Senate debates

Thursday, 7 December 2017



7:16 pm

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

At last, at the end of a very busy year and having just witnessed, as many of us have done, a most consequential event in the House of Representatives—initiated, I might say, in the Senate—it is time to reflect upon the season and to wish each other seasonal greetings. Of course, this is a chamber of debate, in which passions and feelings often run high, but it is on occasions like this that we do have the opportunity to put the politics and the bitterness that sometimes accompany intensely disputed political questions to one side and reflect upon the work that we do, that we do together, not as disputants but as colleagues. And so I rise to wish all honourable senators, whatever their faith or, if they profess no religious faith, whatever their belief, the compliments of the season.

It has obviously been a very big year in the Senate. We have passed this year, in the 56 days on which we have sat, some 140 bills. We have engaged in some hugely consequential debates. I mentioned a moment ago the debate that has just concluded in the House of Representatives, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017, which was debated in this chamber with a great deal, if I may say so, of decency and mutual respect for intensely held and opposing views for some 26 hours and 34 minutes. Altogether, we have spent over 200 hours in these last 56 days debating legislation.

I want to acknowledge and thank the many people who have made the Senate work. And may I begin by acknowledging and thanking you, Mr President. You are new to the job. You came to your high office in very unexpected circumstances and very suddenly. It would be wrong, in that connection, not to reflect on your predecessor, former President Parry, who left the service of the Senate and the office of president suddenly, unexpectedly and in circumstances which, in my view, did not reflect in any way poorly upon him. We're very sad, and I am personally sad, for him. I want to acknowledge and include Senator Parry in these remarks tonight. Senator Ryan, you are, as you said yourself when you were installed, a servant of institutions. Already in your early days of office, you've shown that to be true. Already in your early days of office, you've shown yourself to be a President who is both fair and firm, and deeply immersed in the Senate standing orders and procedures, as one would expect of you. Can I extend my good wishes to your Deputy President, Senator Sue Lines.

Might I, as well, on behalf of the government, extend the wishes of the season to the officials and staff of the Senate: in particular, Clerk, Richard Pye, who just completes his first full year as Clerk of the Senate; Deputy Clerk, Maureen Weeks; clerk assistants Rachel Callinan, Jackie Morris and Tim Bryant; Black Rod, Brien Hallett; the clerks at the table; the table office; Senate PLO Debbie Arnold; the chamber attendants; and all of those who make the Senate work.

Can I extend my seasonal wishes to my opponent, Senator Wong. Senator Wong is waving at me. Senator Wong is happy tonight. She is smiling. She is smiling beatifically at me, which doesn't happen all that often. Senator Wong, may I genuinely and sincerely extend the good wishes of the season to you. I know this day is a very important day for you.

Can I also extend my good wishes to the leaders of other parties: Senator 'Di Na-ta-lay'; I'm sorry, 'Di Na-ta-lee'—I've eventually learned how to pronounce your name; Senator Hanson, Senator Griff; and other members of the crossbench, Senator Leyonhjelm, Senator Hinch, Senator Gichuhi and Senator Bernardi.

This has been a costly year in terms of attrition rate of senators. Eleven of our colleagues have left us who were among us at the beginning of 2015. Of those, nine left us because they fell foul of section 44 of the Constitution. As I said once not long ago, it seems the 45th Parliament is really the section 44 parliament, and we are yet to await the determination in relation to Senator Gallagher's position. As well, two other senators have gone: Senator Xenophon—whom we all remember with great fondness, or at least I do; hello, Nick, I'm sure you're listening tonight—and our colleague Senator Chris Back.

Those who left us, apart from Senator Parry, whom I mentioned before, are: Senator Nash, Senator Day, Senator Kakoschke-Moore, Senator Lambie, Senator Roberts, Senator Waters, Senator Ludlam and Senator Culleton. One only has to run through that list of names to appreciate what an enormous variety and diversity of the Australian people are represented in this chamber. It would be hard to imagine such a variety of humankind than the 11 names that I have mentioned. But all of them came to Canberra, all of them came to this place to serve the Australian people, according to their lights, guided by their philosophies and in good faith. And I'm sure, on behalf of all senators, we wish them well into the future.

