitment to facilitate new innovation policy. It will be a key contribution to our economic future.
In the House over 100 years ago former Prime Minister George Reid defined our Australian values better than anyone I have ever heard. He said:
There is no country in the world where the people are less paralysed by reverence to the past. There are no people in the world who have fewer fears for the future.
We should encourage Australians to be their best, to achieve what they can and share the rewards as they choose. As a nation, as a parliament, we must continue to be ambitious and bold. So I say to this House, as I say to my own children, seated here in this chamber: 'It is far better to dream mighty things, to seek glorious triumphs even though chequered by failure, than to be amongst those poor souls who neither suffer much nor enjoy much because they live in the great twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.'
This is a big day in the life of a big man. One of the giants of the parliament is taking his leave and all of us rose together and applauded him because we admire you, Joe. We love you. You have made an enormous contribution over nearly 20 years. You have held high office for almost every moment you have sat in this chamber and you have executed every office you have had, discharged every office you have had, with great passion, with imagination and with great compassion. As everyone who knows you knows, and most Australians do know you, you have a very, very big heart.
We have been friends for a long time. I remember those days before your three beautiful children came along. With kids, you have to understand the sacrifices your dad has made for you. One of them, after Xavier arrived, was I could not get you to be the forward hand in the sailing races anymore. It was a great loss. You are a very good able seaman first class, Joe, and perhaps when the children grow up you can rise further up in the nautical hierarchy.
We also have another thing in common. We have often remarked to each other that on the day on which each of us wed, we were batting way, way above our weight. You referred to a very wise remark of Tony Abbott's, when he said that all of us in this place are volunteers, that it is our family that are conscripts. The support and the love that you have had from Melissa and your children has been admired by everybody that knows you. All of us know we stand here in this parliament supported by our families. And you have discharged very high office, very controversial offices, offices where you have had to take tough decisions which were inevitably not popular, and that is very hard for the families. The spouse in particular, the children in particular, of a politician feel those cuts harder than the politician ever can. The politician can jump up and give a speech in parliament, get on the radio, denounce his or her detractors, state their case. The family just feels it, and we should all recognise that.
Joe, this is a celebration and a recognition of your life in parliament. But it is also a celebration of the great love of you and Melissa and your children and your family. What an amazing family story of yours. Your father Richard came to Australia as a young man, a young Armenian man, born in Jerusalem. He came to Australia and—
Born in Bethlehem. Yes, I correct it. He grew up in Jerusalem—you told me that once—and came to Australia and started a small business, and prospered with his family. Your story is a classic Australian story of migration, of enterprise, of family, of small business and, above all, of love—of love from all of your family—and of support, the kind of enterprise that has made this country what it is today. Without wanting to be political, it is a story that is at the very heart of the small-business enterprise values of the great party of which we are both members.
So, Joe, we salute you. We thank you. We admire you. You have done Australia proud. You will, I am sure, do great things for Australia in the future. You are a sunny optimist at heart. You are not afraid to speak hard truths and you have spoken a few today, and I am sure you will speak them in the future. You have always been utterly candid. When I was Leader of the Opposition and you were, for much of that time, the shadow Treasurer, you were always utterly frank and forthright to me. There is no loyalty, no decency, in telling people, particularly leaders, only what they want to hear. Frankness, honesty, insight into the real situation and being able to convey that to your leader—that is the mark of real loyalty. You have always had the courage of your convictions and the preparedness to say to those in power, those with greater power than yourself, exactly what you think, what you believe and why you think a particular course is right or wrong.
So, Joe, farewell from the House of Representatives, not farewell from public service. Whatever you do, whatever your course of life takes, I know that in your heart, together with the love of your family, who are here assembled, will be your love for Australia. You have a big heart, a big Australian heart full of love for a great nation. Thank you, Joe Hockey.
