Tuesday, 14 November 2017
Valedictory; Qualifications of Senators
Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion relating to Senator Lambie.
I thank the Senate. Before I come to the formal terms of the motion, might I say a few words about Senator Lambie, who has not yet resigned from the Senate, obviously, but whose resignation is imminent.
It will be obvious to you, Senator Lambie, from these spontaneous expressions of affection, and, may I say, love that have come from all sides of this chamber, the effect that you have had upon all of the colleagues who have served with you since you have been elected as a senator for Tasmania. The Senate brings together people from all parts of Australia, from all walks of life, from all political philosophies, from all backgrounds, and it is the richer for it. The Senate has been the richer for your membership of it in these past times, since the 2016 election. We have all benefitted from your company, your wisdom, your life experience and, in particular, your passion.
Passion is a word that is used too freely, too loosely, in politics. But, Senator Lambie, you have prosecuted your beliefs and the causes that you care about with real passion and, as a result, you have been very effective. I, in particular, representing as I do the portfolios I represent in this chamber, will always be conscious of what you have done in the area of national security and, in particular, the area of veterans' affairs and the rights and interests of those who, like you, have served Australia in uniform.
You have become one of the best-known and one of the best-liked people in this country since you joined the Senate, and the Senate is a better place, a much richer place, for you having served among us. On behalf of government senators, and I'm sure all senators, and on my own personal behalf, I want to thank you for your service and wish you the very best for the future.
In view of what Senator Lambie has announced to the chamber, it is of course appropriate and, indeed, necessary for the matter to be regularised for orders to be made by the Court of Disputed Returns in relation to the position that Senator Lambie is about to vacate. The motion I will move is in the same terms as the referral motions for other former members of this place who have fallen foul of section 44(i) of the Constitution. I move:
That pursuant to section 376 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the Senate refers to the Court of Disputed Returns the following questions—
(a) whether, by reason of s 44(i) of the Constitution, there is a vacancy in the representation of Tasmania in the Senate for the place for which Jacqui Lambie was returned;
(b) if the answer to Question (a) is "yes", by what means and in what manner that vacancy should be filled;
(c) what directions and other orders, if any, should the Court make in order to hear and finally dispose of this reference; and
(d) what, if any, orders should be made as to the costs of these proceedings.
I should indicate as well that it will be my intention to instruct the Solicitor-General in relation to this reference, given that a reference was made in relation to the Hon. Stephen Parry, also from Tasmania, only yesterday, that it would be convenient and efficient for both matters to be dealt with at the same time and to be dealt with as expeditiously as possible so that the representation of the state of Tasmania in this chamber can be restored to its full complement. I thank the Senate.
I'd like to associate myself with the remarks of Senator Brandis in relation to Senator Lambie. Senator Lambie has been an absolutely tough, resilient and, at most times, highly entertaining senator. She has been an absolute force of nature in this place. No-one was ever bored when Senator Lambie was on her feet. I didn't agree with everything that Senator Lambie argued in this place, but you could never say that she did not stand with conviction and courage for the issues that she was raising. I know the last couple of days she's been cursing me every time she's seen me—I was born about 10 kilometres from your dad! Your dad was born in a place called Larkhall, which is well known in central Scotland for a number of reasons. I think you've demonstrated the toughness of people from Larkhall in this place.
When you first came here as part of the PUP group with Clive Palmer, you quickly understood and had the sense to disassociate yourself from that party. That was one of the first good decisions you made in this place. You overcame massive personal and family challenges and you took that in your stride here. You became an advocate for a whole range of issues from your personal experience, which is always a good way to bring about arguments in this place.
You came to understand the importance of collective bargaining and the importance that the trade union movement plays in making sure that working people get decent rights and decent conditions at work and are treated with respect when they go on the workshop floor. You were understanding of the need for workers to have penalty rates. You didn't need anybody to argue that point—not like some, like Senator Hanson, who had to be convinced that this was the thing to do. You knew that immediately. You knew the importance of penalty rates to working families. You've stood up for working families on industrial relations. You've stood up for the veteran community. You have done an immense job while you've been here. I've personally found you to be extremely trustworthy in the dealings I've had with you. As I've said, I was never bored when you were on your feet in this place—not like I am many times in this place! You always kept us well entertained and focused on the issues that were important to you.
