House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Parliamentary Representation


12:01 pm

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you to all those who have joined us here in the chamber today. I am going to commence my final contribution to this place in the same way I began my first one, in acknowledging the Gweagal people of the Dharawal nation of southern Sydney—a very special people, because they were the first to engage with Lieutenant James Cook on 29 April 1770. That place in Kurnell is a very special place. We speak a lot about reconciliation in this place, as we should, and my experience of that place as each and every year we gather in a ceremony of reconciliation, I think, speaks to the best spirit of that. I also spoke about that place in my maiden speech in this place. I said that it was important that we recognise this site, and I am so pleased that over the time that I have been here, we were able to achieve that.

On that site now, there is—artists call it an installation, others would call it a monument, and some might call it a statue—call it whatever you like, but I know what it means. There is the totem of the Dharawal people, the whale, and it's beautiful. There are many other installations around the shore, but the one which is most striking, as the tide comes in, laps on it and recedes, is the skeleton of a whale, but it is also the skeleton of a ship like the Endeavour. On each of the rings of that skeleton is inscribed the journals of Lieutenant James Cook. If you haven't been there, go there. It is a wonderful place to reflect on how two stories become one. For me that's what reconciliation with Indigenous people has always been about. We weave together the individual strands of individual Australians of so many different backgrounds and experiences, from our Indigenous peoples to the most recent citizens. Each strand unique, but together weaved as one. For me that site will always mean that, and it's wonderful to acknowledge it here today, as well as the artists and the so many who made that possible.

As was my practice as Prime Minister, always, when acknowledging Indigenous Australians, I would also in the same breath acknowledge those men and women who served Australia in our defence forces, both those who served in the past and those who serve now, for the simple reason that they are the providers of our freedom. Everything we have in this country we owe to them. In one of my early days—the member for Blaxland is here—we trekked Kokoda together in the spirit of bipartisanship. He was a little quicker than me and still is. We trekked Sandakan, we trekked the Black Cat Track up there in northern Papua New Guinea and we also went on to Gallipoli. At the end of those treks we would stand together with the young people who were with us—whether it was at the Bomana cemetery or in Lae or Sandakan or elsewhere—and we would hold hands, look at those tombstones, thank them and commit ourselves to living lives that would be worthy of their sacrifice. It was incredibly moving. And we would say, 'They gave their tomorrows for our today.' So it is easy for us all in that spirit to acknowledge our defence forces, those who serve in them—and serve in them today, far from here and nearby—and simply say thank you for your service.

Today is not an opportunity to run through a bullet point list of things. It is, importantly, an opportunity for me to simply express my thanks and appreciation and admiration for those who have made my service here in this place possible and to pass on what I hope are some helpful reflections from my time here that may assist those who continue to serve. Let me begin with my thankyous.

Firstly and importantly, to my constituents in Cook: it has been my great privilege to have served you as your local member in this parliament for these past more than 16 years, where you have been kind enough to elect me on six separate—six successive—occasions. I thank you for the tremendous and steadfast support you've provided to me and my family, who join me here today, during this time. Whatever was going on at the time, whether it be success, failure and everything in between, when I returned to the electorate—and those who know the area will know what I'm talking about—and particularly as I went up the rise of the Captain Cook Bridge and descended into God's country itself, the shire, I would feel a great sense of belonging. I would feel a great sense of reassurance and peace. All of us who live there know this. This is as much, though, about the people as it is the place. It is home and always will be.

Mine is a community that is unashamedly proud of our country, that deeply values family life and what it takes to live a life that keeps families together, that works hard. They take responsibility for themselves. They appreciate and respect both their own and others' good fortune, and they are generous to those around them, celebrating their successes or providing a hand up whenever and wherever it is needed. It is also a community that enthusiastically shares and supports and maintains the important community and social infrastructure that preserves our way of life. It is a community that does not leave it to others, including the government. Mine is a community that does not look for what it is owed but what it can contribute, for how it can make a contribution, not take one, both nationally and locally. They are a community of patriots, and I am pleased to describe them as such in this place.

In both my local and my national roles, including as Prime Minister, I have always been guided by the strong local values of my community—family, community, small business—and what I describe as the fair go for those who have a go. This is what makes the shire and southern Sydney such a great place to live and raise a family. And there are plenty of quiet Australians who understand that as well. Ever since I was first elected, I have always seen it as my job to try and keep it that way, and I believe I have honoured that commitment.

I particularly thank the myriad of community organisations, sporting clubs, school communities, volunteers, small businesses, church and charitable groups that make our local community, as they do all of our communities, so great and so resilient, including my beloved Sharks. These groups and organisations are the heart of our community, and I've always enjoyed the role I have played to support and enable them in their efforts, and I'm proud of what we have been able to achieve altogether in our community over this time.

