House debates

Thursday, 3 December 2015



9:35 am

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—I wish to make some remarks about the year we have just had. Today is the last day sitting day of the year. Of course, every year in this place feels like a momentous one, and particularly for those who take part in it. The end of year valedictories are a very good opportunity to thank those who work so hard behind the scenes and make this parliament work successfully as the centre of our great Australian democracy.

I should, however, observe at the outset that this has been a year in which there have been great challenges to our security both at home and abroad. It is about a year since the Martin Place siege, which shocked the nation and shocked the city of Sydney, where my wife and I and many other members live. It is only weeks ago that Curtis Cheng, the police worker, was murdered in Parramatta. And it is only a few weeks ago since the killings in Paris, followed by a similar terrorist attack in Bamako, with, of course, those following hard on the heels of terrorist attacks in Beirut and Ankara. It is a reminder of the vital importance for this government and every government of ensuring that our people are safe both at home and, so far as we are able to, abroad.

The battle against violent extremism, against terrorism, is one that all nations are now engaged in. In my recent travels to many summits, I have had the opportunity to discuss with many other leaders the way in which we can better work together to cooperate in a military sense. There is an important military dimension. The single most important objective in the battle against the violent extremism as practised by Daesh, or ISIL, is to defeat them in the field in Syria and Iraq. That has a military dimension and of course a political dimension. We have discussed both of those with our partners in the international coalition and, indeed, with other countries with an interest in the region, including, for example, the Russian Federation, and with leaders such as the Prime Minister of Israel only a few days ago.

So we are very keenly interested in securing a stronger commitment both on the military side and on the political side of this solution. But, as I discussed in the national security statement I made last week, it is a very complex environment and one where the limitations of military power have to be recognised, and the complexity of the political solution has to be recognised as well. On both fronts, there is good progress. The talks in Vienna show some promise.

Plainly, in terms of Syria in particular, the disenfranchised, alienated Sunni majority of the country needs to be reconciled in a new political settlement. Similarly, on the Iraq side of the border, the Sunni minority, which has felt left out by the majority Shiite government, has to be part of a new settlement, and the Prime Minister of Iraq is committed, he assures all of us, to achieving that. But this is an immensely complex area.

Australia is already making the second largest military contribution to the international coalition effort in that theatre. We are making a very substantial effort, and that is very much appreciated. However, the extent to which we are committed and the extent to which we have the support of the opposition in this regard—and I thank the opposition for their support—is in marked contrast to that in other countries. In the UK, even as we speak, Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to secure the support of the House of Commons to enable his Air Force to operate against targets in Syria.

In summary, in the Syria-Iraq theatre we continue to provide a very substantial military contribution and we engage constructively with our allies to see how we can better deploy that. If there is a call on us to provide further resources or resources in a different way, we will consider that constructively. From the Australian government's point of view, we would like to see other like-minded countries making a larger contribution. Australia is making a very large contribution there, relative to others, given the size of our economy and our proximity to the conflict.

Closer to home, our security is in very good hands. Our police and our security agencies are the best in the world. They are providing the government with constant advice on this matter. Everything I say about security, about terrorism, about the battle against Islamist extremism and its various manifestations here is done in the light of that advice.

It is very important we ensure that we do not allow our enemies to divide us. That is what they seek to do. They seek to divide us and cause us to turn against, in this case, Muslim Australians. That is their objective. We know that, from a practical point of view, we are the most successful multicultural society in the world. Having just returned from Paris, we can see the challenges when you have, in France's case, a large Muslim minority where the levels of integration and harmonisation, if you like, have been well below those of Australia. The French face great challenges and they recognise that they do; they recognise that they have to make changes—but it will take a long time. We have a much stronger foundation upon which our security is built, but we have to maintain it.

At the heart of our security, yes, there is the hard edge, if you like: national security, strong laws, the laws that we have passed—and passed with the support of the opposition too, and again I thank them for that—as well as professional agencies, good intelligence and strong law enforcement. All of that is important. But at the heart of all of this is a culture of mutual respect and a sense that all Australians, regardless of their race, their cultural background, their ethnicity or their religion, have a common share in this great Australian project. That is the critical thing: to ensure that all of our citizens believe that they have a share in the great Australian project.

I have spoken about the national security challenges and I do so in a sombre sense, not least because, even as we have been sitting here in this parliament, a shocking crime has been committed in San Bernardino in California—a shooting

There is a shocking prevalence of violence around the world at the moment, and we recognise that our key objective is ensuring that these events are thwarted or prevented from happening in Australia and that, if they do, we respond to them quickly and effectively. The first duty of every government is the safety of the people.