This is no ordinary day and you are no ordinary Joe. It is an unusual day. When people leave this place, some remark that it is actually easier to get here than to leave. But it is not always easy to leave at your timing and with the mutual respect of the people who serve here. The standing ovation, spontaneous from your colleagues and the opposition, should be one of the memories you cherish here because you cannot get that by just turning up. You cannot get that sort of respect. Respect cannot be given by a position or a title. It cannot be given by longevity alone. There is something else involved in achieving that.
It may surprise you that many of my colleagues want to say a few words about you—good words. They want to wish you and your family well. I think it is a great reflection on your friends that so many of them have come here to hear you say goodbye. But I think it is an even greater credit to you that you have inspired them to be here. It is fitting that you receive the thanks of this chamber. Nineteen years is a long time.
You went from backbencher to Treasurer. It was another Treasurer, Peter Costello, who said: 'You can spend either the first half of your working life here or the second half of your working life here. You should not spend your whole working life here.' It is something that I am sure we would all reflect upon at a time such as this when a central player and character in the Australian parliament story and in the story of government and politics bids farewell.
I understand that the timing of this valedictory is not necessarily what you would have imagined perhaps a couple of months ago. But you should draw solace from the fact that you leave this place with many years ahead of you to make a contribution. Again, all of us would perhaps hope that we could leave here a little bit in the manner in which you are leaving today. You have certainly earned it.
You have time on your side. You love this country. You want to serve it. I respect that. But also as a father I understand that you want the benefit of more time with your family. No-one in this place with a family or a partner enjoys those Sunday departures from them to come back here—but our families enjoy them even less. No-one enjoys cruel and mean things being written about them, but our families have even less capacity to protect themselves from it. You will be free of some of that.
I am sure you will be grateful for the precious time you will have with your kids and your family. I am sure they will be even more grateful. I am sure you will be grateful not to have to explain some of the things which get said and to have to tell your kids not to worry about it. I am sure you will be pleased not to have to deal with the concerns of your family as they have to put up with some of the ill-informed critique and hurtful comments that you so preciously want to protect them from and cannot always. I thank your family for lending you to this nation. It is time that they got you back.
There is also a natural temptation at times like this to minimise the political difference of past battles. I do not think the member for North Sydney would want us in Labor to pretend that we were uncritical admirers of his actions. We have disagreed, often quite sharply, on issues. In the case of the 2014 budget, we disagreed on almost everything! On occasion harsh words were exchanged, but I have to say, Member for North Sydney, that you never shied away from the contest. You gave as good as you got, with the volume turned up. Given that you have three minutes to answer a question and we have only 30 seconds to ask one, you have always had longer to give it! The member for North Sydney would bump into you all day. He would wear the bumps and bruises. But he could still join you for a laugh, a wry grimace or, indeed, a beer at the end of the day.
The member for North Sydney and I share an admiration for Theodore Roosevelt. I know the member for North Sydney has a fondness for quoting him. I have previously heard him refer to Roosevelt's famous description of the man in the arena:
… whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds …
The member for North Sydney has been that man in the arena. He can leave this place knowing that we all think that he has strived valiantly, knowing that he fought in the most unforgiving arena in the land for things that he believed in. That is something that he can always be proud of. No-one can ever take that away from him.
In the grand sweep of our national life, serving in this place is a privilege afforded to very few. A place on the frontbench is rarer still. To serve as the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia is an honour that only 39 members of our parliament have ever known. Joe, as you know, Teddy Roosevelt said:
Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty …
Teddy went on to say that he 'never envied a human being who led an easy life'. Instead, he 'envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well'. Member for North Sydney, I envy the parliamentary life you have lived. I envy the distinction and decency with which you have lived your parliamentary life. On behalf of the opposition, I wish you and your family well in everything you do from this day forward.
