Thursday, 11 February 2016
Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement.
Just a few moments ago I informed my Nationals colleagues that I intend to retire from federal parliament at the next election. I will stand down as Leader of the Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister at a convenient time for the government, probably within the next few days. The Nationals will be meeting this evening to choose a new leadership.
It has been a great pleasure and privilege to be a member of the federal parliament. Next month it will be 26 years since I was first elected to the parliament, and 40 years since I was first elected to public office, as a member of the Kingaroy Shire Council. In my early years, I was always talked about as the youngest national president of the Council of Rural Youth, the youngest councillor, the youngest mayor, but now that I am numbered amongst the oldest I think it is time to go.
I am grateful to the people of Wide Bay, who have through five redistributions elected me nine times to the House of Representatives. While my electorate still has many troubles, a lot has been achieved over that time: huge improvements in the road network and we have been able to help with some really significant projects in the area, like construction of the Brolga Theatre and the aquatic centre in Gympie. But for me the greatest pleasure has always come from being able to help somebody with a little problem—a problem with their pension or the need to provide some kind of assistance to find their way around the government bureaucracy et cetera. Those have always given me the greatest pleasure as a member of parliament. I can recall that for a while I was the member for Queensland's oldest town Gayndah, which is now in the electorate of the honourable member for Flynn. I was able to get some federal funding for a school building for St Joseph's school in Gayndah. The diocese had been threatening to close the school down. It was in financial difficulties and had only relatively small student numbers, but we were able to build a new classroom. It was the first new building at that school since 1942. That, I think, is the sort of special memory that people have from a period as a representative.
It has been a particular honour to be Leader of the Nationals over the last eight years. When I became leader in 2007 nobody wanted the job, including me. I am pleased to say that, now, things are different and everyone wants the job. I am particularly proud and pleased that whoever is elected as my successor and whoever becomes the new deputy leader, if there is to be a new deputy leader, I will be proud to serve under any of them. I guess that my objective when I became leader—a somewhat reluctant leader—was to rebuild a party that was at that stage at a pretty low ebb. We had lost the 2007 election, everybody was pretty dispirited and our numbers had declined. Indeed, the media were saying, yet again, that the Nationals were finished. Of course, we are used to that. They have been saying that for over 80 years now, and we seem to have managed to survive most of our critics. I am sure that the party will be in good and strong hands in the years ahead.
It has been a pleasure to serve with so many other wonderful colleagues in the parliament. I have had the privilege of being a minister for 12½ years, most of them in the cabinet, and each portfolio has for me some special memories. My first portfolio was as a junior minister in the industry portfolio. The first submission I took to cabinet was Australia's first country-of-origin labelling legislation. I notice it seems to be on the agenda yet again, although I do not think there was too much wrong with the original legislation, I have to say. I might be biased! I then also was involved in the rebuilding of the Customs service, which did not have very high public esteem at the time. Amanda Vanstone followed me, and she really put some verve into the revitalisation of the Customs service.
I was the first minister with special responsibility for Centrelink. When Centrelink was established it was not as well respected, I guess, as it is today. There were lots of critics, and people who had been taken from two former government departments and put into Centrelink resented it to some extent. It took a while to establish a service culture. The idea that a government department should be there to look after people might seem pretty elementary in this day and age, but it was a major challenge at the time.
I had six years as minister for agriculture. I have to say that it was a portfolio I never wanted. I had been in farm industry politics before I came into the parliament and I knew how farmers treated their agriculture ministers, particularly when they were Nationals. They expected all sorts of things from us that were simply undeliverable. Somebody has said to me that it is a bit akin to Labor Party members who have to be industrial relations ministers—you simply cannot achieve what your constituency expects of you. But it was a very eventful time. It was the era when we had the foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in the UK. The size of our quarantine service was doubled at that time, and it certainly became a very much more substantial operation. I was the minister during the establishment of the exceptional circumstances drought assistance, a very sad and difficult time for so much of Australia. The whole of the country was essentially racked by drought at that time. The assistance that was put in place was the most generous that governments had ever provided. I think it helped a lot of farmers through a situation they could not otherwise have managed. There were also adjustment packages, particularly in the sugar and dairy industries, which, again, caused quite some trouble, but I think it helped put those industries in a much better position.
