Wednesday, 19 August 2015
I rise on behalf of the National Party to pay tribute to the time that Senator Penny Wright, spokesperson for the Greens in South Australia, has spent here since 2010.
Much has been said about the wonderful work that Penny has done here, but I would like to focus on some of the values that I think she has demonstrated throughout her time in this place. Interestingly, in her maiden speech she reflected forward to her valedictory speech. She said:
When I stand here to make my last speech I would like to think that I have contributed to making Australia a kinder, fairer place.
And there is much wisdom in her next line, which was:
If we practise kindness and fairness I believe that we can meet the challenges this century brings.
How true. I would like to use this speech to touch on some areas. Many have been covered but I think that Senator Wright has demonstrated her commitment to a kinder and fairer place.
Senator Wright is said to attribute her love of public speaking to an encouraging teacher in year 9. Her vocal abilities have since been a constant trait of all her occupations. And, Penny, I have to say, when I listen to you in this place, I think you bring a rare discipline. I have seen you really cranky and I can still understand what you are saying—and it is not the same with me.
So, whether it be the first time as a student or a teacher when lecturing at Flinders University, we have all heard in this place of your great passion and strong views about ensuring that we provide a fair education system. You have said:
I am … very proud to stand here … to make the case for a schooling system in Australia where every child will have the chance to succeed, and where not one child will be denied a future just because of their background.
During your time in this place, you have commendably advocated for the rights of society's most vulnerable; for education, particularly the education of our kids; for the safety of our kids; and for improved mental health for everyone, particularly more recently. I think the tempo of your advocacy has been a function of the need in the community.
You have also campaigned strongly in this place in an area of particular interest to me—that is, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. In particular, I would like to acknowledge and commend Senator Wright for ongoing promotion of the value of improving our approach to criminal justice for Indigenous Australians. Many people in this place would know about your passionate advocacy not only for justice reinvestment generally; you have also been a champion for rethinking and providing innovation in this space, challenging people to move from the position they are in, which is clearly not working, to a new one. So congratulations.
I think one of the legacies you will leave, Senator Wright, is particularly in the area that I work in, Indigenous affairs. Your multiparty approach—taking the politics out of Indigenous affairs—is something I think we should all take some leadership from.
You should also be commended for your aspirations to actually seek out like-minded politicians, people you think you can work with. You do not just have a multiparty approach; you also pick people you think you can work with and get a bit of gang around you on those matters. I have watched very carefully in great admiration the way you do that.
I think we all recall your steely determination to be a senator in this place. I can recall some vision of you campaigning from a wheelchair. We all know it is not easy campaigning anyway, but throughout 2010, following that terrible car accident, you continued to campaign. It is great credit to you. I am sorry to hear of the circumstances leading to your need to step away from politics. I wish you and your family all the best. I think, as you said, it is a good decision.
I would also like to commend you for your time as a senator for South Australia. I know a lot of senators here; I know who they are and what their values are but I often struggle to know exactly where they are from because it is a less politicised place in that regard. But I certainly know that you are from South Australia because of how passionately you speak about it and because you so often reference your life in South Australia. I would like to also commend you for your unyielding efforts for the people you represent. I congratulate you on the contribution you have made towards making Australia a kinder and fairer place. I wish you all success in the future and also for your family.