I join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in paying tribute to Joe Hockey, the member for North Sydney, on his valedictory speech but particularly for his contribution to the parliament over almost 20 years. I noticed his commentary about his maiden speech. We do tend in our farewell comments to the parliament to go back to those early remarks and, I guess, judge ourselves on what we said, what we predicted and what our goals and objectives were at that time. Joe himself has today quoted from his first speech. I suspect I was in the parliament to hear that speech, but I have to admit that I cannot remember every detail! It was, therefore, refreshing to read it again. Indeed, it does very much reflect the character of the man who came into the parliament. Those values have been very clear and very evident through his whole career.
He certainly has been one of the great characters of this parliament. As others have said, he has made a big contribution in every sense to the parliament, to government and to public life in Australia. He also had a big voice, so he was able to overpower even the most vigorous of interjectors, and his way of responding to questions during question time certainly encouraged and enlivened his colleagues and brought a great degree of spirit to the parliament.
It is a parliament that is very different from the one which he entered 18 years ago, and I am not sure that all of those things are for the better. The parliament has certainly become noisier and it has become less able to deal in detail and, I think, constructively with many of the key issues that need to be resolved. Joe, in his maiden speech and, indeed, in the way he has dealt with all policy issues has always been keen to look at issues from the perspective of their long-term impact and their capacity to make our country a better place. The arguments are not always simple; they are often complex, and it is often a matter of judging and making a balance between the various options.
That is where I think our political debate in Australia now is so difficult. Even the most seemingly near perfect of policies is likely to have its critics. The modern access to electronic media, Facebook, Twitter et cetera means that the critics are always there. They are the ones that get the vocal attention. No matter how worthy and meritorious the policy commitment may be, the reality is that you can always search long enough and hard enough to find somebody who will be opposed—and they get equal billing in the media. If you are a Treasurer trying to sell a difficult policy issue, that certainly makes having a rational debate difficult. Joe has been through seven elections. He has faced the good times and the bad times and he has been a champion of the parliament through all that time.
I would like to make a particular comment about something he has had to do over the last 12 months, which is be the chairman of the finance ministers for the G20. Australia had a very successful year hosting the G20. We were expected to provide some policy leadership. In that regard, economic policy issues were the key focus that we chose for G20. Joe's leadership as chairman of the finance ministers over that year has made a difference to the way in which countries look at the major financial issues that we have to deal with and, in particular, our capacity as a planet to plan for the future. That global leadership has been recognised by our partners in the leading nations of the world, and I really congratulate Joe on his capacity and the way in which he dealt with those particular issues.
When you are a Treasurer you have to make a lot of hard decisions and when you are a spending minister you often feel you are the victim of those hard decisions. But what I really admired about Joe Hockey's career as a Treasurer was his vision for our country and his preparedness to be innovative in trying to address the issues. He inherited a debt. He inherited very difficult budgetary situations. But he had a determination for our country to continue to build—and if you build, you have to be able to spend money and you, therefore, have to be able to afford the cost of what you are proposing.
As the minister that had the special privilege of being involved with infrastructure during this government, I saw how his willingness to look outside the square has meant that a lot of very important projects in Australia are happening which otherwise could never have been funded, projects like WestConnex and NorthConnex. He referred to Badgerys Creek and how he had bridged the gap between what this project is going to cost and what it can service from its revenue. The Toowoomba Range project is happening, a project that has been around for a long time and one that I have to acknowledge was not close to Joe's heart early in the piece. But when it came to the fact that it had to be built he was there looking for innovative ways in which it could be funded. There is also the Melbourne to Brisbane railway line. We are not quite there yet but, again, we are looking for ways in which we can fund projects that are so essential to our future—and, therefore, need to be built—but are always difficult to fund.
Then there is the way in which he dealt with some of the social issues such as the childcare package and the small business package, which really made a huge impact in small business communities and, let me say, the farm sector—and I know that Joe prides himself on having been a farmer also. He bought a lovely property up in North Queensland, and I think that may have warmed his heart. But I was a bit taken aback when he told me one day that he was going to sell the farm because he was not getting a big enough return on the investment. Now, I have to say, Joe, that is the real life of farming. I hope that one day you will have the courage to do it all again because I am sure you could make just as great a contribution to agriculture as you have to so many other elements of life.