I also want to thank my many local Liberal Party supporters and members, in particular Mike Douglas; Louise De Domenico, who was also on my staff; and my conference chairman and great friend, Scott Briggs, for always keeping the local show on the road. A special thank you also to our neighbours and friends in Lilli Pilli, Port Hacking and Dolans Bay. You had to put up with more than most—cameras, security, traffic, the odd protest and home invader. To Jamie and Anna and to Joe, Chrissie and Stan, I look forward to continuing return the favour of mowing your lawns for years to come. It will be quite some time before I settle that debt! A big thank you also—I'm sure Jenny would agree—to Rob and everyone up at D'lish.

As politicians we know that we are the tip end of the spear. Yet, behind us, there are so many people who we are supported by. They are incredible, dedicated, professional, intelligent, loyal, good humoured, sacrificial and amazing people who, for reasons that I suspect will never cease to amaze all of us—and it certainly humbles us—choose to commit themselves to the causes that we have identified and we seek to champion as members of this place and, when we have the opportunity, in government. They become a family. They support one another. They form close and lasting relationships, together embarking on one of the great seasons of our lives.

I have been blessed in this area more than I could ever deserve. From my local office team in the shire, especially to Julie Adams; to the incredible professionals who headed up and worked in my prime ministerial and ministerial offices, especially Dr John Kunkel, Phil Gaetjens and Anne Duffield; and to my longstanding original staff Latisha Wenlock and Julian Leembruggen, who is here today: the journey would simply have been impossible without you all, all of those you ably led and all who worked together in these causes, so many of whom are here today—and I thank them for being here. There are too many of you to mention all by name, and nor do I wish to injure your reputations by doing so! But I hope you all feel the full partnership of our service together and what we were able to achieve and contribute. Thank you.

I also wish to thank all those who cared for me and my family over the years when I was Prime Minister, as the Prime Minister now would know. To our household staff at the Lodge and at Kirribilli, led by the beautiful Trina Barrie and the incomparable Adam Thomas: you provided a space for Jen, Abbey, Lily, Buddy, Charlie and I to be a family. Thank you.

To the members of my close protection team at the AFP over the years, who continue to look after us even on the odd occasion these days: thank you. I want to specially mention Travis Ford and Jen McRae, who were terribly injured in the line of duty, protecting me in a terrible car accident in Tasmania. I will always be grateful for your sacrifice. When their colleagues rushed to them at the scene, their first words—not knowing what had occurred—were: 'Is the boss okay?' Thank you. To Mick: I'll be in touch about that fishing trip we talked about, as we promised each other on the road on so many occasions.

To my parliamentary, ministerial and cabinet colleagues with whom I served over the years, some gone from this place now and many still here: I want to thank you for your support and your dedication. As your leader, you gave me your best in some of Australia's most difficult times. I asked you to follow and you did, and together we achieved an election victory that none thought possible, and we kept steady hands on the tiller during the greatest set of challenges that have confronted our nation since the Second World War. Thank you for your service.

For the opportunities afforded to me by my party leaders over this time—to Brendon Nelson, to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: thank you.

To my now party leader, Peter Dutton, with whom I served in cabinet through all the years of the coalition government: thank you for your respect, your loyalty, your support and your consideration, especially that which you've shown me as a ministerial colleague, as Prime Minister and as an ex-PM in your party room. Jen and I both appreciate the kindness and generosity you and Kirilly have shown to both of us and our family.

For the great friendship and encouragement afforded to me by some very special friends as colleagues, to Big Mac, my Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack; and Catherine: thank you. To Josh Frydenberg, who I was speaking with this morning, and my deputy leader and Treasurer: thank you, Josh. To Marise Payne, to Greg Hunt, to Michaelia Cash, to good old Benny Morton and to Alex Hawke, who sits with me here today and who keeps me entertained each question time still—there's plenty to entertain us: thank you. And to those who've gone from here—to Steve Irons and Stuart Robert, who I flatted with for many years; to Lucy Wicks and the incomparable Bill Heffernan, who I flatted with for the first six years and survived; and Louise Markus—thank you. To the broader Liberal Party members and our supporters led by Andrew Hirst, John Olsen and Nick Greiner, thank you.

To those who supported me from the Public Service as a minister, Treasurer and Prime Minister, thank you, especially for your service during the pandemic, which I extend to everyone in the Public Service, who showed the true spirit of what public service was with sacrifice and dedication. Thank you to Phil Gaetjens, who was the head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, but, particularly, thank you also to Professor Brendan Murphy and Professor Paul Kelly, who became well-known figures. To General JJ Frewen, thank you. To General Angus Campbell and Greg Moriarty, thank you for all you did to help me secure AUKUS. When I left the job after the last election, when we lost, I remember saying to them, 'Now, please don't stuff it up,' which they are not, together with the Minister for Defence.

To the Prime Minister, to the Deputy Prime Minister, to the members of your government and to Bill Shorten, we have contested fiercely in this place. I've had my wins and I've had my losses, but I wish you all well in your service of the national interest. Too often in this place we confuse differences of policy with judgements about peoples' intent and motives. This is not good for our polity. We may disagree but we need to honour the good intentions of all of us. I wish you well in your service, as I've said, and I especially want to thank you, Mr Speaker, for the special kindness and respect that you've shown to me in this place since the last election and here again today.