While that background is sombre, one of the very noticeable features of this year has been a sense of optimism. Overwhelmingly, Australians understand that we are in a moment of transition in our economy. We are coming off the biggest terms-of-trade boom in our history and a mining investment boom, during which investment in new mines and infrastructure went above seven per cent of GDP. However, we can now see that there are more opportunities than ever in the global economy. We have signed three free trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China, the latter being the most extensive free trade deal ever negotiated by China with another country. The unprecedented market access China has offered to Australia puts all of our businesses at a very significant competitive advantage.

Later in the year, quite recently, we saw an historic agreement on the TPP—the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The economies included in that agreement account for 40 per cent of global GDP. This year, services contributed around 80 per cent to our economic output, as you would expect in a developed economy, but they contributed only 20 per cent to our export performance. So, over time, with these new trade deals and the growing middle class in Asia, as big economies like a China move from being investment led to consumption led—a transition which many economists would say is inevitable, has been inevitable and has not actually happened for quite a long time but is now happening—that provides unprecedented opportunities for every Australian business that seeks to expand its horizons. Our government has an absolutely laser-like focus on jobs. We seek to drive stronger economic growth and more and better jobs. More than 300,000 jobs have been created over the past year. It is the fastest-growing calendar year for job creation since 2006.

I spoke earlier about national security in the context of terrorism and violent extremism. This has also been a year when we focused on security in a very personal way, with the focus on domestic violence. We as a nation have resolved that we are better than this. There can be no tolerance of violence against women and children. I want to acknowledge the work of the Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, who has been instrumental in putting this issue on the national agenda. In response, the government has unveiled a $100 million domestic violence package. It is simply not acceptable to regard domestic violence, somehow or other, as something else, a different kind of violence. Violence against women and children is unacceptable, whether it occurs in the home or in the street. We must not forget that, while disrespecting women does not always end in violence against women, all violence against women begins with disrespecting women. At the core of this is the importance of mutual respect. It is very important for all of us to recognise that we must ensure that our children, particularly our sons, are brought up to respect their mothers and their sisters.

This year we saw the passing of Don Randall. Don was one of the great characters of our parliament and he is sorely missed. His motto was, 'You talk, I listen,' and he really practised that. Every politician says, 'You talk, I listen.' Perhaps most of us do more talking and less listening than we should, but Don really meant it. He was completely authentic in his love of family, his love of his community, his service to his community but above all in being nothing other than himself. His wife Julie and their children, Tess and Elliott, will sorely miss him as we all will too.

In March, we farewelled former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. It is worth remembering, as we did in the motions and the debates in this House, his great contribution to Australian life and politics. He was—and this is particularly relevant in the current days—the first Australian politician to use the term 'multiculturalism'. He established the SBS and he welcomed the refugees from Vietnam. It is instructive that his contribution to public life was not merely here in the parliament. He was a young Prime Minister and he continued throughout his life to be an active participant in our big debates, including the republic debate, where we shared a common platform. His last tweet—he was a great latter-day devotee to social media—was on Chinese foreign policy.

We also farewelled Tom Uren, former finance minister Peter Walsh and, of course, our beloved and irascible former member for Hume Alby Schultz.

We could not function in this place without the many parliamentary staff who keep the show running smoothly. In particular, I want to acknowledge the hard work of the Clerk, David Elder; the Deputy Clerk, Claressa Surtees; the Serjeant-at-Arms, Bronwyn Notzon and all of the attendants; the House Table Office of Catherine Cornish, Richard Selth, Glenn Worthington, Sarah Fielder and their staff, the House parliamentary liaison office of Annette Cronin, Suzanne De Smet and Tim Moore. I also want to thank the government whip and deputy whips; you, Mr Speaker, your Deputy Speaker, Second Deputy Speaker and Speakers' panel. I also thank Anne Dowd, Anne O'Connor and Sue Klammer from the legislative team of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, who so ably support the parliamentary business committee; and Peter Quiggin and his staff from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

I would like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his support this year and my own deputy in the Liberal Party, the Foreign Minister. Having spent the past couple of weeks involved in many summits, I can just say that I have never had more respect, not just for the job she does but for the way she does it with minimal amounts of sleep. Of course, the end of the parliamentary year does not mean the end of the political year. All of our colleagues will be working hard through to Christmas on a range of policies. The Treasurer, the member for Cook, has already released some key planks of our economic platform, including reviews into the financial sector and competition framework. The Leader of the House, the member for Sturt and the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, will be presenting an innovation statement very shortly. I want to thank all of our staffers throughout our various offices who are the engine room of what we do as politicians. As I said last night, we could not do our job as members of parliament and senators without the staff and the support teams in each of our offices.

Finally, on the thanks, can I acknowledge, once again, the debt we all owe on our side of the parliament and I believe right across the parliament and the community to the great service of my predecessor as Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott. He has been a great Prime Minister and I thank him for his service and I thank him for his support today as a member of our party.

