Wednesday, 18 June 2008
I hope that they have the television on at home or I will be in trouble. I wish to commence my remarks by acknowledging the kind and not so kind comments directed at me by opposition senators last evening. I want to take the opportunity to wish retiring Senators Watson, Patterson, Kemp, Chapman, Macdonald and Lightfoot the best of luck for the future, and I commend them for their contribution to this chamber. I hope Chappie’s golf will improve now that he has finally bought himself a new set of golf clubs. It must have been painful getting the money out of his pocket to pay for them! I also must say that, if I had any doubts about whether or not it was the right time to go, it was when Kemp said that even he thought I was a good bloke. When I start to get praise from a conservative like Rod Kemp, then it is time for me to go!
I would also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Senators Murray, Stott Despoja, Allison and Bartlett and Senator Nettle to the work of the Senate and to also wish them all the best for the future. I have spent a lot of time travelling around the country with Senator Murray, particularly on industrial relations type inquiries, and we got to know each other pretty well. We spent three or four weeks together in Europe at the European institutions back in 2004 and he was lovely company. His wife was better company, but he was lovely company too! I will miss him, because I did enjoy some of the debates we had over industrial relations and I think that I did help to turn him around a bit from where he was in 1996 when the Howard government was elected—I would not claim that it was total, but I did help to turn him around a bit on those issues. I have also travelled the country with Natasha, and I just want to acknowledge her patient advocacy on behalf of the students of this country. They are going to miss her; they are going to miss Natasha’s advocacy on their behalf.
I arrived in this country on 1 March 1965 as a young migrant—a ten-pound tourist, as we were known in those days.
A Belfast Pommie, they used to call me. My first act when I got here was to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. My second act was to go and join the union, and I can proudly say that I have been a financial member of that union since 3 March 1965—some 43 years. Hopefully I will continue to be a financial member, if they put me in the retired members association, for the rest of my period on this earth. I think that I have made no mean contribution to the development of the union over the years that I have been a member. I lived in Sydney for some six months. I could not get work on the waterfront in those days; it was going through a bad period. I spent most of my time hustling on pool tables around RSL clubs and so forth to pay the rent. Fortunately for me, in those days I could actually see the ball, so I was not a bad snooker player. I would not pay the rent the way I play these days, I can assure you. I moved to Melbourne in October 1965, worked in the naval dockyards for a period of time and joined the party in Melbourne in 1966. I have been a member of the party ever since.
The Labor Party. What, are you suggesting that I might have joined some other parties! Stephen, wash your mouth out! That was a period of continuous activism for me of some 42 or 43 years and I hope that that activism is not coming to a conclusion. In fact, this is the first year since 1966 that I have not been a delegate to a Labor Party conference, other than when I have not been in the country. It is the first time that I have not represented the union at a Labor Party conference either in Victoria of Sydney for some 43 years. It may be the end of my political contribution in that sense, but hopefully it will not be.
I have been fortunate, I think, because I lived through what was a very exciting period in the labour movement during the late sixties and the seventies and eighties. There were many other exciting things that happened in Melbourne, and I am particularly talking about union activities, that I did not necessarily want to live through but which I did, as some of my colleagues would know from the stories I have told them of those times. I was involved in issues such as the anti-conscription campaign in Victoria, which was also a national campaign, during the Vietnam War. I do not know if I am exposing myself or not, but I did harbour a couple of activists—that is, people who were avoiding the draft—during that period. I spoke to a bloke out at the Department of Labour and National Service, as it was back in those days, when, I think, Billy Snedden was the minister. I spoke to this bloke back in the seventies when I became secretary of the union. He said, ‘You know, we knew you were harbouring those people.’ I said, ‘What people?’ He said, ‘Those blokes that were avoiding the draft. We didn’t want to arrest you. We didn’t want to arrest them. You were more trouble than you were worth. As long as we knew where you were, then we were confident we had the situation under control.’ All the hopes I had of being a martyr, all for the cause, all went down the drain!
It was an exciting period, Senator Minchin, the anti-Vietnam War movement. The moratorium is a day that I will never forget. It was one of the most exciting days for anyone who was involved in the labour movement—to see 100,000 people virtually fill Bourke Street in Melbourne. That is a memory that will stay with me for a very long period of time.
I was involved in issues like the abolition of the penal powers when Clarrie O’Shea was arrested. They were bad laws. They were defied, ultimately, and they were defeated. Ultimately, in a democracy that is what you do or you allow your democracy to degrade. I hope we do not have to face circumstances like that in the future, but we have also got to be prepared, if that occurs, to put up or shut up and take the fight on.
The election of the Whitlam government was obviously pretty exciting for Labor Party members in those days, after some 23 years of conservative rule, and I was pretty heavily involved in that process. In fact, I was a member of the Victorian central executive that Whitlam sacked in 1970. I got elected onto that executive at the same time as Bob Hawke. We both lasted three months. He went on to be Prime Minister and I finished up in the Senate, so we must have been doing something right during that period of time.
I remember that time because I topped the poll at the state conference for the election of members of the executive and I did it mainly because I moved a resolution defying the Crimes Act on conscription. That resulted in me getting the unanimous vote of the conference to go onto the executive. I still pull those tricks but I have not done any for quite some time. But it worked out to be very successful.
I was also pretty heavily involved in the negotiation of the accord during the eighties, and many of the issues that arose out of the accord process, particularly the introduction of universal superannuation. I was pleased to see that Bill Kelty, in the last honours list, got acknowledgement and recognition for the work that he did over that period. To a large degree, many of the issues that emerged out of that accord period that have been lasting reforms for workers and which workers have benefited from were driven by Bill, and it was Bill’s energy that ultimately carried them over the line.
I was involved in two rewrites of the arbitration act—one back in 1988 after the Hancock review and the other in 1993 that led to the introduction of collective bargaining—as a member of that committee. There are many other events and circumstances of that period which I recount and was fortunate enough to be involved in.
I was also pretty privileged over that period and served on many government committees. I was a member of the Economic Planning Advisory Council and the Australian Shipbuilding Board from 1975 to 1980. I was a member of the Shipbuilding Consultative Group from, I think, 1984 to 1988. I was deputy chair of the Australian Manufacturing Council. I was on the Telecommunications Industry Development Authority, along with Tony Staley, and that was a particularly rewarding period. It was after the deregulation of the telecommunications industry, and our role was to ensure that the local industry did not go down the gurgler, as it did in the seventies as, a result of that deregulation. I think we did a fairly substantial job of ensuring a healthy telecommunications industry has survived in this country.
I served on the National Industry Extension Service, which is now being reintroduced by the Rudd government under another name in the department of industry to provide resources to small businesses to assist them to adapt to new technologies, new methods of production. I was on the National Investment Council also during that period.
I have been lucky that I have been able to make a contribution not only in my chosen fields of endeavour within the trade union movement and in politics but also to the development of our community more broadly in those areas that I have outlined.
One thing I did was lead a sit-in in Old Parliament House back in 1976—the first and only time I think there has been a successful sit-in in Parliament House—of 2,000 shipyard workers, because the Fraser government were closing down the shipbuilding industry. There were two security guards. Of course, we were able to stay there for quite some time because two to 2,000 did not equate to even odds. But it was conducted with decorum. We made our point, and the protest finished. Sitting in King’s Hall in Old Parliament House in 1976, I never thought I would be sitting here in the Senate from 1998 through to 2008. It was probably the furthest thing from my mind in those days.
I have regarded it as a privilege to be able to play an active role in the political and industrial affairs of the nation and to give something back to the country that has given me so much. A prominent member on the other side, who happens to be in the chamber, once described me as one of the few remaining conviction politicians left in this place. That is a badge I wear with honour, Senator Brandis. I do not see how you can convince others to support your position if you are not convinced yourself that your position is the correct one. I have never shrunk in all my years in the labour movement from taking the opportunity to get up and argue my point of view and to fight for positions that I held dearly and believed in.
Having been so actively involved over such a long period of time, there is a temptation in these types of speeches to make comparisons between different eras. I have been fortunate to live through all of the modern eras of the labour movement: the Whitlam period, the Hawke period, the Keating period and the Rudd government. Whilst I am disturbed by the approach of the current government on a number of issues, not the least of which is industrial relations, you will excuse me if I keep my counsel to myself because I think the appropriate place to make those arguments is in the internal structures of the party, and there are ample opportunities provided within the Labor Party for one to argue one’s point of view on whatever issues one wants to argue.
In the period I have been here, there has been no joy being in opposition. There is no joy in opposition; it is only hard work for little result. But I have to say I am glad that, if I was going to serve a period in opposition, it was in the Australian Senate, because the Senate committee structure provides an opportunity for people to make a contribution to develop a policy agenda in a way in which, to my knowledge, no other parliament does.
I have served on a number of committees and have been involved in a number of committee reports, some of which are still gathering dust but some of which had an impact. I think the ability that those committees and that committee structure gives one to get out and mix with the general community and to meet people from all walks of life—whether it be looking at the status of teachers, which I did with Senator Allison and with Senator Stott Despoja, dealing with the issue of students and student unionism or looking at the issue of the skills divide—helps broaden our knowledge and experience of what is going on out there but helps also, I think, to take to the Australian community the fact that their politicians are concerned about the issues confronting them, are listening and are prepared to come down and listen to their arguments in whatever their particular field is. So, despite the fact that opposition is not a very good environment to be in, there is no doubt that the Senate structure goes a very long way to providing a bridge for those in opposition to be able to play a constructive role in the affairs of the parliament through those processes. I do hope that the current government, while enjoying the fruits of political victory, never lose sight of what it is like to be in opposition. That thought alone, Chris, should ensure that you keep firmly on the right track. I know that you will carry the message back into the cabinet room.
Honourable senators interjecting—
I am fortunate; I only did 10½. I am sure you will take the message back into the cabinet room and make sure that they do not make some of the mistakes that some on the other side did and open the door for the return of a conservative government.
