Tuesday, 24 March 2015
Thank you, Mr President, and Senate colleagues. I want to take this opportunity to pay my respects to you and to thank you. It has been an honour to work with many of you over many years as we have sought to make this extraordinary country a better place in which to live and work. Obviously this occasion lends itself to a little reflection. I want to begin by saying that being a senator for the ACT has been an incredible experience. I have had the privilege of being part of an extraordinary community. It is the best-case scenario as a politician—having a smart, engaged, politically savvy electorate. I want to thank the people of the Australian Capital Territory for their support through seven elections and through 19 years and 22 days.
I believe that inside everybody is the desire to contribute to the greater good. Here in Canberra you see it formally through the work of members of the Australian Public Service and the Australian Defence Force. I want to take this opportunity to pay my respects to both public servants and members of the ADF. In particular, last Saturday a commemoration ceremony was held at the Australian War Memorial for all those who have served and who have lost their lives in recent conflicts. I extend my sincerest condolences to the families that have lost their loved ones. I give my heartfelt thanks to those who have served Australia and who continue to do so. Your work is truly valued by the community and your parliamentary representatives.
However, for those in the service of the public, job security and employment conditions become enmeshed in the shallower end of some of our profession's deliberations, and I am sorry to see this occur. As public servants and serving Defence personnel, you deserve better—and there remains important work to do to honour the principles informing the original undertaking relating to the maintaining of the purchasing power of your respective retirement incomes.
Like all close communities in our beautiful country, Canberra's heart and soul is found within people's volunteer efforts, extracurricular activities, unconditional caring and giving, welcoming of new migrants and refugees, lifelong learning, philanthropy, creativity and sustainment of our community through community and sporting clubs. It is often at times of crisis that you see this generous heart, such as what happened when people turned out to support the family of a woman murdered in her own home or after the devastating fires of 2003. I say thank you to all of you. You have inspired me every day to be the best I can be on your behalf and you will continue to inspire me as I find other ways to contribute.
Beyond the community warmth that we know so well, Canberra has another important dimension: it is the national capital. In this way, Canberrans are the collective custodians of the heart of our democracy. Our national institutions house our treasures, records, native flora, art and history. The Commonwealth of Australia, this parliament, carries the responsibility of sustaining the principles that govern the relationship for planning between both the Commonwealth and the ACT. The interaction and collaboration between the now amply mature territory legislature and its ACT planning authority and the National Capital Authority is the key. It has not been without its dramas over the years and there have been quite a few inquiries of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories.
One such inquiry related to Norfolk Island. I wish the government, the opposition and, indeed, the parliament the very best in their united pursuit to create a more effective way to support the people of Norfolk Island to manage and participate in their economy and society. I wish the people of Norfolk Island the best. They deserve better than what they have.
I am really proud to have seen how this city has grown over the last 20 years. I congratulate the ACT government for its part in Canberra's progress. I acknowledge the role successive territory governments have played in Canberra's development. I know the Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, will provide the inspired leadership we need right now as federal expenditure continues to contract. His commitment to economic growth, innovation and infrastructure will provide a critical counterbalance to the economy-wide impact of the cuts. He fills the very big shoes left by Katy Gallagher, who will soon take her place here in the Senate.
On the nature of cutbacks, it would be remiss of me not to remind people that Labor told you so. Many here in Canberra, including commentators, were beguiled by the fake budget crisis and disingenuous promise to limit cuts to voluntary redundancies. I cannot tell you how infuriating it is to have public sector jobs treated in such a cavalier way and notably relative to other regional jobs, which have policymakers doing somersaults to save them. All jobs are important, as is productivity.
Productivity is most likely to grow on the back of technological innovation, like it has always done. Is it so surprising that the only logical conclusion that can be drawn by markets when programs supporting technological innovation, research and development are cut is that productivity is not, in fact, a priority? The last 20 years we have seen the pace of technological change escalate, impacting on how we live our lives and share our experiences. Navigating the policy terrain accompanying the many changes has been a challenge that I have relished. It remains one of the most complex, demanding and fast-moving areas of public policy.
I decided even before I was elected that I would apply myself to the task of ensuring through progressive policies that technological change was harnessed for progressive outcomes. In my first speech, I reflected on information and how it is communicated as being a major determinant of power and why universal access to the internet was required if we were serious about harnessing the next phase of economic expansion and social participation. For this reason, the National Broadband Network as it was under Labor stands out for me as the substantive achievement of our generation in parliament and certainly of the previous Labor government. It breaks my heart and offends my vision for this country to see the vision and now the plan so vandalised.
I can say this with authority because I did much of the work exposing the underinvestment in Telstra's copper network during the Howard government in excruciating estimates hearings, back in the day when it was not unusual to sit until 4 am. I would race home for an hour's sleep, get up, get the children to school and do it all again. Unfortunately for Australia, that government's primary concern in comms and IT policy was maximising the returns to shareholders through the sale of Telstra. As a nation we lost ground. I believe the fibre-to-the-premises wholesale NBN made up this ground. In contrast, the multitechnology-mix model is a complete reversion.