I was trade minister for a while. That was my least fulfilling portfolio, I have to say. Particularly by comparison with the great successes of the current trade minister, my achievements were very small. They were still trying to breathe oxygen into the Doha round at that stage, and it was really a wasted period. I stand in awe of what Andrew Robb has achieved in his time as trade minister. It is truly a remarkable time in our history.
I have had two periods when I have been transport minister, and they perhaps have been the most exciting times because we have been building a lot of roads, a lot of railway lines and a lot of infrastructure, and I am very proud of what has been achieved in that regard. We will, by the end of this decade, for the first time have a four-lane highway between our three east coast capitals. Surely, in a country of our economic capabilities perhaps that is something we should have achieved a long time ago.
In my own area I have had a particular interest in the Bruce Highway and the need to upgrade it. It was the most dangerous road in Australia on our national highway list. Indeed, at its worst, we were averaging 53 deaths on the Bruce Highway every year. With the work that has been done by successive governments—and some of it is minor stuff, like wide centre lines et cetera—the death toll is now averaging just 17. Now, that is far too many, but it does demonstrate that investments in capital infrastructure not only have an economic impact but they have a huge social benefit as well. I am sorry that I will not be here to see the end of the upgrade of the Bruce Highway.
It is just like the many other projects that are underway. When you leave, there is a lot of unfinished business. That is certainly true when you have a $50 billion infrastructure program. I would particularly love to have been here for the landing of the first aircraft at Badgerys Creek airport! But that would be another 20 years—
Honourable members interjecting—
Well, not quite that long! It will be 2025, and I hope I am still alive to see it land for the first time. That is a project that I have been very excited about and delighted to have been a part of bringing to fruition.
Can I thank the many people who I have worked with in the coalition with the Liberal Party? Sometimes it has been a bit rugged, but usually we have got on exceptionally well together. I acknowledge the leaders that I have had to work with and under, particularly John Howard, who was such a successful Prime Minister and led a very able and agile government, and the Liberal leaders: Brendan Nelson, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. I have admired them all and appreciated the privilege of working with them.
I suppose that especially Tony Abbott's commitment to infrastructure was one that I shared. And to have Joe Hockey as Treasurer, who was also prepared to find the money, made my time as transport minister really an exciting one. I certainly wish the government every success in fulfilling these objectives that have been set. Malcolm Turnbull, as leader now, has obviously revitalised our parties and put us in a good position for the future, and I certainly wish them well.
I would also like to acknowledge in my own party my deputies as leader—Nigel Scullion and Barnaby Joyce. They are both great people to work with. I would also particularly like to acknowledge the people within my National Party organisation. I was a member of the party for many years before I was a candidate, so I am a bit of a child of the organisation and still love and appreciate it. I acknowledge the presidents and ordinary branch people—the people who have helped in my campaigns over the years—but particularly those who have ensured that there is a strong base to keep our party strong so that it can contribute effectively to our nation.
I would also like to recognise the departmental people who I have had the privilege of working with. I would particularly like to acknowledge Mike Taylor and Mike Mrdak, who have been departmental directors for the longest time while I have been their minister. Both are outstanding public servants. Mike Mrdak in particular, who is the current director, served both sides of politics. He is an extraordinary individual, with an incredible knowledge of what happens in the department and how it all works.
In my 18 years as minister and shadow minister there were two shadows who were with me for most of that time—or against me, I suppose: Simon Crean and Anthony Albanese. Yes, again, we have had our disputes about issues but we have been able to work through most of the things that needed to be worked through. Whether I was sitting on that side or this side of the House I think we have had the kind of working relationship that is necessary to achieve important things for our country.
I want to acknowledge my electorate staff. One of my electorate staff I inherited from my predecessor, and all of them have been with me for decades. I have only had two chiefs of staff in all the time that I have been a minister and, for that matter, a shadow minister: Cheryl Cartwright and David Whitrow. They have been wonderful leaders for my office and its organisation. All of those things have meant a great deal to me, to have these wonderful staff who help make our offices work and deliver the important things for our country.
Finally, I want to acknowledge my family, and particularly my wife, Lyn. We were married only a few months before I was elected to parliament, and she had worked for my predecessor. So in reality she knew more about the job than I did when we came here! But we have been very much a team and I could not have done it without her. She has just been absolutely marvellous for me and I love her dearly.