I should take the opportunity to pay tribute to Senator Webber and Senator Kirk, who are also leaving the Senate on 30 June 2008. A warning, Senator Parry: you will note that the three senators who have been disendorsed on this side all occupied the Opposition Whip’s offices for three years. I do not know if there is a jinx on that room. The Opposition Whip before me also went in circumstances that were less than gracious. I am just warning you. Maybe it is time to look at moving on. Take over a committee chair or something, but be careful: watch who is coming in the back door as well as who is coming in the front.
I want to pay tribute to Ruth and to Linda. They were deputy whips when I was Opposition Whip. Ruth has been a particularly good friend and comrade over a number of years. We have shared more than one meal together and hopefully we will share more than one meal together in the future. There will be opportunities for our paths to cross and to continue the friendship that we have established. I think it is a travesty of justice that both Linda and Ruth have been disendorsed. Old warhorses like me are fair game; we have been around long enough. You live by the sword, you die by the sword and you accept the consequences. If you want to play the political game then you take the consequences of it, and sometimes the consequences can be substantial.
I think it is a travesty of justice, as Senator Johnston said last night, that both Senator Webber and Senator Kirk lost their endorsements. There was no basis for it. They have been active members of the Senate; they have played a substantial role in their committees from what I have seen. Linda’s knowledge, particularly, of immigration issues has been invaluable. Many of the contributions she has made in this chamber have been invaluable, and so have Ruth’s. I think sometimes we do not always get it right. I have enjoyed the company of both of them and I hope that they are able to establish, outside of this place, new careers which are both rewarding and well rewarded.
There are two things I do want to do before I finish my remarks—again, I am running over time. One is to acknowledge my staff, who have served me over the past 10½ years. Their work and support has been invaluable and, more importantly, it has been appreciated. I particularly want to thank two people, Felicity and Karen, both of whom commenced working for me as 16-year-olds at the metalworkers and both of whom now have adult children of their own. Both followed me into the political arena and wanted to work for me here. I cannot understand why, but they did. So I must have been doing something right as a boss, although perhaps I did not always know what that was. Their loyalty to me has been above and beyond the call of duty and I appreciate their contribution no end.
I also want to thank the Senate staff: the Clerk, Harry Evans; the chamber clerks; the committee secretariats; the chamber attendants; the security staff; and the Comcar drivers and their allocators, Michael and Ian. They certainly make this place a much more pleasant place to be, and this job would be much more difficult without them. Their support has been appreciated, and I publicly acknowledge the contribution that they also make to the work of the Senate. Senator Marshall has asked me to acknowledge him for his mentoring role and for putting up with me for the past six years! Gavin, you are going to be miserable without us. Finally, Mr President, can I conclude my remarks by saying thanks for the memories.
May I begin, Mr President, by congratulating you on the professional manner in which you have performed the role of President since you assumed the role last year. I note that you are the sixth South Australian to hold the office of Senate President and I take this chance to say that you do our state proud in the manner in which you perform this important role. I would also like to thank you for hosting a dinner for retiring senators tomorrow evening. It is a sign of your respect for the institution of the Senate that you honour us by inviting us to dine with you in the last days of our time in this place.
To begin with, tonight I would like to make some comments about my fellow senators who will be retiring with me on 30 June this year. I listened with interest last night to the speeches of Senators Watson, Patterson, Kemp, Chapman, Macdonald and Lightfoot. I congratulate and acknowledge them for the contribution they have made to the Senate, to their respective states and to the community over their many years of service. In fact, the number of coalition senators who paid their respects to their colleagues during the extended debate last night is a mark of the regard in which they are all held. I would also like to thank Senators Mason, Birmingham, Colbeck, Adams, Eggleston, Johnson, Barnett and Coonan, who made kind and generous comments about me last night. Thank you also to those coalition colleagues who have written me personal notes in the last few weeks and months. I very much appreciate that. I also take this opportunity to recognise Senators Bartlett and Murray, who have made a significant contribution to this place in their respective areas of interest. I have admired the dedication of Senator Bartlett, particularly in advocating for the fair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and Senator Murray’s expertise in corporate and taxation matters and his understanding and advice in relation to the rules relating to political donations.
I must also mention my Labor colleague Senator George Campbell, who as Chief Opposition Whip in the last parliament provided me with much guidance and advice in my role as deputy whip. I would also like to thank him very much for the very kind words that he said about me this evening. I would like to wish you well in your retirement, George, and I hope you enjoy travelling the world—as you have indicated that you may well do—and lowering your golf handicap.
In my first speech in this place I acknowledged the contribution of the early pioneering women who preceded me. Tonight I want to make special mention of the five female senators who will be retiring from here with me on 30 June. Together they are a remarkable group and are in large part responsible for some of the most critical social reforms in this place in the past few years, if not in this parliament’s history. Without these women and their stance on matters which are regarded by the major parties as matters of conscience, these changes may never have occurred. Of course I refer to Senators Webber, Allison, Stott Despoja, Nettle and Patterson.
Senator Webber is a Labor colleague and a friend who has made a major contribution during her Senate term. She is a feisty and passionate woman who, together with Senator Moore, led Labor women in the debates surrounding the stem cell legislation and RU486. I would like to acknowledge the leadership she has shown recently in agitating for the much needed changes to AusAID guidelines which currently prohibit Australian aid contributing towards abortion services and education overseas. On a personal note, I would like to thank her for her friendship, encouragement and kindness over the past six years since we entered the Senate together. I am sure that she will continue to make a significant contribution wherever she chooses to go and whatever activities she pursues when she leaves this place.
Senator Patterson has been a great supporter of women not only from her own party but across the party divide. I would like to acknowledge and thank her for, amongst her other achievements, the introduction of her private members bill which introduced the second raft of stem cell legislation in 2006. Some people may wonder why it is that I am thanking her for proposing this bill, my support of which contributed to my involuntary retirement—nevertheless, I do. Senator Allison is another strong woman and effective senator from Victoria who has played a significant role on a range of issues, particularly RU486 and more recently the AusAID guidelines. I would like to thank her for her leadership of women and for the enormous contribution that she has made. Senator Nettle entered the Senate with me in 2002 and she has also made an enormous contribution in her six-year term. She is one of the hardest working and most passionate senators in this place and I have admired her tireless work advocating for fair treatment for asylum seekers and refugees. If every senator had her dedication and capacity for work, this place would indeed be an extraordinary legislature.
Last but not least I wish to acknowledge my friend and fellow South Australian Senator Natasha Stott Despoja. I first knew of Senator Stott Despoja when we were both students at the University of Adelaide. For many years I watched as she entered and began to make her incredible contribution to the Australian political landscape. She does not know this but she was in large part an inspiration to me to leave my comfortable existence as a legal academic and pursue a career in public life. Senator Stott Despoja’s contribution to the Senate, to the profile of women in politics and to the Australian community at large is almost unparalleled, and her departure from this place will leave a gaping hole. She has been an invaluable support to me and I look forward to continuing our friendship and extracurricular activities well beyond 30 June—
It does a bit! I won’t elaborate. I wish her and Ian and their gorgeous children Conrad and Cordelia the very best for the future.
The five women that I have just mentioned are a great loss to this place, and together with the retirement of Senator Vanstone and the untimely death of Senator Ferris, the face of the Senate will change dramatically from 1 July 2008. In saying this I intend no disrespect to continuing and incoming senators. I merely make the point that the historic changes to legislation that occurred in recent years may not have happened but for the presence of the women to whom I have referred. When it is recalled that the Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction and the Regulation of Human Embryo Research Amendment Bill passed the Senate by only one vote, I think my point is made.
In my maiden speech in the Senate on 28 August 2002 I said that I joined the Australian Labor Party as a student because I was attracted to the party’s policies and philosophies, which reflected the values that had been instilled in me by my parents and my background. These core values include: the right of individuals to develop and apply their talents and abilities for self-advancement, supported by high standards of public education and training; an unqualified opposition to discrimination based on race, colour, ethnic origin, gender or sexuality; recognition of the prior possession of Australia by the Aboriginal people; belief in and assistance for developing the Australian population through family support and further migration, including a substantial intake of refugees; the right of workers to organise and bargain collectively, supported by a robust, independent and fair industrial relations system; and the belief in a strong, democratic and republican system of constitutional government underpinned by strict separation of powers and adherence to the rule of law. It was these beliefs that motivated me to stand for election to this place and I said in my maiden speech that I would dedicate myself to their promotion and advancement.
In the past week or so I have gone back and read many of the speeches I have delivered in the Senate since my first speech in August 2002. I am pleased to say that the record shows that I have consistently adhered to my beliefs and principles and refused to waver from them even when put under enormous pressure to do so. I have spoken a number of times about the importance of access to, and adequate funding for, higher education, a fair system of industrial relations, equality of treatment for all regardless of race, colour, ethnic origin, gender or sexuality, the rights of our Indigenous people, respect for the rule of law, adherence to principles of international law and maintaining and protecting our system of constitutional government.
A major theme of my first speech was the need to maintain a strong separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. I took the opportunity whenever I could during my contribution to debates in this chamber and in committee inquiries to ensure adequate judicial oversight of executive action and to limit restrictions on judicial review of administrative action. I continue to maintain my long-held view that Australia should progress to an independent republic, and I hope that this will be realised under the stewardship of Prime Minister Rudd.
I very much look forward to the community consultation and discussion that the government has indicated that it intends to facilitate about whether Australia should adopt a statutory or constitutional bill or charter of rights. I acknowledge that there are strong arguments on both sides of this debate. I very much look forward to participating in that.
I am proud of the private senator’s bill that I introduced last year, reflecting a private member’s bill introduced by the Hon. Duncan Kerr in the House of Representatives. This bill seeks to introduce an independent commission to consider and make recommendations in relation to referrals to it from the parliament of allegations of judicial incapacity or misconduct. Our existing system lacks an independent and transparent mechanism for the consideration of complaints against serving federal judicial officers. This bill would provide a much-needed process for the examination of such allegations. I hope that, after my departure, some consideration will be given to adopting this bill.
