Thursday, 6 December 2018
Well, ho, ho, ho, Mr Speaker! It has been quite a year for all of us—for every single member of this House and the other place. All of us have the opportunity to serve here because of the great love and affection that comes from our families, and when we leave this place we will go and be with them. We will have the opportunity to spend the most joyous time of the year with them and be with our families for Christmas and New Year's and share stories, experiences of the year and our reflections, but, most of all, just hold each other in our arms. It will give us an extra opportunity, as we go into next year, to remember those fond times that we have had over the Christmas break.
I particularly want to be mindful of those who will not have such a merry Christmas and those who will be under great stress and strain, because I must reflect on the fact that the issue this year that I believe was most penetrating, most humbling and most significant was the day we stood in this place and offered the national apology to the victims of sexual abuse. It was a day that I think the Leader of the Opposition and I will certainly never forget, and I hope it's a day that those who suffered that abuse will also never forget. It can't change what happened. As they go through their Christmas and holiday period, there won't be the same warm smiles for many of them. There will be the same confusion. There'll be the same sense of hurt and damage and things that they will never feel they can get over.
So I would suggest that, as we go off to our break and spend our time with our families once again, we think of them and think of what they're going through over these periods, because we know that, at Christmas and holiday periods, for those of us who are blessed—as I have been with Jen and the girls and a wonderful family—this is the most joyous time of the year. For others it's a time of terrible isolation, a reminder of the things that really make life so hard for them. That's why I'm so thankful for the services, like Lifeline and others, who will be there for them and who will be turning out and volunteering on Christmas Day all around the country and serving Christmas cheer to others.
Christmas is a religious season. It is a reminder of our Lord who came into this place and brought new hope but, most of all, a message of love. In that message of love, there are so many Australians who take the opportunity—and God bless them for doing it—to go out there and extend that love and care to their fellow Australians and try to ease what might otherwise be an even more difficult day. So we thank those volunteers who will be doing that this Christmas, and we thank them for doing it each and every day of the year. We hope that, through their comfort, they will bring some measure of joy to others over the Christmas period.
I also thank all of those of our Defence Force who will be serving far away from this place—and, indeed, here in our own country—and will be away from their families. They might be at sea. They might be serving in Afghanistan or other places in peacekeeping missions around the world. We are mindful of the service and the sacrifice that they are making on our behalf, and we send them our best. We will always seek to do our best for them in this place and at every opportunity we have.
We think of those who are serving as volunteers on our beaches, in the rural fire services and those out there caring for our community over the holiday season. With the fires still burning up in Queensland, thankfully, their intensity has diminished. Just during question time I received advice that there are fires burning in South Australia right now. The warnings have not escalated to a high level at this point, but it's just a reminder.
As I've said in this place, we are going into one of the most difficult fire seasons for many, many years. So, as we go around the many Christmas events and other things we will have in our electorates and communities over the next few weeks, all of us will have the opportunity to remind fellow Australians to have those conversations as communities and families and at the street parties to say: how will we work together; what will we do? Make sure that the first conversation you have about evacuation or responding to an emergency is not when it's happening for real and you have to make those choices. I would encourage all of us to be out there carrying that message to everyone over this Christmas season. Whether it's our police officers, our firefighters, our nurses, our doctors or others who will be out there providing care, we thank them all for their service over the course of the last 12 months. They are called to do what they do in their vocations, as we do here, and we thank them for the great work they do.
I extend to the Leader of the Opposition, his family and his wife, Chloe, all the best for the Christmas period. I hope they have a great break. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his personal kindnesses to Jenny and me. And I thank Chloe for her kindnesses to Jenny; they are able to take refuge in each other's company on occasion when we are attending various events. We appreciate them and we wish them all the best. And I extend that to all the members of the opposition and, of course, all the members of my own wonderful team on this side of the House. I also extend it to the Leader of the National Party and to the Treasurer, as well as to Senator McKenzie, the Deputy Leader of the National Party in the other place. To the Leader of the House—what would we do without the Leader of the House! He completely embodies a sense of Christmas cheer and is an adornment to the House—I wish you and your family all the best for Christmas.
To the leadership in the Senate—Senator Cormann and Senator Birmingham—and to Senator Wong and the team in the Senate, I wish you all the best for your year. I thank very much the Chief Government Whip and the deputy whips. Well done, whips, for working so well together with the whips from the opposition and ensuring we get about our business and work through the important work of the parliament. I thank the Clerk of the House, David Elder, and all of your team—the deputy clerk, Claressa Surtees, and the clerk assistants. I thank the Serjeant-at-Arms, James Catchpole, and his team for the work they do.
