Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


5:55 pm

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

Can I add my words to the farewell this evening. Many of us in this place get to know those on the other side through committees—through a range of committee work and interactions, attending committee hearings, writing reports and arguing each other’s respective cases. I can say that none of that took place with respect to myself and Senator Ellison. By the time I happened to join the Senate, Senator Ellison had already moved onto the front bench and took on a range of portfolios that I think have been highlighted this evening. That generally means that you do not get to know someone as well as you might otherwise have liked to. Particularly given the fine words that have been provided tonight, not only would I say I agree with them all; I can add to them as well, as I will shortly.

Entering parliament in 1999 I did find that, having joined the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, there was one joy, in that I could then spend a significant amount of time questioning Senator Ellison during estimates over many years—which unfortunately went on for more years than I would have actually liked! Nonetheless, I can say that during that experience I did get to know the minister through many late nights, sitting until 11 o’clock at night, questioning in a way not only the senator himself but the departments he represented, including in the Justice and Customs portfolio. I came to know him after spending a significant amount of time with him during those years—I think something in the order of seven years. His was a frontbench role spanning something like 10 years.

Of that experience I can say there were high points and low points. I am sure that Senator Ellison is pleased that I am not going to go to any of those tonight! What I can say is that you served in various capacities during that period from 1997 to your last ministry in 2007. A career on the front bench, as I said, spanning something in the order of 10 years is a significant achievement, as Senator Evans mentioned. I think it is probably one of those examples that stands for all of us to admire and look at and say that your achievements during that period were significant. If we look at Justice and Customs as but one area, you oversaw the professionalisation of Customs from a customs organisation to one with a much bigger role, right through to the oversighting of the Australian Federal Police, where you oversaw the doubling of capacity and the enlargement of the Australian Federal Police into a very professional outfit. All of that time was under your leadership and with your input. And Customs was not only a border protection agency; it also expanded into cargo facilitation, together with SmartGate and a range of other innovations that you developed and led.

I have also had a great opportunity to work with you in another capacity, as both the Manager of Opposition Business and the Manager of Government Business. Can I say for the benefit of those listening tonight: no, we never struck any deals in relation to legislation or how we were going to deal with the Senate and get through the legislative program. All those people who would say that we were obviously deep in agreement on certain issues and putting them forward, I can refute that entirely—and Senator Ellison, I am sure, would concur. He dealt with the opposition and the government in an even-handed and fair manner, and he continues to do that today.

Can I also say, more on a personal note, that you do get to know those on the opposite side only occasionally. But in this instance I can say that, having known Senator Ellison through this place, it would also be a privilege to know him in private life as well, because the way he has addressed the Senate and his work over that period has been exemplary, quite frankly. It is a contribution that many should admire, and many will continue to hold out as being one that is second to none in the time he has been here.

But can I also say—and, given the time that is available, I will condense it—that it has been a privilege to know you and I wish you well in your new career. I know you will take it in the professional way that you have addressed yourself in the Senate. And I know that your family will say ‘Hi’ to you again, because this place does make it difficult to continue to support your family in the way that you might want to. Our families do end up supporting us more and, quite frankly, for those benefits I am sure that you will find a career outside of the parliament, one that can also fit in a much greater role for your family as well. With those few words, I farewell you and thank you for your friendship over the period.


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