I am particularly proud of the stance I have taken on human rights issues during my time here, including my advocacy for the removal of children from immigration detention, for the rights and fair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, for justice for David Hicks and for an end to child abuse and mistreatment in our community. As convenor of Parliamentarians Against Child Abuse I have advocated for the establishment of a children’s commissioner and a national child protection framework.
One of the most rewarding parts of this job has been my work on the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I have relished the opportunity to conduct detailed scrutiny of legislative measures and to hear from experts in the field about the impact of policy on individuals and communities. The Senate’s committee system is perhaps the greatest feature of this institution, in my view, and its importance to the democratic process cannot be understated. I have considered it a privilege to have been an active participant in this critical aspect of our system of governance.
Like Senator Campbell, 5½ years of my time here was spent in opposition—for him, of course, it was much longer. I was of course delighted to see the election of a Labor government on 24 November last year, and very proud to see Kevin Rudd sworn in as Prime Minister of Australia. The Prime Minister has been a strong supporter of mine over many years and I am privileged to be able to call him not only a loyal colleague but also a friend.
I would like also to congratulate and acknowledge the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who is a remarkable woman and another person who has always been incredibly supportive of me. I would like also to recognise the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, who has long been a supporter of mine. He is hardworking and a very diligent lawyer and he is most deserving, in my view, of the job of first law officer of Australia.
There are of course many other colleagues and ministers that I would like to be able to mention, but time does not permit me to do so today. Someone said to me the other day that I am fortunate to leave this place with the respect of my colleagues. I am indeed lucky to have earned the respect of so many people in this place but, most particularly, the respect of those people whom I respect.
I would like to express my thanks to those who have worked in my office over the years and without whom it would not have been possible for me to have carried out my work as a senator. I thank Sevi Livaditis for keeping my Adelaide office running smoothly. I thank Jane Backhouse for her work, in particular on child protection issues, and Jenny Lee for her research on Indigenous matters. I would also like to thank tonight my principal legal researcher and parliamentary assistant, Johanna Palenschus, who is an exceptionally talented young woman. She has been of great assistance to me, particularly in the preparation of my private senator’s bill. I also thank Josh Peak, who travelled from Adelaide today to be here. I thank him for his commitment to the Labor cause and for his campaigning skills, which were so evident during last year’s federal election. Josh has a very bright future, and I am sure his many talents will be recognised by the powers that be. Thank you to Nick Studdert, who is also here today. He is my only Canberra based staffer. I would like to thank him for his diligence in my parliamentary office and his enthusiasm and willingness to undertake all kinds of tasks—with the exception of washing the dishes. I would like to single out just two of my former staff who have made a really important contribution: Tania Baxter and Xanthe Kleinig. Both of these ladies made a significant contribution to my speeches over the years on social issues, children’s rights, children in detention and human rights more generally, and I thank them both.
I would also like to thank everyone in the ALP who has supported me over the years and given me the opportunity to represent the people of South Australia in this place. I thank all of my Labor colleagues for being here today. I very much appreciate you all coming along. I would like to make special mention of Senator Ursula Stephens and her husband, Bob, who were very kind to me in my first years here in Canberra. They made me feel very welcome and helped me to settle in.
I would like to thank everybody who supported me here in the chamber, particularly, of course, Harry Evans, Rosemary Laing, Cleaver Elliott, the chamber staff and everybody else who makes our life so much easier—Comcar drivers, security, Hansard and of course the Parliamentary Library as well.
I would like to thank my mother and father for being here today and also my brother, Steven. I thank them for their love and encouragement throughout my life. I would also like very much to thank Karin MacDonald, who is a member of the ACT Legislative Assembly, for coming along this evening to support me. It is very much appreciated. Finally, I would like to say a big thankyou to David Waweru and Eva Milekovic for the very non-political perspective on the world that they bring, which gives me so much balance, and I also thank them for being the special people and friends that they are to me.
I am very much looking forward to my life beyond the Senate, when I will be able to pursue my passion for the law and law reform, which really drives me and has for many, many years. Finally, I would just like to say that, like Damocles himself, I will gladly depart this palace and return to a simple life in the knowledge that an existence with a sword hovering over one’s head, suspended by only the thinnest of threads, although it is privileged, is not one to be envied.
I want to make some remarks on behalf of the Labor Party and the government to our retiring senators. I regret that retiring senators always give their best speech as their last speech, and that is a bit of a hard act to follow, but I do want to make some remarks on behalf of their Labor colleagues. A senator’s opportunity to serve in this place is very much a function of their political party’s decision making. Senators are subject to the vagaries of the views of party members and the shifting focus of power inside their political parties. We are all subject to those forces. Senators’ careers can come to an end due to factors other than their personal performance and contribution.
Tonight I pay tribute to the contribution of three of our Labor senators, who in my view have made significant contributions to the parliament, to the parliamentary Labor Party and of course to the Australian Labor Party. Their service has been appreciated by their colleagues and the labour movement, and their comradeship and company has been appreciated by us all. I want to make the very clear point that the end of their period as senators is not, in my view, the end of their contribution to the Labor Party or to public life. I think all three of them have a lot to offer in the years to come—even George, who might be a little more fixated on retirement than he need be or should be. I still think there is a role for him in the movement, as there is clearly for Linda and Ruth.
Talking about Senator George Campbell, as George said, he was elected as a New South Wales senator in 1997 after a long career in the labour movement. In opposition, he was parliamentary secretary to the shadow minister for innovation, industry and trade from 2001 to 2004, and then of course he took on the most important job in the parliament, that of the Opposition Whip, for four years, which he did with great distinction. George’s is a classic migrant-made-good story. George came to this country from Belfast in 1965. It is lucky that the English standard requirements then were much lower, because otherwise George may not have got in! George had a tremendous career in the trade union movement and rose to the height of National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, which is a tremendous achievement—a very strong union but also a union in which the internal battles are well fought. To provide leadership for a lengthy period as national secretary is a tribute to him. He also, of course, served as a senior vice-president of the ACTU and provided leadership in the ACTU for many years. He has been on the national executive of the Labor Party for about as long as I can remember. I do not have the exact dates.
Yes, you get less for murder. It is a tribute to your contribution. Without hyperbole, George has been one of the most significant labour movement figures of the last 20 years. He has been a very significant figure. He has held the highest elected offices in the trade union movement. He has provided national leadership inside the Australian Labor Party. Although we do not talk of such things anymore, he has been a leader of the Left of the Labor Party and the Left inside the labour movement for a very long time and a dominant figure in that movement.
As George pointed out, he has done it tough through the dark years in opposition. I hasten to add that he did not do it as tough as some of us but it is a shame that he has not enjoyed longer in government. He played a very critical role in opposition. I say this as a former whip, but it actually is a very key function in opposition in terms of maintaining morale and organisation through what were very dark days for us. I think the current opposition are going through some of those days themselves and learning that they are not pleasant. It can be a very tough time. The role of the whip and the role of providing leadership in the Labor Party are very important. George provided that leadership. I know that when I became Leader of the Opposition in the Senate I very much appreciated the role he played—his good-heartedness, his willingness to provide support and his willingness to jolly the troops along when sometimes they were being a little on the fractious side or needed counsel. While George talks of golf and travel, I think he has more to contribute. I think the labour movement and public life would benefit from his continuing to make some contribution.
He made a correct decision when he married a Western Australia girl, Kerrie, and we wish her all the best with George. George, your contribution to the parliament has been a significant one and your contribution to the labour movement has been an even more significant one over a very long period of time. It is something which you should be very proud of. I know your colleagues are very proud of you and your contribution. We hope that your post-Senate career is rewarding and your lifestyle is also rewarding. I understand that your golf handicap does need a lot of work! All the best.
I would like to also acknowledge Senator Linda Kirk, from South Australia. Linda, as she indicated, has only had one term with us in the Senate, but it has been an impressive one. Just listening to Linda tonight reinforced the view I had of her. Linda had a strong background as a constitutional lawyer and a legal academic, and she has applied those skills in her contributions in the Senate in a very consistent way. She is one of those members of parliament who have used every opportunity to advance her policy interests and the things she believed in. Some of us can be a bit erratic, particularly when we have been made shadow minister for various things, but Linda is one of those people whose contribution, if you look back over her six years in the Senate, has been consistent, principled and effective. I think she can be very proud of that.
Linda referred to her time on the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I also served on that committee for a while, but I did not have nearly the interest that Linda had in those issues. Her capacity to get into those issues has been very important. She also served as deputy opposition whip, which is more of a punishment, but we do appreciate the contribution she made in that role.
I was just thinking today about Linda’s contribution to the campaign for justice for David Hicks. Her support for refugees when it was politically unpopular and unwise, for victims of child abuse, for the rights of women, for a republic, for legal reform more generally and her support for quite controversial social issues like stem cell research showed consistency, commitment and a set of principles that do her great credit. She referred to the fact that her political career was impacted by the stands she took. I think what most impressed me and her colleagues, whether they agreed with those stands or not, was the strength of character that she showed through them and how she never looked like flinching. People had very strong views either way, but they did appreciate that strength of character.
I think that is not widely understood outside the parliament because there are lots of loud, boofy blokes like me in the parliament and people do not necessarily recognise that some of the quieter members of parliament, some of whom are not very good at personal promotion, bring strength of character and a way of handling themselves to the place. Linda has certainly been one of those quiet, effective, hardworking members of parliament. One only thinks of the contribution she has made when reviewing all the things she has been involved with over that time and the principles that she has brought to bear. I think those admirable personal qualities and a tremendous intellectual capacity will serve her well in post-Senate life. She very much has a further contribution to make. I hope it is one which she enjoys and I wish her well for the future. She made the point that she appreciated the respect of her peers. I think I speak for all of her peers when I say that she does enjoy our respect and we do wish her all the best for the future. We know she will have a strong contribution to make in whatever else she does.