Why is the real NBN important? The internet is both an open platform of knowledge and the practical embodiment of distributed power—of democratic participation. The NBN is the pipe in which data flows. If information is power, then now we can all have some, affordably, wherever we live. It is my hope that my colleagues can find a path back to the real NBN, and I wish them well in this task. I remember back in the late nineties, when I was regaling my colleagues with my ideas about the potential of the internet, I was told by one of them that the internet was indeed a fad and that I would stuff up my career if I kept at it. Obviously, I did not listen. And you know who you are. One of my most shameless stunts was facilitated by Tom Worthington, the then president of the Australian Computer Society. In an elaborate exercise back in my first year as senator, we were the first people in the world to download a photo from a hot-air balloon to the internet. That was no mean feat back in 1996.
I believe in technology. I believe in the people that create it, and I celebrate the disruption that it causes. It can solve any problem, provided the problem is well understood and the ethical boundaries of any solution are well-defined. I have been on almost all of the communications and IT related Senate inquiries over the last 20 years, except when I was a minister, of course. Most of the time governments are trying to solve problems that are not well understood, with tools they know little about and the ethical boundaries of any solution are either confused or absent. The responsibility for these things falls to the leadership group of any entity, be it cabinet or, in the private sector, the board. After all, good information is the precursor to making good decisions.
Many of my friends know that Alan Turing is one person who inspires me greatly. This story is easier to tell now that a movie has finally been made that goes some way to giving an insight into this extraordinary person who made something new to solve an urgent and diabolical problem. I draw on his personal journey for understanding the enablers for profound technological progress. The tag line for that movie, called The Imitation Game, is 'Sometimes it is the people no-one imagines anything of, that do the things no-one can imagine.' It reminds me that our responsibility is to provide every person, regardless of gender, race, religion, socioeconomic status et cetera, with opportunity. How? Through education, by removing discrimination in all its forms and by encouraging creativity and original thought. If we can do this, then we have a society that can do anything. As an aside, I was really proud of the anti-racism campaign that former Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and I launched when ministers. Time has shown how necessary it is to remain vigilant in the fight against racism.
Just to bring it all back home, in all of that, we have come a long way in 20 years. I bought my own PC and software in 1996 and organised a humble dial-up service to be privately connected to my office, here in Parliament House, so I could build and update my website. In those days it was not expected that senators and members needed or used a computer. Social media did not exist, and most parliamentarians were not sure what the internet was. Later, I remember hosting colleagues for what I called a 'breakfast for technophobes' and explaining that their emails were all kept on servers, for years, for evidentiary use if required. People were shocked, outraged and ultimately happy to continue using the system because the amenity outweighed the risk.
Since then, there have many issues where outrage is expressed and people are still happy to continue using the system because the amenity outweighs the risk. Take the internet filter, interactive gambling and the metadata debate as examples of where the devil is definitely in the detail and in the political projection of the problem. The inability to explain detail and the opportunism in the safety/security narrative fuels distrust in the perceived hidden agenda, the unintended consequence, the unethical or sinister motivation and, finally, the lack of transparency and accountability.
With the exception of Labor's promotion of the internet filter in government—which I note that I opposed after we opposed it in opposition, when I was the shadow minister—invariably it is left to Labor in opposition to do the hard yards on the detail of the new laws, to expose the hidden agenda, to remove the unintended consequences and to prevent the sinister motivation by creating transparency and accountability within the regime. It is Labor that comes up with the frustratingly complicated compromise, and it is Labor that often gets wedged between the political projection of the extremes in the process. But it is Labor that puts evidence, not emotion, at the forefront of its deliberations, and it is Labor that is prepared to compromise for the sake of progress and in the interests of the public and the nation.
In short, I believe it is possible to design solutions to solve a well-understood problem, within well-defined ethical boundaries. I know that privacy and security can coexist in an accountable and transparent framework. While the absence of a simplistic, pithy yes/no position on such issues can be disappointing for many Labor supporters, it is a process that honours a standard and heritage of a party that acts in the national interest, not political self-interest or self-preservation. This approach has arguably kept us out of office for longer, and in office more briefly. But, for better or worse, this is modern Labor's narrative in an environment of ever-diminishing returns on the credibility of our political system. I thought people were cynical back in 1996; relative to now, they were downright joyous in their participation in our democracy.
At this relatively low ebb in the level of confidence in our political system, it was often the excitement and anticipation of new migrants and refugees settling in Australia that reignited my enthusiasm for our democratic system. One of the most memorable of many extraordinary experiences of my time in public office was being Minister for Multicultural Affairs. I met people every day whose life stories would both shock and inspire. I met people every day, in the settlement services sector, who devoted themselves to the wellbeing and happiness of others. I met the most motivated social and business entrepreneurs, from humble start-ups to some of our most successful global corporations. With migrants often starting from nothing, Australia boasts the most amazing list of self-made women and men.
I want a big shout out to go to our multicultural ambassadors, appointed to that role to reflect their leadership and contribution. These people were active in their own right within their cities, regions and communities, promoting, celebrating and contributing to community harmony and to making Australia's multiculturalism the best in the world. If any of you are listening, I think we should definitely have a reunion in a few months time! To everyone in the multicultural and settlement sector, I offer you my thanks and heartfelt respect for the role that you play. I thought I knew a thing or two about multiculturalism but it was not long before I realised how much I did not know. I learned so much and grew as a person because of the time I spent in this portfolio.