To the Prime Minister and your now new fiancee, Jodie, congratulations on your engagement. Jen and I wish you all the very best for your life together. At some point, this all ends and, while there are no hard feelings, I'll obviously be supporting my colleagues and Peter Dutton to ensure that that day hastens sooner rather than later. But, when it does, you will look around and Jodie will be there, and I can assure you—as Jen has been to me—it makes a world of difference.

When I first entered politics, the former member for Parramatta, Julie Owens, who many of us remember well, gave new members some good advice at our orientation about making sure you do not neglect the friendships you had before you came. I took this advice very seriously. I'm even more pleased that my friends and family did. Thank you to our wonderful friends that are here today—to Karen and Adrian Harrington; to David Gazard, the 'Gaza man'; to Arthur and Ingrid Ilias; to Bill and Anne Knock; to Peter Verwer; to Scott Briggs, who couldn't be here today; and to Lynelle Stewart—we love you very much and appreciate you.

To my Christian pastors, Brad and Alison Bonhomme, to Mike and Val Murphy, to Joel and Julia A'bell, to Jock Cameron and to my brothers in Christ, Andrew Scipione, John Anderson and Lloyd Thomas, who's here with his wife Fi today, thank you for your prayers, your counsel and your encouragement. I also especially want to thank Bishop Antoine Tarabay and all of our Maronite brothers and sisters—I've become an honorary Maronite, I think, in the years past—and especially our dear friends Danny and Leila Abdallah, Bridget Sakr and Craig McKenzie, who have taught us all what faith is really all about.

As most people know, subject only to God, my family is the centre of my life, and at the very centre of our family is Jen. I cannot imagine life without her. I love you, Jen, and always will—that is the cross you have to bear. Your love has been my stay and strength. You are the other half of our joined soul, who, by the grace of God, brought Abbey and Lily—our miracle girls—into our lives, who we celebrate and love. I thank Abbey and Lily for their own sacrifices as they have grown, necessitated by having a father in public life. They are beautiful girls in every way, as you can see, and I could not be more proud of them as a father. They are our joy and our delight, and I am so pleased that we can now have the time that was necessarily denied us for so long.

In preparing for this day, Abbey and Lily suggested that I should play a type of Taylor Swift bingo, and I'm wearing the bracelet, by the way—it has 'ScoMo' on it. They said to try to work the names of every single Taylor Swift album into my remarks. Well, what's a dad to do? Here I go!

It is true that my political opponents have often made me see red. When subjected to the tortured poets who would rise to attack my reputation, in response I have always thought it important to be fearless and speak now or forever hold my silence and allow those attacks to become folklore. Ever since leaving university—in 1989!—this has always been my approach. My great consolation has always been my lover Jen, who has always been there for me whenever I need her, from dawn and beyond the many midnights we have shared together. See, I'm actually a true new romantic after all. I can assure you there is no bad blood, as I've always been someone who's been able to shake it off!

Anything for my daughters.

I also want to thank, of course, Jen's mum, Beth, who is looking after the cat and the dog today, and Jen's late father, Roy, an amazing human being, for always being on my side; as well as Jen's siblings, Gary and Cecily, and all their families.

Finally, I thank my mum, Marion, who is here with my late father, John, today together. I also want to thank my brother, Alan, of whom I am extremely proud. My family, growing up, were the dominant example for my life. They taught me that life is about what you contribute, not what you accumulate. They taught me about the duty and dignity of public service, but, beyond this, I would never have known God and my saviour, Jesus Christ, if it was not for them. I can think of no greater gift.

Okay, that's the emotional stuff done! You're not used to seeing that side of me. Having said my thankyous and expressed my appreciation, I would now like to reflect on just three things I have learned along the way that may help those dealing with the challenges of the future who continue in this place. The first of these is that, without a strong economy, you cannot achieve your goals as a nation. All good government must start with nurturing a strong, innovative, dynamic, entrepreneurial, market based economy. In the 1980s we threw off the shackles of the federation institutions that Paul Kelly, who is here today, wrote about in The End of Certainty as holding our economy back. This led my generation into 30 years of economic change that, despite some missteps along the way, including a recession we had to have, produced the longest period of continuing economic growth that any nation in the modern world has known. There have been strong contributions made to this achievement by both sides of politics, which I acknowledge—always, though, with Liberal and National support.

As we entered the pandemic, I was pleased that, after almost six years of painstaking fiscal effort, we had restored our budget to balance and maintained our AAA credit rating. This was achieved by focusing on economic growth and containing growth in public spending. At the time, our government had the lowest rate of growth in public spending of any Australian government for decades. This would prove vital in the years that followed. Having saved for a rainy day, it was now raining. It was pouring, and we had to respond. Australia would emerge with one of the lowest fatality rates from COVID in the developed world. When compared to the average fatality rates of OECD countries, Australia's response saved more than 30,000 lives. We were described as the gold standard of COVID responses by Bill Gates at the Munich security conference and the second-most COVID prepared nation by the Johns Hopkins Institute. This will always be to Greg Hunt's great credit and that of all those he worked with—his eternal credit.