I want to make a couple of remarks about Senator Ruth Webber, who is also retiring but has not spoken tonight because she will be doing that next week when her parents are here. There is no show without Judy and Daryl, and I look forward to them joining us. It gives me the opportunity to get in first, but as always Ruth will get the last word, which is the way she likes it. During her time here, Ruth has not only been opposition deputy whip but also been tremendously engaged with committee work and the causes about which she is passionate. I have to be careful about what I say, because Ruth has more dirt on me than I have on her, but that comes from Ruth being a former employee of mine. Ruth actually worked as a whip’s clerk in this place. It was a tremendous thing that she came back into this place as a senator. I do not know why she chose to come back after that experience. She did not develop much respect for other senators while she was working as a whip’s clerk, but she managed to work on that.
I have known Ruth for a very long period of time, so I guess I have a good perspective on her career. I am very proud of the way that she has worked her way up, if you like, through what was at the time a very male-dominated system that did not necessarily like women with attitude—and Ruth has always been a woman with attitude and strength of conviction. I think the Labor Party is better at coping with that now, but it is still not great. Ruth’s career has included working as an electorate officer, as a party official, as a ministerial adviser to a state government and as a senator, so she has a huge breadth of experience in the labour movement and in politics. That will serve her well in whatever she chooses to do in the future. It is a great training ground.
I remember the first time Ruth came to my notice. It was at a state conference. I think it was prewar; it was a very long time ago.
She was a very young woman! Even I was a bit younger then. She spoke at a state conference on, as I recall, a woman’s right to choose and the abortion debate. She spoke very strongly, made a huge impression and made a very telling contribution to the debate. I think it is fair to say that it was not in tune with the views of many of the people with whom she was associated in the Labor Party, and it certainly was a contribution that probably worked against her political career at the time. As Sir Humphrey Appleby would say, it was a ‘courageous’ contribution. It was a sign of her strength of character, her commitment to her ideals and her preparedness to stand up for those things even though it was not necessarily in her personal political interests at the time. She made such an impression that I employed her. One of my few strengths has been that I have always employed good people. I have had tremendous support from people with great skills, and Ruth was one of those. Her contribution while she worked for me was fantastic. Both inside the Senate and in politics, she is one of the best campaign managers we have produced out of WA, and she will not get out of that role easily.
It is interesting, I think, that Ruth’s career has included strong advocacy for women and women’s rights, for health and mental health issues and for a range of other areas of interest. I thought of the contribution she has made to the Labor Party. It struck me that, when Jacinta Collins returned to the Senate the other day, we got to a position where 14 of the 28 Labor senators were women. The best thing about it was that no-one remarked upon it. It was not considered strange. That suddenly half of the Labor Party’s senators were women was not considered worthy of any debate. No-one talked about tokenism. No-one talked about special treatment. People accept that the Labor Party having matured to the point where half of its senators are female is the natural order of things. I thought that was a really maturing moment and a reflection of the contribution that Ruth, many other female senators here and others in the party had made. I know that Ruth also, like Linda, was involved with the issues of stem cells, a woman’s right to choose and those other large issues of conscience that have been part of our debate in recent years. I think her strength of character, her passion and her commitment came to the fore in those debates.
The other thing that I would say in looking to wind up is that one of the things I most admire about Ruth is the way she accepted what was a fairly hard decision that the party took. It influenced her and ended her Senate career. She never dropped her head, never dropped her bundle and worked just as hard on the last federal election campaign as she had on the probably 15—certainly 10—before that. I think the loyalty she has shown is a great credit to her. I think that is true of Linda and George as well. One of the things as Senate leader that has impressed me about all three is that knowing that their time in the Senate was coming to an end has not affected their commitment, their loyalty or their contribution. They have all worked as hard up until the last days of their term here as they did in the early days of their term. I think it is a great credit to all three of them that there has not been a slackening of effort and that they have contributed at a very high level.
That sort of loyalty and commitment is, I hope, recognised more broadly in the party. That sort of professionalism and dignity is certainly recognised by their peers. It would have been easy for the senators who lost preselection to be bitter. It would have been easy to concentrate on the unfairness or the impact of that decision. I think the fact that all three have dealt with it so well—have shown such professionalism, dignity and generosity despite taking quite big knocks on a personal level—is a great credit to them. It is a good indication to me that the Labor Party still has their support, but also that they have something further to contribute. Because of the way they have handled themselves it seems to me that their colleagues and those in the broader labour movement will come to recognise that their contributions are still valuable.
So it is with some sadness that I remark on the retirement of three of our senators, but they have all had good careers, made strong contributions and can be proud of their contributions. There is life after the Senate, I am assured. I keep running into retired senators who are much happier than when they were in the Senate, and I hope that is true of all three of you as well. All the best.
In thinking about what I might say tonight I reflected on the fact that I had, I guess, the rare privilege of spending the whole 11½ years of our government in the ministerial wing. I have spent only 3½ years of my 15 here actually living on the Senate side. But the very high price you pay for that, as I think new Labor ministers will discover, is that you really do not have the opportunity to get to know senators from the other parties nearly as well as your backbench colleagues do. It is a problem in this building that ministers are off in that Versailles over in the corner and do not relate. As Labor ministers will soon discover, being in the ministerial wing can make you feel terribly important, but you do find that you are denied the opportunity, by not being able to participate in committees and go on delegations, to develop the friendships across the chamber that your backbench colleagues can. I suffered that, and regrettably the price I have paid is that I have not been able to get to know the likes of George Campbell, Linda Kirk and Ruth Webber as well as some of my coalition colleagues have. I appreciate the fact that Linda and George reflected on the friendships they have formed across the chamber. It is one of the things that particularly distinguishes the Senate from the House of Representatives, and I think we as senators know that it is a great privilege to be here.
I would like, on behalf of the coalition, to make a few observations. I do note at the outset, as others have, that we are dealing tonight with three Labor retirees who are doing so involuntarily. You could say that about three of our six but in the case of Labor it is all three, and therefore I genuinely extend on the coalition’s behalf our commiserations to all three. To have your Senate terms cut short by your party is pretty tough, and it is pretty tough to be denied the opportunity to retire of your own volition, which is something I guess that all of us aspire to but not everybody achieves. Certainly, George Campbell, Linda Kirk and Ruth Webber are well known and well liked by everybody on our side of the parliament and will genuinely be missed.
In the case of George, we all really liked having Senator Campbell in here. We had to keep saying ‘Senator George Campbell’ so as not to confuse him with our good friend Ian, who also departed involuntarily you would have to say. His presence was a constant reminder of the wonderful clashes that he used to have with former Prime Minister Paul Keating. What we would regularly do as ministers in question time here would be to quote Paul back at George. What was it—‘100,000 workers round his mantel’? It was wonderful stuff. George was—and I remember it because I am old enough to—one of the most high-profile trade union leaders we have ever seen in this country through the seventies and eighties, with his fierce and fearsome leadership of his union. He was regarded, quite unfairly and inappropriately, on our side of politics as ‘a Pommy union bastard’. Of course, he is not actually a Pommy; he is a good Irishman. My antecedents were from Ireland too, George. I always defended you on that basis, mate.
It really is very hard for many of us on this side to think that the Labor Party has seen fit to replace George with none other than the much more infamous Doug Cameron, an even more outrageous old union firebrand. I thought he would have retired by now, but he is apparently coming into this Senate, which is going to make this a very interesting place. I had many a run-in with Doug when I had three years as industry minister in the late nineties, so I am looking forward to resuming hostilities with said Senator elect Cameron. We do note that George has mellowed considerably in this wonderful institution that is the Senate. He is now, I think, a pretty considered and balanced sort of chap.
That is the impression I have formed, George. We can only earnestly hope that the Senate has exactly the same effect on Doug Cameron when he arrives here. I certainly do not want to reflect on Senator elect Cameron but I think we would all prefer that George were staying.
I do genuinely want to acknowledge George’s really deep commitment to his great causes, the trade union movement and the Labor Party. He is a fine example of someone who stands up for what he believes and does so with enormous integrity. I do want to say, on a personal note, that I respect and thank him for the great friendship that he formed with my long lost and great friend Jeannie Ferris. I know you two were very close and that you felt her loss just as much as we on this side did. I thank you for that.
At least George had the opportunity to serve here for nearly 11 years. My fellow South Australian Senator Linda Kirk had only one term in this place before being told by her party that she was no longer wanted. We on this side are genuinely dismayed that she appears to have been excluded because of her vote on conscience issues in this place. As I have said publicly, I hold a different view to Linda on those issues, but I have strongly defended her right to hold those views and to put her views on conscience issues. She and every one of us should be able to do that without fear or favour and certainly without incurring the wrath of our party. I think that really is appalling.
I am absolutely fascinated to observe that, as a result of all that, Linda is effectively being replaced here by that—to me, as a South Australian, well-known—right-wing faction chief, Don Farrell. I recall as state director of the South Australian Liberal Party having the great pleasure of running one of our most successful by-election campaigns against the said Don Farrell. We were, by dint of our very good campaign, able to deny him the opportunity of becoming a member of the House of Representatives in March 1988, when, to the shock of Mr Hawke, he lost that particular by-election. I was pleased to deny him that opportunity back then but, despite all, 20 years later we will have Don Farrell coming to Canberra—very unfortunately, I think, at Linda Kirk’s expense. So, I do want to congratulate Linda Kirk very much on her service to her party, to our state of South Australia and to this Senate. Like Jacinta, I hope you have the opportunity, Linda, to return here one day.