I also want acknowledge the work of the Australian Multicultural Council, led initially by Andrew Demetriou and then Rauf Soulio and Gail Ker, and all the members who gave their time, experience and intellect. The launch of the multicultural policy was one of the proudest single moments of my time as minister.
There are many ways to promote inclusion in Australian society and I believe sport is one of the most important and effective. Sport, in the broadest definition of the term, is one of Australia's strongest egalitarian platforms. It is part of our ethos as a nation that if you have talent, discipline and a dream, you will be able to achieve it. Given our small population we perform exceptionally well internationally. This is for a couple of reasons that are interlinked. First, we have a diverse population. Our first Australians, our Pacific islanders who now call Australia home and our multicultural character mean we can draw on a multitude of strengths. And I am not saying that just because I am sitting next to one of the most highly acclaimed Aboriginal sports people in Australia, by the way. Having Senator Peris here in the Senate is a reflection on her strength of character and political substance. Senator Peris is a fantastic role model in a multitude of roles, an inspiring woman of substance and, I am proud to say, a friend.
In general our diverse population is a core strength, but it only comes into play because Australia has the broadest possible participation base at the heart of our system of sport. Participation unlocks the opportunity to explore one's sporting potential. The high achievers, the sports stars, inspire the next generation of participants. In this way the relationship between sustaining the participation base and supporting high performance is inextricable. They go together. Participation in sport also provides far more than the sum of its parts. How do you place a dollar value on these things, just to name a few—physical and mental health, social inclusion, a sense of belonging, teamwork, discipline, respect, community pride and national pride. Name another area of public policy that does all of these things so effectively and then have a quick look at the total budget of sport relative to other areas of social expenditure. My colleagues know my passion for sport and protecting its budget. Never has so little budget done so much for so many—I know you will forgive me for that!
For millions of Australians and their families, their hour or two of sport as participants and spectators is often the most fun hour or two of the week. It brings families and friends together; generations, across families, stay close through their team loyalty. We need only look to Senator Conroy to see the absolute personification of a football fanatic—and we all know you scored a hat-trick against the SBS All Stars at the Harmony Day match last week!
My passion for sport means that I am prepared to defend it at all costs. I was tested on this when the Australian Crime Commission report was released when I was the Minister for Sport. It gave me the opportunity to work with the sports to harden their environments and protect their athletes and their game against new threats from new drugs and methodologies used for cheating as well as the infiltration of criminal elements. There was not a bone in my body that was willing to sweep that aside or disassociate myself with the bad news. It was a turning point for sport all right—one that, that to their credit, the sports leadership fully subscribed to. In unprecedented circumstances I acted in the best interests of Australian sport: the ACC described the problem and the government worked with the sports to fix the problem on behalf of all the clean athletes, the ethical clubs and the parents who were deciding if and where their child would be playing sport. For all the pain and discomfort I am proud that Australian sport remains the most accountable, cleanest, safest sporting environment in the world and that other countries now look to Australia to improve their integrity regimes in the way that we have done.
Before I leave the issue of sport, there is one more thing I feel compelled to reflect upon—and it will not surprise you. How is it that, despite women being 50 per cent of our population, women's sport is so ridiculously under-represented on our television sets? The answer is that editorial decisions are made to under-invest in, or ignore, that content's potential. And the business case has never been tested in Australia; it is the exception that provides the evidence for their folly. Where the women's game is actively integrated with the men's game, there is no problem at all with the popularity, ratings or business case. Examples include the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Australian Open. Credit to Netball Australia and the WNBL as they have achieved remarkable results in the most challenging of circumstances. Keep up the fight for the right to be broadcasted. It is both pathetic and disgraceful that the urgent need to develop a sustainable business model around the broadcast of women's sport has been so ignored by broadcasters. It is not like it needs a subsidy—although it probably does need one just to keep going. It needs the belief that if you build it, invest in it, promote it properly, advertise on it and sponsor it, it will fly. Just try it! Maybe then our female athletes can also earn what they deserve for doing what they are best at. These are perennial issues that should not be perennial. I wish my colleagues all the best in solving these problems and I will continue to be passionate about them.
In all my time in this place I have tried to draw on my vision for Australia as a guide. One of the great benefits of being part of a large party like the Labor party is that you have the ability to specialise in areas of policy. The corollary of this is that you rely heavily on colleagues in areas where they are specialists and you are not, and you accept to be bound by the decisions of the caucus. My vision was always focused on where we go to next, where the jobs will come from and how we retain our humanity and sustain our environment as we leverage technology more and more and find ourselves drawn into new challenges. Australia needs to have a fair, civil, healthy, engaged and educated society that values and leverages its cultural diversity to build social cohesion and global engagement. This society needs to be supported by a diverse, digitally enabled economy that is growing sustainably through our investments in everything from education to innovation.