We've also welcomed many new colleagues: Senator Brockman, Senator Patrick, Senator Gichuhi, Senator Anning, Senator Griff, Senator Georgiou, Senator Steele-John and a return to service for Senator Andrew Bartlett. Senator Steele-John is the youngest person ever to have served in this chamber, yet he's already made an enormous impact. He comes to this chamber, as we know, with a disability. He is a fine, fine example of the inconquerability of the human spirit. As is Senator Lucy Gichuhi, who, in her remarkable maiden speech, reminded us that she grew up in a hut in the Kenyan countryside with a dirt floor in a large family, and encouraged in particular by her father, who believed that girls can do anything, has risen to a position of respect and esteem in the Australian Senate.

I would like to pay tribute to my own team, if I may. I want to pay a particular tribute to my deputy, Senator Mathias Cormann. Senator Cormann is a force of nature. He is a highly competent individual and has been a most effective senator and a most effective Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am immensely indebted to him for his spectacular contribution to the government. I am also indebted to Senator Fifield, the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, who has handled the dispatch of government business in the Senate with his usual calm and unflappable demeanour and, like Senator Cormann, with a very high level of competence.

I thank my dear friend, the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Senator Nigel Scullion. Senator Scullion, I hope you won't mind me saying this. A few weeks ago, Australia came within a very narrow margin—you would use a more colourful metaphor, I'm sure—of having the pleasure of you being the Acting Prime Minister of Australia. We don't know what we missed! Much as our friend Julie Bishop discharged that responsibility on this occasion, as she has done in the past, with elegance and enormous skill, I think you, Nigel, would've been a somewhat different Acting Prime Minister. It would've been a remarkable few days in our nation's history, and none of us would've forgotten it. And all of us would've enjoyed it. So, Nigel, thank you for being a very good friend. The coalition is occasionally fractious, I'll admit, but it's never fractious in the Senate while Nigel and I remain firm friends, as we've been for so many years.

Can I also recognise and congratulate Senator Bridget McKenzie, who, as recently as this morning, was elected as Deputy Leader of the National Party to take the place of our former colleague Fiona Nash. Bridget, it's a great achievement. We are sure that you will discharge the role with aplomb, and we want to warmly congratulate you on this achievement.

Can I thank the whips—David Bushby, the Chief Government Whip; John 'Wacka' Williams, the National Party whip; and Senator Dean Smith and Senator David Fawcett, the government whips. We all know how absolutely essential the whips are to the work we do here. We on the government side of the chamber couldn't have been better served by the team of whips we have.

Can I also thank some of the key staff members who have made it possible for us in the government leadership team to operate. In particular, I acknowledge Sarah Bridger from Senator Mitch Fifield's office and Brendan Blomeley from Senator David Bushby's office. I want to thank my own team, led by my new chief of staff, Liam Brennan, who has been a fixture in this place for many years. Liam was appointed chief of staff in my office after the retirement of the very fondly remembered James Lambie, who left my staff some months ago. I came into office as the Attorney-General with the oldest chief of staff in the government, Paul O'Sullivan, the former Director-General of Security, and now I have the youngest chief of staff in the government. They've all been terrific. I also thank the other members of my Senate team: Tom Fardoulys and Rohan Watt. As well, can I acknowledge Ben Bartlett from the Prime Minister's office, who is in charge of liaison between the PMO and the Senate leadership.

There are many other people who have made our lives easier than they would otherwise be. Can I acknowledge the chamber attendants, the COMCAR drivers, Parliament House security and the AFP, who look after us, and the cleaners. And we never forget to mention Dom and the staff at Aussies and all the others who make this remarkable building work so well.

We will now go back, colleagues, to the bosoms of our families. We will have several weeks of respite and reflection and perhaps an easing of the pace and the pressure. We can reflect on the work we have done this year—of the opportunities missed but also the opportunities seized. I hope we will all reflect on the fact that, through the fusion of ideas that is better represented in this chamber than any other chamber of any Australian parliament, in this, the Senate, the great deliberative chamber of Australian democracy, we have, by our own rights, worked to make Australia a better place. Happy Christmas.

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

by leave—I'm glad for the opportunity to place some remarks on the record as we end the parliamentary year. It has been a pretty big year. I've been here since 2002, and there has never been a year like this one, certainly in terms of departures and arrivals and constitutional law and so forth.