Senator Ruth Webber, who will be speaking later, has also incurred the wrath of her party—I am not sure why, and maybe that will be explained one day. But, as I understand it, you actually did have the opportunity, Senator Webber, to run as a candidate at the last election, despite having been bumped down the ticket somewhat. You have the distinction, of course, of being the only incumbent Labor senator to actually lose your seat at the election. Given the enormous swing to Labor at the last election, with Liberals and Nationals falling all over the place—as I sat there on the ABC TV panel with Julia Gillard on that election night, I saw my colleagues falling all over the place—you would have to feel pretty unlucky to be an incumbent Labor senator and actually lose your seat. So we do extend to Senator Webber very deep commiserations on that score. Like Linda, Ruth has only had the opportunity to serve one term in this place. And, again, I say: we genuinely hope you have the opportunity to return here in the future—though of course, I say with great conviction, certainly not at the expense of a coalition senator! You can come here at the expense of a Green—we would welcome that—but just keep us out of the picture!
We do all accept, I think, as Senator Evans noted, that the democratic will of our parties has to be allowed to prevail. We all know when we come into this game that we have to keep our preselectors happy at all times, and they are a moveable feast and it is not easy. I am always in trepidation of going before the Liberal Party state council in my own state of South Australia. We all know that we all face that risk, of losing preselection, every time we face up. But I always do, and I think my colleagues do, feel genuinely dismayed when our parties effectively give our senators and members only one term in this place. I have a few friends back home who are oncers, and it really is tough—very tough—and I think it is unfortunate when our parties do that. Once you come here and enjoy the great privilege of sitting in this place and the opportunity to serve the people of Australia, it is extraordinarily difficult to then have your career cut short in that way by the travails of your party. At least in this place we get six years, not three, but six goes very quickly, I know. So I do want to say, on behalf of the coalition, that we genuinely extend our commiserations to George and Linda and Ruth. We extend our very best wishes to you all in your post-parliamentary activities. Good luck.
I rise this evening to provide some contribution to saying goodbye not just to three of my Labor Party colleagues in the Senate—and I will get to them a bit later—but to all 14 senators who are going. I think nights like tonight provide us with an opportunity to acknowledge the work they have done and to say thanks.
I will start with John Watson and Grant Chapman. You have to acknowledge the many years that they have spent in this chamber and the years they have dedicated to public life. I think it augurs well that people on all sides of the chamber have acknowledged their contribution. Senator Watson was a pre-eminent expert in superannuation—something even acknowledged from time to time by my colleague Senator Sherry—and I know we enjoyed his bipartisan cooperation in that matter.
Now to you, Senator Sandy Macdonald. In my 10 years in the Senate, Senator Macdonald has actually gone and come back again. But this is an opportune time to acknowledge the contribution he made through his committee work and the work that he has done in this chamber.
I will move on now to Senator Ross Lightfoot. I have only worked with him on one committee in my time here. But what has stood out for me about Senator Lightfoot—apart from the antics that have got him onto the front pages of newspapers occasionally—is that he is a true gentleman. I have appreciated his courtesy and his ability to accommodate the views of members from the opposite party. Certainly, as we sat together on the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, he was always willing to pursue the interests that people like me had in issues pertinent to Christmas and Cocos islands and the Indian Ocean territories. He is well mannered and, I think, one of the truest of life’s true gentlemen that I have ever come across, and I want to pay tribute to the manner in which he has undertaken his role.
That leads me to make some comments about Senator Patterson. When I think of the comments of my colleague Senator Kirk about the contribution women have made in this Senate, Senator Patterson is certainly up there with them. If I reflect on my time here, some of the most momentous occasions have been the contributions and the debates we have had around stem cell research and RU486, and there Senator Patterson had a key role. She may not know this, but there were a number of us who felt very saddened that she lost not just a relative but a very close friend and associate just prior to getting into the ministry. Even though we are from different political parties, there are those human elements that bind us in the Senate, and we did feel for you at that time, Senator Patterson—as we did also in your losing a very close friend in Senator Ferris. We all felt that but, of course, none more so than people like Senator Minchin and Senator Patterson.
Having said that, though, I must tell the Senate this story. When Senator Patterson was the Minister for Health and Ageing, in question time after question time we would ask her questions—as you do when you are in opposition, seeking to elicit a slip or an error, or to get the government in some way to trip over policies or commitments and then lunge for the attack and hope that you will come through. My mother and father, who are in their eighties, have come to enjoy watching question time in the Senate. I have no idea why. They would often say to me, ‘Trish, we don’t understand why your party keeps going after Senator Patterson. She is such a lovely lady. Could you pass on our concern that you ought to back off and give her a bit of a go.’ I do not think I ever passed that on to Senator Patterson, but I think that is how she did come across in question time: a person who was genuine and sincere about the work that she was doing.
I want to pay a big tribute to Kempie. I know that is unparliamentary, but maybe tonight is the night we can let down our guard. There is a major flaw in Senator Kemp’s personality that I have tried to highlight during my years in the Senate, but tonight I will just have to put it on the public record: he is a Carlton supporter. I know that this may affect any future career he might want to have outside of this place, but it leads us to a common interest we have in the AFL. People may not have known this, but many times in question time we would pass notes to each other across the chamber, having the odd $20 bet on the coming game on Saturday—particularly when Essendon played Carlton. Actually, Senator Kemp, if you are listening: I think you still owe me $20, because I won the last bet and you have not paid up yet. We would always be betting against each other when Essendon played Carlton.
This leads me to a story that I am going to put on the record, Senator Kemp, so that you can read it in years to come. At one time I was agitating for money for the AFL in the Northern Territory. They had had a grant of around $300,000 and, lo and behold, Senator Kemp became the sports minister and the following year I found that the money had been cut in half. I was absolutely dismayed. My research showed that most of that money was going into supporting Aboriginal kids in communities and football development. So I gathered up some research and wrote many, many letters to Senator Kemp urging that the AFL get back the $150,000 that he and the government had taken from them through DCITA. One night, very late on a Tuesday when we have our open-ended adjournment, I actually gave an adjournment speech about this. From memory, it was probably around 11.30 pm. I remember thinking to myself as I went back to the office: ‘I’ve got that off my chest but I guess I’ll never see the money for the AFL in the Territory.’ But lo and behold, a couple of days later Senator Kemp grabbed me in the corridor and said to me very quietly and privately: ‘Senator Crossin, the one thing I like to do when I get home from the Senate at night is to grab a drink, sit in the armchair and listen to the BBC on the radio. The other night, there I was, ready to relax, but I had to put up with the last couple of minutes of the Senate before the BBC clicked in, and there you were, nagging me for this money for the Northern Territory. If it is not bad enough that I’ve got my wife constantly nagging me’—and, by the way, that is okay, because she is a Richmond supporter not a Carlton supporter, so he should not criticise her—‘I had to listen to you have a go at me on radio.’ So I thought, ‘There is a place for adjournment speeches. One can only hope that ministers are sitting at home actually listening to what one has to say.’ The upshot of that was that he did actually find some extra money for the Northern Territory AFL. It was not $150,000 but I was pretty grateful when I heard that an extra $78,000 was coming their way.
I also want to pay my respects to Senator Kerry Nettle, who is also leaving us. I do think that, if anything, we need to recognise her youthful spirit and her dedication to her party and her party’s policies. You do some incredibly hard work when you are in a minor party such as the Greens and you have got quite an extensive workload. I do think it is important that we acknowledge her contribution and the role that she has played.
Let me go to my colleagues in the Democrats. I know they are not here, but I do want to acknowledge the work that they have done over the years that they have been here. I got to know Senator Andrew Murray—another fine gentleman in this place—through the Scrutiny of Bills Committee. It was a privilege to be at one of the committee’s infamous breakfasts this morning, where they paid tribute to Senator Murray for not only the role he played on the Scrutiny of Bills Committee but also his role in workplace relations, in economics and in tax issues and his endeavour to provide some justice for children who have been in institutional care in this country. That will go down in my mind as the legacy he has left through the work that he has done.
I paid tribute to the work of Senator Andrew Bartlett on Monday, when we tabled the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs report on his Stolen Generation Compensation Bill. It is a tribute to Senator Bartlett that he continues to pursue issues that are pertinent to Indigenous people, but he will also be known as the member of the Democrats who has relentlessly pursued the rights of refugees and highlighted their situation and plight in this country.
I acknowledge the work that Senator Lyn Allison does in the education field. It is nice to get up in this chamber and to know that someone else understands the language and the lingo of education and the field of education. Senator Allison has certainly been there, supporting and pushing for the rights of public schools and for further resources for public schooling in this country. I got to know Senator Lyn Allison through the work we did in pursuing the regulations and oversighting of uranium mining in this country. I pay tribute to Senator Lyn Allison for the work that she has done in that area over the years.
I got to know Senator Natasha Stott Despoja very well through education areas and our work on the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. She also has been quite an outstanding role model for young people in this country, having come into this Senate at the age that she did, Doc Martens or not. That just added to the credibility and the very real and tangible symbol that young people related to at that time. She is such an extremely hard worker. During her time here she has pursued the issue of higher education—the rights of students, student unionism and better provision of student allowances while they are studying—with passion, in the same way that she has supported me in trying to get a childcare centre in Parliament House, and in her work towards paid maternity leave. I say to you, Senator Stott Despoja, as you depart from this chamber, those are two issues that a number of us will continue to pursue.
Many people may not know this but at the 20-minute mark of my first speech I was drawn to a conclusion, much to my shock and horror, by a government senator at the time. Very nervously, I had no idea what to do, having been told I could take as long as I liked but then being stopped at 20 minutes because my time had expired. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was heavily criticising the government at the time for their cuts in higher education. It was actually the Minister for Education, Employment and Training who decided that my 20 minutes was up, so you can well guess who that was. In all of that chaos a note from Senator Stott Despoja was slipped to me. It would be most unparliamentary if I reiterated to people exactly what was on that note. She knows what it says and it hangs proudly in my office. What she should know, though, is that, for one fleeting moment, not only was I pleased to get some support from another party but I was also pleased to know that there was another senator in this chamber who thought exactly the same as I did (a) about the government and (b) about the senator who had interrupted me. Thank you, Senator Stott Despoja, for that support.