I came from a small farming district and went to a very small state school, and I have now had the privilege to become Deputy Prime Minister of our country. I wonder whether I will be the last person with a limited education and who comes from one of the poorest electorates in the country to become Deputy Prime Minister? I hope not, because I think we do need amongst the leadership of our country a breadth of experience and a breadth of skills.
I want to thank the people of Australia for the opportunity that they have given me to serve in this regard. I will take away many happy memories and I hope that people may be kind enough to recognise that I have made something of a contribution towards public life in this country. It has been an honour for me and a privilege to work with everyone in this room. Thank you.
by leave—I think, firstly, I would like to just acknowledge Warren Truss. In every organisation, in every government and in every opposition, you need some people who have got great experience and common sense and a keen sense of self, and I must say: they bring stability and a sense of perspective to so many deliberations on problems and events—the sorts of events that occur so often in this place. Warren, from my observation over a long time, has been one such person. As well, he is a man of very fine character. He is a role model for so many. He should be very proud of his contribution to our great country and the leadership that he has shown, and I do thank Warren for that.
Colleagues, I do appreciate this opportunity to confirm to the parliament my intention to not recontest the next election; my intention to stand down from federal politics—all politics, actually! I have got to say that I still have a few things to do on the trade front, over the next little while, and, hopefully, some important things to try and conclude. So I do hope to have another opportunity, albeit probably from the backbench, just to put on the record, before I depart this place, a more extended vote of thanks and some more considered reflections. I will seek your indulgence at some other stage closer to the election on that. But I do want to say a few words on this occasion because sometimes you do not get that much time at the dispatch box!
I feel it is the right time for me, for all sorts of reasons; I will not run through all of those, except to say that I have had a very eventful and fulfilling 12 years in this place. I suppose everyone says this but I think it has been an extraordinary period—not one that we all look on, necessarily, fondly, from either side, at different times. But it is politics, and it is the essence of this business that it does test the strength of character of people on both sides—the sorts of things we have all gone through—and to advance the country at the same time is, again, a test of our mettle.
I arrived a bit late, probably, at 53, and I feel, in some ways, I have been in a hurry ever since because I was conscious, even though I had had experience as a person in the backroom—the very private sector—in the parliamentary machine, that I had arrived a bit late, and I knew I had to go through the steps. Even though I had some experience in politics, you have still got to learn a lot—and there is a lot to learn in this place, to be effective and to learn how to influence decisions and to get them through. So I think I brought that running to it, even when I got into the last three years, and I have felt a sense of urgency.
We all come here to try and do some good things. There were many times in the last 12 years that I thought I might have miscalculated in coming into this place, because—I sympathise with those I am looking at—in opposition is a very difficult period. It is soul-destroying in many respects. It is a very important job, I feel. But I felt I might have spent most of my political life in opposition because when I was federal director—apart from the last year, which was very enjoyable because we had won the '96 election—the years before that were really tough, from 1989 through until '96. So I do have a keen sense of what it means to be in opposition. But, as I say, I still feel that, in the Westminster system, the opposition role is a very important one.
I am no spring chicken but, at the same time, I am 64 and in excellent health, and I am young enough to do other things. And there are other things that I want to do, especially in business and also, if I can, to try and assist the cause of mental health—the acceptance of and the progress in the mental health space.
I will leave politics in the comfort of knowing that the Turnbull government and the coalition, I feel, are in very good shape. If we were really in bad order, if we were in a trough, you would feel even more obligation to stay with it. And there is never really a right time to leave. But it is an opportune time, I think, for me to hand over the baton.
Also, I must say—and I mean this—that, in my 30 years in and around politics, I have never seen a party room with such depth and talent as we have got at the moment. That talent has to be nurtured and developed and has to experience different levels, and I think this is a chance—with me and Warren, and others, like Philip, retiring—to allow even more to come forward, and I have got enormous confidence in the team that we have got and the people that are coming through.
I have had some great opportunities to serve our country, under Tony Abbott—and, firstly, John Howard; I got some immediate or fairly quick opportunities when we went into opposition, as I have just said—in government, and Malcolm Turnbull, and I will be very grateful to both of them for the opportunities.