In conclusion, I encourage everyone to have a joyful and restful Christmas and New Year's break. Spend time with your families and your loved ones. We will all come back, I believe, re-energised for, dare I say it, an exciting 2016. I am looking forward to a year of great opportunities.

9:53 am

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your service and the patience which you and all the occupants of the chair offer this parliament. On this final sitting day—a day of tired eyes and possibly, for some, sore heads—as all of us in this place look forward to returning home, we think of those Australians who will not be home this Christmas—the men and women of our Defence Force, serving our nation in the cause of peace around the world. To our emergency services personnel—firefighters, ambos, nurses and police officers—for their sake and for the sake of all Australians, we hope those on duty have a quiet Christmas. And then there are the ordinary hardworking Australians for whom Christmas is another day when they will sacrifice time with their family to help provide for their family. Too often, all of us in this place leave thanking our families to the end of our remarks. They give up so much and take on so much so that we can serve here. To Chloe, Rupert, Georgette and Clementine, thank you for making it possible to do this job. I love you. I am looking forward to seeing you very soon.

When this parliament rose last year, we all knew of the threat posed by the sectarian hatreds in the Middle East and the violent extremism here at home. Since then, two gunmen, one in Martin Place and one in Parramatta, have reminded us of the need for heightened vigilance and stronger cohesion. Attacks in Paris, Lebanon, Turkey and Mali have only emphasised that this is the world's problem to confront and to solve. Just as in the face of bushfires in the West and South and cyclones in the North, Australians have stood strong. Australians summon time and time again the courage to carry on and the compassion to care for those in need. Australia can be proud of this and much more in the year that has been.

We celebrated Australia Day with a wonderful new Australian of the Year and a somewhat surprising new knight. Rosie Batty has helped Australians face up to the national crisis of family violence, and in acknowledging her today we remember the 78 Australian women who have been killed this year. Let us all vow not to rest until that number is zero each and every year. As a parliament and as a nation we commemorated the centenary of a chilly dawn when a group of brave young men clambered out of small boats onto an unfamiliar beach and into history. For our sports loving country there was much to cherish. On our home soil, our netballers and cricketers both won world cups. In England, the Southern Stars reclaimed the ashes. At Flemington, Michelle Payne made history by half a length and told every bloke whoever doubted any woman to 'get stuffed'. And on the hottest grand final day on record the Hawks barely broke a sweat on their way to a three-peat. And in a script he must have written himself, Johnathan Thurston kicked truly to claim glory for the Cowboys.

There was loss and sadness too. Richie Benaud and Bart Cummings passed away—the voice of our summer and the embodiment of our spring. We farewelled Labor giants Tom Uren and Peter Walsh. In March, the towering presence of Malcolm Fraser left us. His legacy, particularly his contribution to multicultural society that we all celebrate, will live long after him. In this place, we offered our condolences to Don Randall's family. Don Randall was an unstinting, unashamedly parochial advocate of his electorate. We bid farewell to Joan Kirner, a trailblazer and a fearless champion for women, for education and for Victoria, and to Faith Bandler, an activist, a fighter and a warrior, who only ever wielded the weapons of compassion, respect and intelligence.

All of us who speak in this chamber and in the other place are merely visitors here for some 20 weeks a year. We rely on the hard work, good humour and boundless patience of the people who come to work here every day. The smooth running of this place depends on the calm civility of the clerks, the Serjeant-at-Arms and their office, the tabling office, the Parliamentary Library, Hansard and all of the attendants in this chamber. The kilometres of corridors around us house thousands more people without whom there would not be a parliament. I refer, of course, to the guards, the plumbers, the printers, the switchboard operators, the caterers, the physios, the nurses and the IT support. Dom and the cheerful crew at Aussies can always be counted on for a bacon and egg roll and a cup of coffee at a critical moment. And in a place and in a profession that creates a lot of mess, I want to pay a special tribute to all the Parliament House cleaners Joy, Maria, Anna and Lucia. You and your colleagues are stars and you deserve a much better deal.

The Australian Federal Police are expert at fading into the background but we are all grateful for the work they do to keep MPs and senators safe. I can give a special mention to those who work in the Melbourne CPO. I also want to thank my Comcar drivers Steve Smith and Peter Taylor. I know that my youngest daughter appreciates your high standard of eye-spy work, just as I am sure they appreciate my navigation skills and helpful driving tips. On the subject of low-profile people working quietly behind the scenes to make a much appreciated contribution, I want to thank all the members of the press gallery. Your advice is always 'available'.

All of us called to serve in the Labor caucus are only the tip of the spear. We stand here as representatives of Australia's oldest continuous political movement proud of our past but, as ever, looking forward. We are a great, generous, sprawling, diverse, feuding and loving family. I am grateful every day to every member of every branch of the Labor Party for their dedication, energy and passion. I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary contribution of our national secretary, George Wright, and our national president, Mark Butler, particularly for all their work in preparing for the highly successful national conference.