I thought you were treated disgracefully in this place by a number of those opposite. The way you were treated as a working-class woman coming here, arguing your point, I thought was awful. I'm glad that on some of the occasions I was here to support you when you were on your feet against some of the terrible propositions that were put in here as to your motivation and the way that you conducted yourself. I always thought it was very, very good.
I think you are a tough, uncompromising, working-class woman, and we need more like you in here. Less lawyers, more Lambies, I think. I think you've made a great contribution. I don't think you're finished, from my discussions with you. I feel for you, Jacqui. I feel for your staff and your family. It's a tough time that you're going through. If I personally can be of any help, I certainly offer that. And, on behalf of Labor, we want to thank you for the contribution that you've made in this place. As they say, thanks for the memories, because they're burned in there on some of your contributions. Thank you.
by leave—Senator Lambie, Jacqui, on behalf of the Nick Xenophon Team, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for reminding the Australian public and us who represent the Australian public that, in order to be an effective politician, you need the fire in the belly. As Senator Cameron referred to, you came from a place where you could have quite easily been forgiven for throwing your hands up and saying: 'You know what? These are the cards life has dealt me, and that's just bad luck.' But no, not as far as Jacqui is concerned—there is no bad luck; there's only hard work. And your hard work has achieved so much, particularly for the veteran community, which you have fought so tirelessly for in your time here.
I just want to make the commitment to you on behalf of the Nick Xenophon Team that all of the invaluable work that you did, particularly around the report into veterans' suicides, will not be forgotten and that we will continue on, that this place will continue on to achieve everything you wanted to for the veterans who fought for our country and who feel like they've been given up on. So thank you. I'll miss you as my next-door neighbour. I wish you all the best.
I would like to add my voice: we're going to miss you, Jacqui! You were a whirlwind when you came in. I think we demonstrated to each other that we have more in common than we oppose. I remember you coming in and us locking horns on forests, for example, and the Greens were probably almost the devil incarnate, but we got to understand you a lot better and you, I think, got to understand us a lot better. I've really valued working with you on all the issues that we have dealt with on social security and income support. I think it's fair to say that we more often than not spoke with one voice around that. You brought your lived experience, which was so valuable, to this place.
It's been a pleasure to work with you on those issues. We've learnt to respect each other's differences. Should we share the secret about the Peanut M&M's?
There have been a couple of occasions where as whip I've helped Jacqui with a motion or two. One time I had to race up and save one of the motions, and Jacqui rang my office and said, 'What sort of chocolate does Rachel like?' On my desk appeared a box of Peanut M&M's—because they're my favourite, for anybody who wants to know—which my office absolutely loved.
I thank you very much for the times that we have worked together. I know very well that we will be working together again at some stage, and I've really valued the work that you have done in this place. I don't agree with everything, but I think that you've shown this place what it's like to have crossbenchers in here and what we can achieve. I, likewise, commit to the same issue that Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore has just committed to. We worked together on veterans' suicide. We achieved a lot, and we've got a lot more to go.
Mr Acting Deputy President, I'm one of the ones still standing! I just want to endorse the other comments that have been made so far about Jacqui Lambie, especially those by Senator Kakoschke-Moore about the veterans. That work will continue in the Nick Xenophon Team and Derryn Hinch's Justice Party, and the Australian National Veteran Arts Museum on St Kilda Road will happen, and you'll be invited to the opening.
I admire your passion. I admire the fire in the belly. You never lost it. You will be back. Like MacArthur, you will return. I'm confident that that will happen. The only thing I'll say is that you and I have done some good stuff together in this chamber in our early times. I just have one question to put to you, and that is: which lady in red will I take to the Mid Winter Ball? Thank you. We'll miss you.
I rise to pay my acknowledgements on behalf of the National Party to Jacqui Lambie and her service as a senator for Tasmania. Mate, we've had lots and lots of discussions about a lot of things, including, obviously, in my portfolio as minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. You're the first Aboriginal Tasmanian to be in that place, and you've assisted me through so many of those matters, and we've had lots of deep and meaningful discussions which I think sometimes remain unresolved, as they do for many Australians.