I just want to make reference, in particular, at this stage, to the problem I had—or the opportunity, as it turned out, to confront a mental health problem that I had had for 43 years. It came to a head during my time with Malcolm's first leadership opportunity. Malcolm could not have been more accommodating and sympathetic. He helped me to leave the shadow cabinet in a way which did not bring silly attention to the condition, allowed me to get some space and all the rest of it. Six months later, Tony was in the seat. Again, Tony had trust in me, once I had nailed the problem—and it took me six months to get to a point where I could manage it, and I am still managing it—to be shadow minister for finance. I cannot tell you how much that gave me a lift—just the fact that trust was placed in me after what had happened. This support helped me achieve my aim, which was to seek to get back to good health, to manage the problem and to be able to demonstrate to others in the community that, in fact, you can manage the problem. Something close to 85 per cent can be cured or can manage the problem to lead a normal life and not take a secondary role. You can go back and assume even greater responsibility.
It was the trust of not only Malcolm and Tony Abbott but of so many of my colleagues here and many on the opposition benches. I thank all of you. I thank the whole chamber for the support that I got and for the normality that you went on with. That is the most important thing: to not look at you as though you have three heads because you have declared that you have a problem. I have had a lot of support and friendship, not just on that occasion but throughout the 12 years. There are things that I will never forget. There are so many on my own side whom I am close to, but there are others on the other side. Certainly, I have great respect for anyone who is in this place, to be honest, but there are people like Gary Gray and others. Gary was my opponent as campaign director in 1996. I think we formed a great respect of one another and that has certainly never diminished in my mind; if anything, it has grown over the years.
It has been a unique privilege to serve my constituents. I do not think you ever really realise when you put your hand up and win preselection—some might if they have done a lot of local government work or whatever—and then you think, 'I've got 160,000 people I'm supposed to represent and I wonder whether I'll like all of the work that's associated with an electorate—the events, the weekends and all of that.' To my great relief, I found that I really enjoyed it. It has been one of the great pleasures. One of the very few regrets in the last 2½ years—the only one, I think—is that, being away for over 200 nights a year overseas and being here for 16 to 19 weeks, a lot of contact with my electorate has been compromised. They like to see things happening, I have had an opportunity to do a few things and they have been very supportive, nevertheless, as have all my party members. I will reflect on some of those later on.
I just want to finish at this stage by thanking certainly my staff at the moment because next time I get up and say a few things some of them might have moved on. I have basically had the same team for 2½ years. It is a very strong team. I think they are held in high regard for their professionalism and for their respect of colleagues. That not always happens in political offices. It is absolutely critical that every member—no matter which side of the parliament they are on—is respected by staff and looked after. I have some people with great experience. I am really proud of the reputation my office has in this place and in the circles that I have had to work as Minister for Trade and Investment. They have been a very big part of any of the achievements that we have been able to nail over the last 2½ years.
I thank in particular my wife of 42 years, Maureen. I can remember what my father said when I told my parents that, at the tender age of 23, Maureen and I had got engaged. My father is not one to give a lot of advice or anything, but he said to me, 'Son, you've chosen a very accomplished partner. You're going somewhere—I don't know where it is—but you've got an accomplished partner who will be able to travel with you.' How very true that has been. She is a woman of great consequence, in my view and I think in the view of others. She is an elegant person who has been a great support. I have done well over 7,000 domestic flights in my career and now a few international flights have been added to that list. She is quite an independent person who, more than anything, brought up our kids and was a very good English teacher at the same time. My three children—we are a very close family—are very supportive and I am very proud of them. Their respective partners are three lovely people. I also thank my beloved parents.
For all of that, thank you very much. It has been a great privilege; it has been a great pleasure. Not too many people get the sorts of opportunities I have been given. I thank all of you for your part. All of you have had some part in that contribution. Thank you very much.
on indulgence—These are two remarkable men who have made such a difference for Australia, who have played such an enormous part in creating the nation we are today. All of us are a little sad that they have announced that they are not going to run again. They have explained why. It is a factor that John Howard used to talk about—anno Domini—or, as Warren reminded us, there is a point at which you start in life as the youngest person in the room, wondering why all these grown-ups are listening to you, and then before you know it you are the oldest person in the room and it is time to give somebody else a go. This is a watershed.