I thank the House Parliamentary Liaison Officer, Anne Dowd, and her colleagues Luke Bulow and Tim Moore. From my own department, I thank Secretary Parkinson and all of his team—as I'm sure my colleagues in the executive would want to thank all of their department secretaries and all of those who work principally here and in and around Canberra. As a result of the policies of our government, a lot of them are working outside of Canberra these days, which is a good thing. I wish all of them the best for Christmas and I hope they can enjoy their time off so they can return refreshed for what will be a very busy year next year.
I also thank all of our staff. We had the opportunity last night as a coalition to thank all of our staff for their great work. I thank the attendants of this place. I thank the Federal Police and the security and support staff who look after us all and keep us safe. In my own office we have three cleaners—Lucia, Anna and Maria—who would be known to most people around this building because they've been here a very long time. Anna and Maria are sisters, and they have worked in the PMO since Prime Minister Hawke. They are loud and joyous and wonderful, and there is bipartisan agreement that we love them very much.
Ms Plibersek interjecting—
I've got to note the interjection from the member for Sydney. Seriously, can you leave it alone when I'm trying to thank them? It's the valedictories, for goodness sake! Just put it aside for five minutes.
Ms Plibersek interjecting—
I was just about to say, Mr Speaker, that earlier this week they lost their mother. I know we would all like to send our love and prayers to two sisters who have become part of the soul of this building. To them we extend our condolences, and our thoughts are with them at a difficult time.
I want to pay tribute also to Laura Gillies, who is the executive assistant to the Serjeant-at-Arms. Laura is about to retire. She has worked for the Department of the House of Representatives for over 33 years. She joined the service of the parliament in Old Parliament House when Bob Hawke was Prime Minister. She has seen everything in this building—and she has seen a lot over the last 10 years! On behalf of the government, I thank you for your service to Australia.
Christmas is a very joyous time, and we know it can be tough for many others. Those who it will be particularly tough for—as it has been for many years now, particularly in Queensland—are the communities that have been affected by drought. Whether up in Quilpie—and the Tullys—or anywhere else across the country, I think one of the most generous things we've seen from fellow Australians this year is the way that they, whether they're schoolchildren or seniors groups, have reached out and wanted to help our rural and regional communities, our farmers. And it is not just the farms but the communities, the shops, those who work in the schools. For all of those communities, Australians reached out and had their back this year. We're very pleased to be doing many things to help and support them at this time, but we pray that they'll have a wonderful Christmas, and I'll certainly continue to pray for rain for them. I suspect that would be a great Christmas prayer, as people go about their Christmas Day, that day of religious celebration. I think it would be a wonderful thing for the nation to join and pray for rain.
Mr Speaker, may I wish you also a wonderful Christmas, and your lovely family. We'll look forward to working together again next year as part of your parliamentary family you preside over—
An honourable member: With great distinction!
Yes, with great distinction and—
Great poise—yes, thank you, Treasurer—but also a great sense of spirit and a sense of humour, which I'm sure is well received by those who look in on these broadcasts. You very much are in control of this House, Mr Speaker, and we commend you for the way that you've done that, with great integrity. You really do bring a great authority to this House, and the House is incredibly well served by you. So, to all colleagues, I again extend my best wishes, from Jenny and I and our family, and may God bless you and yours.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I congratulate the Prime Minister on his valedictory speech. When I say thank you first of all to you, Mr Speaker, I mean it. After all, being Speaker of the House and a Carlton supporter is enough to test the patience of a saint! So, it's a great credit to you that you've kept order in the chamber and held on to your sense of humour as well.
I'm pretty sure that last week the Prime Minister effectively announced that the date of the election could be 11 May—or 18 May. But it may be of greater interest to some in the House to learn that the Prime Minister's birthday is 13 May, and mine is 12 May. So, it's fair to say that both of us are hoping that the other one doesn't necessarily have the world's happiest birthday next year! I think it makes it all the more important to wish the Prime Minister a merry Christmas. Chloe and I wish you and Jenny and your very precious daughters a safe and happy time together over the summer. And despite everything that they say about me, I give my best wishes to the government members. They did me the compliment this year of mentioning me personally 1,260 times in question time; that's about every 3½ minutes, and that includes our questions. It makes me wonder what on earth the government would do without me!
I should also briefly acknowledge former Prime Minister Turnbull and Lucy Turnbull. The Prime Minister served and led this country up to August of this year. I also should acknowledge the member for Curtin, who has served with distinction as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and foreign minister not only for much of this year but indeed for her time in government. I also should say merry Christmas to the fastest-growing group in the chamber, the crossbench: merry Christmas.
Having acknowledged the people who serve in the parliament, I think it's appropriate this Christmas to think of the men and women of our Defence Force who are serving overseas and in Australia—and their families, who serve also. We pay tribute to the Australian Federal Police and our security agencies, who calmly and professionally keep us safe. We acknowledge the men and women who have already begun another long, hot summer of fighting fires and saving lives and communities. At Christmas we think of our police and our ambos, our nurses and our emergency services—the people who come face to face with the tragic human consequences and stresses and strains of this time of year.