I believe in living a full life and I have decided to pursue the things I am passionate about in a different way. Nearly 20 years in the Senate has been long enough. Like most people, I have had ups and downs in my career. It has been far more creative than I would have thought possible, and I certainly came at it not wanting to fit the standard mould at the time. I wanted to innovate, to try and do things differently and to see what the internet could do to help me engage with the people I represent. Technology has been at my side through this journey. I want to acknowledge three people in this regard who at different points have given me the confidence and inspiration to make this so—Tom Worthington, Jason Ives and the amazing Pia Waugh.
Personally, sport plays a huge role in my life. It helps me to outpace the 'black dog'. I love how the sports groups in the parliament have evolved; many of my favourite personal moments have been playing footy, netball and rowing. I recall one particular race—a coxed four no less—at the 1998 Australian Masters Games here on Lake Burley Griffin. Our crew was Senator Penny Wong, Catherine King MP, Kirsten Livermore MP, me and Michelle O'Byrne MP, who was cox. We managed a bronze medal that year. I cannot remember what division it was, but it is a brilliant memory for us all.
And so I am moving on to new things. I am excited, happy, relieved and more than a little nostalgic to be leaving one of the best roles one could ever hope to have in a wonderful country like Australia. In my new role as director of the NRMA, I am excited to be part of a mutual association that has a deep history in representing motorists and road users. And to be involved in technology start-ups is something I have always wanted to do.
Holding public office is an illusion in some respects. All that people see is the senator, the MP, but we are sustained by institutions, our party members, our colleagues, the parliamentary services and of course our staff and our families. I would like to say just a couple of words about each.
I want to thank the staff of the parliament, in particular the Clerk of the Senate, Rosemary Laing, and the late Harry Evans before her; the staff of the committees; the Library; the Education Office; the volunteers; hospitality staff; everyone at Aussies; the wonderful security guards; the tech support—I got to know them well; the sound and vision staff; the tradies; the Comcar staff; and the cleaners, who clean our offices every day. There are many more but the list got too long.
The current goings on, the subject of an inquiry, will hopefully lead to improvements. I think you all deserve better. Thank you for your esprit de corps over the years and thank you for helping me whenever I have needed it.
To the ALP branch members here in Canberra: I feel like I am part of a big family. We have campaigned together and have attended a ridiculous number of meetings and conferences. You have held me to account and given me great ideas to move forward. Thank you.
I am a proud former union official and I want to thank the ACT unions for their unwavering loyalty over so many years. In particular, I want to mention United Voice. We have worked together to promote fair pay and affordable, high-quality childcare, as well as to stamp out the exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers. I am proud to have worked with you and the other unions on important campaigns.
To my parliamentary colleagues: I am going to miss you. What an amazing group of people! It has just been incredible. You do get to know people who are on committees perhaps more than by any other way. I have had a wonderful experience on all of the Senate committees. People have put up with me on those committees, with often endless meandering questions. But I can assure you that I had a plan!
I want to acknowledge and thank John Faulkner. He was my mentor, whether he knew it or not. I am lucky to have made so many friends in the party and of course across party lines.
To soon-to-be-senator Katy Gallagher: I could not be happier or prouder that someone of your calibre and standing is replacing me here. It makes me feel great, knowing that you will be here, taking your place on behalf of Canberrans. To you and your family, David, Abby, Charlie and Evie: I wish you all the luck in the world.
To my staff—and I have had a lot over the 20 years—I particularly want to mention Kate Ward, Meg Martin and Taryn Langdon. They are all more than staff. To the rest of my current staff, staff in my former ministerial office, staff going back literally 20 years: we just cannot do our jobs without you. It is what allows us to do our work with confidence, to get from place to place and to understand the complex issues that we are presented with. Thank you so much for your work. In particular, I would like to wish Taryn and Ash the best for the birth of their first child, due in a mere three days! Taryn: you have been incredible, in the latter stages of your pregnancy, helping wind things up in the office. Thank you so much.
To my family: my family keeps me grounded. They are so wonderful. Not only have they ensured that I keep my head firmly in the right place but they have reminded me from time to time about what is and what is not real. My late grandmother, Mira Barratt, used to ring me and tell me off if she saw me interjecting in question time. It was like: 'Oh, I didn't mean to. I was provoked, Grandma!
To my mother Helen and father Peter, and stepmother Maureen; my brother Charles and his wife Bronwen; my nephews, Max and Jack: thank you. I would also like to mention my late sister Jane's children: Olivia, Sophie and James. To each of you, thank you for your unrelenting support in quite extenuating circumstances. When the wheels fall off my system, you are always there to help me pick up the pieces.
But most of all, to my children: Alexandra, Annabelle and Ben, and my stepsons Robert and Matthew, thank you for your understanding about what I have needed and wanted to do in public life. You are all remarkable young people. I would not have been able to do this without your understanding and support. It has been an incredible journey and today I say goodbye to the Senate. But I do so happily, inspired and feeling extremely confident that not only will you fulfil the challenges before you but you will do it in a way that continues to inspire other people. Let the next generation of young people be inspired, who look to our democracy and who seek that inspiration. Good luck to all of you and thank you so much.