It is also true that, during the pandemic, the rate of death by suicide actually fell and remained down in 2021. This was nothing short of an answer to prayer and the extraordinary efforts of our mental health workers, professionals and services, and I want to acknowledge Professor Pat McGorry and Christine Morgan, who were incredible supports to me during that time.

Our plan was not just about saving lives but about saving livelihoods as well. This was achieved with Australia emerging with one of the strongest economies through COVID. Our historic economic response kept 700,000 businesses in business, it kept more than a million Australians in work and, despite these unpredicted outlays, Australia was one of just nine countries to retain a AAA credit rating. Our response was timely, it was targeted and it was temporary. We responsibly retired measures as soon as it was prudent to do so, leading to a historic reduction in the actual budget deficit, with the budget even moving into structural surplus during COVID. As Josh asked me to remind everyone this morning, the unemployment rate had a '3' in front of it when we left. JobKeeper and the myriad of economic supports—designed by Josh and me, with Mathias Cormann and later Simon Birmingham and the whole team at Treasury and the ATO—would have been fanciful had we not entered into this crisis with a tank that was full.

We cannot take our economy for granted. Employers and businesses creating jobs is how you run a strong economy and put a budget into structural balance and keep it there. During my time in this place I observed that many of the old partisan differences on economic policy have, regrettably, re-emerged. In 2019 we fought an election on this and we prevailed in our miracle election win. Looking forward, we must be careful not to reinstitutionalise our economy. Such an approach will only negate the capacity we have as a nation to deliver on the essentials that Australians rely on; it will crush entrepreneurial spirit and that wonderful spirit of small business, and leave us vulnerable in the face of new threats to our sovereignty.

That brings me to my second point. Those threats are there and they're real. During my time in this place, and especially as Prime Minister, we have seen an end to the post-Cold War period of globalisation and the emergence of a new era of strategic competition, where our global rules based order is being challenged by a new arc of autocracy. This arc of autocracy, which I referred to as Prime Minister, ranges from Pyongyang to Beijing to Tehran and Moscow—a chord of would-be regional hegemons who would prefer power to freedom and care little for the price their own citizens pay to achieve their ends. For this reason our government stood firm against the bullying and coercion of an aggressive Chinese Communist Party government in Beijing who thought we would shrink when pressed. Indeed, we not only stood firm but worked with our allies, our partners and those in our region who wished to protect their own sovereignty to counter this threat to regional peace, prosperity and stability. AUKUS, the Quad, new trading and defence relationships, the first ever comprehensive strategic partnership of any nation with ASEAN and others including PNG, and the Pacific Step-up—all designed to protect our sovereignty and stand up for a global rules based order that favours freedom, especially here in our own region in the Indo-Pacific. In this respect, I pay tribute to the work of Marise Payne and Dan Tehan, as well as Simon Birmingham. I thank the Trump and Biden administrations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, my good friends Boris Johnson, James Marape, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo and Robert O'Brien. I pay tribute to late and great Shinzo Abe and his successors, prime ministers Yoshi Suga and Fumio Kishida.

The 2022 election may have provided an opportunity for Beijing to step back from their failed attempts at coercion, but we must not be deluded: tactics change but their strategy remains the same. We are not alone in waking up to this threat. Investors are now, rightly, pricing the risk of their investments in an authoritative communist China, while consumer advocates are waking up to human rights abuses and the environmental degradation that infects these supply chains. This requires continued vigilance and the connection between all spheres of policy to create and protect supply chains and integrate and align our strategic and military capabilities so we can protect our sovereignty and counter the threat that is real and building.

In Tehran, we find the funders, trainers and apologists for terrorists, seeking to acquire the most deadly defence technology imaginable: nuclear weapons. Their green light for the Hamas terrorist attacks on innocents in Israel, on 7 October, is unforgiveable. In response to such overt attacks there can be no equivocation on where we stand as a representative democracy when another, who has been such a great friend of Australia, is under attack. There also can be no equivocation in calling out the anti-Semitism that has now occurred in this country, to our shame, and in other places across the Western Hemisphere in the wake of 7 October. To that end I am pleased to acknowledge the presence today of the Israeli ambassador, Amir Maimon, in the chamber today. Am Yisrael Chai. In Ukraine, fighting continues to rage two years after Russia's illegal invasion. I'm proud of our swift response to support Ukraine. This must continue and is utilising every resource and capability we can reasonably provide. Ukraine may be a long way from Australia, but the implications of a Russian victory will reverberate just as quickly in our own hemisphere, emboldening again those who seek to challenge our region.

My third point is: how do we stand and on what ground? We stand on the very same ground that established our western civilisation and that inspired and enabled the modern, pluralist representative democracy we now enjoy. We stand on the values that build a successful, free society, like individual liberty, the rule of law, equality of opportunity, responsible citizenship, morality and liberty of speech, thought, religion and association. All of these stem from the core principle of respect for individual human dignity. So do representative democracy and even market based capitalism. This is a unique Judaeo-Christian principle. It is about respecting each other's human dignity through our creation by God's hand, in God's image, for God's glory, where each human life is eternally valued, unique, worthy, loved and capable. This is the very basis for our modern understanding of human rights.