But I think that involvement was a key element in his passionate and enthusiastic support for the northern Australia package. Again, it required an enthusiastic Treasurer, otherwise it would not have happened. So now we have the most visionary plan for northern Australia that our country has ever seen. It is something that will make a real difference and give the North its chance to contribute to the continent in a way we always wanted it to do.
The Treasurer has a difficult task. Joe has given every possible commitment to that work, and I was moved, I think it was in the lead-up to the last budget, when his family came to Canberra for a couple of weeks. It highlighted a number of points for me. Foremost of those is that the Treasurer's job is all-consuming. Also, families are important, and it is important to be together during the school holiday time. Families make a sacrifice, and I thought the arrangements that Joe put in place so his family could be with him in Canberra for a while as he was finishing off the budget were a wonderful tribute to his dedication and to the commitment of his wonderful family. We pay tribute not only to Joe and the team of people that have supported him in his electorate but also to his family, to his parents, to those who are around him and particularly to Melissa and the children for the wonderful contribution they have also made to our country.
Joe, in his maiden speech, outlined some of the things that he wanted to do, and now, in his valedictory speech, he has also laid out a visionary plan for the future. He has demonstrate his true love and affection for his country and his continuing determination to help make it a better place in which we all can live. It takes a toll on people personally, and on their families, but the contribution that Joe Hockey has made as Treasurer of our country has made our nation a better place in which to live. He has set up some opportunities and given us some capacity to do things in the future, not all of which will be finished in his time but will be a part of his legacy to the country. It has been a pleasure to work around many tables with the member for North Sydney over his time in the parliament. He is a truly great Australian, a man I admire both personally and for his contribution to our nation. I wish him and his family good health and every happiness for the future.
Previous speakers today have covered—and no doubt subsequent speakers will cover—in some detail the member for North Sydney's many achievements as a minister, but I want to speak about a different Joe Hockey today. I want to speak about Joe Hockey the friend. If you look up in the gallery today and you look at his family here, you will know that Joe is a man who is able to form relationships and—what is really difficult in politics—keep them. It is wonderful to see that so many of Joe's old friends have made the effort to come today to be with him on this very important occasion.
I have never shared a couch or a paddle-pop or quality TV with Joe, but I do think of myself as a friend of Joe's. In the lead-up to the 2001 and 2004 elections, in particular, Joe and I used to spend quite a bit of time together on the Steve Chase program, doing our weekly radio spot. I got to know Joe pretty well during that time, and one of the things that struck me in particular was that, despite people saying that North Sydney was a safe Liberal seat, Joe never took it for granted. That takes me to Joe Hockey the local member. As I used to travel up to Steve's studio there, I would see a million signs on the telegraph poles and I would see parked vehicles all along the highway with big 'Joe Hockey' signs. I used to say to him, 'Joe, it's a safe Liberal seat; what are you doing?' He said, 'No seat is safe.' I really admired that about him at the time too.
It is interesting, going back through my files, to find a Focus North newsletter that Joe, as local member, put out to his constituents in North Sydney. This brings me to Joe the minister, because, even in April 1998, Joe was writing about reforming our tax system. Not quite every idea in this newsletter has been taken up by the Abbott or Turnbull governments, although I do see the opening paragraph says, 'It's important to have a system that has an incentive to work and an incentive for responsible saving.' Joe also says in this newsletter—this is perhaps a little piece of advice that he did take throughout his ministerial career: 'The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least possible amount of hissing,' a terrific quote from Jean-Baptiste Colbert, 1665.