It's been very difficult. You're another person who, through absolutely no fault of your own and through absolutely no mischief, has come to this particular place. You've clearly without mischief, because you've had the opportunity to clear these things up, because you've come to an election twice in this place, so that is the most unfortunate of circumstances.
Your particular passion that you bring to particular subjects and particular issues, I think, has been very effective: your work with veterans and your work around industrial relations—it doesn't matter what it is. I think you've been there and you've been able to deal with very specific matters, and I think you've been very effective in that regard. Tasmania is a small place and it has 12 senators, but it is a place that I think always feels a bit behind the yards, and you've managed to take them in front of the stalls to ensure that they're being heard all the time. You can't ask much more to be a senator in this place.
I know you share my love of camping, fishing and hunting. I know you're not allowed to say the last word, but I know we both enjoy that very much. I know you'll have a couple of months off. If you're not going to, just make it a rule—'I'm taking a couple of months off.' Enjoy all those things you love. Go and spend some time with your kids, who I'm sure will be very proud of your achievements. You've made an absolutely unique and remarkable contribution to this place. Thank you.
Can I also add a few short comments. Senator Lambie, when you first came to this place we were neighbours, and I had the office next door to you, and we shared some interesting times. I was pleased that in some small way I was able to assist, particularly in those early times. It is a difficult time that you are facing, and it's been compounded by other issues, including family issues. Regrettably, I myself understand the slings and arrows, often, of politics, but I also understand the citizenship, the office and all of these things that you're now facing. I wish you well. As some of my colleagues have said, I'm sure we'll hear more about Jacqui Lambie in another time and in another place, but for now I wish you and your family all the very best, and I know I speak for my husband, John, as well. We wish you all the very best.
I just want to say a few brief words on behalf of Senator McKim and myself as Tasmanian senators. I'm based in the north, as is Jacqui. We've had a very good relationship over the years. Some of it's been covert and some of it's been not so covert. I'm looking forward to publishing the pictures of us standing in the big Tarkine tree together now.
But I just want to say something we've been reflecting on as a group. You meet a lot of people in your life who say to you that they want to go into politics, and I and others respond to them by saying: 'Why? Why do you want to go into politics?'
Going into politics because you think you're going to achieve your potential and it's a career and it's a well-paid job isn't good enough; you need to go into politics for a reason. And I think you are a really good example of someone who has gone into politics for a good reason. There's no-one in here who could deny your issue, and that was your life story—to fight for veterans and for justice for so many Australians who've been suffering.
I think you are a really good example of someone who is intelligent and passionate, who has come into this place and has listened to the information before them. I believe I've seen you change over the years. In saying that, we haven't agreed on everything. And I'll never be able to look at my whipper snipper the same again! But I do believe that you've come to this place and you've dealt with the really serious issues, and I would say that you've been on the progressive side of politics—well and truly on the progressive side of politics. So I've enjoyed my time with you and I've got no doubt there'll be times in the future where we'll work together again.
I'll just make my remarks brief. I think everyone around the room has said so much about the strength that you have brought to this place, Jacqui. But let me say, as a woman in this place, you have shown absolute dedication to the job, passion for the people you represent and the guts to do this job well. And I love your guts, Jacqui. You show everyone that if you believe and you have the strength to stand up and the opportunity to do it, you do it. You're a strong woman. You're a fighter. And that is what we all should be striving for. That's what Australians want in our politicians. So I'm really sad to see you go, and I'm going to be very happy to see where you end up next.
I just want to add a very short statement to those others. As a Tasmanian senator, Jacqui, thank you—thank you for representing Tasmania and for being such a fierce and courageous woman representing the people of Tasmania. As your fellow Senate colleague, we may have not always agreed on the best way forward for some parts of Tasmania but also for Australia, but you always took the time to listen, and I think we shared that mutual respect for representing Tasmanians as best we could in this place. And you gave it your all—your absolute all. Not only that; you came with an incredible amount of experience as a woman and, particularly, as a single parent, and the things that you've had to deal with in your life, in raising your kids, and you've shared so much about what it means to be a real person. I think the more real people we have in this place then the better it will be, indeed. And you have certainly set the bar for that. So thank you so much for representing Tassie and for being such an effective senator and a courageous woman, and I'm sure you will be back.