Each of these men, Warren and Andrew, were farmers' sons. They grew up on the land with very deep roots in agriculture, understanding the most basic, fundamental human industry—growing food and fibre. Each of them has had long, strong marriages. They were able to do the things they did for Australia because of Warren's Lyn and Andrew's Maureen. As my predecessor, Tony Abbott, would often say—and he spoke so truly when he said it—'All of us are volunteers; it's our families that are conscripts.' It is so important that we acknowledge them as they have been acknowledged today.
Warren's passion is and has always been, as he said, infrastructure. Indeed, many ministers in his position have had a bridge named after them. Warren actually has thousands and thousands of bridges named after him! The 'Warren truss', which is a very standard form of steel structured bridge, designed in 1848 by James Warren, is seen all over the country. In fact, it is all over every country. The Warren truss bridge is everywhere! I have no doubt that as a minister he has opened many of them in his name, bearing that design.
Andrew has made a remarkable contribution to politics all his life. I first met Andrew over 30 years ago in the company of another great Australian—great in every respect—Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer, when Andrew came to see us when he was running the National Farmers' Federation. We have known each other all the years since. He has been a formidable advocate for rural industry—for the Cattlemen's Union originally and then for farmers and then as the Federal Director of the Liberal Party. And he has played a very powerful role in this House as a minister and a shadow minister.
But Andrew Robb has, without question, in his 2½ years as trade minister been the most successful trade minister in our history. He has put in place some of the most important building blocks for our future and he has brought to that work his extraordinary commercial experience—which spans politics, as I said, but also a long period working in the private sector—his negotiating skills and his understanding of every aspect of Australian industry, whether it is the digital industries that are benefiting so much from the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the primary industries, particularly agriculture, which have benefited so much from the free trade agreements in East Asia, particularly the China-Australia free trade agreement, the benefits of which in many parts of Australia are quite transformative.
Warren's leadership of the National Party has been a source of great wisdom—and I am sure the member for Warringah would agree—for the leaders of the Liberal Party, as well as a source of great stability and great generosity. He is absolutely committed, and has always been, to the strength of the coalition. He understands the importance of the National Party's distinct identity but also the reality that we are so much stronger when we are working closely together.
He has been a formidable advocate, as he said, for his local area and electorate. It is interesting that Andrew reflected on the same and made the same point about the real satisfaction that I think each and every one of us derives from sorting out simple and often basic problems for our local constituents. Ultimately, that is our primary obligation to the people who actually put the No. 1 against our name on the ballot paper—the citizens of our electorate.
The generosity of both men was shown in their warmth and their remarks, particularly to their counterparts on the other side. Andrew Robb spoke of Gary Gray, who has been his counterpart in the Labor Party for many years. Warren spoke fondly of Albo. They agreed on most things. Warren and Albo agreed on the value and the transformational impact of so many big elements of infrastructure in Australia. They just disagreed on who should get the credit for them! As for Gary and Andrew, they came to a landing on just about every element of electoral practice, electoral law and electoral reform. They just happened to have a final disagreement on who should win the election! But, beyond that, as professionals they were completely united.
The most important thing for all of us to say to these men is, 'Thank you.' They have made Australia different. They have made Australia better. They have shaped Australia. They have shaped our future, whether it be in trade, infrastructure or their example of clear, warm, humane patriotism and love of country. Warren said in his maiden speech in 1990:
It has often been said that Australia is the lucky country, but it has not been all luck. Australia became a great nation because there were people who were prepared to put in the effort and endure hardship whenever it was needed-the explorers who sought out the land, the pioneers who opened it up, the engineers who built our cities and bridges, the women who cared for their families and the soldiers who fought to protect it.
We are all proud to say that because of Warren's service and because of Andrew's service Australia has become a much luckier country, but they have helped make that luck more prosperous and more secure with greater opportunities for our children and grandchildren. Thank you, Warren and Andrew.
on indulgence—It is said about parliament that it is hard to get here but even harder to leave here. I would like to add that if you can leave on your own terms, with the respect of your peers and the love of your family, that is the hardest accomplishment of all. So it is with the warm wishes of the entire opposition that I rise to thank the Deputy Prime Minister and the member for Goldstein for their service to this parliament and to the nation.
In preparing words about the Deputy Prime Minister, I found myself drawn back to the speech he gave in this place in October 2014 in tribute to the life of Gough Whitlam. It would have been easy for you, on a day when so many Labor people had so much to say in sadness, to perhaps be impersonal—to just recite the bare biographical facts. But you did not. On that day, you reflected on how Gough had inspired you to become involved in politics:
He did give me my first chance to be involved in political activities when he appointed me to the National Rural Advisory Council.