As well as Joe the friend, Joe the local member and Joe the Treasurer, I want to tell you a little bit about Joe Hockey the feminist. When I was Minister for the Status of Women, I saw the work that Joe Hockey and then Robert McClelland, our Attorney-General, did as the parliamentary convenors of the White Ribbon Foundation. Even after the devastation of the 2007 election loss—I say 'devastation' for Joe, not so much for us; we were pretty happy—Joe turned up to the comedy debate that the White Ribbon Foundation put on. In 2008 he and Robert McClelland hosted a parliamentary function where they released a report, with Andrew O'Keefe, about the effect of domestic violence. I think the report was particularly focusing on teenagers. Throughout his parliamentary career, there has never been a question or a suggestion ever that Joe was anything other than the most enthusiastic advocate for gender equality. I have to at this stage say: Melissa, no doubt that has been a great deal influenced by you and by not just your professional achievements but, as Joe has described, the work that you have done to hold your family together during his long absences and his hard work.
As well as Joe the feminist, we have got Joe the dad. It is wonderful to see Xavier, Adelaide and Iggy here today. I am sure the speeches are getting a little bit long and boring for you kids, but, if you are able to remember this day, I hope you remember it as the day that people on both sides of this parliament acknowledged the fine work of your father and the commitment he has made to our country, and I hope you also see it as the day that you got your dad back.
I want to finish with just a comment about another defining feature of the Joe Hockey that we know, on both sides of this chamber. Joe has always been so proud of the contribution his parents have made to our country. He has been particularly proud that his father, born of Armenian background in Bethlehem, was able to come to this country and contribute so fully and so generously. Australia is a country of migrants. It is the classic migrant story—to leave behind everything that is familiar and to come here with little language, no money in your pocket, only the suitcase you carry, and to be allowed, in our great democracy, to work hard, to struggle, to achieve, to enjoy that success and to see your son go on to serve in the parliament of Australia. It is a wonderful tribute to you as a family, but it is also a great expression about what is best in our nation. Joe, you are a many-faceted man, and I have covered just a few facets today. No doubt your colleagues will want to cover much more of your professional achievements. What we look forward to is seeing your future. We hope that the next phase of Joe Hockey is the phase that gives all of us still here hope that there is life after politics.
Thank you for the opportunity to add my thanks to those who have already added their thanks, here, today, to a big man. Joe is a big man and he has shown his bigness in these difficult events. He has shown his bigness in character in so many ways, to so many people, over such a long time. He is big in size and stature but he is big in character.
He is big in a number of other ways as well, and there have been many reflections on Theodore Roosevelt. Those of you who visit my office will know there are quotes by Theodore Roosevelt around the walls. The first thing that comes to mind about Joe is his big heart, which others have mentioned. Roosevelt said: 'No-one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.' And no-one was ever in doubt over how much Joe Hockey cared. His big heart is shown in his love of his family, which we have all observed and marvelled at and been humbled by. If we could only show, in the same way, the dedication he has to his family to our own families. He provides a great example of a husband, a father and a son. All of your family can celebrate your achievements and the bigness of your heart, Joe.
There is his love of family but also his love of friends. Mateship is the Australian word for love and, in that sense, Joe has no peer as a mate. He has shown his mateship to his friends in extraordinary order. His love of community, I will come to a little later on. Joe is passionate about his community. He always has been. It is the first reason he has always been in this place and, as a former state director, mate, I have to commend you on always talking to your electorate—up to your very last time, here, in this place.
He has a love of country. I served with Joe on the National Security Committee of Cabinet. He is a passionate Australian. His first loyalty and allegiance—there is no second, third, fourth or fifth with Joe hockey. His loyalty and allegiance is as a patriot and as a passionate Australian. It is not just shown through his great support of the Wallabies and his many other sporting interests. On that committee of cabinet, where being a patriot is your first responsibility, on every occasion and in every measure Joe was more than up to that task.