I'd like to just say a few words to Jacqui, because I've been in this chamber the entire time that she has been sitting here with us. We've had lots of contributions acknowledging how strong she is and how courageous she is. She's a real person who represents Tasmanians. She represents them with her heart. But I have to say, too, and give her full credit: she has grown so much as an individual. She has contributed greatly to our debates. She has been a real person who has stood up, because she understands, as I do, what it's like to live on government benefits—to try and make ends meet; to actually have to make choices about whether or not you pay your rent on time or give your kids lunch money. They're real and everyday experiences that too many Australians are still having to face. But I also wanted to say, in terms of your contribution: whether it was in committee meetings or in negotiations with the government, and I know from our own side, that, as Doug Cameron said, you've always been very honest; your word is your bond. And I think you can leave this place with your head held high, because you have made a real contribution. I know you have a lot of support in Tasmania and I'm sure, now that you've well and truly found your voice at a political level, we haven't heard the last of you.
I want to wish you and your family the best. You have been very open and very honest with the difficulties that you and your family have worked through together. On behalf of Tasmanian Labor senators, I pay tribute to you for everything you've contributed here.
When Jacqui came here she hit the ground running; there's no doubt about that. She made her voice heard loud and strong. You didn't have to read between the lines with Jacqui. She also tore through Tasmania. Everyone down in Tasmania has regard for Jacqui, whether or not they're on her side of politics and whether or not they're on her side of the issue she is advocating for. There is no-one who would say Jacqui didn't work hard, wasn't passionate or didn't follow up with everything she said she would do. I think it was Doug Cameron, in his contribution, who indicated that with Jacqui you know where you stand. If you have a promise from Jacqui, she keeps it. That integrity is what Jacqui has shown here in the policies she has pursued and in dealing with other senators in the chamber.
One thing that Jacqui said in her contribution—and I'm sure she'll agree with me now—was that she has changed since she first walked into this chamber. She said in her contribution that senators in this chamber aren't all bad. I'm not sure she thought that when she first arrived, but certainly Jacqui has changed. The things that haven't changed are her commitment to Tasmania, her commitment to veterans and her commitment to doing what she says she is going to do.
I thank you, Jacqui. I hope all goes well for you in the future and I wish you, your family and your staff all the very best. As everyone has indicated here, and as I think we all know and the media know, this is not the last of Jacqui Lambie.
I just want to add a few words, given that Jacqui and I grew up in the same town. I know her father, I know her mother and I feel like I've known Jacqui for all those years. I had known her for a long time before she came in here. I do wish her all the best. I agree with all of her colleagues who have spoken before me. As I said, I have known Jacqui for a number of years, and I don't know that Jacqui has changed that much. I think she has grown into the role; that's certainly what I've noticed. I think she has a lot of support.
'She's mellowed,' says Doug. I think that's probably right! But she has always stayed true to form and true to the people around her. I've got to know a number of Jacqui's staff and I certainly feel for them today, because this is difficult. It's difficult for Jacqui but it's always difficult for the people who are staff in the background. They are the ones who really keep us going as senators and provide the support that we need.
My husband is a member of the RSL at Ulverstone, and Jacqui has been known to give him a lift home from time to time. As I said to her a moment ago: I hope that you keep doing that, Jacqui; I'll rely on you for that! Thank you for that, but thank you also for everything you've done here for the people of Tasmania and for what you've brought to the Senate. Like you, I grew up in Ulverstone. I came out of a processing factory. We're probably cut from the same cloth, to some degree. So I recognise that this is difficult for you. I give you my best wishes for the future and wish you everything that you wish for. Thank you for your involvement here.
Jacqui, my husband used the term to describe you, 'She's one tough chick!' I think that's a very apt description of you. You've brought such a passion to this place. I think that Australians have really appreciated the clarity of your voice. You speak as you see it, and the voice of northern Tasmania has been well served by the words that you've put on the record in this place.