He undoubtedly encouraged me—though he did not wish to do so—to be engaged in the political process. I joined a political party too, but it was not the Labor Party.
Instead you joined the mighty Country Party. You arranged bus loads of farmers to come from all over Australia to help educate Gough on the error of his ways. But the reason why that moment stayed with me is because it spoke for so much of what I identify as your personal qualities: you are warm, you are dry, you are often self-deprecating, you have a great sense of humour and you have an ability to craft a meaningful empathetic response.
The Prime Minister has spoken at length—and I am sure many of your colleagues will—about your policy and political achievements. We look forward with some great interest and no little trepidation to your likely successor's contributions. In particular, I would like to commend you for the dignified way that you have handled the ongoing unfolding sadness of MH370. I am sure that the families of the missing would echo those thanks.
In listening to your words today about your journey, I am reminded of that opening of Heather Ewert's documentary A Country Road. She said:
There's no other political party in the world quite like The Nationals. Its roots are on the land and in the blood.
You have served that unique tradition and you have fulfilled it with honour.
I think you also leave this place with a most unique distinction—being the only Australian politician to be mentioned on the US TV show Lost. There is a character named Sawyer. He is dragged before a detective with an extremely unconvincing Australian accent. He is told he is being charged with involvement in a bar fight, to which he protests that this is a badge of honour in Australia, at which point the detective leans in to tell him the bad news, 'You headbutted the honourable Warren Truss, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, one of the most important people,' Sawyer interrupts, 'He headbutted me!' For some reason, I am just not sold on the image of Warren Truss, bar room brawler. The man that we know and pay tribute to today is a kinder, gentler soul.
Warren, you have been a tireless servant of your constituency, a proud advocate for country people and a strong leader of the party that you have always loved. You have earned a fulfilling, peaceful and healthy retirement with your loving wife, Lyn. We wish you both well for what the future brings you.
Now I turn to the member for Goldstein. He leaves this place in the same quietly effective way that he has gone about his work. He has, as has been said, lived a rich and diverse life prior to entering this parliament. A proud holder of a diploma in Ag. from Dookie and an economics degree from La Trobe, he was a distinguished servant of the National Farmers' Federation and the Cattle Council—quite the union representative—and one of the principal architects of John Howard's 1996 election victory.
Not all of those who rise to such heights within their party behind the scenes feel compelled to stand on the national stage in the glare of the unforgiving spotlight of public life, but you did. You came to this place. You signed up to the fickle vagaries of electoral fortune because you believed that you had more to offer your party and, more importantly, your country. No-one in this place 12 years later can dispute that conclusion. I want to thank you for being willing to work constructively with Labor on important issues. That will be a skill set perhaps missed when you go.
I am sure that many others will also pay tribute to your courage that you showed in overcoming the cloud you fought most mornings. I would only add that—while managing any mental health issue is an act of resilience, resolve and strength—being prepared to discuss it with such a frank and forthright manner, as you did, as a person in elected office, is incredibly important. What you did—your example and your honesty—has helped break down some of the counterproductive and ill-informed stigma that afflicts many who suffer in silence. Because of you and your honesty, other people will have better lives. There is not much more that a member of this parliament can claim to do.
You have flown many miles in the service of your country—in particular in these past 2½ years. For a strong family man like you—someone who loves Maureen and your children Tom, Jo and Pip very much—I know that this time that you have spent overseas has not just been hard on you but on them. We sometimes talk about relationships with people across the political divide. Perhaps they are not as frequent as they should be, but nearly all of us will have experienced the odd glimpse of conversation—a moment of reflection when, in fact, we are not just trying to finish each other off but rather a shared reflection about family—moments, perhaps, when we search for a topic in common rather than a topic on which we disagree. I have had the opportunity to talk to you in those 'glimpses' here and overseas. My wife, Chloe, who has got to know you, sends you her absolute best.
I am not sure that families always hear about what their parent's say, but anyone who knows Andrew Robb knows how incredibly proud he is of his kids—and they deserve to hear that, because in every minute, I am sure, that you have been away, your love of your children and your wife has been one of the strongest features that has enabled you to be as distinguished as you are, and they should know how much you love them. On behalf of my party and my wife, Chloe, I wish you and your family every happiness in the years ahead.
on indulgence—It gives me great pleasure to rise and to also express my thanks predominantly to Warren as my boss but also to Andrew as my colleague. Most politicians note Shakespeare's advice:
There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.
Warren has taken the political voyage for which the benefit has not been so much for himself but for all of us. Lyn, his devoted wife, has been on this journey every step and for every iteration.
Warren has personified decency, self-control, attention to detail, leadership, strength and has carved a path for his constituency through the annals of our recent parliament. Warren has delivered by acumen more than brute force, and the people of South Burnett and Wide Bay in Queensland can call him a favoured son of their land, who has returned that favour with honourable public service.
From the turmoil of the demise of the halcyon days of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era, Warren was instrumental in reconciliation and rebuilding, without compromising his political faith. Widely respected and to a greater degree by those who know him well and to a greater extent by those who work with him, he has managed to deal with the divergent forces which can often tear at the fabric of any coalition. But Warren also did not shy from the fights and the internal opprobrium that he had to absorb on issues such as the single desk, live exports and ensuring that foreign investment is in our national interest. He was responsible for one of the first major appropriations on the Inland Rail between Melbourne and Brisbane and the start of Badgery's Creek. He has dealt with the trials and tribulations of MH370 and, in the past, issues such as the Cormo Express.
As part of the shadow cabinet in 1994—by far the longest serving minister in cabinet—he has the laurels of a person who has exceptional parliamentary talent and all that that requires. The question that is only fairly asked by the public—and they should know—is: what are these talents? For Warren I believe it is his Lutheran attitude to detail. It means that Warren does not 'wing it'. If he gets the file, he reads the file. He will read yours as well. He does not rise to the bait of the personal barb. Find me the person who says that he knows the time when Warren was not a gentleman in his words, his conduct and his actions and I will say that you are talking to someone who is making it up and obviously does not know Warren. This is an exceptional trait. As so many people fall off the dignified pedestal to become cranky and bitter, Warren has never, ever done this. Warren's capacity to hold a confidence is legendary. As we have said, there are probably three people who know what Warren is thinking on sensitive issues: Warren, his wife and his God. Part of the National Party lexicon is that sometimes you wonder if he tells God!
The taciturn nature that comes from this man—a man who grew up on the land, making his way with his hands and dealing with the providence of the soil, building an agricultural lifestyle, with service to the district in his positions on the local council at Kingaroy and farming groups, being a strong member of his local church community—means that the formation of Warren Errol Truss is one of pragmatism, diligence, with strong and abiding core values and a commitment to family and this nation through many things, including public service. So, Warren and Lyn, Andrew and Maureen: the boy from Kumbia, the boy from a family of nine children in Epping in Victoria, have proven once more today that it is not so much how you ride the horse but how you dismount that is remembered in the political annals.
When I was over in the US with the member for Blaxland—before I came into politics—I asked whether Abraham Lincoln, from a log cabin in Hardin, Kentucky, would make it today in the United States. It was a salutary statement that they said: 'Probably not. The political dynamic has changed.' But we still should be proud, incredibly proud, in this nation that the Deputy Prime Minister came from Kumbia, that the Minister for Trade came from Epping—that this is the nation that we have. We are not owned by major political donors. We are not owned by major political forces. It is the greatest nation on earth that allows people to progress through the social stratification of our nation to hold one of the premier offices in our nation.
I said to the National Party just prior to coming here that Warren will quite obviously for our party be in the pantheon of the great leaders. We pride ourselves on stability. We pride ourselves on the fact that in 100 years we have had 12 leaders. Each one of those leaders and the ones that stand out are known for a special trait. For 'Black Jack' McEwen, it was obviously toughness. For Earle Page, it was his tenaciousness and cunning. For Anthony, it was his strength. But for Truss—and he certainly belongs there—it is not a mimic. It is not something that is put up blindly. Truss has something that is unique to everyone else. When they think of Truss, they will think of decency—a decent man, a gentle man, a good man. For Andrew Robb, I pity the next person who has to be compared to you in the trade portfolio.
To both: you have been an adornment to our nation. I wish you all the best and may you spend the rest of your years—and may there be many of them—in the company of your wife, your family, and always spare a thought for what further service you can deliver to us. All the best, and God bless.