Whilst this is Labor's day to farewell a longstanding, loyal, capable and faithful member of the labour movement, I rise on behalf of the coalition government to offer our very best wishes to Senator Kate Lundy. Senator Lundy is leaving us to begin a new career, which is increasingly common in politics—people spending a period of time in the parliament and then going on to new opportunities. Most people now in jobs will have, at least, three substantial careers in their working life. Albeit sometimes the need for a new career is foisted on us by either our electors or our party, Senator Lundy has the dignity of going at a time of her choosing. I wish that were the case for all of us, that we would be as fortunate.
Senator Lundy came to the Senate, if I might say, relatively youthful but already with a career on Canberra's building sites behind her. We wish her well in her new career.
I am aware that Senator Lundy has had a long interest in sport, and she spoke of that in her excellent coverage of her 20-year career that we have just had the privilege of listening to. She was, of course, a very enthusiastic federal Minister for Sport I am also aware that she was a keen rower, and indeed she was patron of the Canberra Rowing Club. Some would say that rowing is the most appropriate sport for us politicians, because we look one way whilst we are going the other way.
In terms of information technology, Senator Lundy has held portfolios of IT in both shadow ministries and in government. She has always had a very keen interest in IT and you will know, Mr President, that she served for many years as a very effective member of the Presiding Officers Information Technology Advisory Group, agitating in a completely bipartisan away, so that we could serve our electors better, to improve the technology available to senators and members in this place and when we are travelling, and in particular she forcefully argued for improvements in the compatibility of IT in Parliament House and our electorate offices. All of us are in your debt for that advocacy.
On a policy front and personally, can I say to Senator Lundy that I have appreciated her bipartisan approach to the Mr Fluffy asbestos issue in the ACT. It has been an understandably very sensitive issue, affecting people and their homes, and I did appreciate the engagement I had with you, your colleague Senator Seselja and of course the former Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, who will soon be taking her place here with us in the Senate. The coalition wishes Senator Lundy and her family all the best for the next phase in her life. Senator Lundy should leave this place knowing she earned the respect and affection of her opposite numbers in the Senate. We wish you success for the future.
I rise to speak on the valedictory for my colleague and friend Senator Kate Lundy. When Kate arrived in the Senate following her election on 2 March 1996, she was 28 years old, John Howard had just been elected Prime Minister and Australia had recently lost the cricket World Cup to Sri Lanka. In better sporting news, and something Kate will probably remember, later that year in Atlanta the Oarsome Foursome would win their second Olympic gold medal.
Unfortunately, then as now, Labor was in our first term of opposition. We had been heavily defeated in the 1996 election. One would have thought that a new and energetic young senator, full of enthusiasm, might have found it hard to arrive in this place following such a devastating defeat. However Kate has spoken, since she made her decision to leave us, about how excited she was and that her excitement and enthusiasm was somewhat out of place when compared to the sad faces of the remainder of her colleagues. She probably felt somewhat conflicted at the time because she was also surrounded by people who had just seen the door close on 13 years of government.
I have had a look at Kate's first speech, and it is often said that first speeches are probably the most honest speeches people give in this place. Kate's reminded me of how consistent she has been since she arrived here in both her values and her interests. They are also reflected in the speech she gave today. In her first speech, Kate spoke about the importance of the enduring Labor 'social and political values of equality, democracy and freedom'. She said these were the principles that she brought to the Senate, and those were the principles she again articulated today. In that speech she said this:
In September 1984, at 16 years of age, I found myself employed in an industry largely unexplored by women. No, I am not talking about the parliament; I am talking about the building and construction industry.
She certainly started being a trailblazer early, not only in the career she had prior coming into parliament. It is worth again reminding ourselves of the situation in which she and many others of that era—it makes her sound old, I am sorry—found themselves. At the time Kate came into parliament four out of 49 members of the Labor Party in the House of Representatives were women and there were nine women out of 29 senators. Now we have some 14 women in the Labor Senate team—certainly considerably more than at the time Kate entered the parliament. I pay tribute, as another Labor woman, to the work of Kate Lundy, and for being courageous and persistent in those years when she first arrived here, when there were very few women in our caucus. The fact that we have so many more today I think is something we honour but we also recognise and honour the work of the women who have gone before. Kate is a courageous Labor woman. In November last year, when Kate made public her decision not to nominate again for the Senate, I said at the time how significant it was, for me, that she was one of the women who was in the Senate when I first came to parliament in 2002. At that time she had already been a senator for six years.
During Kate's career she has been an outstanding senator and an outstanding representative for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Australian Labor Party—a parliamentary career that has spanned 19 years and 22 days, during which Kate Lundy has been a Labor minister, a front bencher, a senior backbencher and somebody who has made a contribution in many areas. I particularly want to speak briefly of her contribution in the areas of information technology, sport, multicultural affairs and industry. It was in information technology that Kate first made a name for herself. She has quoted from her first speech, and I thought it was quite prescient when I went back and looked at what she said about information technology at that time. She said :
Information and how it is communicated are major determinants of power in our society …
By the year 2000 the information sector will be the world’s second largest industry.