I will turn now to my colleagues who are departing. I did not get a chance to thank Senator Robert Ray. He has retired and left this building and he is enjoying cricket and many other things. His knowledge of the Senate and its operations—the political strategies and the way in which this place operates—was something I had the benefit of enjoying for a significant period of my time in the last nine years. I was never here to enjoy Senator Robert Ray as a minister and to work with him as a minister, but I can only imagine how competent he would have been and what sort of a mentoring role he would have played to other members of parliament at that time. Senator Lundy and I were laughing just this week about the orange-bellied parrot and Senator Ray’s pursuit of that issue with Senator Ian Campbell. On reflection, I think Senator Ray got that gig all the time because he was probably the only one who could actually say ‘orange-bellied parrot’ very fast and consistently when in a rush, because it is particularly difficult to say.
There was one occasion when I had a fall in the internal stairs here, which are quite slippery. It was a wet day and I lost my grip on about the tenth step and landed at the bottom—on top of a fellow from Channel 7 who had a camera, I think. Anyway, I hobbled into question time and within about half an hour my ankle had blown up. Senator Ray, who I was sitting next to at the time, said to me, ‘You need to go off to the nurses station and get that looked at. How did you do it?’ I said, ‘I fell down the stairs, actually. I tripped down the stairs.’ He said to me, ‘Well, that’s why I always take the lift.’ I said, ‘Yes, they can be pretty slippery, can’t they?’ He said, ‘No, no, no; I just don’t want people like you falling on top of me.’ His sense of humour is something that I will remember. He was a great contributor to this Senate.
I also want to pay my respects to Senator Campbell. There has been a lot of comment tonight about your role in the trade union movement. When I was coming up through the ranks of the trade union movement, you were one of the pre-eminent trade unionists in this country. It is not unfair of me but very just of me to say that I do not believe that the metal workers would be the union that it is today if it had not been for your leadership during the period of time that you were there. You worked incredibly hard for the rights of those workers in that union. You took that work to the ACTU and you took that work around the country. You have been a friend of mine here, and I will not forget the support that you provided to me in my early years in this chamber. In your first speech you commented on your role in the trade union movement and your absolute commitment to support trade union members and trade unions and workers in this country. You can very proudly look back on your record in this chamber and know that you have not wavered from that commitment at all. Your contribution to workplace relations bills, particularly during the time of the Howard government, played a significant role in getting that debate in this chamber to the level that it arrived at, as did the role that you played last year in the lead-up to the federal election. You can well and truly leave this place knowing that you have not let the workers of this country down in any way whatsoever.
I want to pay tribute to Senator Ruth Webber and her work here as well. It is true that when I look back at my time in this chamber I will look at the work that Senator Webber has done with Senator Patterson and Senator Moore in what have been some of the most outstanding legislative achievements we have produced in the last 10 years. It was of course a cross-party effort led by wonderful, feisty—I am not sure that ‘feisty’ is the word I would use for Senator Webber—determined, articulate and well-grounded women who know exactly what they believe in and know that there are others behind them supporting them. I believe that you have been a tower of strength and have led a lot of us to come with you and provide support during that time. In your first speech you talked about EMILY’s List. I think that is a great institution and I know that you have been guided by and have stood by that institution well in your time. Thank you for your work as well.
Finally, Senator Kirk, I want to pay tribute to you not only as a friend and a colleague but also in my role as Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. We had our last round of estimates a couple of weeks ago, but I have worked with Senator Kirk on that committee for probably four or five years now. It is true that your legal background and your economics background were of great benefit. I look at your CV and see that you undertook studies at the University of Cambridge. I admire your hard work, your intellect and your ability to provide such a substantial contribution to the committee. I am not sure that you will be replaced by someone of equal legal eminence, which will be unfortunate. I think you have made a great contribution.
I also want to say to you that I think the work that you did in leading a campaign, through your newsletters, website and postcards, to get children out of detention was very significant. Our shadow Attorney-General at the time, Nicola Roxon, accepted and adopted your policy and your thoughts. You are one of the people who I think led a significant change in the thinking within caucus. Your commitment, along with that of Carmen Lawrence, to making a change for refugees took the Labor Party in a different direction.
In concluding, Senator Kirk, I think the first speech you gave in this house is one of the finest speeches ever in the history of this parliament. It is one that people will turn back to and look at. For me it was a watershed in first speeches. No longer were women coming into this chamber expected to provide a 20-minute ‘travels with my aunt’ monologue about their life. You provided a well-crafted, intellectual, well-researched constitutional analysis of the election campaign slogan that former Prime Minister Howard used at the time. I think that in decades to come, if people want to research what first speeches are and what they are used for, yours will be at the top of the list. I urge people who might be listening to the broadcast tonight to go to the parliamentary website and read Senator Kirk’s first speech. It is one of the finest speeches I have ever read. For me, that was another defining moment in your career. It certainly said to the rest of us: ‘I’m here. I’m very intelligent. I know my law and I am going to make a difference.’ Senator Kirk, I know you leave this place under very unfortunate circumstances, but in your time here you have made an enormous difference, I believe, not only inside the Labor Party but also for constitutional law, law reform and the rights of refugees. I want to thank you, on behalf of the Senate legal and constitutional committee, very much for that contribution.
Before I came to the Senate, I had only met George Campbell once, but very quickly I became very good and very close friends with George, which puzzled many people—and me, at times—because we did not seem to agree on very much. Even though we were both from the Left of the party, we seemed to be in constant argument about all forms of Left politics. We did agree on some things. When George agreed with me, he was actually right in those matters. When he did not agree with me, he was wrong—except for maybe one case. In the six years I have been here so far, we have had the luxury of three leadership ballots, which can test friendships and relationships within the party. George and I never voted for the same leader, ever. I will concede that maybe he was right about Mark Latham.
But I rise tonight because I want to put some formal remarks on the record about George’s fine career. George stated in his first speech that he was committed to fairness, equality of opportunity and social justice. He declared that he had an abiding bias towards working people and those in society who are less well-off. Working with him in this place, I have seen him prove this to be true. He, like me, came from a trade union background and has spent almost all of his working life helping workers, through unions or in the Senate.
Working people, together with their unions, have achieved significant change. We only have to look at the eight-hour day, superannuation and maternity leave, amongst many, many other things. George recognised that this was not a one-way street—that hard-won rights could just as easily be taken away. He recognised that the conditions of employment which our forebears fought for and made sacrifices to achieve were continuously under threat. He knew the conservatives well when it came to the struggle of working people. I will quote from George’s first speech to illustrate this. He said:
I know it is popular for those on the other side of this chamber to decry those achievements and to vilify trade unionists, but you cannot ignore the facts and you cannot rewrite history.
George was not surprised when the coalition came into this place and tried to destroy the many hard-won achievements of working people. What was galling to us was that it would occur on our watch as representatives of Australian working people in the Senate. This was why George was one of the stalwarts in the fight against Work Choices—he would not let the heritage of all those who came before in our labour movement slip quietly away.
George was a tremendous weapon against the anti-worker legislation so lovingly tended by those opposite. His knowledge and wit, combined with his ferocious passion for the rights of working people, made him a formidable force in this place. Looking back at George’s contributions, I am struck by how consistently he quickly grasped the essence of the issue and looked to find solutions, arguing against injustice and working toward a fairer society.
Several years before we realised there were chronic problems in infrastructure, skills and demand for workers, George was calling for investment in these areas. Again, I will quote George from 1997, when he called for:
... the development of a bank of regional and national infrastructure projects that can be initiated at various times over the life of the economic cycle to sustain high growth rates in the economy; effective skills development and labour market programs that enhance the opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed to obtain sustainable long-term employment consistent with the needs of the economy ...
Again he was proven correct. Infrastructure funding and skills shortages are areas in which the coalition never really planned at all. To top it off, George was proven right yet again when we look at his call for strong industry policy. He warned:
... we can be relegated to the role of fringe dweller providing the raw materials out of which others will extract the real added value.
And, again, what did the conservatives do? They sat back and rode on a resources boom, happy to see exactly what George predicted become firmly entrenched as reality.
George has always known that working people are the backbone of our economy and that a strong economy is built on opportunity and on our collective toil. He recognised that we must reward this collective effort and ensure our economy serves the needs of our society, ensuring fair outcomes from our collective wealth. George always fought against the lack of vision of the conservatives where they pushed for a society where our collective wealth was driven towards those with influence and power and where working people were merely seen as economic inputs that could be mistreated with impunity.
I want to put on record my personal appreciation for George’s efforts in this place. When I was first elected to the Senate George helped me immensely with the workings of both the Senate and its committees. George leaves us with not only a fine personal history of achievement but also perhaps one of the finest political attainments one can gain as a member of the labour movement—that of striking a blow for working people at the ballot box, the very reason that the Labor Party was founded.
I also would like to make some remarks about Senator Kirk. They may not be as extensive as my comments about Senator Campbell because, unfortunately, I did not get to know her as well as I got to know George. Senator Kirk could always be relied upon, whether it was in the Senate caucus, in the committees or just as a colleague around the tracks. She was always a great support in the Senate. I found her to be warm-hearted and someone who worked hard both for her constituents and for our party. Linda was committed and was strong in fighting for our common ideals, and I thank her for her support. I found Linda always to be approachable, sensible and understanding. She was a valued part of our number. I wish Linda well for the future, and I am sure she will continue her active work in supporting and strengthening the labour movement.
I am pleased tonight to participate in this debate to bid farewell to some of our Senate colleagues—colleagues from all sides of the political spectrum. It has sometimes been said that these valedictory speeches do not ring true, that we spend years in this chamber hurling abuse at each other but, when one of our number leaves, we stand up and say the kindest words we can think of. I do not think that is correct. We in this place understand that there is a time for politics and there is also a time for friendship and for respect. I think the important thing that we always remember on these occasions is that over the years we do come to respect our colleagues no matter whether they are on the opposition side, on the government side or on the crossbenches. We also come to make very good friends with many. I think that is important because when you go out into the wider community and you read the media reports—and we are seeing evidence of it at the moment—politicians are fair game. It is important for us to at least recognise the strength of friendship and respect where there are differences over ideology and politics.
