Thursday, 21 February 2019
Statements on Indulgence
Member for Curtin
During the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to closely consider the future of the coalition government and the pending general election. I have closely observed Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Liberal-National team in the parliament—in question time—in the party room, in press conferences and elsewhere. It is evident that the policy platform that we will take to the next election is crystallising, based on the very firm foundations of our unrelenting focus on prudent management of our national finances so that we can afford the services that Australians need—in returning the budget to surplus, in paying down debt, in lowering taxes, in backing enterprise and job creation and in growing the economy for the benefit of all Australians.
Australians will remember that in 2007 the Labor Party promised to deliver responsible budgets, yet in government they trashed the national finances through wasteful and reckless spending. Labor also promised to maintain strong border protection, yet in government they presided over one of the greatest policy failures in a generation when they weakened those border protection laws. During the last two weeks, it has become evident that Labor has learned nothing from its past failings and is doomed to repeat those failings should it be re-elected. It is thus my view that the Liberal-National coalition will win the next election—
Government members: Hear, hear!
and that the government will be returned to office because it is focusing on the matters that matter to the Australian people. On that basis, I have reconsidered my position as the member for Curtin. I've been contacted by a number of talented—indeed, extraordinary—people, including women, who have indicated to me that, should I not recontest the seat of Curtin, they would seek pre-selection for that seat from the Curtin division of the Liberal Party. Accordingly, I will not recontest the seat of Curtin at the next election and I will work hard in the meantime to assist a new Liberal candidate to win the seat. It is time for a new member to take my place.
I will leave the seat of Curtin in very good shape; indeed, a winning position for the Liberal Party. When I first contested the seat, in 1998, I won the election with a primary vote of 44.6 per cent. At the last election, my seventh election, my primary vote was 65.6 per cent within essentially the same electoral boundary. With a two-party preferred of 71 per cent and with an experienced campaign team and campaign funds already in place, I am confident that a Liberal candidate will have every opportunity to win the support of the people of Curtin.
It has been an immense honour to be the longest serving member for Curtin and also to have been the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party—the first female to hold the role for 11 years—over half my entire political career. I'm also proud of the fact that I am the first woman to have contested the leadership ballot of the Liberal Party in its 75-year history. It has also been an immense honour to serve in cabinet, first as the Minister for Education, Science and Training and minister for women's issues and then as the Minister for Foreign Affairs—Australia's first female foreign minister. I'm so very proud that my successor, Senator Marise Payne, is the second female foreign minister of Australia.
My five years as foreign minister, being able to represent Australia on the world stage, were a particular privilege. We should be so proud of our reputation and the high regard in which we are held as a nation: as an open, liberal democracy committed to freedoms and the rule of law and democratic institutions; an open, highly competitive export-oriented market economy entering our 28th consecutive year of uninterrupted economic growth—that's a world record—with a lifestyle and a standard of living that is unparalleled.
I thank and acknowledge the prime ministers in whose cabinets I served: John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. I thank the Liberal Party of Australia, my division of Curtin, the state division, my colleagues, past and present, in this place and the Liberal Party members across Australia and living overseas everywhere for the remarkable opportunity they have afforded me to be a member of the House of Representatives since 1998. I have been blessed to work with some outstanding political and ministerial staff who shared my passion for my political and policy endeavours, and I thank them—particularly, Murray Hanson, my closest adviser for 14 years.
I thank my big, beautiful supportive family—my siblings: MaryLou and Joe; Patricia and Ed; and Douglas and Nicole—and David Panton and his family. I say to my many close and trusted friends that I look forward to seeing a lot more of you.
As I said in this place in my first speech, in November 1998, I was brought up to believe that entering public office should be one of the highest callings, that being able to direct your energies and abilities to the betterment of your state or your country was one of the greatest contributions you could make and that I'd always had an intense conviction that an individual can make a difference to the life of their times. That remains my view.
I also set out a goal in that speech: to represent the people of Curtin with all the vigour, courage and ability that I had to offer, with honesty and with decency, and, above all, to put their interests above my own. I will leave this place positive about the future and proud of the service that I have been able to give to my electorate of Curtin, to my beloved Liberal Party, to the state of Western Australia and to my country.
Mr Speaker, I know that the member has just departed the chamber, but I think it's important to mark the speech that we've just heard from the member for Curtin—simply to acknowledge her tremendous service to our country, her tremendous service to her community and her tremendous service to our party, the Liberal Party.
Julie is a Liberal through and through. She has always held fast to those important Liberal principles. We share many things in common, not just thinking that Tina Arena is the best Australian female singer! Apart from that, there is the passion that she has always brought to her role; the dignity and grace that she has always demonstrated in every single role that she has held. She is an incredibly classy individual, as we remarked about Julie in our own party room some time ago.
The other thing I'd say about this is that one of my favourite verses relates to the phrase, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' That is a phrase that, I think, very much speaks of the service that we seen from the member for Curtin. Her successor will have big shoes to fill, and we all know Julie has the best shoes in the parliament! They will, indeed, take some filling. I have no doubt that whoever does fill those shoes as the member for Curtin that the former member for Curtin—when she becomes that—will be there to support her all the way.
The member for Curtin left, as she started, with a fierce attack upon the Labor Party at the start. That's fair enough. She loves her Liberal Party. I suspect today that there will be Liberal supporters, Western Australians and, indeed, people around Australia who like her particular brand of politics and will be disappointed by this news. I recognise how they will feel too. Even though she was a fierce adversary of Labor, I always felt that she admired the fact that the Labor Party did such a big job in terms of trying to encourage women into parliament. She was always generous in that regard.
I just want to talk more about the fact that she was a trailblazer: the first woman foreign minister—that's a big achievement. There can never be another first. I hope that whatever she chooses to do in the future—and I'm sure she won't be short of offers—she contemplates some form of public service. I think this country needs to be better at using our former prime ministers and senior representatives. I recognise her experience and breadth.
Personally, from Chloe, I would like to say that she and Chloe got on very well. The member for Curtin always said to me that I punch above my weight, as, I suspect, many blokes here in this place do. She and Chloe are good friends, so Chloe would want to extend to her and David the very best.
In closing, there was one moment as I was listening to her when I thought, 'It's a bit of an end of an era.' After all my dealings with her and watching her, I think about her time as foreign minister after MH17 was shot out of the sky. Former Prime Minister Abbott would remember that very much so because of his fierce passion about that event and the terrible tragedy and murder that it was. I don't just remember that flight, MH17, and the morning we gathered here in the chamber to learn the news that 38 Australian lives had been stolen. A lot of it fell to her. I saw firsthand how she showed up for the families, and her calm, composure and kindness was real; it was authentic in that grief and bewilderment. I remember the service in Melbourne at St Patrick's. She really was a leader.
But I also saw her steely determination in international forums to help pursue justice, and she was very strong. In that regard, if any of us were ever privileged to be in the position that she was in, dealing with the Russians and other people, I hope that we would show the same strength that she showed. That she did is to her everlasting credit. She did Australia proud that day and in those weeks.
I wish Julie and David well in everything that is ahead. I feel that the Liberal Party can have nothing but good regard for her because she has been a faithful servant of the Liberal Party and she has done everything she ever should for that party. Congratulations to the member for Curtin.