She went on to talk about disruption, and continued:
… I am not yet convinced that we have sufficiently analysed and discussed the societal and community effects of this shift in our economic base.
These words seem self-evident today, but at the time they were spoken they were indeed prescient.
It is fair to say that Kate Lundy has been one of the most influential parliamentarians in leading the way towards the embrace of information technology not only in the parliament but also as a matter of public policy within the parliament. She was also an influential politician in foreseeing the impact that technology would have not only on public policy but also on the economy more broadly. She certainly was one of the first of the internet generation to enter the parliament, and to enter the Senate. Her story of the—and she has been very polite and not told us who it is—very kindly person who told her to do something else with her career reminds us that at the time she was somewhat out of the ordinary in her interest in this area. Appropriately, she served as Minister Assisting for the Digital Economy in 2013 and, prior to that, had spent time on the opposition frontbench, with particular responsibility for IT, from 1997 to 2004.
Kate has had a long interest, in a parliamentary sense, in sport. She served variously as shadow parliamentary or shadow minister in sport for about a decade, and that was prior to becoming minister in the portfolio at the end of the last government. That period encompassed both the Olympic Games in London and some significant challenges, which she has referenced today, involving drugs in sport. In a statement, federal Labor leader Bill Shorten acknowledged Kate following her announcement that she would not be recontesting her seat in the Senate. He said she had:
…steered through the most significant changes to the Australian Government's funding of high performance sport since the Australian Institute of Sport was established in 1981.
Congratulations, Kate, for that work. Kate has also been a consistently strong advocate, and again today, for the profile of women's sport. We thank her for that and we hope other senators in this place will take up that cause because, unfortunately, even after 19 years and 22 days it appears we still need to argue for it.
Kate said today that Australia's multiculturalism is the best in the world. I agree with you, Kate. More importantly, I want to thank you—as somebody for whom this has a personal edge—for your work as a minister. In this country we often do not speak of how important multiculturalism is and how valuable it is to who we are. I am of the view that, like many other progressive social policies, if you do not argue for it you often go backwards. Kate always argued for it, and I know from personal experience that the ambassador program was such a worthwhile initiative. There were such wonderful people working with community and doing that real work of building community and building bridges and communication between different parts of the Australian society. It was a really worthy program, and one of which I know Kate is rightly proud.
As Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Kate had responsibility for progressing Australia’s multicultural policy and responding to the needs of our diverse community. She recognised the connection, in many ways, that multiculturalism in Australia has to the foundational values of our nation. She had oversight of many programs, including the National Anti-Racism Partnership strategy and, of course, Harmony Day, which we have just celebrated. I have spoken about the People of Australia Ambassadors Programme and I put on record, again, Kate: thank you for that. We had fantastic people, including in my own state of South Australia, who did such great work whilst appointed as ambassadors.
Today, again, we saw the extent to which Kate Lundy is a passionate representative of the ACT. She spoke today of the special place the ACT has in our democracy, describing people from the ACT as being 'the collective custodians of our national democratic institutions'. This is consistent with her tireless advocacy and support for the people who elected her from the day she arrived until the day she is leaving. She also spoke of the challenges that the ACT is facing with the cutbacks that we see from this government. It is a somewhat sad irony that those are the same issues she addressed when she arrived here in 1996, when the Howard government was implementing wide-scale changes and cuts to the Public Service.
Throughout her nearly 20 years in this place Kate Lundy has always fought for the people of the ACT. She has always represented them passionately and with integrity within the parliament and on the committees on which she served. On a personal level, I want to thank Kate for her work. She has spoken about our fantastic rowing career together. She did remind me somewhat—'caustically' is perhaps too strong a term—wryly that that was, in fact, the last time she managed to get me into a rowing boat with her, which is true. It was probably because I felt outclassed, to be frank.
There are a few things I want to say about Kate in closing. Kate is someone who has stayed real. Not for Kate the sorts of airs and graces and pretentions that we sometimes see in this place; Kate has always been somebody who has stayed grounded and stayed real. Perhaps it is having three children and two stepchildren that requires it. I suspect it is also the nature of who she is. She is someone who has stayed grounded and someone who has continued to demonstrate her humanity throughout her political career.
We remember that Kate arrived in this Senate as one of the youngest members, having been a builder's labourer as well as a union official, and she will now leave the Senate as one of our most senior senators. But, as Senator Abetz said, she has the benefit of doing so while she is still pretty young. So while she is leaving the Senate, I am sure retirement is the last thing on her mind.
So, as you depart, the Labor Party wishes you well. We hope you go on to your fulfilling next stage in your career. We thank you for all your service to the ACT, to the Labor Party; and, as a senator, we wish you all the best and we hope that what you said today will continue to be true for you: you believe in having a full life. I have no doubt that will continue to be true.
I would like to rise on behalf of the Australian Greens and add a few comments. Arriving myself in this place in mid-2008, Kate had already been here for 12 years, and while I was trying to find my feet I guess it was handy to come across somebody who not only knew the operation and the workings of this place backwards but was also technologically literate and obviously cared about technology—particularly communications technology.