To all the departing senators, whether they are departing because they are retiring, whether it is because they were defeated in the recent election or whether it is because they lost preselection, I wish you all the very best in the future. I would like to refer to a number of the senators whom I have had more to do with than others, but I mean no disrespect to those I do not specifically mention.
First, let me refer to those on the government side. Senator John Watson has been here for so many years—I think it is well in excess of 20, but I am sure that has been mentioned before—he has become an institution in this place. As has been said, he is an expert on superannuation matters. His contribution during all those years when he chaired the superannuation select committee was invaluable. The development of universal superannuation for all Australians was a great initiative of the Hawke and Keating governments, but it needed to be constantly promoted and progressed over the ensuing years.
I had a lot to do with Senator Watson when I was chair and then deputy chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration. I had many interesting discussions with John. One I recall was when we undertook an inquiry into the roadworks on Gallipoli Peninsula. There was concern about the road construction work that was taking place there, leading up to the Anzac Day celebrations a couple of years ago. The hearing had only been going for about half an hour when Senator Watson interjected to say, ‘Look, I think we are going to have to go to Gallipoli to inspect this road.’ We all agreed with that. Unfortunately, the purse strings of the parliament do not always extend to allowing Senate committees or other parliamentary committees to travel overseas. But John was right on the ball. John, you have given great service over many years. Best wishes for the future to you and your family.
I have one thing in common with Senator Sandy Macdonald—along with Senator Webber—in that we are members of ‘the No. 3 on the Senate ticket’ club. It is a terrible place to be in an election campaign because you sit there knowing your future is really in the hands of the vagaries of the political system. You hope that your colleagues in the party have managed to do the right preference negotiations to get you over the line. It helped me in 1998, and again in 2004. I actually recall in the 2004 election that I managed to get preferences from both the Fred Nile group and the Hemp Party at the same time.
Sandy was not so fortunate in 1998—he lost his position to the Democrats, but it was as a result of the One Nation phenomenon at that time. Fortunately, the One Nation candidate—David Oldfield—did not get elected in New South Wales. He almost got elected, but fortunately did not. It was good to see Sandy come back and become parliamentary secretary, and also make a great contribution in both the Senate and joint foreign affairs and trade and defence committees. Best wishes, Sandy.
Senator Rod Kemp made some very gracious remarks about me last night in his speech, referring to the fact that we both spent a couple of months on a very tough assignment attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York. We were there from September through to November. I came back early, on election day; Rod had to come back early for the Liberal Party leadership ballot. It might be argued that the fact we were both out of the country at the same time contributed to the election victory of the Rudd Labor government.
We had many opportunities to discuss the campaign whilst we were over there, and also—as he said—to try and work out our strategy to save the world at the UN. It is a flippant remark, but it was certainly a rewarding and terrific experience to see how that organisation works. I developed a good friendship with Rod on that trip, but we had always been good mates before that. As Rod mentioned last night, he has been prone over the years to use the parliamentary library, probably more than most—I think he said with the exception of Mark Latham. He has edited a number of collections of works, including famous political speeches. Rod was aware that I was a big Mark Twain fan, and when we visited the West Point military academy he managed to find a book in the bookshop there which was a collection of the speeches that Mark Twain had given when he visited the West Point military academy in the late 19th century. He gave it to me, and I was very touched by that gesture. We also enjoyed many coffees down at Macchiato’s on 44th Street, which I know Senator George Campbell recommended as the best coffee shop in New York. Best wishes for the future, Rod.
I turn to the Democrats—I wish them all the best, but I think I particularly have to single out Senator Andrew Murray. I have spent a lot of time with Senator Murray. I have been here 14 years, so I have spent a lot of time with all these senators, observing them and working with them—but particularly with Senator Murray on the finance and public administration committee. He always provided wise counsel and a detailed, thorough and intelligent analysis of the issues. I have to say he was a pacifying force on that committee when discussions became rather heated. That was quite common in that committee—particularly in estimates when examining issues to do with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, or the Department of Finance and Deregulation. I think the contribution of Senator Murray was universally acknowledged as that of one of the finest parliamentarians this Senate has ever seen. I wish Senator Murray and all his Democrat colleagues all the best.
I turn now to my own colleagues—firstly to Senator Ruth Webber. I have to say, Ruth, you really have a lot more to contribute to the political world, and it is a shame to see you leaving. You were in that terrible No. 3 position—called the ‘death seat’, and unfortunately the numbers did not come up for you in this election. I have certainly appreciated your strong interest and support on the mental health inquiry. Like all of us—but in particular the members of that committee—you had a really strong desire to do something to promote better mental health and more support for people who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses. That was a very trying and difficult inquiry at times, but your sterling efforts in that regard are to be lauded—and also your work as deputy whip.
Senator Kirk and I have been sitting together for just a short period of time up here on the back bench. Senator Kirk, it is a real shame you are not continuing in the Senate. Senator Webber mentioned the incisive speeches you have made. Someone once said to me—I did a lot of advocacy in the Industrial Relations Commission—that there are advocates who can sound good and there are those that read well. What is said, and therefore taken down and read, is ultimately more important—particularly when it comes to the tribunals, the judges, making the decisions—than the rhetorical flourish that might be given to it during the speech. You have exemplified that extremely well, because, as Senator Webber said, your speeches are incisive, thoughtful, intelligent, and well constructed and put together to advance an argument. I think senators in the years to come will read your speeches, as they should, whether they are on refugee policy, on the republic issue, or on getting justice for the victims of child sexual abuse. That is a great legacy that you leave for future senators. I am certainly going to miss your company and your contribution. I know that the work that you have done in this chamber is going to be of great use to you and will certainly contribute to you making a mark in your future career.
I finally turn to my good mate George Campbell. I use the term ‘mate’ in the truest sense of the word. I could probably use it in the sense that the New South Wales Right use it as well, but on this occasion it is said with affection and I mean it. George and I have known each other for many years, going back to our union days. I was the General Secretary of the Australian Workers Union and George was the National Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. We had a bit to do with each other. It was generally always pleasant because I was spending most of my time fighting demarcation disputes with the Building Workers Industry Union, the CFMEU, the Federated Storemen and Packers Union or some other union. The metalworkers used to leave us alone.
I got to know George very well. We spent a lot of time, I recall, on the ACTU wages negotiating committee. We used to come to Canberra, firstly to the old building and then to this building, and meet with the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, the Treasurer, Paul Keating, and the ministers for industrial relations, to negotiate the accord. I always recall that the unions would meet beforehand. We would have half-a-dozen economists and a few lawyers in our group and we would work out our strategy. It was always: ‘We’re not going to let that’—expletive deleted—‘Treasurer Keating put it over us again. We’re going in there and we’re going to get full wage indexation,’ or whatever the claim was. After about five hours—and they would usually starve us; they would not even feed us—we would come out of the meeting and say, ‘Keating’s got us again,’ because we had signed up to another accord.
But of course the changes that occurred in those times and the contribution that the union made to the restructuring of the Australian economy, to the opening up of the industrial relations system, to more collective bargaining and to the development of productivity superannuation—rather than simply pushing for wage increases—are really the great legacies of the Hawke and Keating governments, and things that the Howard government was able to trade on over many years.
People have mentioned George’s strong work in industrial relations in the committees in this parliament, particularly against the Work Choices legislation. I also want to mention what is probably the greatest passion of his that I have noticed over the years, and that is industry policy. George Campbell was talking about industry policy, the need for training, the need for skills development and the need for investment in manufacturing capacity in this country long before most other people, either in the union movement or in the parliament, had even thought about them. And, George, you were also a first-class whip. You have a bit of a whip when it comes to that golf swing of yours as well. I know you look forward to lowering that handicap.
I finish by wishing all of the senators all the best. I go back to my earlier comment about Mark Twain. Mark Twain has a quotation for everything. The one I am reminded of tonight is when speaking about age and retirement: ‘Age is just an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’
I wish to add a few remarks in relation to three of our fellow retiring senators: Senator Linda Kirk, Senator Andrew Murray and Senator George Campbell—surprise, surprise! Senator Kirk, surprisingly, is leaving the Senate after only one term. The Senate will certainly be the poorer for her leaving. Most of us on this side just cannot believe how such a talented young lady could not be coming back in July. Senator Kirk is a very capable lady, highly qualified in law, who has contributed very intelligently and positively to the process of the Senate during her time here. As everybody in the Labor Party would know, she has a heart of gold and a fondness for the arts, and she is a lady with her own mind—that might have been the problem!
I recall her participation in a delegation to New Caledonia and Vanuatu during 2003, when Linda was the deputy leader and she was given the job—we divided the jobs up on my delegations—of opening a school library. It was a wonderful occasion, with all the young people from the school meeting us with flowers and what have you, and Linda was very much in her element. She made a presentation to the library on that occasion as well as opening the library, and she did it very well.
But when we walked into the library to examine it, after the cutting of the ribbons and all the officialdom, both of us were absolutely shocked that there was only about a metre of books, despite all the shelves that had been constructed. We said, ‘We’ve got to do something about this.’ So we decided that, when we got back to Australia—Linda to South Australia and me to Tasmania—with the aid of her uncle and a number of charities we would organise a collection of books. In my case I use groups such as churches, soroptimists, public libraries, Girl Guides, even Rotary and different church groups. Linda and I literally collected hundreds of cartons of books that were distributed not only to that school but right across the many islands of Vanuatu. Linda, what we have done over there really will live on, because books do enrich children. When we suggested what we were going to do they were absolutely delighted. It would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and support of those committed people who work in our Foreign Affairs office in Vanuatu. They are absolutely wonderful people. I must express our appreciation. We could not have done it had it not been for AusAID, who actually paid for the cartons to be sent across there, because it would have been prohibitively expensive.
