Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Parliamentary Representation


7:30 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to make some valedictory remarks for Senators Scullion, Moore and Cameron. I'll just note at the outset that a couple of senators leaving, as they indicated in their speeches, are from the class of 2001 in which I entered the parliament. I don't know whether that's just a reminder or whether somebody might be saying something! Anyway, first to Senator Scullion.

It's a certain type of personality that goes from professional fisherman to Australian senator, but Nigel is quite a unique individual. Some might be surprised that we have a few things in common. We both spent our early years in Malaysia. We were both on early episodes of Kitchen Cabinet. But I reckon that whilst my lunch with Annabel Crabb was pretty sedate, Senator Scullion took her on a boat and told her a tale of how he once shot a mud crab off his thumb with a gun, so I think his was a much more interesting episode.

Senator Scullion brings his own larrikin style, his somewhat laconic style at times, to the Senate. He's also a survivor—he's managed to be a minister, as he mentioned today, in the Howard government and in the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments since day one in the same portfolio. I think you're probably the only one! There's Senator Cormann too—that's right. Senator Scullion and Labor may have disagreed quite vehemently at times with this government's policy approach in his portfolio, and sometimes those debates have been strident, but I do say this: I recognise, and I think we all on this side recognise, that Senator Scullion cares passionately about this policy area. I think his pride at being the first minister responsible for Indigenous Affairs in the standalone portfolio was manifest today in his remarks. Whatever differing opinions we may have about government initiatives, Labor recognises Senator Scullion's determination to work with our First Australians and to further his personal knowledge of country and culture, and we respect that. In announcing he wouldn't recontest his seat in the Senate, Senator Scullion had some words of warning for the game animals of the Top End: 'If I were a wild pig, a duck or a mud crab, I'd be starting to get nervous.' I hope he's right.

I also turn tonight to two of my colleagues, two Labor senators who I think demonstrate the richness of the Labor tradition and the breadth of progressive politics. I'll start with Senator Moore. As Senator Moore indicated, we came to the Senate on the same day—elected in 2001, commencing on 1 July 2002. Claire has always shown great empathy for and solidarity with the vulnerable and the marginalised. In her first speech, Senator Moore said:

Any choice to be involved in a political system must be based on a personal commitment as well as a real sense of support and purpose.

Some people do not always succeed in keeping their principles and personal integrity intact in politics, but that is a challenge that Claire Moore has well and truly met. Her personal commitment has never wavered, especially in areas including the advancement of women and the protection of human rights as well as the importance of community services.

Senator Moore's list of committee appointments and inquiries is quite a rap sheet—actually it's not, because she would never do anything wrong, so it's probably more a very lengthy CV! It demonstrates the depth of her care and commitment to those Australians and others beyond our shores who would otherwise be pushed to the margins and have not had a voice at the table of national decision-making.

Her service on committees also underlines her belief, as she reiterated today, in the merit and power of the Senate committee system as a valued aspect of the Australian democracy. I note her membership of the landmark Senate Select Committee on Mental Health, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library—as she spoke about tonight—and, of course, her service as the member on the councils of the National Library and National Archives. Claire has a keen sense of history, the importance of history and knowing who we are and where we have come from. Senator Moore's many years of service on the Senate Community Affairs Committee have included some nationally significant inquiries, such as the children in institutional care inquiry, which produced the Forgotten Australians and Protecting vulnerable children reports and which led to the national apology and the royal commission.

Senator Moore has also been a leader on many issues in relation to women's rights. One particularly important contribution was Senator Moore's role in the debate on the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Repeal of Ministerial Responsibility for Approval of RU486) Bill 2005. As Claire said at the time:

It is not a national referendum on the rights or wrongs, legality or morality of a woman's right to choose to abort. In fact, it seeks to clearly identify for all our community where the appropriate assessment process for the safety, efficiency and quality of a medication should be.

We all know the contentious nature of this topic and how difficult at times it is for parliaments to deal with it. Senator Moore was key to the discussions which brought this bill forward and achieved its passage in the Senate. It was an extraordinary cross-party effort led by women, for women. In the debate, Senator Moore noted:

… it showed that people can work together if they have a common aim and can share their knowledge and experience to ensure that we can work to achieve results for the community.

This has been the approach that Senator Claire Moore has taken across her career, building partnerships for positive change. I have valued her partnership in the Foreign Affairs portfolio, and we have done a couple of tours of the Pacific together.

Senator Claire Moore has always remained true to her social justice conscience and has put her beliefs into practice. In her first speech, she told the story of suffragette Emma Miller and her sisters, and finished with this quote:

The world will be what we make it, and a fuller, happier and more abundant world is possible for all of us if we are united in efforts.

Senator Moore, Labor feminist and internationalist, has brought her principles to this Senate. I honour her contribution, and I thank her.

I turn to Senator Doug Cameron. Senator Cameron came to us after an extraordinarily distinguished career fighting for the rights of workers in the trade union movement. Working class, Scotsman and Glaswegian—he is a bloke who never forgets who he is, where he came from and who he fights for. There is nobody better at calling out the rabble on the other side. He has a capacity for the pithy takedown. For example, today he said, 'The government's budget didn't last from Lateline to lunch.' There you go!

Senator Cameron has led the fight on many fronts over 5½ years in opposition. He has been relentless in his pursuit of the Liberals and Nationals, and some ministers have earnt a special place in his heart. I know that Senator Cash will miss him! Dougie understands discipline, solidarity and loyalty—all attributes of our movement. He exemplifies them. I want to personally thank him for that contribution. He eventually does what I say! It usually takes some work. But more important, and what I value most, is that whenever he is asked to step up for the group, for the team, his courage is second to none. I respect that, I value that and I thank him for it.

Doug Cameron has weathered many personal, partisan attacks in this place for his role as a trade union leader, for his relentless pursuit of the interests of workers and for asking legitimate questions about this. He has been accused in this chamber of aiding and abetting criminal behaviour. I do want, in this final valedictory, to make this point: there is nobody in this Senate who has done more to stamp out corruption and criminal elements in the trade union movement than Doug Cameron. His efforts as a union leader have come, at times, at a personal cost. I want to record that not only because it is a significant legacy but because his position, career and contribution have been so contrary to some of the personal insults that have been hurled by some of those opposite—not you, Wacka.

We often focus on Senator Cameron's passion and courage in the chamber or committee hearings, but it is important to underline that he pairs this passion with diligence and hard work. Having served briefly as Parliamentary Secretary for Housing and Homelessness in 2013, in opposition he has made substantial inroads in areas of policy too often neglected by the coalition. His contributions in the areas of vocational education, housing and homelessness not only speak to his commitment to opportunity and fairness but also will stand a future Labor government in good stead.

Senator Cameron is, like many of his comrades, living proof that being part of the labour movement is about wages and conditions but it is about much more. It is membership of a movement that stands with the most vulnerable in society, that reaches out to lift people up and that looks to a more just and more equal Australia. We will miss him in the Senate, but we wish him well and we wish his family well. I hope he and Elaine have a wonderful time in this next phase in their lives—and I say to Tasmania: look out!


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