Let us also spare a thought for those who are going without, people battling everything from poverty to addiction to homelessness to just simple loneliness. We give thanks to their allies in this fight, those remarkable souls of the charity organisations, who do everything they can to bring some Christmas cheer to those who really do deserve it the most. I also want to salute all the Australians who will be working through Christmas, giving up their time with the people they love, to make sure that there is food on the table, the bills are paid and the rest of us can enjoy our Christmas.
In 2018, around the nation, Australia was tested by fire and floodwater, by drought and hardship, by terror and tragedy, but, in the face of disaster, our people stand strong. In the shadow of evil, our communities come together. When times are tough, neighbours and strangers could always count on each other. As ever, the greatness of our country revealed itself not just in the high places of power and privilege but in the hearts of our citizens. As always, we find remarkable inspiration in the character and courage of everyday Australians, especially our resilient farmers battling drought, who put the food on the table for the nation.
Only twice in the history of football has a side kicked the first five goals of a grand final and lost, and on both occasions it was Collingwood, so congratulations to Western Australians and Eagles supporters, and, in league, the Roosters. It was on the Gold Coast this year that our athletes starred—none, I would suggest, more inspirational or impressive than the amazing, legendary Kurt Fearnley. At beautiful Moonee Valley in my electorate the 'mighty mare' won her fourth Cox Plate. Speaking of winning with a leg in the air, congratulations to Premier Daniel Andrews. In the Caribbean the Southern Stars clinched another world cup, and as women's sporting codes around the nation continue to grow, thrive and inspire, let us do more to see these athletes be paid like the elite professionals they are.
None of us would be here without the sacrifices, patience and support of our families. I thank Chloe for her love, advice and policy passion and for basically raising our kids largely on her own, as so many of our partners do. Last night I missed my youngest daughter's concert, but we all miss a lot in these jobs—big moments and little everyday treasures. To my son, Rupert, congratulations on finishing year 12; to Georgette, I'm sorry that I mentioned your boyfriend on radio before you were Facebook-official; and to Clementine, I'm pleased to say that I kept my promise and made it through the year without dabbing in public—please lift the fatwa.
Speaking of families who've put up with a lot, I'd like to thank my caucus colleagues, beginning of course with the member for Sydney. Tanya, the greatest gift, not that there are many gifts for being the Leader of the Opposition for five years, is to have developed the friendship that I have with you. In the other place we're fortunate to be led by senators Penny Wong and Don Farrell: perhaps the most unlikely, iconic and beloved partnership to come out of South Australia since the pie floater. To the member for McMahon, thank you for your belief in Labor as the party of ideas and initiative and for everything you to do advance our cause as an alternative government, not just a strong opposition. To our Manager of Opposition Business, the member for Watson, we need only look at next year's sitting calendar to show how effective you are at your job. To the newest member of our leadership group, Brendan O'Connor, your resiliency, humour, love of a good fight and love of Una—you cheer us all; you make us respect you.
To all of my senior colleagues, I won't namecheck you all, but you know who you are. To all of my members of the executive, to all of those who serve in the parliamentary Labor Party, thank you very much for your support, for your vision and for your unity. I say thank you to our chief whip, Chris Hayes, and the deputy whips who do everything you can to keep us in line. Indeed, I wish I had the opportunity to acknowledge each of my caucus colleagues. You are outstanding. You give up a lot. You put your case with fierceness and determination and with idealism and optimism. On this side of the parliament we carry the Labor banner, but we know that an army marches at our back. To our branch members and true believers, thank you for giving our movement such life and purpose. To our national secretary, Noah Carroll, and his team, in the next 162 days and 12 hours, you have a national conference—I thank the government for that—before Christmas and a federal election campaign to run next year. Please squeeze in a merry Christmas in between.
I do want to thank and acknowledge the trade union movement of Australia. Earlier this year I travelled up to Sale to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the explosion at the Longford gas plant. I will never forget being at the site that afternoon, as a younger official, when they showed us the security footage of the explosions which took two lives and badly burned two others. There were nine explosions, nine fireballs. It looked like film of an air force bombing raid as the gas explosions occurred. In the foreground, sensibly, you could see a lot of people running from the area of the explosions to safety. But every single person in the orange overalls, the operators and the in-house maintenance, were running towards the danger going to their mates. Twenty years ago these were the people that this large multinational company tried to blame for the disaster, the people who ran towards the peril. Their union stood up for them then, defended them and protected them, and in the end these workers got bravery medals.