It was also his big heart and his love of fellow human beings. I have held some difficult portfolios that have dealt with difficult issues. Joe was a source of encouragement and support to me, in those portfolios, and was able to bring to our conversations, whether privately or more broadly, his big heart and his love for others. In the area of refugee and humanitarian work, he always stood up. He stood up to John Howard on these issues. We can remember when he famously recounted those events, here in this House, in that very long debate we had on those issues. He shared those with me, and I will always be grateful for that element being brought into our conversations and relationship.
Joe is a man with big humour and big passions. We have all enjoyed that. Joe and I particularly enjoyed our rivalry over the Southern Districts Sydney university Rugby challenges. The one I think we enjoyed most is the one where Joe and I had made a bet on how many times he could say 'Captain Emad' in addresses to this House. There was a bottle of red on the back of that—and Joe more than fulfilled, in that respect.
He is also a man of big shoes to fill, and it is my task to fill those big shoes. His big shoes are in so many areas. As a local member of parliament Joe has been an outstanding success, and I have said it on a number of occasions this morning. The people of North Sydney will miss you, Joe, because you have been such a fantastic local member. That has always been part of your passion. The Armenian community, particularly, in your electorate and surrounding areas will have lost a great advocate in this place. It is up to the rest of us to show that same passion you have for respecting the Armenian heritage and what happened, those many years ago, and standing up for those issues in this place. To that community, you will be forever remembered.
As a member of a government you are—without question—the best tourism minister this place ever saw and is ever likely to see, particularly on our side of politics. There were good tourism ministers of the other side. John Brown comes to mind. But you are his match, you are his equal and you are his better. The tourism industry will never forget your contribution. I was serving in it at the time, with the white paper, those many years ago. You set the standard. You have set standards in all the portfolios you have held, and it is for us to measure up.
You showed your leadership as Treasurer on the G20, on the issues you mentioned with multinational tax avoidance. You stepped up to the plate and were the voice of optimism in the world economy, the bright shining face on the opportunities for jobs and on the responsibility treasurers and foreign ministers have. On top of that, there is our shared passion for the Western Sydney airport, over many years, going back to the days when you chaired the consultative committee, for Sydney Airport, as a backbencher. To see this come to fruition will be tremendous. There must be something out there that we will be able to name after Hockey—it should be the Hockey terminal or the Hockey car park. You can take your pick, mate! Joe's passion for the Western Sydney airport is what has brought this to reality and will see it come to reality.
In conclusion, I will say that he is a man of big vision who followed another one of Theodore Roosevelt's pieces of advice: 'Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.' That is what you have always done, Joe. Thank you.
The retirement of Joe Hockey is a very significant day in the 44th parliament because Joe Hockey is a very significant figure. He had almost 20 years of service to the parliament, 10 years as a senior figure in his own party, and is one of the best-known political figures in the country. As has been mentioned, the member for North Sydney and I, and outside of politics, have had differences and disagreements. I would disagree with some things in his speech, a few moments ago, and agree with others. But I will say this and be very clear about it: Joe Hockey was a very formidable opponent, never to be taken lightly and always to be respected.
He had his strengths and his weaknesses, like all of us, and an array of talents to call upon. He was no white-bread politician. For years, he entered the lounge rooms of millions of Australians every Friday morning, with Kevin Rudd, a pioneer of morning television, a task some of us would have struggled with but he excelled at and it did him well. He was prepared to take risks and to be courageous.
There is something that nobody can ever take away from Joe Hockey: he was Australia's 38th Treasurer. Nobody can ever take away from him. He has held that uniquely Australian office with the great responsibilities that go with that great office of state. And I remind Joe and the House today of something that Australia's 27th Treasurer said—a very good treasurer; a briefer treasurer than Joe Hockey—that is, Bill Hayden:
To be the economic manager of the nation was an overwhelming privilege. It was in many ways a more significant role than that of Prime Minister, although some former treasurers who have moved on would clearly not agree with that assessment.
