Thursday, 26 March 2015
This is the last time I will have the honour of addressing the Australian Senate. While of course I am very sad to be leaving, the overwhelming sense I have is one of gratitude and thanks—sincere thanks to have been given the greatest honour and the greatest privilege of my life, to sit with my colleagues in this place. I still come in here and look around—it is not that I am not paying attention, Mr President—but sometimes I think I have been kissed by a rainbow. There is nothing very special about me, but I have been very lucky. I am sad to leave but I am very thankful to have been here.
I want to say two things in my final contribution in this place: thank you and goodbye. I will start with thankyou. Thank you, of course, first to my family—to my mother Beverley, my brothers David and Richard and sister Kathryn, and my eldest nephew Alexander, thank you for your love and support. I am not quite sure whether you ever thought that going into politics was a good idea for me but I keep thinking of my late father. When I was a little boy he was a newsagent and there were three professions that he particularly disliked—lawyers, academics and politicians! Fortunately my dear mother was much more understanding. To all my Canberra mates who I grew up with, thank you so much for the pizza and the coffee and the red wine and the beer and the steaks at the Kingo. Thanks too to my mate Jack Fisher. All of us who work here in this parliament owe a lot to those who make our working life much easier. Senate transport—Peter and Ian: thank God, no more 6.05 am pick-ups from Bruce to the Senate. They are tired of them, and perhaps I am as well.
There are sound and vision and Hansard. I have a particular relationship with sound and vision, Mr President, as you know. I love them but my love has never been reciprocated. I have got into a lot of trouble in recent times for being perhaps a little bit too voluble. My defence has always been that that was how I used to lecture to my students. That wicked Senator Ludwig would say, 'Brett, that is why no-one ever came to your lectures, or if they did that is why they are deaf.' I can now reveal some secrets because I have been reminded that this is the last time I can speak under privilege. I remember you, Mr President, pulling me aside when you were Deputy President and saying, 'Brett, if you don't tone it down, we are going to slap across your face a sticker saying "OH&S noncompliant".' But thank you to sound and vision—I will miss you, you will not miss me.
I love the Senate attendants dearly but I have been asking for 15 years for a gin and tonic to get me through question time, and I still have not got one. To Dr Rosemary Laing, the Clerk of the Senate, and her team, I thank you so much. Rosemary will never admit this, but I used to work with the Senate Clerk a long, long time ago. She denies it of course, saying 'The bloke just looked like you.' I am not quite sure whether Rosemary was my last supervisor at the Attorney-General's Department many years ago, but my final supervisor's report, which was very short, read: 'Brett John Mason: Not amenable to instruction.' Rosemary, if it was you, I do not hold it against you because every Liberal leader since John Howard would agree with you.
I thank all those who have helped me with my political career, first and foremost the people of the great state of Queensland. All senators from Queensland would be aware that we are often accused of being rough diamonds. That might be so but, just like them, if you cut and polish us the right way—isn't this right, Larissa?—we sparkle. My thanks go to those who gave me a mere chance when few did, starting with the then Liberal Party president Bob Carroll all the way through to the LNP president Bruce McIver, vice president Gary Spence and state director Brad Henderson and all the team. From the very beginning I have been very lucky to have the greatest possible support from the youth movement of our party, both the Young Libs originally and then the Young Liberal National Party, and also the student clubs from Matt Boland and Gerard Paynter through to Rod Schneider, Ben Riley and Luke Barnes. Gentlemen, thank you so much.
For all my faults, I have had wonderful staff over the last 15 years, and all of us who serve in this place know that without your staff you are nothing. I am so very grateful to all those I have worked with. Four people who have worked in my office have gone into politics. Of course they are all much better politicians than me—including the member for Moncrieff and now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who stole my portfolio, Mr Ciobo—he was always a very cunning employee! Of course Saxon Rice was on the front bench of Campbell Newman's government, Adrian Schrinner is Deputy Lord Mayor of Brisbane and of course there is the member for Bonner, Ross Vasta. Thanks to all those who ran my office—Robyn, Patrick, Ted, Tim, Paul, John and Alex—and thanks to those who still work with me, Phoebe, Mitch, Jack and Emma. Thanks to all those others who have put up with me.
I just cannot let this moment go by without thanking the poor guy who had to put up with me for about 13½ of the last 15 years, and many of my colleagues here know him—Dr Arthur Chrenkoff.