With the advance of secularism in western society, we may wish to overlook these connections or even denounce them. But the truth remains. Human rights abuses were once called crimes against God, not just against humanity. They are, and they remain so. These truths are not self-evident, as some claim, as history and nature tells a very different story, though divinely inspired. You don't need to share my Christian faith to appreciate the virtue of human rights. I'm not suggesting you do. But, equally, we should be careful about diminishing the influence and the voice of Judaeo-Christian faith in our western society, as doing so risks our society drifting into a valueless void. In that world, there is nothing to stand on, there is nothing to hold on to, and the authoritarians and autocrats win. In the increasing western embrace of secularism, let us be careful not to disconnect ourselves from what I would argue is our greatest gift and the most effective protector of our freedoms—the Judaeo-Christian values upon which our liberty in society was founded. Even if you may not believe, it would be wise to continue to understand, respect and appreciate this important link and foundation.

To conclude, you'll be pleased to note a warning about politics, where I've spent most of my professional life, as most of us here have. I know that all political philosophies and ideologies, including my own, are imperfect and regularly confounded by events outside our control. I experienced this firsthand leading Australia through the global pandemic. In my experience, the practice of politics is largely about contesting which approaches are less imperfect than others—in my view, those are the approaches of the Liberal Party—and then trying to humbly appreciate and compensate for their imperfections. It's like Winston Churchill's famous line, and I paraphrase: 'Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.'

While a noble calling, politics can only take you so far, and government can only do so much. You can say the same thing about the market. You won't find all the answers there, either, and you won't find it in unrestricted libertarianism and more-command-and-control communism. In the Liberal Party, we have always believed in how great Australians rather than governments can be, with the true test being how we can enable Australians to realise their own aspirations. I suspect that much of our disillusion with politics and our institutions today is that we have put too much faith in them. At the end of the day, the state and the market are just run by imperfect people like all of us. While politics may be an important and necessary place for service, I would also warn against it being a surrogate for finding identity, ultimate meaning and purpose in life. There are far better options than politics. In The Dignity of Difference, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote that the great tragedies of the 20th century came when politics was turned into a religion and when the nation, in the case of fascism, or the system in communism, was made absolute and turned into a god.

I leave this place not as one of those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. I leave having given all in that arena, and there are plenty of scars to show for it. While I left nothing of my contributions on that field, I do leave behind in that arena, where it will always remain, any bitterness, disappointments or offences that have occurred along the way.

I leave this place appreciative and thankful, unburdened by offences and released of any of the bitterness that can so often haunt post-political lives. This is due to my faith in Jesus Christ, which gives me the faith to both forgive and be honest about my own failings and shortcomings. During my time as Prime Minister, the power and necessity of forgiveness was demonstrated to me most profoundly by the Abdallah and Sakr families, whose children were taken from them, and they found the strength in their faith to forgive.

For those who perhaps may feel a bit uncomfortable with my Christian references and scripture references here or at other times, I can't apologise for that. It says in Romans 1:16: 'For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.' It says in 2 Timothy 1:17: 'I am not ashamed for I know what I believe and in whom and I am convinced that He is able to protect what I have entrusted to Him until that day.' In that vein, let me quote one last scripture in this place as an encouragement to all who continue to serve. 2 Thessalonians 2:16 says: 'Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God and our father, who has loved and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and deed.'

Thank you all those who join me here today or are listening elsewhere for your kind attention. As always, up, up Cronulla!

12:38 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—I thank the member for Cook and the former Prime Minister for what was a very thoughtful, generous and warm final speech in this place. He has certainly left nothing on the field, and he can be proud of that fact. He has shown a real respect for this parliament in giving that speech here today and, importantly, a real respect for the people of his electorate, because none of us have other titles unless we have that very important one of MHR, member of the House of Representatives, for our particular electorates. I know that he is very passionate about and proud to represent the Sutherland shire for the electorate of Cook.

I also give my respect to the former Prime Minister for the public recognition that he gave that all of us in this place rely upon so many others—our electorate officers, our ministerial staff, public servants and, as he said, our CPT. I well remember the news of the accident in Tasmania on that day. I spoke with the then Prime Minister on that day to check that he was okay and to check that the police officers who serve us and protect us were okay as well. I confirm that the then Prime Minister was very emotional about feeling that other people had been hurt in protecting him. That was to his great credit, and I acknowledge that.

He has had so much support. We all ride on other people's shoulders to get here, and more important than any of the paid staff in various roles are, of course, the unpaid staff and they're sitting up there as well with you today.

I can say, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, that Prime Minister Morrison was a truly formidable opponent, and that to win an election is a big deal. Not many people have done it. To be one of the 31 prime ministers is something that can never be taken away, and I know that when you leave this place, Mr Morrison, you'll always be former prime minister Morrison.

In the United States, they acknowledge these things differently, of course, and I suspect you may go to the United States, as do other people afterwards, just so that you keep that title of Prime Minister! It's an interesting tradition. When I was first called 'Deputy Prime Minister' when I was there after 2013, I hadn't quite clicked at that tradition. It says something about the respect for the office, which is so important.