To my deputy leader, the member for Sydney: Tanya, you are a formidable advocate and a firm friend, and I thank you for your steadfast support. To our leadership team in the other place—Penny Wong and Stephen Conroy: thank you for the way you have worked with the crossbench, through committees and estimates, to stand up for Labor values and hold the government to account. To my shadow Treasurer, the member for McMahon, and my shadow finance minister, the member for Watson: thank you for your counsel and your friendship. In fact, I could name the whole caucus. All of you can be proud of the year that we have had—a year defined by unity of purpose and by more positive plans and policies than any opposition has released in a generation. All of you own a share of this and I thank you for everything that we have done to make it possible.

To make sure that my staff were still listening I decided to thank them last! They know better than anyone how hard they work and how much their hard work means to be. Unfortunately, I cannot read the rest of their handwriting so I will just leave it there!

Predictions and assumptions in politics can be a fraught business. If you had told me in January that by December we would have a new Treasurer, a new Speaker and a new Prime Minister I would have been rapt—but I had an election in mind! There is a long way to go and a lot more to happen in the months ahead of us. With that in mind, I wish the Prime Minister a restful and happy Christmas break with Lucy and the family. As long as the truffles are up to standard, there has never been a more exciting time to be Malcolm Turnbull!

I want to extend to all members of the government and the crossbench, and their families and staff, my wishes for a safe and restful break. Serving in this place is an honour known to very few. Regardless of allegiance or ideals it is the privilege of service that binds us all. The greatest loyalty we owe is not to ourselves or to our party but to the people and the nation we have been honoured to represent. Let's remember this and live up to it next year and always. Merry Christmas, everyone, and a happy New Year. I thank the House.

10:02 am

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and associate myself with their remarks, and I will just make a few brief remarks myself. I thank those who help me do my job—the Deputy Speaker, Bruce Scott; the Second Deputy Speaker and the entire Speaker's panel; the Clerk, David Elder; his deputy, Claressa Surtees; the executive staff and all the departmental staff; all the attendants, particularly my attendant, Luch, who we all know very well. There is no show without Luch. I thank the Clerk, David Elder, in particular. I have known David for a very long time; but before becoming Speaker I had not been a member of the Speaker's panel, so it was not something I advertised. When I sat in this chair on the first day it was the first time I had been here. He was very patient as I worked out what all the buttons meant. I kept wondering on the first day why Luch kept turning up with water when I tried to get David Elder. I was pressing the wrong button! I thank them very much for their support.

I join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in thanking the Australian Federal Police, who have a presence in this building; all the DPS staff and the executive; the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Mr Phil Bowen, and his staff. Prime Minister, I hope you and Lucy have an enjoyable Christmas with your children and grandchildren. It is a very special time for all of us. Leader of the Opposition, I hope you and Chloe and your children have a good break before what is going to be a busy year. Like me, you have young children so there will be lots of beach cricket and all the things you have at an Australian Christmas.

My staff said, 'Whatever you do, don't forget Pyne!' Leader of the House, thank you for all the work you do. Manager of Opposition Business, the member for Watson, I thank you. I obviously work closely with both of them as we go through the parliamentary day. I thank the Chief Government Whip, Nola Marino, and her team, and the Chief Opposition Whip, who ensure that all the speakers are here on time to keep the parliament going. All members work hard in this place for the betterment of Australia. There is no doubt about that. We bring to this House different ideas and it is a robust debating place as it should be. I thank them and I thank their staff as well.

As the Prime Minister said, on this last day we remember the late Don Randall, the former member for Canning. The Prime Minister's characterisation of him was spot on. In the last parliament I sat where the member for Cunningham is sitting and the member for Canning sat where the member for Lalor is sitting. Occasionally after question time members of the opposition would ask me why I had a horrified look on my face—it was all the interjections that the Speaker did not hear! We remember Don and, as the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition said, we remember other former members who have passed away this year. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser died as well. This time 40 years ago a very intense election campaign had 10 days to run. We reflect very much on his contribution at so many levels.

As the Leader of the Opposition said, we need to thank the press gallery for bending over backwards to always show us in a good light! They are very much part and parcel of this building.

To my staff, including my chief of staff, Cate Clunies-Ross, and the entire team here and back at the electorate office in Chirnside Park: thanks so much for your hard work right throughout the year. Thanks to my family—Pam, Thomas and Angus—for your support. None of us could do what we do without the support of our families. To Thomas and Angus I promise lots of time for cricket in the January period, and I also promise I will hit lots of catches! I wish everyone a safe and happy Christmas. It is a nice, quiet time to reflect on the year. I wish everyone all the best.