Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Parliamentary Representation

Valedictory

7:13 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Trade) Share this | Hansard source

That is too rich an invitation, Senator Fifield—far too rich an invitation for me! And particularly because I was going to observe that, on those rare occasions of certain free votes and deliberations on issues of values in this place, where sometimes I find myself voting against quite a number of my colleagues on some of those issues, Nige, you were frequently one of the ones I'd find sitting close to me, making sure that, though we might have been small in number, we made sure that the views and values we held dear were made clear.

I know that all on our side, particularly all coalition staff, will be looking upon your departure with one clear question: mango daiquiris—who's going to make the mango daiquiris in future? Who's going to be responsible for that key tradition that ensures the coalition staff Christmas party can, to some extent, live up to the wonders of the National Party Christmas party? It is well known. So, obviously, we expect you back with mango daiquiris!

Mate, your contribution over 17 years has been something that we have enjoyed and that you should be proud of. You've previously noted 'that the hopes and dreams of First Australians reflect those of all Australians'. How right you are. You can retire knowing that, through your dedication and work, those hopes and dreams are somewhat closer. And the work for all of us in this place is to continue to make sure that we deliver on that passion and vision that you've demonstrated.

We're going to miss your good nature, your good humour, the knowledge that you're somebody who any of us, I think, would feel comfortable reaching out to at any time in terms of our lives and in any circumstances. The fact that you've been so successful at befriending people right across this chamber, and especially some of those on the crossbench from time to time—the orphans of the chamber who come in here as Independents—is a testament to the way in which you reach out.

As you leave this place, we wish you, your wife, Carol, your three children, all of your loved ones, the very best for the future. In your first speech in this place, you invited all of your colleagues to visit the Territory and take home a slice of paradise. Well, you're getting to go back to paradise. I can assure you that many of us are going to come and make sure that we haunt you in your paradise, that we visit you there, that we make sure that, whether it is the barramundi or the wild pigs of the Top End that need to watch out once Nige is back, we'll also be there to make sure we get one of those rich Nigel experiences. Mate, thank you for your service.

Can I turn to Senator Moore. Claire, thank you also for the service you've brought—a real true Queenslander—to this place. I think most importantly it's the care, the compassion and the considered approach that stand out. Many who dislike the combat of politics would, if they had the chance to look around here, look at Claire Moore and think that you are the type of politician they want to see. I can't think of a time that I've served in this place with you where I've heard you say an ill word of anybody. You've always been thoughtful, careful and considered in the approach that you have brought to bear.

You spoke of your background, your lifelong time in public service. But, over 17 years here, that public service has allowed you to contribute in so many different ways. Your service on Senate committees is, I think, something that all will remember. I have to say: if I think of things I might regret at moments like this, it's that I never had a lot of time serving in Senate committees with you, Claire. But, in your contribution, when you spoke about the committee work on gynaecological cancer, I did reflect, of course, that I fill Jeannie Ferris's vacancy in this place. Just a couple of months ago I held, as I do each year, a large 'morning teal' in Adelaide acknowledging Jeannie and her work. But at that time we were talking about the work of the Senate committee on gynaecological cancers. I know the role you played in the thought leadership there and the fact that, with senators like you, people feel more able to open up and share their soul and their problems than they're necessarily always able to do. But I also know that you were a great rock of support for Jeannie during that time, as you have been for many.

I think of greatest note, in terms of your service here, is your time as chair of the community affairs committee. Many would see your time in the Senate as being synonymous with the work of the community affairs committee, but also, importantly, as you highlighted, the Parliamentary Group on Population and Development, as well as your consistent work in the AIDS space.

You reflected upon the jingle-jangle in the chamber at times. Indeed, I think the Senate will miss your decorative flair—you raised it, so I feel that I can go there!—so well displayed not only in the chamber but also, notably, in your senatorial office. Packing up will be quite a task, I imagine.

On behalf of the government, I want to commend you for the clarity of your convictions. You will leave here, I know, for a life pursuing many of your different passions and hobbies, from cricket to Irish folk music and beyond, and with the opportunity to find many a quality detective fiction novel, I'm sure. But you leave a place and a chamber that will miss the way in which you approach debates. You have approached them all with a sense of purpose and decency of which you can be very, very proud.

I turn to Senator Cameron, to Doug. I said that each leaves, in many ways, as they came: the grounded authenticity of Nige, the care and compassion of Claire, the warrior instincts of Doug Cameron—a warrior for his union; his party; his causes, particularly the cause of socialism; the people that he represents; and even, often, people who might not want Doug to represent them. Doug would stand there and argue the toss to represent them. He'll leave this place, but I am sure it won't be the last that we hear of his wicked tongue, with its sometimes cutting insults but also very rich sense of humour.

Doug, you spoke of your background, as you did in your first speech. You also spoke about a range of issues, and as always, after you've spoken in this place, it's incredibly tempting to anyone on this side to respond to highlight what we think are the inaccuracies or differences, but tonight I resist that temptation. Your career lends credence to the old saying that, while you may not always agree with another person's beliefs, you can certainly still respect the strength with which they hold them and the conviction with which they advocate for their cause. And there are few who advocate with as much conviction and determination as you have in your life—prior to being in this place, throughout your time in this place, and, I am sure, in the time hereafter. Yours, as you acknowledged, was a remarkable journey to this place. I think it was just yesterday, in condolence motions, that I reflected upon a Labor senator from the west who had a very similar history and also some similar lines about Scottish accents.

I particularly recall time spent with you, Doug, on the Senate environment and communications committee, and seeing your chairmanship of that committee, to which you brought the work-to-rule instincts of your union background. We would always finish at the precise time, and, if we didn't finish at the precise time, the lunchbreak would still be 60 minutes long to make sure that everybody had appropriate downtime. But I also know that there was a little bit of workplace flexibility that you brought to bear on it. I can remember conspiring with you one day to make sure that we ordered the proceedings of the committee in such a way that I could catch a plane to get home and see my kids. It is that human touch that many wouldn't have seen from the way in which you fiercely advocate for your issues and causes. But I know that it's there, and we've seen that reflected in your comments about your family and, indeed, in the care for the lives of other people that your conviction is driven by.

Politics can be fierce and tough, and it's fair to say that Doug has never shied away from a political scrum, from speaking his mind, and we heard that tonight. This place, of course, will miss his very distinguishable voice. Whilst Claire's jingles and rattles may have caught Hansard's attention occasionally, everybody knew who was speaking the moment Doug Cameron rose to speak.

Whatever the difference that exists across the political divide, our democracy is stronger thanks to the robust advocacy we see from Doug and from all of those who depart this chamber tonight. I want to commend each and every one for their service. I wish each and everyone's families—Elaine, in your case, Doug, and your children and your grandchildren, everybody—every success. May you enjoy getting your loved ones back from the service. Thank you for lending those loved ones to our nation. Congratulations to each and every one of you on your service. We wish you well and thank you.

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