The manner in which the books were distributed was quite amazing. I am told they used yachties to get out to some of the more remote islands. They said that would give them a good point of contact there. Thank you, Linda, for what you did for those students in Vanuatu. It was a great occasion and I think it will live in your memory for a very long time. I appreciated your help on the project. As I said, no doubt hundreds of children across that struggling island country will have benefited. So I take this opportunity, Linda, of wishing you well in your life. You are highly talented, highly qualified and you will be leaving this place with many years of productive work in front of you.
To my other colleague, Senator Andrew Murray. I look forward to hearing his valedictory speech next week. But at this time I also wish to thank him for his sterling work for the Senate over 12 years. For the Democrats, with limited numbers to cover all the portfolio areas, there is pressure to keep on top of a wide range of issues and to try and specialise as well. Senator Murray really is a very accomplished senator. He is well spoken and researches his issues well. He was elected to the Senate only seven years after arriving in Australia. I think that speaks volumes for his capabilities—after all, he was a Rhodes scholar, so he is nobody’s fool. And his grasp of the meaningful details of public issues was an outstanding aspect of his time here. I say thank you and congratulations.
I am aware of Senator Murray’s outstanding contribution in particular to the work of the public accounts committee, where we worked side by side and, I believe, achieved so much. Transparency is the name of the game for the Senate, and he certainly contributed much. With his sharp intellect and his deep understanding of business and financial matters, he was able to make a very valuable input. I am also aware of his regular and valuable contribution to debate in this chamber. The very thoughtful and compassionate way in which he addressed some of these complex issues was known, certainly to me, as I sat in the Deputy President’s chair, and to you, Mr Deputy President. So I wish him well in his life after retirement. I thank him for his valuable contribution to the work of the Senate over recent years.
George Campbell: a man who is always happy.
Well, to me he is. Our politics, as everybody knows, are poles apart. We are from different parties and are poles apart. But I do respect him for his commitment to his cause and for what he has achieved. George Campbell in the Senate was not the George Campbell that I read of in the media. In here and in committee work I found him so constructive. He was an achieving senator, and that is a characteristic that I admire. I had the privilege of serving under him when he chaired one of the committees a few years ago. George, I found it a privilege to work with you when you were the chair, because, as I said, you were constructive, you were positive and you were concerned about the issues. But, apart from that, George and I shared a view that not many people in this place shared: a concern for the manufacturing of this country. If there were ever a spokesman for the manufacturing industry in this country it was George Campbell. I say no more, George, because your contribution to manufacturing will live on and I wish you good health in your retirement. Thank you.
I really did come down to this chamber both to listen and to contribute, because the three senators from the Labor side who are going are three senators who remind me of the following expression. A lot of people use the expression that you can fill a glass with water, put your finger in it and then take it out, and nothing is lost as a consequence, but in this instance it is really like concrete. These people have put a heavy stamp on this place. It is worth me recognising here today the stamp that they put on this place. And it will stay on. I am pleased that the Hansard will be able to record for many years to come what their contributions have been, and they will be able to have that record to go back to. In sitting here and listening to the contributions I know they have been very accurate in encapsulating the qualities of those three senators.
I will deal with Linda first. She has made an enormous contribution to this place through her spoken words and also through some of the background work that she has done. In fact, I learned something new today about the work that she has contributed to this place. It has been a fabulous opportunity for me to work with her as well. She has supported me quite a lot, frankly, and I have relied on her ability in the Senate to help with the committee processes of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. When I ran out of puff, she was able to take the stick up to the government, when we were in opposition, which was quite valuable for me. In fact, the hard work that she used to do in researching demonstrated her ability not only to sit there in Senate estimates and ask incisive questions but also to do the work behind the scenes, because that is where the real work in Senate estimates is done. You gather and you research so that you can then deal with estimates processes in an excellent way for the opposition, as we then were. Linda is not typical in that; she excelled in being able to deal with that work.
What Linda, George and Ruth have in common is that not only did they share whip and deputy whip work in this chamber but they also kept me—as the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate in opposition and now the Manager of Government Business in the Senate—on the straight and narrow in this place. They were able to say to me quite often, ‘No, Joseph, you’re wrong; you need to think before you act in some instances.’ They have provided valuable assistance to me over the years, and I cannot let this moment go without indicating my appreciation for their support and work. Without it, quite frankly, this place does not work. Without the assistance of everyone in this place, without their ability to work together, without people who can frankly and openly say, ‘You are right,’ or, ‘You are wrong,’ or, ‘You need to do this’—without that openness, this place would struggle. Linda, George and Ruth really exemplify that work: in the Senate, behind the scenes, in committees and all the way across. Without their contributions, this place would not have worked as effectively both as a house of review and, when we were in opposition, to hold the government to account—and, in fact, on many occasions now that we are in government, to continue to hold the government to account.
If I can say so in respect of George, I do not know whether we agreed on anything, quite frankly.
I do not think we did, quite frankly, George. I know that you are from the Left of the party and I am from the Right of the party. I doubt we ever shared a vote together on those issues. In respect of the general union movement, yes, both our hearts and souls are in that. If we can call that sharing a view, we get close there. In arguments in this chamber about management, I think George and I would differ on many occasions.
I did not want to say that. That was the charge that was put on me time and time again, that I would sell out on an issue and—‘Old Round Heels’—I would roll over again on a matter and let the government have its way in managing the Senate processes. So I lost that debate with George, and we disagreed. The place does have to operate in a way that ensures that the work is done.
And I know that I do not share his passion for golf. I find golf not a passion that I could share with him. I know George does have that passion for golf. I have never understood why he would, but there it goes.
I can say, though, that when George was the whip I did enjoy the relationship we had. The Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate has to work closely with the whip. You cannot contribute to this place as manager without a whip who is both supportive but also directive and clear and one who will work with you in this place. I can say without qualification, George, that I really do appreciate the backup work that you provided to me and the assistance and guidance—on occasion!—that you gave to me.
It is really your night, George. The contribution you have made in your committee work has stood you in good stead. I am sure that you will go out of this place knowing that you have contributed more than you could easily have imagined yourself. I can say, from the industrial relations work that you have done in this house, that it was work that needed to be done but you did it with a passion, you did it as a person who has a strong belief in the union movement and you did it in such a way that you were advancing the cause of workers right across Australia. I recognise that work that you did. I am sure you will not stop. I am sure you will continue in some way, shape or form, when you leave this place, to advance that cause.
Ruth, what can I say? With the sisters in this place—
I know that, Ruth. The sisters in this place have provided a steady ship for people like me, who might find ideas more enchanting than others. Ruth worked as deputy whip to keep me clear as to what was happening in the chamber and to assist me in that task, and she has provided work in advancing not only women’s issues but issues right across the board. She has also advised me on many occasions of how wrong I am on certain issues. Ruth, I know that you may have thought over the years that I have not taken your advice into account, but I can say now that I have in fact listened to it very carefully and taken it on many occasions.
No, George, I then did not ignore it; I continued to take it. It was well intentioned, it was useful and in fact I did use it. Ruth, I wish you well in your next career. I know you will continue to make the mark that you have made in here in your next career. You will continue to do the work as diligently and be as hardworking as you have been in here in your next career.
I appreciate the opportunity of having had the privilege of working with all three—Linda, George and Ruth. It has been an absolute delight and privilege to work with you all, to have had the relationship we have had in here and to be able to wish you well in your future endeavours. Thank you very much.
It is beholden upon me as Opposition Whip to say farewell to three whips from the chamber. I will start with George and my comments will be very brief. George, when I first became deputy whip and I had my involvement with you in your capacity as whip, I valued your advice very much. Even though you were on the other side of politics, your advice was very good. That really assisted me in my role in the initial stages. When I became whip, even though we could fiercely combat when we needed to, your advice and your friendliness were much appreciated. I will never forget that, after a very, very long session we had at the end of a sitting period, we got together in my office and shared a glass of whisky, which we both needed. It was well past midnight and we were the last two to leave, with Comcar ushering us out of the building. We did have some great moments and my door was always open to you, as yours was to me. We could manage the chamber together very effectively by having a great friendship and dialogue. We did not have to necessarily agree on the politics of the situation, but we did agree on what was of benefit to the Senate chamber. I do thank you for that.
More recently you became the chair of a committee that I am very passionate about. I am regretful you are leaving, because I could see you also developing a passion for the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. Our last committee meeting was a great meeting and, correct me afterwards if I am wrong, I think you were probably regretting having to give up that position and leave. I could just see the development of the interest that was awakening in you. Your style as chair of that committee in the brief time we have had together was exceptional. You were very good and well suited to that role. I have noted all the other comments here this evening about you and I associate with most of them, but not all. Thank you, George. I will certainly miss you and, as one whip to another, I certainly did appreciate that relationship we had.
Briefly, to Linda and Ruth, as deputy whips we had that relationship of crossing the chamber together to facilitate the smooth running of the Senate. We always had a great relationship and, in the heat of battle at times, we got things solved. Thank you to you both. The committee process is fantastic. I got to know Ruth and Linda very well on committees, albeit very briefly. I did appreciate that opportunity to get to know you both better. As Senator Minchin highlighted, you actually miss out if you do not participate at that important grassroots level. That is the value of the Senate to me. I am so pleased that I have had that opportunity to serve with the three of you on committees and the three of you as whips. In concluding my remarks, can I say: happy hunting as you move forward. Do not forget your roles as whips in this place, because that is a very valuable part that you played and the Senate will be forever grateful for that.
I would like to associate myself with the remarks made tonight. I said to Linda Kirk before that my great regret is that I did not get to know her better. I spent a lot of time with Ruth on the Senate Standing Committee on Economics. She made an extraordinary contribution to that committee and I hope that is recognised in due course. To George Campbell, I have heard that he wishes to improve his golf. George’s biggest problem is his swing. Regrettably, unless he does something about that there will be no reduction in his handicap. I think that, if he can get his long game, his short game and his putting sorted out, there might be some move forward. George, you deserve everything that I know will come to you.