We always knew that, whatever the circumstances, this was a person who would bring 100 per cent of his energy and determination to the political contest. That was something that was acknowledged by Labor. It won you the admiration of your Liberal and National party colleagues. In 2019, that was very successful in your election at that time.

I also want to acknowledge the contribution that the member for Cook has made as a parliamentarian. Your first speech in this place was16 years and two weeks ago. More than half of that time was in government and indeed in cabinet, and, for nearly half of the time in government, you were serving as Prime Minister—as I said, one of only 31 people to know that incredible honour.

You and I have had our differences, but we have absolutely agreed—absolutely agreed, and I hope that you have the same view that I have, which is that we do not doubt for one second that this is the greatest country on Earth and that our job, wherever we come from in the political spectrum, is to try and make the greatest country on Earth that much greater by what we do each and every day.

As Prime Minister during a once-in-a-century pandemic, the member for Cook was confronted with a challenging set of circumstances and just so many unknowns. This was an unprecedented time. It was a time of real anxiety amongst so many Australians, especially in those early days. It required decisions to be made that, if you had said prior to 2019 that a government, with the support of the opposition, would literally work with states and territories to stop people leaving home, to stop social interaction, to stop the normal activity that we engage in in this great country, and that it would close borders, not just national borders but state and territory borders as well, you would have thought that was something of fiction—that that would not be possible. We shouldn't take for granted the fact that those decisions were made and that that required leadership by yourself as Prime Minister and by the premiers and chief ministers working together across the political aisle. It required us, as the opposition, to sit in the cabinet room for some discussions, as well as in this place, and say what hasn't often been said by an opposition, which is: 'Regardless of what happens, we will vote for what is put forward.' That is what we did, in order to provide not just political certainty but, critically, economic certainty and social certainty, and the confidence that the Australian public required of their political leaders at that time in order to make personal sacrifices. No-one had ever envisaged Australians being put in a position to make such sacrifices, whether as individuals, as businesses or through the family unit.

In your speech today, you spoke about good intentions. I don't doubt that everyone at that time had good intentions. Not everything was perfect, but today is not a day to dwell on that. Today is a day to say that everyone went into those processes with good intentions, and I don't doubt for one second that that was the case. So many of those decisions were critical, and it was important to project confidence. The nation needed that confidence. I'm sure that in the solitary moments, of which there were too many for all of us, due to the COVID restrictions, you must have gone through some really difficult times in trying to reassure yourself that the decisions that were being made—big decisions—were the right ones. I don't doubt for one second that the motivation in that was absolutely right.

In your first speech you said, 'Family is the stuff of life.' All of us know that serving in this place takes a toll on family life, including during that period, of course. For the member for Cook, I imagine this will be a day of some mixed emotions, as farewells always are. For your daughters this will be a day of joy. And congratulations, Abbey and Lily, on encouraging your dad to work in that Taylor Swift reference! It was quite an achievement to go through all of those album titles and add in some song titles as well, just to complete the picture—to fill in the blank space, so to speak. It is fantastic that you're joined by your beloved mum, Marion, and she is very welcome here. We've had private discussions—I'll let the gallery in on a secret: even the toughest of political opponents can have private discussions—and I know that today you'll be feeling a sense of loss for your father.

Jenny, I want to take this moment to acknowledge the dignity and diligence with which you have performed your role in public life. It is a difficult role. There's no script or manual, unlike in the United States. It's a very different system. And I thank you, Scott, for your personal wellwishes for myself and Jodie going forward. You're right: you always think about the things that really matter and the people around you when you leave this place, which we all will—hopefully not for some time, but you do think about those things. Family is so important. I know how critical Jenny's support was for you during your public life, particularly during what was an incredibly difficult period when you were Prime Minister during the pandemic. On behalf of the nation, thank you to the Morrison family. As Prime Minister, I will be so bold as to say I speak on behalf of the entire nation because I do believe in that respect. Scott—I'm going break with protocol there and not be pulled up with a point of order—I wish you every success for your future. Thank you for the service that you have given to this place, to your community in the great Sutherland Shire, to your party, the Liberal Party, of which you are a proud servant, and to your nation.

12:50 pm

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Prime Minister for his fine and very heartfelt words in response to the contribution today. It's a day of deep emotion right across the chamber. That was evidenced in the Prime Minister's contribution. It was certainly evidenced in Scott's speech as well. On behalf of our party, I want to extend our heartfelt thanks to our 30th Prime Minister and the 14th leader of our party. I thank him for the sacrifice that he made for our country and I thank him for the way in which he led our party. Sixteen years is a very significant contribution to public life. That period has a punctuation mark today, but I'm sure in many ways it will continue.

In his maiden speech, the member for Cook predominantly spoke about three issues: family, faith and the Australian vision. He also spoke about a fourth, which he spent a lot of time on today, which is forgiveness. There's a consistency in Scott Morrison that we saw 16 years ago, and that was evidenced again today. I think that's really what has been at the heart of Scott's continued success as a leader, as a prime minister, as a local member, as a father and as a husband. He has endeared himself to many colleagues over the course of his journey for that very reason.