During your valedictory you spoke about the National Broadband Network and how it has been being part of that project from its initiation through various phases and then seeing it, effectively, vandalised and destroyed. I do not know that you went into it in great detail, but I think one of the first things that I came across in your work was the Gov2.0 work, effectively taking the masses of data that government departments produce over time and actually making that legible to the general public, putting it out there, allowing people to find out what is actually happening inside Treasury and what government is doing in our name. You name checked Pia Waugh, and I think you two were certainly a formidable combination.
Your work in promoting the value of information communications technology, whether it be from the economic side—the fact that entire new industries are being created before our eyes—its value to civil society, including global civil society or, indeed, its value to this place as MPs I found highly instructive and quite inspiring.
I am very much looking forward to seeing what you do next now that you are off the chain, maybe freed from some of the things you were prevented by caucus solidarity from being able to say. It was always good to know that there are people on this side of the chamber who get these issues who might not always be able to be as strident—or I think 'hysterical' might have been the phrase used by Senator Ludwig a short time ago.
I'm not going to rap about it, much to Senator Ludwig's distress and disappointment!
It has been good to have you here, Kate, and I very much look forward to seeing what you do next and on behalf of the Australian Greens wish you well.
I rise on behalf of the National Party to make a few comments in the valedictory for Kate Lundy. Kate and I actually share a few things, as only four in this place do. We are all Territorians; and, for those senators who think preselection every six years is a tough gig, you want to have a chat to Kate and the rest of our team!
I got here, and Kate was somebody who really knew the ropes. I can remember being on one of my first committees, and this pretty strident individual was cross-examining someone. I can remember it was actually about customs for some reason. My first experience in a committee was to hear Kate really going hard at someone. They obviously knew each other quite well but always found the balance between ensuring that the public servant was going to provide the information that she required but on a balanced basis of respect. I can always remember that.
I also spent some time as a young bloke in the Australian Capital Territory and, as you know, worked as a builder's labourer a lot earlier than you did on the infamous Melba flats for Leighton, which since have become slums and been knocked down. I can really see the difference in building sites in the times between then and now, and it is terrific to see people who have come here with that life experience. You were removing asbestos, and doing that in the early nineties is a completely different way of doing things. Understanding from a personal perspective about the challenges facing workers in occupational health and safety in that time, I am sure, was much of what led you to becoming a union organiser and representing workers to get a better deal for them. I think that richness of your experience is reflected in much of the work that you have brought here.
You were the youngest female elected to parliament, in 1996 at 28, which I understand was a record held until Kate Ellis came to parliament. I know you play hockey and soccer. You row. I was not familiar with your rowing, but I often saw you at a variety of sporting events around Canberra, and certainly we can see your head bobbing along around the Fyshwick Markets at the various times that I spend my weekends in Canberra. You are proudly involved as the patron of numerous organisations: Computing Assistance Support & Education, the Artists' Society of Canberra, Canberra United Football Club of course and the National Association of Women in Construction.
I was around as a shadow spokesperson of several portfolios in opposition. I can recall when you became a member of the front bench. You rose from parliamentary secretary positions to the Minister for Sport and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation and Minister Assisting for the Digital Economy. I can recall that from before that time that you were one of those people who seemed to me as a newbie to be on almost every committee. Wherever I went and whatever committee I was on, you popped in. So you certainly leave this place with an enormous experience across such a range of portfolios; and, listening to your portfolio today, I can see that you have taken so much of that with you. I think it is such an important thing that you can actually take something from this place.
Being the chair of the National Broadband Network committee and the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories—it is one of those compulsory processes that, if you are from a territory, you have to be on the external territories committee—you have travelled to not only the Indian Ocean territories but to Norfolk and other places and faced the particularly challenging environment that is, in effect, much of the time our own electorates. I think people find it difficult to understand why the senator for the Australian Capital Territory would have Norfolk Island halfway across the Pacific in the same way Nova and I are responsible for Christmas Island, but it does add a lot of interest to our electorate.
I think one of your greatest challenges when you served as Minister for Multicultural Affairs and as Minister for Sport was when you co-launched the former government's response to the allegation of widespread corruption and drug use in professional sport. It must have been such a tough time. Many Australians see sport with almost a theological approach. To be in a position, with your own love of sport, of actually doing the right thing, there must have been some very hard yards. I think we all recognise that this was a very tough series of decisions that you had to make and throughout that time you never blinked. I think that not only this place and Australia but also sport should be very grateful for that.
You have improved accountability while here through your ferocious cross-examination of anyone who you thought might have been able to provide a bit more insight and a bit more transparency. I think that integrity will be part of your legacy. Also, the work you have done has very much boosted the profile of women not only in this place but also across all workplaces.
With regard to your passion for technology, we have spoken about you establishing your own website. It was only six years before I came here that we did not have a computer in this place. I think it is a good reminder of all the things that are brought to us in this place in a technological sense and where many of my colleagues say 'Oh that won't work. This won't possibly work'. Of course we are still as out of step as the individual who said to you that you needed to take another track. I think that is a good lesson for all of us.
Kate, you were named as one of the 25 global leaders in government in online innovation by the International Centre for E-Democracy and Politics Online. You have chosen your time for retirement. I do not think that many of us in this chamber necessarily have the luxury of doing that. I know you are going to be very successful in the future. You have spent 19 long years in this place and, as people have indicated, you are still young enough to have another career. I know that you will enjoy it very much. We will watch that space. Good luck, and God speed.
Kate, I want to put on record this evening our appreciation and acknowledgement to you personally for the inspiration and challenge you have provided to women in our party—and that is from candidates. I well remember working and watching you supporting women in our party who had made the decision to run for politics when sometimes no-one else was there for them. We could know that you would be generous with your time, with your effort and also with your humour. So often, in working with the candidates, it was seeing your experience.
Senator Wong has gone through the awful statistics about what this place was like in gender balance when you were first elected and how you have been able to oversee the changes that we are all benefiting from now. I can name so many candidates, and you know them well, who you have provided with your knowledge and also the support of your experience, whether it was staring into Telstra trenches looking at the horrors of pair gains—something I will never forget; those things were truly ugly—or the way that you were able to talk so effectively with the people who cared about that technology. Your natural ability to communicate was seen with Telstra workers on the job, your understanding of the pressures under which they were working proved that politicians did and could understand technology. It was inspirational for all of us.
Through your multicultural experience, you were so much a part of developing the ambassador's program. Attending some of the functions that you chaired at that time and feeling the genuine love and respect of the people in those rooms is what makes the job worthwhile. You led with that and made us all so proud. It gave us the chance to think that we could work with you. Kate, also on behalf of Emily's List, we know the work that you have done for that organisation is, again, inspiring and challenging because people could get the sense, by working with you, that they could do it too.
I know that Senator Wong used the term 'you are real'. Well, you will always be real, Kate. That is part of your nature and your charm. But you are able to share that with all of us not just within our party, though of course we have been able to speak about that this evening, but also with the wider community. This is what we need to do to reinforce to the wider community the challenge and the reality of choosing to be in this job, rebuilding trust, rebuilding reality and giving us an opportunity to know that you have served your community so well. And you will continue to serve that community and continue to be an inspiration for women who work in this business.
I also want to say farewell. I am going to cry. When I came into parliament it was a very daunting experience—shut up, Kate. I say farewell not only to my chamber buddy but also my Territorian buddy. I also want to put on record that the Australian Labor Party is saying goodbye to an incredible woman and an incredible politician. You are going to be a big loss, Kate. Yes, you will be because not only have you been a friend but also you have been a mentor, a confidante and someone who keeps things real. Coming from the Territory, it is hard to lose yourself in this place. So I thank you for the time I have spent with you. We have shared many conversations over a couple of vinos, which has been great. Kate and I have a lot of things in common apart from sport being the obvious. We both left home at the age of 16, but have still been able to have pretty incredible careers as women and we have both, at times, been single mums. I had the privilege of spending time with Kate and her family on a trip to the Northern Territory. Kate had obviously been a senator for 19 years and had spent many times getting off aeroplanes at Darwin airport but had never been beyond Darwin. So she took her kids and we did an outback adventure which is hashtag 'doin' the Territory'. It was absolutely incredible. Entering this chamber as a woman, who has a tribe of kids herself, I thank you for your friendship. What you have been able to provide for me is that you can only make change by being the change yourself. For all the women who are wanting to enter this place: it is sad that an incredible woman like Kate Lundy is leaving, but she leaves incredible footprints. Senator Lundy, you are in the hearts of the sportswomen of this country, whose dreams you helped elevate into reality. I thank you not only on behalf of the sporting fraternity but for your work on multiculturalism and for everything you have done in parliament.
I also want to put my formal thanks to Senator Lundy on the record—for everything she did on behalf of educators working in the early education and childcare space in Australia. I can see Yvette Berry, a former United Voice staffer and now a minister in the ACT government, up there in the gallery. When Yvette and Lyndal Ryan, the secretary of United Voice, came to see me and said, 'There is this wonderful senator in parliament; she will really advocate on behalf of low-paid educators'—this was when the union was trying to run a very big agenda around wages and quality on behalf of low-paid members—I have to say that I was a bit cynical. However, Senator Lundy stood firm for educators throughout the Big Steps campaign.
I thought that perhaps when she became a minister during that period she would be too busy to be concerned about educators or to continue to push the Big Steps agenda—but she wasn't. Every time we called on Senator Lundy to do something for us, she rallied to the cause. Not only did she do that but she managed to spread the word about what we were doing and get other Labor members involved in the campaign. In the end, we had a very big group supporting the important agenda that educators were running.
I wanted to say that the other night, but it was too noisy and there were other people with bigger agendas. But I felt that, given that Senator Lundy mentioned United Voice today, it was absolutely fitting that I put on the public record—as a former official, as I was then, who negotiated with you—the absolute gratitude of educators. We knew we had a champion in this parliament. We knew it was a difficult agenda, but educators absolutely knew that Senator Lundy was always going to be there for them. And it went beyond that. It went to cleaners; it went to all low-paid workers—the membership of United Voice. Senator Lundy, we will miss you. You were an absolute Big Steps champion. On behalf of the educator members of United Voice, I put my thanks to you on the record.