House debates

Tuesday, 1 December 2020



7:50 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Education and Training) Share this | | Hansard source

I think everybody in this place would agree that it's been one hell of a year. We are very much looking forward to Christmas. I stopped by Harris Farm fruit markets on Friday. I saw the first Christmas trees for sale, and I snapped one up. I bought a box of cherries from Young and some Christmas bush flowers for the table. I couldn't get into the Christmas spirit fast enough. But, before we break for the holidays, I do want to take some time to thank the people who have helped us to the finish line this year.

I want to start by acknowledging the tireless work of our leader, the member for Grayndler, Anthony Albanese. He worked through the bushfires last summer and he hasn't stopped all year. I hope that he has the opportunity to enjoy a bit of a Christmas break this year because he certainly deserves it. His deputy, the member for Corio, Richard Marles, and the whole leadership team have done a magnificent job this year. I want to thank my colleagues in the federal Labor caucus, particularly my dear friend the member for Fowler, Chris Hayes, who gave us a bit of a scare not so long ago and is facing surgery this week. I know that Chris knows how much he is loved and admired in this place, and we wish him and Bernadette all the very best. I also want to acknowledge the phenomenal work of his able deputy, the member for Lalor, Joanne Ryan—and you, Mr Deputy Speaker Rob Mitchell, and the Speaker's panel as well.

Of course, it's not just my own colleagues on this side I want to acknowledge. All of us in this place and in that other place have had an unusual year and have been called on to support our communities in unusual ways this year. I acknowledge the work of all the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate and most particularly their families who, in some cases, have been separated from their loved ones for weeks at a time as people have been here, quarantining and isolating—all sorts of unusual arrangements. I want to thank my staff in both the electorate and the shadow ministerial parts of my office. Pandemics are very busy times for electorate offices—who would have known? We've been helping people back from overseas. We've been supporting people who are at risk of losing their homes or their businesses. We've been talking to people about rent relief, mortgage holidays, flights, family members stuck overseas, JobKeeper, JobSeeker and all the rest of it. It's very important work, and it has been handled with empathy and professionalism by my staff and, no doubt, by the staff of other members and senators as well.

I want to acknowledge the work of all of those who have made our parliament work in such extraordinary circumstances this year: the Speaker, the clerks—beginning, of course, with Claressa Surtees—and all of the attendants and those who support us. It has been a bit more subdued in here than it has been in previous years but all of you kept our democracy going, so I thank you for that. A lot of work goes into the running of this place. It's a bit like a Broadway musical; there's the bit you see on the stage and then there's a vast network of people supporting it. I acknowledge and thank the cleaners, especially Joy who looks after our office so well; the Comcar drivers; the AFP officers and our security guards; Hazel and Shannon and the brilliant researchers in the parliamentary library; Dom, Brigette and the staff at Aussies; the cafeteria staff and the coffee cart people; and the garden crews and maintenance crews who keep our building and our gardens so beautiful. And to all of my friends in the press gallery, thank you for holding our democracy to account.

I started this year with a speech on Australia Day about patriotism and citizenship and about what we owe each other as Australians. I don't think any of us on Australia Day could have predicted that so much would be required of so many citizens this year. I have been constantly in awe of the way people have risen to the challenges that this year has thrown at us. To our nurses, our doctors, our allied health workers, our aged-care workers and our disability support workers, who put themselves between the virus and vulnerable people; the teachers, who switched almost overnight to online learning; the police officers, who risked their health to enforce public health laws; our frontline community workers, who housed rough sleepers and stepped up as domestic violence has increased; the farmers, truck drivers, delivery workers, warehouse staff and retail workers, who kept food on the table and supplies on our shelves; and our friends in the union movement, who stood up for our rights this year: the discipline and kindness you've shown has made me proud to be Australian. Thank you.