Scott was quite modest in his speech today, but we can go back through some of his significant achievements, not just as Prime Minister but as immigration minister and as Treasurer. He retained the AAA credit rating, presided over a series of decisions which were tough decisions but ultimately in the country's best interests and delivered us back to a balanced budget position after a fairly precarious inherited position. He made decisions that ultimately, although not known at the time, put our country in the best possible position to deal with the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were many of us who worked closely with Prime Minister Morrison at that time, and it was confronting, certainly from where I sat.

There were the initial briefings that we received from the Chief of the Defence Force, from the Chief Medical Officer and from the experts otherwise and there was the intelligence that we were receiving from Europe and about what was happening in North America and elsewhere. As the Prime Minister rightly pointed out, the decisions that Scott was able to take really steered us through a very difficult course and put our country onto a path that we should be very proud of. They were decisions in relation to the health portfolio, and the former Prime Minister rightly acknowledged Greg Hunt for the work that he did in literally saving lives. There are many things that you can hang your hat on after a 16-year career, but having had the leading role in saving tens of thousands of lives of fellow Australians who would not have survived otherwise has to be at the top of the tree. As Scott pointed out, they were not just lives but livelihoods.

To this very day, whenever we move around and speak to individual business owners or employees, countless people across the country cite the fact that their business would not have survived. There are 700,000 of them and over a million employees, a million Australians, who ultimately would not have been in the position that they were without the decisions taken by Prime Minister Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and others who sat around that National Security Committee decision-making body. That is one hell of a legacy.

But it didn't stop there. I think Prime Minister Morrison's crowning achievement has been the AUKUS deal that was struck between the United States and the United Kingdom. I can tell you it was no easy feat. The Americans had only shared their closest held secrets with the Brits in the 1950s, and, despite numerous requests from very close allies during the intervening period, they had not decided to share that secret and have that confidence in another leader up until their interaction with Prime Minister Morrison. It will be the underpinning of our security for decades to come in a very uncertain world. Scott Morrison has that as part of his legacy.

It doesn't stop there. Scott was able to bring Japan and India together in the QUAD and form a very close relationship, as he said, with the then Japanese Prime Minister, who was tragically lost, but also Prime Minister Modi as well. They had a mutual respect for each other and they knew that it was in the best interests of our respective countries, but collectively, to be able to come together to provide support for each other, not just now but into the decades ahead. Again, that was a very significant achievement.

I think it's true to say that the Prime Minister, as he then was, stood up immediately in a way that not many other world leaders did in relation to Ukraine. One of my proudest moments in this place, Scott, was seeing the decisions that you swiftly took to provide support to people, which ultimately went to your values of faith and family and your vision, particularly in relation to humanity. The decisions that you took and that we took in government supported the people of Ukraine and the bravery of President Zelenskyy and ultimately resulted in saving the lives of men, women and children to this very day.

You spoke very passionately about the rise and the unacceptable incidents of antisemitism that we see in our country today. It is endemic and it is shameful. You had the courage to stand up, consistent with your long-held values, to call that out, to be a friend of Israel and to provide support to people, who, on 7 October, had suffered the most horrific attack since the Holocaust, when six million people were gassed. You stand as a world leader, as a result of all of that combined, that we can be very proud of.

I want to say thank you, on a personal level. We did have an exchange in 2018, as I recall, but when we came out of the meeting that day you were gracious enough to extend the hand of friendship to me, and I pledged to you on that day that I would serve you loyally. Together, since that day, I think we've been able to bring our party together in a way that wasn't possible for the period after 2007. I'm very grateful that that friendship continues today and long into the future. I wish you every success that you deserve into the future. I wish Jenny and the girls every success. The two beautiful young adults we see today, Abbey and Lily, were little girls, and we watched them grow up. They might watch the footage now and think, 'Why did I wear that? Why did I say that? Why was my hair cut like that?' as my kids often do. You have so much to be proud of.

In this place, as the Prime Minister rightly points out, family is often forgotten. There will be a lot of cynicism in some of the reporting of Scott's speech, with its references to his faith and to his God. In this age of inclusion those people, who would normally parrot the fact that we need to be more inclusive and that our society needs to be more tolerant, will be the people who scribe tomorrow in a cynical way the words that Scott—in a very heartfelt way—conveyed to us today. There's a significant amount of irony in that. It's not going to change. That's the reality of the world in which we live.

For Abbey and Lily, they know that they've been born into an amazing family, and Jenny is central to all of that. She's been graceful, she has been supportive, she's been generous and the country saw in her—at that time and since—somebody with a very big heart and somebody who loved her husband very dearly. So I want to say to the Morrison family, thank you for sacrifice and thank you very much for the contribution that you have given to our country. To Mrs Marion Morrison today and, in his absence, to John, thank you very much for the values you've instilled even to the current generation. The legacy that you have presided over is significant in itself.