We had early conversations about the Defence Force. I know that you'll remember the dinner we had when we all arrived in the Senate. What a different time that was, and how much learning was ahead! But from the very beginning you had a passion to make sure that things that were unspoken and things that were not being allowed to be said were said in this chamber with regard to Defence. Prior to that it had only been our own Mike Kelly who I felt had the same sort of passion, and I know you've worked very closely with him to make sure that these matters have been attended to. I give you my word that with regard to mental health and the Defence Force, that I will continue my advocacy and the scrutiny that I've been able to apply. I appreciated your counsel on many of those matters over the many years.
As you know, Jacqui, my family and I fell in love with north-west Tasmania many years ago and we've been very frequent visitors. I expect to see you down there; to catch up with you in Stanley and continue our friendship. As many senators have said, the contribution you've made is a job interrupted. You've made a great contribution to this place. And, as a woman, can I say that it's great to see you sitting there, the tears are in your eyes and the care is in your heart. That's a woman's voice, fighting for things that matter. Good on you!
Well, I speak with mixed feelings. It's always great to talk about you, Senator Lambie, but very sad on this occasion to be saying goodbye to you from this place—though, as others have noted, it's surely not to be the last time that you occupy a seat in this building. I'm sure you'll continue to represent the people of Tasmania in some form or fashion somewhere in the Australian parliament.
My wife sent me a text message after she heard the news, saying, 'What are you going to do without your BFF now?' having filmed our pig video, and our various photos on social media. Jacqui, absolutely, you have been a strong and strident advocate for our state. You don't mince words; you say what you mean and you say it strongly, loudly and clearly, as Senator O'Neill said. I have to say that even before I got here that's something I respected about you. I may not have always agreed with you, and we've exchanged views on certain things, but you absolutely did not resile from the points you were trying to make on behalf of the people you represent. And while you were very vocal on matters north-west Tasmania, and did a very good job of that, you did represent the whole state as a senator. You did a very good job. I don't know how you did it, but I saw your car everywhere—with that big head of yours on the side of your vehicle, it was unmissable!
On behalf of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team, and I include Eric and David—and, I'm sure, former Senator Parry as well—we do wish you well for the future. You do have a great future ahead of you. The people of Tasmania appreciate what you do and I'm sure will return you somewhere, somehow. But thank you once again, and best wishes to you and your staff.
Jacqui, I'm very sorry to see you go. I must say that within the short time I have known you that you welcomed me to the Senate. You encouraged me in those days when I didn't have a clue what to do around here. Your door was always open, even for those silly questions! You never thought anything was too small to ask or to advise me on.
So, I know that you're not gone; I know you're just changing the venues from which you are working, and the mode. Maybe this is an opportunity for you to step back, take a break and come back as stronger Jacqui. So, we will miss you, we will continue to consult you and I'm so sure we still have you. Thank you, and all the best for what lies ahead.
We don't have a word for 'goodbye' in my language. But we have the word 'kaliya', which means 'we'll see you when we see you'. This side of Jacqui's heritage, the Indigenous side, is what I'm most aggrieved to see go. Yes, there is Scottish and Irish—everyone else around here has all of those things—but the history of the first nations peoples, the Indigenous peoples, which is caught up with Jacqui's history, is simply put to one side because we have a Constitution that refuses to recognise the first peoples. And on the crossbench we have stubborn opposition to that recognition. We have a senator who has come from a terrible history of genocide and denial on the one side—and on the Scottish side, no doubt, has links to Braveheart and other people.
It's an absolute tragedy that our Constitution was written by all these white folks who never bothered to consider and incorporate the first peoples in it. We have this legacy that we are going to have to fix. Jacqui's leaving means the rest of you bear this responsibility—along with me and Senator McCarthy, from the Northern Territory. This is not only a moment to recognise and praise you, Jacqui, as people have done today, and acknowledge the great work you have done for veterans and others and the privilege of being in your company; it is also a day for us to think about our Constitution, let alone recognition of the first peoples. For so many conservatives in this part of the world, it is a case of 'if it isn't broken, don't fix it'. Well, friends, we've got some issues here! Today is a reminder that that side of Jacqui's heritage is also being denied, as well as her rights as an Australian who fought for this country.
Question agreed to.