It's a great privilege and honour to be a senator in this place. It's a great privilege and honour to lead the Labor team. I do appreciate the opportunity to express my gratitude, on behalf of the opposition, to a number of people. I will start with you, Mr President. You have filled your role since the somewhat unexpected—perhaps less expected for some than others, Mitch. It's Christmas! It was said with a smile, Hansard—she said it with a smile—you could interpolate that.

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


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

Emoji, that's right. You, as President, have filled your role with distinction, equanimity and impartiality. We thank you for your service to the Senate this year and in years to come. I acknowledge your calm demeanour in presiding, particularly over question time. I push on an expectation that one day you might uphold a point of order on direct relevance—that's a demonstration of the triumph of hope over experience. But we do thank you for the way in which you have taken to this role. We look forward to working with you. We hope not for too long; we hope for a shorter time than others might.

I also thank our Deputy President, Senator Lines, who brings a growing knowledge of procedure, a lively wit and a determination to her role. It's always a pleasure to contribute to the business of the Senate under her guidance. She has the best wishes and gratitude of the Labor team. I also thank her for her input and patience as chair of the Procedure Committee. To my counterpart, Senator Brandis: George and I, if I may, have a somewhat competitive relationship at times, but he is a worthy opponent. I do want to say that this year he has given two of the most moving and heartfelt speeches that I've had the privilege to hear. His contributions, in respect of the freedom of all Australians to practice the religion to which they adhere to and the right of people of the same sex to marry, speak to the kind of Australia we are. His contributions on these matters, I think, were an act of national leadership. I also acknowledge, before I get to my own team, his deputy, Senator Cormann. He's a man whom I have a very deep regard for. He's a man of great integrity.

I think he may not be here, but I want to acknowledge my deputy leader, Senator Farrell. He is a man of deep conviction and purpose. He brings to this Senate a strong dedication to our state and a strong commitment to improving the wellbeing of the people of South Australia. This really does guide Don in everything he does, so I thank him for his loyalty and for his work. I also particularly thank his staff, who are excellent to work with.

One of the sadder moments for me has been, this week, to refer Katy Gallagher, as we know occurred on Wednesday. Katy is the real deal: she's talented, she's is highly intelligent, she's decent, she's such a pleasure to work with and she's an outstanding Manager of Opposition Business. I'll look forward to her returning. Any leader's life is much easier when you have a manager like Katy.

I also thank Senator Chisholm for his work as deputy manager. He has been great. He brings a good Queensland perspective. I thank Senator Collins for stepping into the breach. We are very fortunate to have someone of the ability and experience of Senator Collins to fill the role of manager at this time, and I thank her for her willingness to do so. What did you say, Mr President—she's been gifted with a great voice?

Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

A loud voice.

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

It is a great voice for the purposes of question time, Senator. My thanks to the opposition whips, Senators Urquhart, McAllister and Ketter—and, of course, until his resignation, Senator Dastyari. The whips really do keep this place running. They're critical to the discipline of the major parties and of all parties, and we're very fortunate to have such a great team. My thanks also to their staff. I'm sure they're looking forward to a 'no division bells' period of time. To my whole Labor team: a fantastic effort this year. We've advanced Labor's agenda and we've sought to hold the government to account. It's been a long year but one where we have contributed to the Labor cause.

In the spirit of the season, I extend my best wishes on behalf of my team to everyone—to members of the coalition, to the Greens and to Independent and not-so independent senators and others. Are you SA-BEST yet? Not quite?

Photo of Stirling GriffStirling Griff (SA, Nick Xenophon Team) Share this | | Hansard source

Good question!

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

NXT/SA-BEST, Senator Hinch and to others, we thank you for your engagement with us. We don't always agree, but this chamber is unique, I think, for the level of engagement, discussion, respectful debate and, frankly, real legislating. As Labor's leader here, I want to thank all of you and wish all of you the very best for the year. Senator Di Natale said to me that it was really good working together, particularly on the marriage bill—and I want to echo that.