My closing words are to Abbey and Lily. Thank you very much for facilitating that daggy dad moment, as well, where your father went through, at your wish, to detail the Taylor Swift songs. He got away with it and it shows the influence that you have on his life, which is a very special thing.

We wish him every success and good fortune and good health into the future. He has served our country with great distinction and we honour him today as a leader of our party and as a leader of our great country.

1:01 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

Jane McNamara is one of those rough-and-tumble, down-to-earth, say-it-as-it-is mayors we all know and love in regional Australia. She's been mayor of Flinders Shire, centred on Hughenden in north-western Queensland, for eight years. Jane is someone who can see a fake, a fraud, a phony or someone who is insincere from a mile away. She rates highly one Scott Morrison, the outgoing member for Cook. 'Give him my best,' Jane said when I spoke to her last night. 'Tell him I'm sending virtual hugs his way.'

Mayor McNamara well remembers the member for Cook's visits to Cloncurry, Julia Creek and McKinlay during the terrible natural disaster that hit her region in early 2019. The people in those far-flung Queensland towns have not forgotten those visits and nor will they. The member for Cook as Prime Minister brought funding and, perhaps more importantly, hope to those flood affected communities and they appreciated it. It saved them. Not only did he stop by but he returned later to see how they were faring. That is the measure of the man and underlines the leadership he showed on that and many, many other issues.

I was there in February 2019 when the then Prime Minister told officials to get financial assistance in the bank accounts of devastated farmers within 24 hours. Those farmers had endured years of drought, but when the rain came it fell in biblical proportions and almost washed away the spirit of those hardy cattle producers. They were on the brink. Three years of rain had fallen in just 10 days. The Prime Minister was having nothing of bureaucratic delays and obfuscation. 'Get the money to them and do it within 24 hours,' he insisted and instructed. It was a decisive moment—stirring stuff, Morrison style.

On 24 August 2018, the day the member for Cook was elected Liberal leader and later Australia's 30th prime minister, we had a meeting immediately after his party room ballot. I remember it clearly. As the Nationals leader at the time, I sat down with the Prime Minister designate to sort out the directions our parties—different but together—would go in on certain pressing issues. There are a number of them. I recall writing down two words, the member for Cook did the same, and then we showed each other. Both of us penned the same thing: 'Drought visit.' It was the start of our successful working relationship. We were different but we were together, and that's the way it should be.

The following week the member for Cook and I found ourselves with Stephen and Annabel Tully at their 72,843-hectare Bunginderry Station at Quilpie, more than 200 kilometres west of Charleville—a long way from anywhere, you could say. It is in the electorate of Maranoa, represented by now Nationals leader David Littleproud. As the member for Maranoa said at the time, 'they're bred tough but no one is immune from this ongoing drought'. And he was right. Indeed, the Prime Minister saw the value of wild-dog fences, and other pest and weed management practices. They were valuable lessons for him to see firsthand and get a better understanding of farmers and regional, rural and remote Australians. Prime ministers of this country need to be the farmer's friend. The member for Cook was, in his time in the top job. He and I had any number of serious matters to deal with as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister between 2018 and 2021. As I told Q+A: 'The golden age of Australian democracy'. Insert laughter here. But it was.

Drought, bushfires, floods and then a global pandemic. The worst of those COVID-19 times brought out the best in Scott Morrison. He went above and beyond, working incredible hours to save lives and protect livelihoods. He was calm, publicly confident and dedicated. He was unflappable.

I must say, our relationship survived some truly testing times for the nation and those even closer to home, such as the time when he stole one of my all-time favourite press secretaries, Dean Shachar, for his own office. Dean's in the advisors box now, and I'm still dirty on you, Scott, for doing that. But, anyway, we'll forgive and forget, as you've shown us the benefit of forgiveness today. Seriously, I do wish you, on behalf of the Nationals, all the very best, and I thank you for care, understanding of and delivery for those who lived beyond the bright city lights. Personally, on behalf of Catherine and I, and our family, thanks for your friendship, your support and your good humour. I'm not going to mention bad Santa, nor the census. Insert laughter here. May you, Jenny, your girls Abbey and Lily, and your mum, Marion, enjoy good health, happiness and every success in the future.

Finally, Jane McNamara has a Droughtmaster—an appropriately named breed—steer named ScoMo 2. This, now 800 kilogram, bullock was a mere poddy calf, you'll remember, in the midst of the 2019 floods. And the Prime Minister gave it a feed as the cameras snapped happily away. Because of his fame from those photos, the calf got his name and a guarantee of a life of grazing. He won't know his life of contentment and happiness is due to the PM's intervention; he will not. In the same way, I guess, many Australians will never fully appreciate the efforts and work Scott Morrison put into ensuring that their lives, too, were better.

Ultimately I believe history will be far kinder to the Morrison years of government than some are now. In the words of St John, Scott, you have fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. Thank you.

1:08 pm

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As we look to conclude the member for Cook's valedictory, I will just offer my brief comments. Thank you for your contribution to the community of Cook. Thank you for your contribution to the parliament. Thank you for your contribution to this nation. Go in peace as you embark on the next chapter of your life, my friend.