Wednesday, 13 February 2019
Good. He's called himself that. I just want to say to Wacka: I really appreciated the time that you drove five hours to come to Byron Bay to support a sharks inquiry that I was chairing. I know you were fundamentally opposed to my view on protecting great white sharks and other shark species, but you drove five hours just to give me a quorum for my hearing, which I really appreciated. What I really like about Wacka is that, although he is pretty good at politics, he often put politics aside and focused on the issues. I think that's a pretty rare thing to do in this place.
I gave an interview to The Sydney Morning Herald earlier this week and I explained how I first met Wacka. He'd called my office—this is when I'd just started as a senator, in 2012, and I didn't really know who he was—and one of my staff said, 'This Nationals bloke has called you and he wants you to give him a call back.' But I never got around to it. He bailed me up in the corridor and said: 'I hear you used to work in the banks and that you understand financial markets. I'd really like you to come onto the economics committee. We've got this inquiry coming up into the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. We're going to be taking on a lot of stuff and I think you'd be a really good addition to the team.' At the time, I had other priorities. I was new and I was learning the ropes. But it's pretty rare for someone to actually want to bring someone onto their committee, or into their political fight in this place, if that person might take some of the shine away from them or, knowing how politics is, if it's not necessarily in their political interests. But Wacka was always, all the way through, focused on getting an outcome and supporting the public and the victims of financial crime.
So I did join that committee; I did participate in it. I can't say Senator Mark Bishop was as pleased about me being on the committee as Senator Williams was. Nevertheless, history has shown that it was an extremely important Senate inquiry. It was meant be an inquiry into the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. It ended up being into the Commonwealth Bank, because of the scandal and because the whistleblower Jeff Morris came forward, and we made some recommendations, including recommendations for a royal commission. I believe very strongly, from my campaign since then, that that's where it could have ended—in history. It could have ended as a pit stop by the side of the road. Certainly Wacka would be completely honest in saying that his party, his mob, weren't at all interested in a royal commission, and I don't think that changed until very recently. And at the time, I think the story and the evidence shows, Labor were not interested in a royal commission either. In fact, it took nearly two years from that point to get Mr Shorten to sign up to a royal commission.
The role I played in working with Senator Williams was that he would always talk to me about things that were going on, he would always have an open door, and I'd always go to him for advice. And all the way through, although he knew his party was opposed to a royal commission, he never gave up. I respect the fact that Senator Williams crossed the floor when the Greens put up a motion in this chamber for a royal commission into banks and financial services. The Greens were sitting on their own over here with Senator Williams. We were the first ones to call for it, and he had the courage of his convictions to cross the floor.
Just to wrap up, I'll say that seeing Senator Williams here tonight for his final speech and seeing the chamber united was a pretty special moment for me. There have been only a couple of those since I've been here, and I think one of those special moments was tonight. That was very much the theme of his talk—that we actually do often work together. People don't see it. They don't always recognise it.
Lastly, David, as I said to you earlier, I think I've been very privileged to be here as a senator during an extraordinary time in history for my party—that is, my party has been in the balance of power in the Senate for the six years that I've been here. That means we've been able to get up a number of Senate inquiries into things we deeply believe in and are deeply passionate about. We've been able to go out there, collect evidence and go around the country. You've always supported the notion that the Senate's job is to inquire into matters, even if you often disagreed with what we were inquiring into. I remember inquiries like the joint strike fighter and others where you consistently voted with the Greens on that principle. Many times your vote was critical to us getting our inquiries up, so I thank you for that.