Thursday, 7 December 2017
by leave—Can I first of all associate myself with all the remarks made in the chamber tonight. It has been remarkable. I won't mention Wacka saying he's going to knock me off in 60 seconds! But I rise on behalf of the Nationals to offer my Christmas wishes to all in this place. This is somewhere we all work. I know all of you—some better than others—and you are remarkably friendly and lovely people, and that makes all of our lives a lot better. From the outside, it might seem like it's a toxic place and we're always cranky with each other, but that's just not the complete truth. I think the sort of friendship and the sorts of messages that we're seeing tonight are probably a more accurate reflection of the relationships in this place.
I acknowledge the coalition leadership. To my great mate George Brandis: you've done a great job this year, mate. To Mitch: your negotiating waltz is forever seamless, mate. To the more-machine-than-man Mathias—he's not here: again, a remarkable job. I want to wish all of your families a merry Christmas and particularly acknowledge their sacrifice. They say that sacrifices are invariably only appreciated by those who make them. Whilst it's a great truth, I want to say to all those families that we do appreciate what you allow those in this place to do.
I'd like to thank all of the staff who make all our jobs possible. To the Senate staff who help us in this place and in the committees: you do such a remarkable job. Richard, to you and your team: outstanding job. To our outstanding PLO, Debbie Arnold: thank you so much. You help keep all of our offices on track. To the amazing security team, great people like Jingo and others, and the cleaning crew, Anna and Grace, thank you all so much for what you do. As Penny says, we never meet you at times when you have anything else but happiness in going about your work, and it's at ungodly hours of the morning that that happens, so thank you so much to you.
And to all our offices, and I know you all well: you make us look much less like the boneheads that we are. Certainly, in my case, that is a great deal of effort. I want the staff to understand that with their efforts they make a real contribution to this place as well. You all advise us and influence us, and that influence changes things which the front pieces like us take credit for. All of you should take a break and enjoy the time over the break. Enjoy yourselves. All the staff can catch up on time they haven't spent with their families.
I would also like to use this opportunity to make some remarks about some of our colleagues who have left the Senate over the past 12 months. As Penny mentioned earlier, I came in in 2002. No, there hasn't been a year like this. I'm really hoping that we can change gear next year. The most important thing is the citizenship stuff. Nobody could have anticipated it. We should appreciate the impact it has had on the lives of so many people who have left this place.
Fiona, we offer you the warmest of wishes and heartfelt thanks. All of the Nationals in this place thank you for your place in our team. Fiona, you've been a great mate and a great source of support for me and the remainder of the Nationals. You've made such a difference to the lives of regional Australians around the country. I know that in your time in this place, especially in your time as the Minister for Regional Development, you always sought to make regional Australia a great place for kids and grandkids to grow up in and a place everybody would like to move to and stay in. You have been and continue to be a role model for women in regional Australia. I'm really looking forward to catching up with you again soon. As the Prime Minister said at the Nationals Christmas party this year, you will be back, and we're looking forward to that.
Steve Parry was a model President of the Senate. He was a great President. Whilst I'm sure that this President will be on the catch up, Steve was probably the best President I've worked with. There are so many people who have gone who I knew quite well: Jacqui Lambie, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam. They were all good friends of mine. Senator Xenophon was a great mate of mine and I will really miss him. They have all made a huge contribution to the Senate. I'm really looking forward to seeing their future contributions in public life.
Finally, I say to our current President: well done, mate. Everybody brings a different capacity to this place, and you bring your own. These are the most difficult times. I think Penny will also acknowledge that, when we came here, it was relatively tame, and the task you have in front of you is probably the most difficult of all past Presidents. I think you are growing into it and I think you have transitioned to the role very well. I look forward to working with you in the new year.
I wish you all a very merry Christmas. May Australia reclaim the Ashes. Most importantly, have a very safe holiday. If you find yourself up in the Territory, give me a yell. There are always a few beers and barras hanging around. Merry Christmas.