But even now at Esso, the union movement is still fighting for maintenance workers who were unceremoniously sacked over 500 days ago, only to be told that if they wanted their jobs back, that in some cases they had had for some decades, they had to accept a 30 per cent pay cut from one of the richest companies in the world.
The fight for fairness is a job that never stops but it is where some of the most rewarding work can be. It is why I am proud every day to be a member of an Australian trade union.
Speaking of powerful and important collectives, I acknowledge the press gallery. I say to those of you who located our free drinks on Tuesday night, which was a healthy majority—and I think they all attended the Prime Minister's beforehand too!—you genuinely perform a public service. Our democracy is better for it.
Talking of what makes our system better, that brings me to the people who do the listening in this place, the Hansard reporters, the clerks, the chamber attendants, the tabling and drafting officers and all the other quietly turning cogs that keep the machinery of our parliament and our democracy turning over. To everyone who plays a part, the caterers, 2020, broadcasting, landscapers, librarians, gym staff and security guards, thank you for what you do in the service of our democracy. In particular, we must always acknowledge one of the more remarkable monopolies in this place, so I acknowledge Dom and the team at Aussies. They've probably got the soccer on right now but they can read about this later. I do, too, want to thank our cleaners, especially in my office the aptly named and ever-cheerful Joy.
We all spend our lives in a tearing hurry. I would say that, in Melbourne, without my Comcar drivers, Peter Taylor, Steve Smith and Dave 'Smoky' Keeley, I would miss a lot of flights and be even later to some of my press conferences.
As usual, this section of my speech is both highlighted and in bold. I would like to thank my staff, both at my electorate office in Moonee Ponds and my personal staff. Many staff come here dreaming of The West Wing. These days, my staff console themselves with watching Veep. It has been a long road, not just the 1,602 kilometres that I've run so far this year—I've recorded this—and I've been glad to have you with me on the journey.
There are issues and questions which divide this place, from the momentous to the trivial, but a big truth unites us all: we are drawn here because we believe that politics is more than a career. It is a vocation. It is a call to service. Service not just in the name of the people who voted for us but for the next generation, for the future of all Australians.
The best day this parliament has had this year, in 2018, was the apology to the survivors and victims of institutional child sexual abuse. It was a day full of hard truths, raw emotions and reawakened pain for those who came to hear the apology. There was grief for those who did not live long enough to hear it being given. And amidst the remarkable privilege we all had of meeting with survivors, advocates and warriors who fought for that day, two things shone through to me. One is the unselfishness that drove them. They sought the apology not because of what it would mean for them but because they believed it was the best and surest way to prevent this happening again to another generation—to protect the next generation so that what happened to the survivors would not happen again.
But the second thing which shone through to me is this. There are many Australians who have reasons to distrust this place. There are many Australians who are cynical about politics. These Australians in particular had every reason to distrust this place and despise politicians, but they still found it in themselves to include the parliament in the nation's healing.
So, remarkably, after all of the betrayals that they had endured, they gave us a gift. They reminded us of the privilege that we have in this place and the power we have to speak for our nation and to serve it. So, in the new year, let us all work harder to make redress real. Let us all do more to remember the gift that they gave us, to honour their example and to live up to it in 2019.
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Diwali. I thank the House.
I thank both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and I support their very generous remarks. I'm just going to make a very few brief remarks with respect to the staff of the House and the operation of the House. I want to start by thanking the Clerk, David Elder, and the Deputy Clerk, Claressa Surtees, and their team, who've worked extremely hard through the course of the year.
I want to also thank the Serjeant-at-Arms, James Catchpole, and all of his staff. I'd also like to thank all of the staff of the Department of the House of Representatives. I'd like to thank the attendants who work here in this chamber. They're led by Paulene Crook, who's worked very hard throughout the course of the year. I want to thank them for all of the messages they've run to keep the House operating. I think they do a fantastic job.
I want to thank the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business. I have a lot to do with the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business on a daily basis—in fact, sometimes on an hourly basis. I think we've had a good relationship, working through all of the very difficult issues from a procedural point of view. I want to thank the Manager of Opposition Business, who I've had a lot to do with.
The Leader of the House I've known for 30 years. We are friends, but there was a first the other day: he said sorry for the first time in my living memory, and that's probably the only time I've been momentarily stunned, I think! But I want to thank him and, as I said, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I'm fortunate; I've known them a very long time as well. The Leader of the Opposition and I, of course, are both Melbourne boys, and I've known the Prime Minister for about that same length of time as well.
I want to thank my personal staff, led by Cate Clunies-Ross. They work incredibly hard and they give very good and frank advice. At the same time, they all manage a really healthy sense of humour—that's often at my expense, I have to say, but that's healthy.
I wish all of you a Happy Christmas and I look forward to seeing you all at the start of next year. Thanks so much.