I also want to say, through you Mr Speaker, something to Joe Hockey's family: there is not long to go; the speeches are almost over, kids! That is one thing. But there is something more significant. The former Treasurer, Joe Hockey, has a very young family. They may recall—I know he recalls—one day when, by complete accident, by complete coincidence, his family and my family turned up at the Powerhouse Museum at the same time. Passers-by might have thought it a bit strange—maybe some thought it was a conspiracy. But there we were at the Powerhouse Museum together. The role of modern-day Treasurer is an enormously onerous one—not only the endless ERC meetings, dawn to dusk, locked away in the Treasury building in the lead-up to the budget for weeks on end but also the international travel, now more important than ever before in this interconnected world. Director of the World Bank and of IMF are very important roles, as are director of the OECD, representative on the G20 and APEC, and other commitments—all time taken away from family. All essential; all time taken away from family. So I want to say to Adelaide, Ignatius and Xavier: I know you missed your dad, and I know that at times you were wondering what he was doing and why he was not with you. But you should always be proud of him. And in years to come, you will understand better why you should be proud of him. He was a true patriot doing an important job for his country. And although you would have missed him, you should always proud of him.
Also through you, Mr Speaker, to Melissa—Joe Hockey knows my views; that if Melissa had come to this House, she would have been a very, very formidable operator. She is an accomplished businessperson, and she may have been Australia's first female Treasurer—and, given that they met at a Young Liberal conference, it is not impossible that that might have happened. Public life was not for Melissa, but her contribution was substantial, through the family, and that should be acknowledged in this House today.
We should also acknowledge Joe Hockey's staff, as he has done. For myself, I want to particularly acknowledge Grant Lovett. I know, in a very contested and controversial environment, there was still business to transact in the national interest between the Treasurer and the shadow Treasurer. I know my chief of staff, James Cullen, valued the relationship of trust and discretion, and getting things done, that he had with Grant. It was always a courteous and professional relationship, in the national interest, and I acknowledge Grant in the office today.
In conclusion, Joe will reflect on the highs and lows, on the tumult, and on what might have been. But most of all, he should acknowledge and respect the achievements of a life of service which is far from over. I know that his service to the nation has more to go, as it should. He has much to contribute, in whatever capacity he chooses, and he goes with the best wishes of all of us.
I thank the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Prime Minister, the member for Sydney, the Treasurer, and the member for McMahon.
Joe, when you began your last speech just over an hour ago, you reminded us of the first line of your first speech, which was:
I am in Canberra today because I want to make a contribution to the future of Australia.
Over seven parliaments, from that 38th to this 44th, over nearly 20 years: you have. With passion and compassion, with strength and with decency, with fortitude and—as we saw again today—with that wonderful, self-deprecating humour. You have served your electorate, this parliament and our nation with honour and integrity. In that first speech nearly 20 years ago, you spoke of your family. Melissa was there that day, as she is this day. You said Melissa would walk with you through the highs and lows of political life—and Melissa: you have. Today we recognise all that you have done. We thank you for your incredible contribution. To Joe, Melissa, Xavier, Adelaide and Iggy: we wish you all the very best for the future.
Before I move the motion to refer debate to the Federation Chamber, I would just like to add my own tribute to the remarks that have been made by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the leadership teams on both sides of the House, and the Treasurer and shadow Treasurer. I think it is probably fair to say that, of all the people in this chamber, I have known Joe Hockey the longest. We were friends in our teens when were in the Young Liberals together, him from New South Wales and myself from South Australia. We fought many fights together—many of which we have won, some of which we have lost—both internally and externally; both against the Labor Party and within the Liberal Party. And we have also had some great parties together over the years in this building—some of which are the stuff of legend, and some of which will never be discussed, particularly in front of the children, Mr Speaker! But on a serious note, I thank him for the contribution that he has made to Australian public life. Two decades of service is very long period of time, and he has acquitted himself well on all fronts, as a member of parliament and as a minister. We will be poorer for his leaving the chamber, but I know that he will go on to serve the Australian public in another form in the months ahead.