House debates

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Statement by the Speaker

5:50 pm

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

Before the Leader of the House moves the required motion, I just want to make some brief remarks—very briefly. I want to associate myself with all the remarks that have been made by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They have all been remarks that I concur with absolutely.

Obviously as Speaker I want to thank all members of the House. I particularly want to thank the staff of the House, led by Claressa Surtees, our first-ever female Clerk of the House, and all of the staff of the Department of the House of Representatives—obviously all of the staff you see here in the chamber, but also the staff who are working very hard behind the scenes as well. The former Clerk, David Elder, was mentioned, and of course I want to place on record my thanks to him for all his help in the first half of the year. To my personal staff, led by Cate Clunies-Ross, and all of my advisers and staff, who work very hard, I thank them for all of the work that they've done. I want to single out one staff member, who retired after the election, and that is Denise Jeffs. She was a servant of this parliament, a servant of the party I represent. She started working for Bob Halverson, the member for Casey, after the 1984 election, and she served through that entire time, including during his speakership. She came back to work for me after the 2007 election, which obviously were very difficult days for us, and became my office manager. I made a lot of promises at the last election, which I'll keep, and she made one, that this was her last election—and she certainly kept it! I don't blame her at all. She did a wonderful job and I wish her and her partner a wonderful retirement.

To the Prime Minister, thank you so much for your remarks. As you pointed out, we've been friends for a long time, and indeed you were a very enthusiastic supporter of me becoming Speaker, and I want to acknowledge that; I really do. We'd met many, many years before you were elected to parliament and then, again after the 2007 election, became colleagues.

To the Leader of the Opposition—I'll surprise people here—we only met when I was elected as a member of parliament. We had a few run-ins at the committee level but, funnily enough, became good friends during that time.

To the Deputy Prime Minister, who I've known for a long time, thanks for your friendship as well. I'll just say, your microphone works well! I'll just make that point before Christmas. But thanks so much.

To the Deputy Leader of the Opposition—he's mentioned our friendship many times. I mentioned it when becoming Speaker, and some on my side seemed quite shocked that I was friends with someone on the other side. But, Prime Minister, I know you've forged friendships on the other side through your time. I think that's healthy, provided that it's genuine. In the case of the member for Corio, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I, it is very genuine. I'm meant to refer to members by their correct titles—I'm always admonishing people—but Richard, we've known each other for a third of a century. We really have. We met in 1986. Don't for a minute think that we agree on everything—or sometimes even anything! That's not the case. We always had a way of understanding each other's differences while trying to do what we thought was best for democracy. That was really the point. Certainly, on campus, without me becoming political—you wouldn't want me to do that—sometimes we had co-opponents, if I could put it that way. That's the most polite way I could put it. I can only recall one occasion where you became really angry with me, and I think that probably was my fault; I really do, looking back on it.

Just to a couple of others on a personal level: to the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, who's a great friend, I just admire your never-ending energy. You see that here in the chamber. I'll get messages from Josh all through the day on various things and, when the working day is done, they don't stop. It's 11 o'clock at night, and I think: what's Josh texting me about? And it's something to do with the Carlton Football Club's draft. I really, really admire your passion for all of that.

Finally, just a special call-out to the new members. It really is an honour and a privilege to be elected to this House, absolutely. You've been through an election. You've been through the opening of the House. This is the end of your first year, and you should take the time to cherish it, have a break, no matter what anyone tells you to do. You should be very proud, and I wish you and your families all of the best. Thank you so much for all of your help and assistance throughout the year—some more than others, I have to say, in all candour. Despite what some people think outside this place, this is a debating arena and what occurs here is vigorous debate at times.

Finally, I do want to thank both the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business. They have big jobs—very, very big jobs, indeed. Without the two of them, the House wouldn't function. So thank you, everybody, and I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas.