Thursday, 3 December 2015
Thank you, Deputy Speaker Mitchell, for the work that you do. It is greatly appreciated by all of us in this place. In thanking and acknowledging the work of the past 12 months, I really want to start by thanking the previous chief whips that I have worked with. I have learnt so much from them. That started with Alex Somlyay back in 2007. He was a wonderful whip in opposition. I learnt so much of my craft from Alex, and I thank him for that. Also Warren Entsch, Philip Ruddock and Scott Buchholz; I want to thank them for all of their efforts as chief whip. I learnt much from each one of these gentlemen.
While I have the member for Herbert here, I really want to thank the member for Herbert, Ewen Jones, and Brett Whitely as well for joining the whips team. We have a great team. We know that the member for Herbert is extremely entertaining and very witty. What were you in your previous life?
Having been an auctioneer, he has a wonderful talent with his words. Equally, he is very willing and very capable, which is often overlooked when people have as big a personality as Ewen does. Brett is extremely efficient as well. I am delighted to be working with such interested, enthusiastic and very capable people. They are very positive. I thank them very much.
Equally, I acknowledge the Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne. Until they do the job, nobody who has worked in this place quite understands what the job entails—like your own, Deputy Speaker. I think that his leadership has been exemplary. I thank the Prime Minister for the great honour he gave me in appointing me as the Chief Government Whip. It is not something that I take lightly. I have a great respect for this House, for all members, for the smooth operation of this place and for the traditions and history that go with it.
I also thank Annette and Suzanne in the PLO office for their assistance in the smooth running of the House. What a wonderful group of people we have in this place. None of us take for granted the people who make this place run smoothly. They do it so well that you do not actually see it happening. To all of those who help this place and are wonderful friends to us: thank you. What is not well understood at times is that we come from all around Australia and spend many months here and develop wonderful friendships. I thank those who are part of that. It is almost like a family within itself here. We always see a friendly face. There is always a very warm hello. It does not matter who we meet: they take their job so seriously in making this parliament work well and working with the members and their staff. I do not think that we should ever underestimate that. Thank you to all members of the House on my side and also on the other side for assisting with their cooperation to all the staff, who, as the Prime Minister has said, are the ones who make all of us, irrespective of our side of parliament, look good. They do an enormous amount of work—so often out of hours—and they do it selflessly. I thank them for all of the work that they do.
I acknowledge the Chief Opposition Whip, Chris Hayes. We work very well with Chris and his office and with Jill Hall and Joanne Ryan. They are a pleasure to work with. They, like us, are here to ensure the smooth and effective management of the business of this particular chamber. I really need to thank my own personal staff. They make the whip's office run very smoothly, and the 'Can I help?' attitude is very much what we are about. I thank Vicki Riggio, who has been with me from day one. Back in 2007 when I was first preselected I looked for someone who would be able to do all of the work that I needed done but also be a very strong individual supporter. As members, we need people who will tell us the truth. We need people who are honest and loyal. They are two qualities that I respect most of all, as I think most members in this place would—loyalty and being honest—because as members of parliament we are constantly approached by a range of people who have particular views. We need to know what we stand for ourselves, but equally we need people around us who, when we are looking at issues or taking a position on an issue, are prepared to say to us, 'There are a range of matters that you need to take into account,' or, at times, 'You are on the wrong path.' You need honest people with good intentions who are part of that. That is what I have with my team. Vicki is very much a part of that, and she has stepped into the Whip's Clerk role. It has been a very steep learning curve. However, she has had years of experience in the Deputy Whip's office and is doing a great job and providing excellent service not just to the members but to this House and the smooth running of this place.
Many on our side, and even on the other side, also know Nathan Winn, who has returned to work with me. It is great to have him in the Whip's office. His knowledge of the procedures of this place is probably second to none, and I value that greatly. Julie O'Sullivan has come to work with me and is quickly becoming renowned for a range of her skills, but she has certainly made sure that the members have had some particularly tasty Christmas goodies to enjoy.
'Chocolate crackles,' I hear on my right, but they are not quite chocolate crackles. Member for Hebert, don't you even know the difference between a fabulous product and a chocolate crackle? I think your education leaves something to be desired. Julie helps us run this very well. Regarding my electorate staff, Steve in policy is just an outstanding individual and Samantha and Michelle keep my office running and support my constituents while I am away. Every member in this House has people who work tirelessly in the service of our community, and that is a great part of what we do—the service for our community. They do a great job.
Deputy Speaker, I thanked you when I first started this speech, but I want to thank all of the deputies and even the new Speaker. I think he has done a particularly sound job in this place. I want to thank not just the Speaker but the Speaker's panel in its entirety. We need to wish all of the families a very happy and safe Christmas. To the Clerk, the Deputy Clerk, the Serjeant-at-Arms, all the deputy serjeants and the clerk assistants: thank you so much for an exemplary service. Every member in this place owes you an enormous vote of thanks for the way in which you do your jobs for each and every one of us. There is a great deal of respect in this place for the work that you do.
There are countless people that I see around here, whether it is those who work in all of the different administrative departments as well as those like Alan, who helps out making sure our offices have all of the equipment that they need, or Bill, who deals with stationery. We have a range of cleaners. We have people who work tirelessly in the bottom part of this building. But I see all these happy, positive faces on a regular basis, and they certainly make our lives so much easier. To every single person, whether it is in Hansard or wherever you are in this place: you provide an extraordinary service not just to the parliament but to our nation.
Every day I come in here quite early. Inevitably, when I come in in the morning I look up and see that beautiful flag, and every day I get a shiver. All of us who are here are helping with the democratic process in this wonderful country that is Australia. It does not get any better than that. Every day, no matter which side of politics we sit on in this place, it is a privilege to be here for each one of us, and we get to make amazing decisions for this nation. I thank every member of this House for all of their work not just here but in their electorates, and I really want to acknowledge our families. As each member knows, it is our families who make huge sacrifices. It is being acknowledged constantly but, as has been said previously, we are the ones who put our hands up. We are the volunteers, in a sense; they are the conscripts. It can be a very tough job for them.
I wish every member a very happy, healthy and safe break. I have just been to the lifesavers of Australia event. Thousands of lifesavers around our beaches and a whole range of community volunteers in emergency services will be called on over this period of the break. They will do an extraordinary amount of work. I refer to the fires last year in the southern part of my electorate. There were over 100,000 volunteer hours for that particular fire—an extraordinary contribution. I wish every member of this House, all of the staff, everyone who helps to make this work, a very happy and safe break over the Christmas period. I really look forward to seeing all of you again in the new year. I hope it is a very happy one, and I look forward to seeing every member at that time. Frank, if you are watching: have a wonderful Christmas. Buon Natale.