There are a few people here I would like to thank. To Richard Pye—great job; thank you. To Maureen Weeks, Tim Bryant, Rachel Callinan, Jackie Morris, Brien Hallett and all the staff of the Department of the Senate: you perform such a fantastic job, but you perform such an important job for the Australian democracy. I've said it before and I will say it again, this is the chamber, I think, that really matters.

Honourable senators interjecting

I do; I really do, I'm not just saying it because I'm here. This is where I wanted to be, because I think this is the chamber that matters, and it matters for the country—and it would not function without you. So thank you very much for your work. I extend the compliments of the season to the secretaries of committee and all of the staff of committee secretariats—who I know have been working extremely hard, given we send them a lot of references. They have demonstrated commitment, patience and, at times, forbearance, and certainly consummate professionalism.

Thank you to the secretary and all the staff at DPS. Thank you to the Parliamentary Library, the Parliamentary Budget Office—we've given them a workout—Hansard, security, maintenance and ancillary staff and Comcar staff. I again make particular mention of Parliament House cleaners—hardworking people who come to this building in the early hours of the morning, keep our offices and our facilities clean and tidy. They are always friendly and cheerful, even at ridiculous hours. I hope that the pay issue is resolved and we see more decent pay for them.

I also wish to thank all our staff. At the risk of upsetting people, I'm not going to name people, because I always find we miss people out. I always say that, in this place and in our jobs, we are only as good as our staff. Our staff play a critical role. It's particularly tough and unrelenting work being in opposition—as you might remember—but it is really the contribution of staff that enable us to do it. The quality research and speech material and obviously a lot of procedural work are the things that enable us to do our work. I thank all Labor senators, but I particularly thank my staff for putting up with me and for their loyalty and extraordinary professionalism.

Finally, to all those Labor members and supporters throughout Australia: thank you very much for your continued support. We are grateful for the support of people across this country, and I extend our gratitude for your support. I hope that the coming holiday season is a happy and safe one, and we ask you to continue to keep the faith.

I want to end on this note: this is a momentous day, as Senator Brandis has said, and it is a day where we are reminded about what is the most important thing in our lives, and it is always the people that we love. And I, on a day where this parliament, I think, has really expressed its view about the importance of relationship and family and love, say to all of my fellow senators: I hope over this period you have time to spend with those who are special to you, those who are close to you, those who you love, because it is the most important thing in our lives. Thank you.

Honourable senators: Hear, hear!

7:40 pm

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—Firstly, let me again acknowledge the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Brandis, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wong. I know we had a discussion about the pronunciation of my name, so we'll take it one step at a time.

Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting

Thank you for that, Senator Whish-Wilson—I did know Senator Whish-Wilson had planned that by the way—but it's actually 'Di Na-ta-leh'. It is actually somewhere in between—I'm messing with you now.

Honourable senators interjecting

I suppose I was taking you through it stepwise, so I took you a little closer to the correct pronunciation. The actual pronunciation is 'Di Na-ta-leh', but I will let you get away with 'Di Na-ta-lee'. The anglicised version is okay.

Mr President, I want to thank you for the important work that you've done in a relatively short period of time. I think your job is a bit like a football umpire: the best ones go unnoticed. You, so far, have gone relatively unnoticed, intervening when you need to. It's a tough gig, a very tough gig, and we make your life pretty difficult. I know Senator Hinch is constantly reminding us of our behaviour—and I think you're right to do that, Senator Hinch.

Senator Hinch interjecting

We do occasionally make life hard for Senator Hinch, and we'll try to lift our game next year.

Let me thank all of the Senate staff—Richard Pye and all of the team: you do a remarkable job. You've had very big shoes to fill, Richard, and you've done it nobly. You're carrying on a very fine tradition. So thank you for all of your hard work: it's very much valued.

And of course all the Senate staff, the attendants and so on—we often rush through the doors with the occasional nod and hello, but we thank you so much for all of the work you do. It's thankless. I know you're in here before us and you'll be out of here long after we leave. Thanks for keeping our desks tidy, our glasses full, the doors open and a smile on your faces. So thank you for all the work that you all do.

Let me thank the Comcar drivers, the security staff, the cleaners and DPS for all of the services that you provide. I won't go on, but we share your concern, Senator Wong. When you're here bright and early and you know that people have been here overnight working hard, we do hope that their work is valued.

I want to thank my team and my colleagues. It's been a bloody tough year, a really tough year. We had some big changes. We lost Scott and Larissa. They were really outstanding parliamentarians and, more importantly, just wonderful people. They were a huge support to me as deputies, and I wish them well in their future endeavours. I want to thank Adam and Rachel for filling their shoes—thank you—and Rachel obviously, as whip, I think, is the best whip in the Senate, but of course I'm biased. Thank you for the great work you do, but to all of my team: you've done a great job.

One of the good things of course is that we got to welcome two new people. We finally had our Democrats moment—people have been warning about that for a long time—with the arrival of Andrew. So thank you for—

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It was better than you thought it would be!

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It was a much more pleasant moment, that's right—and of course Jordon, who is not here with us, but—

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

He's off partying.

Photo of Richard Di NataleRichard Di Natale (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

He probably is off partying—well he's 23, so he can afford to do that. But Jordon is a force of nature. I've had casual conversations with people and I'm sure, at some point, a 50-year-old will emerge out of that body, because he's wise beyond his years. He will make a great contribution to this place, and watching that ramp being installed in here was one of the proudest moments that I've had in the Senate.

I want to thank all of the staff in my office. It's a tough gig. The pressure is intense. We've always got more work than we've got people, but I want to thank each and every one of you for all of the work that you do. It is very much valued. Thanks to my team—they've done a great job—and of course to all the staff in every other office. I know how hard they work. I know how much commitment they have. They're passionate. They do it for love and because they believe in all of the things that we're fighting for. So please thank all of them. We couldn't function without them.

I want to thank my family. Senator Wong was absolutely right: they make a huge sacrifice. My wife, Lucy, I know, has endured a lot, and I want to thank her specifically. I thank my two boys, Luca and Ben. I missed Ben's birthday yesterday. It's just one of those moments—he tells you what a wonderful day he's had and all of the presents he got at school, and you're not there. It is the sacrifice that many of us in this chamber make. I can't wait to go back and give them a big cuddle—probably not tonight but at least tomorrow and hopefully some time over Christmas. They are the reason I do this job.

And, of course, what a great day to finish the year on! What a great day. It's often very bleak in this place. It's a place where you can sometimes wonder about the choices you've made in life, but today those choices are affirmed. The country is a better place because of the decision this parliament made, not just for us, not just for our kids, but for future generations. It's a remarkable day. We have finally got marriage equality in law and we can now go and celebrate. The nation has taken a huge step forward. I'm so proud of the parliament and I'm so proud of the country.

Let me just finish by signing off, as I do each year. For the benefit of some of the members on my left: have a happy non-denominational, gender-neutral, environmentally sustainable and socially responsible holiday! We don't like using the word 'Christmas'! Perhaps as a tribute to the difficulties we've had through the dual citizenship fiasco that has unfolded this year, let me say Buon Natale a tutti! Happy Christmas, everyone!

7:47 pm

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—Can I first of all associate myself with all the remarks made in the chamber tonight. It has been remarkable. I won't mention Wacka saying he's going to knock me off in 60 seconds! But I rise on behalf of the Nationals to offer my Christmas wishes to all in this place. This is somewhere we all work. I know all of you—some better than others—and you are remarkably friendly and lovely people, and that makes all of our lives a lot better. From the outside, it might seem like it's a toxic place and we're always cranky with each other, but that's just not the complete truth. I think the sort of friendship and the sorts of messages that we're seeing tonight are probably a more accurate reflection of the relationships in this place.

I acknowledge the coalition leadership. To my great mate George Brandis: you've done a great job this year, mate. To Mitch: your negotiating waltz is forever seamless, mate. To the more-machine-than-man Mathias—he's not here: again, a remarkable job. I want to wish all of your families a merry Christmas and particularly acknowledge their sacrifice. They say that sacrifices are invariably only appreciated by those who make them. Whilst it's a great truth, I want to say to all those families that we do appreciate what you allow those in this place to do.

I'd like to thank all of the staff who make all our jobs possible. To the Senate staff who help us in this place and in the committees: you do such a remarkable job. Richard, to you and your team: outstanding job. To our outstanding PLO, Debbie Arnold: thank you so much. You help keep all of our offices on track. To the amazing security team, great people like Jingo and others, and the cleaning crew, Anna and Grace, thank you all so much for what you do. As Penny says, we never meet you at times when you have anything else but happiness in going about your work, and it's at ungodly hours of the morning that that happens, so thank you so much to you.

And to all our offices, and I know you all well: you make us look much less like the boneheads that we are. Certainly, in my case, that is a great deal of effort. I want the staff to understand that with their efforts they make a real contribution to this place as well. You all advise us and influence us, and that influence changes things which the front pieces like us take credit for. All of you should take a break and enjoy the time over the break. Enjoy yourselves. All the staff can catch up on time they haven't spent with their families.

I would also like to use this opportunity to make some remarks about some of our colleagues who have left the Senate over the past 12 months. As Penny mentioned earlier, I came in in 2002. No, there hasn't been a year like this. I'm really hoping that we can change gear next year. The most important thing is the citizenship stuff. Nobody could have anticipated it. We should appreciate the impact it has had on the lives of so many people who have left this place.

Fiona, we offer you the warmest of wishes and heartfelt thanks. All of the Nationals in this place thank you for your place in our team. Fiona, you've been a great mate and a great source of support for me and the remainder of the Nationals. You've made such a difference to the lives of regional Australians around the country. I know that in your time in this place, especially in your time as the Minister for Regional Development, you always sought to make regional Australia a great place for kids and grandkids to grow up in and a place everybody would like to move to and stay in. You have been and continue to be a role model for women in regional Australia. I'm really looking forward to catching up with you again soon. As the Prime Minister said at the Nationals Christmas party this year, you will be back, and we're looking forward to that.

Steve Parry was a model President of the Senate. He was a great President. Whilst I'm sure that this President will be on the catch up, Steve was probably the best President I've worked with. There are so many people who have gone who I knew quite well: Jacqui Lambie, Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlam. They were all good friends of mine. Senator Xenophon was a great mate of mine and I will really miss him. They have all made a huge contribution to the Senate. I'm really looking forward to seeing their future contributions in public life.

Finally, I say to our current President: well done, mate. Everybody brings a different capacity to this place, and you bring your own. These are the most difficult times. I think Penny will also acknowledge that, when we came here, it was relatively tame, and the task you have in front of you is probably the most difficult of all past Presidents. I think you are growing into it and I think you have transitioned to the role very well. I look forward to working with you in the new year.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas. May Australia reclaim the Ashes. Most importantly, have a very safe holiday. If you find yourself up in the Territory, give me a yell. There are always a few beers and barras hanging around. Merry Christmas.

7:52 pm

Photo of Derryn HinchDerryn Hinch (Victoria, Derryn Hinch's Justice Party) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—This time last year when I rose on this occasion there were some cries of protest that, as I was one of the last speakers of the night, we could be in for another 47-minute Hinch marathon, like my first speech. I assure you that that will not happen and this will be the shortest speech you will get tonight.

I would like to thank other senators on committees and in the chamber for the things they have done with me as a newbie—for the passport travel ban, for the transvaginal mesh report and for passing the changes to the Senate photography rules, which enabled the fantastic pictures of the same-sex marriage euphoria, like Penny Wong cuddling Dean. You wouldn't have got those and they wouldn't have been on the history books. That has now been preserved for history.

I would like to thank Richard Pye, Maureen, the staff, the attendants, the COMCAR drivers and all the other people mentioned by other speakers. Most of all, I thank my staff. They are fantastic staff. When you are a one-senator party it's pretty hard on the staff, especially during estimates when you're trying to get from committee to the committee, as you well know, Senator Griff. I also want to thank three newbies who were not here last year: Zoe Heinrichs, Charles Light and Carly Gibbs from my office.

The way my fellow senators and their staff have negotiated with me has been fantastic. I trust you all with the way you stick to deals et cetera. I extend to my fellow senators yuletide greetings. Have a safe and meaningful Christmas. To our new President, who I think is doing a great job—and I promise you I won't sing it like Bing Crosby—'Mele Kalikimaka.'

7:54 pm

Photo of Stirling GriffStirling Griff (SA, Nick Xenophon Team) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I'd like to echo the positive comments of all previous speakers. In anyone's books, this year has been a big year. It has especially been a big year for me and newly minted Senator Rex Patrick. Perhaps it has even been a cursed year, because the past few months have certainly been very interesting times. We end the year with seven new faces and four empty seats. A head-spinning number of senators have come and gone in a short time, including my former colleagues, Nick Xenophon and Skye Kakoschke-Moore.

Nick and Skye were both valued colleagues, and, as I end the year, I'd like to take one last opportunity to pay tribute to their hard work, their successes and their desire to do good as NXT senators, particularly for our beloved South Australia. Together we achieved greater protection for children against online predators, better Australian procurement in government, important funding for apprenticeship mentoring and funds to build Australia's first proton therapy centre for cancer, which will be located in South Australia. We expect next year to bring other work to fruition, including improved whistleblower protections and more.

Skye and Nick were here very much for the right reasons, and we certainly hope, as the dust settles, the new colleagues who we'll welcome in this place and the other place in the new year will be here for the right reasons too. I might add that Skye's career is not done and dusted. This was just the first chapter, and I'm sure that we'll be benefitting from her great work again soon. I'd like to end by wishing everyone a happy and restorative break. Here's hoping 2018 is far calmer and a less interesting year than 2017.

Honourable senators: Hear, hear!

7:56 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

In concluding and concurring with all of the speeches just made, I won't repeat all the acknowledgements, but there are a few I wish to highlight. To Richard Pye, the Deputy Clerk, the Clerks Assistant and the extraordinary staff of the Department of the Senate: my personal thanks and, I know, thanks on behalf of all senators, particularly, from a new President, as I have come into the role rather suddenly. You and your team are custodians of the traditions and customs in this place, demonstrated today, probably ideally, when a private senator's bill that meant so much to so many Australians passed through the parliament. While the public may not see your role as they see us—not always to their liking, I might add—you share the long hours, and the committee staff share the travel with us. In a year of unprecedented challenges in terms of unexpected departures, the Senate staff has dealt with difficult circumstances for those colleagues and staff with both professionalism and aplomb.

I want to particularly thank John and the team of Senate attendants. Here when we start, cleaning and locking up after we conclude, your seamless role in the operation of this chamber is not always noticed precisely because of your professionalism. I have a particular appreciation for them, given my mother-in-law, Frances, served as a Senate attendant in both this chamber and the old, and my father-in-law's uncle served as a Senate attendant for over two decades in the old house.

I want to thank Rob Stefanic and the entire team at DPS, in the library and in Hansard, particularly those coordinating the most significant projects around this building since it first opened 30 years ago—and, I might add, in an environment that provides new challenges from both within and without. To the security staff who ensure this unique workplace is safe for the thousands of visitors and staff: a particularly safe and relaxing Christmas to you.

I turn now to our families. Families aren't define by law. But, on a day where thousands of families feel particularly affirmed by it and by the actions of this parliament, those closest to us bear the cost of our privilege to serve through our absences, birthdays and anniversaries celebrated by FaceTime rather than by our presence, and even witnessing and feeling the barbs their loved ones receive in the course of our privilege and our roles. To the families of all senators, to our staff and to their families: enjoy a safe and merry Christmas. I promise we will all eventually unwind, but you should feel free to confiscate our phones occasionally.

Christmas wishes to those colleagues who left us in unexpected circumstances throughout the year that I know a number of us have mentioned. Particularly, I add again, to their families and staff: they all worked as hard as we did and their families missed them as much as ours did. While those close to them and the families of their staff are probably happy to have them home more often, the unique circumstances of their departure were not what any of them would wish. You are all in our thoughts.

My thanks to the senators—particularly to all party leaders, managers, whips, temporary chairs and my Deputy President, Sue Lines—for their understanding and patience as I have taken on this new role in somewhat unexpected circumstances. On a personal note, I'd like to thank all senators for all the kind messages sent to me and my family during my unforeseen illness. It was a reminder of what other people have commented upon tonight: the unique nature of the collegiality of this chamber. On a particularly personal note, to my wife, Helen, and sons, Nicholas and Benjamin: during a year more difficult than any of you deserved, your support is beyond my ability to put into words. I couldn't do this without you, but neither would I want to.

Merry Christmas to all who work in and around this building, our staff and our loved ones.

Honourable senators: Hear, hear!